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Secure Your Future

Good time to review your retiree benefits

New York Teacher

As the school year begins, we know you’re busy thinking about your new students and the best way to support them. But the start of the school year is also an excellent time to think about yourself and the best way to secure your future.

The greatest benefit of union membership is the guaranteed retirement allowance provided through the Qualified Pension Plan, and the UFT has successfully protected this financial asset throughout the years.

Once you meet certain age and service requirements, you are eligible for a defined-benefit pension that provides a steady lifetime income unaffected by the ups and downs of the financial markets.

The Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) celebrated its anniversary on Aug. 1, marking 104 years of serving New York City’s education professionals.

Participation in TRS is mandatory for most UFT members who work for the city Department of Education. Paraprofessionals may choose to join the retirement system, and the union strongly urges that they do.

All new regularly appointed teachers, school secretaries, guidance counselors and other pedagogues will receive a welcome letter this fall with instructions on enrolling in TRS, including how to send the pension system proof of your date of birth, as well as instructions on how to designate beneficiaries.

Other UFT members — per diem teachers, long-term substitute teachers, substitute paraprofessionals, school nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists — are eligible for a defined-benefit pension through the 100-year-old Board of Education Retirement System (BERS).

TRS and BERS members contribute to their defined-benefit pension plan through automatic payroll deductions. The date when you became a member of TRS or BERS determines what pension tier you’re in and your contribution rates. New hires this fall are in Tier 6.

A tax-deferred annuity (TDA) program goes hand in hand with the pension plan for TRS and BERS members. Members can voluntarily build additional retirement income through TDA accounts during their working years on a tax-deferred basis. As the name implies, the program enables participants to save money while deferring payments of federal and local income taxes. To enroll in the TDA program, either through TRS or BERS, you must file a separate enrollment application and a separate designation-of-beneficiary form.

To make the most of your retirement system benefits, you must know about them and understand them. TRS and BERS provide the information you need. And in future issues of the New York Teacher, this column will explain things such as death benefit provisions, disability retirement provisions, the TDA program, service credit and more.

Retirement may seem far away, but some retirement system benefits are available while you are still in service. TRS and BERS members may borrow money against their pension savings; both pension systems offer loans from the pension and the TDA. Disability retirement benefits are available to in-service TRS and BERS members who meet certain requirements, and members are covered by a death benefit.

If you worked for a New York City or New York State public employer before joining TRS or BERS, you may be able to obtain credit for that prior service.

The defined-benefit pension, the TDA, city-provided health insurance for most retirees and the UFT’s Welfare Fund supplemental health benefits are designed to work in tandem with Social Security to provide financial security for UFT members after a long career of educating and supporting New York City’s children.

For more information about TRS, call 888-869-2877 or visit the TRS website.

For more information about BERS, call 929-305-3800 or visit the BERS website.

The UFT Pension Department is another source of information. Call the UFT at 212-331-6311 and ask to speak to a UFT pension consultant. Also, consider attending some of the department’s pension clinics on many different subjects throughout the year.

While you are busy taking care of others, your union is looking out for you.