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Pension benefits in a nutshell

New York Teacher
Mature woman laying on the floor looking at her laptop

With the start of a new school year, we know you’re busy with new students. But while you’re busy thinking about others, the start of the school year is also an excellent time to think about securing your own future.

The Teachers’ Retirement System celebrated its anniversary on Aug. 1, marking 102 years of serving New York City’s education professionals. The greatest benefit of union membership is the guaranteed retirement allowance provided through the Qualified Pension Plan. The UFT has successfully protected this valuable financial asset through thick and thin.

Once you meet certain age and service requirements, you are eligible for a defined-benefit pension unaffected by the ups and downs of the financial markets. TRS membership is mandatory for most UFT members who work for the city Department of Education. Paraprofessionals may choose to participate, and the union strongly urges them to do so.

All new regularly appointed teachers, school secretaries, guidance counselors and other pedagogues will receive a welcome letter this fall with instructions on enrolling in the system and designating beneficiaries as well as sending TRS proof of birth.

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 plan through the 98-year-old Board of Education Retirement System.

TRS and BERS members contribute to the defined-benefit 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. Those joining either system today are in Tier 6.

A tax-deferred annuity program goes hand in hand with the pension plan for TRS and BERS members. Members can build additional retirement income through TDA accounts during their working years on a tax-deferred basis. As its name implies, the TDA program enables participants to save money while deferring payments of federal and local income taxes.

To enroll in the TDA program, either through BERS or TRS, you must file a separate enrollment application and a separate designation of beneficiary form.

TRS and BERS members may also 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 members who meet certain requirements, and members are covered by a death benefit.

To make the most of your benefits, you have to know about them and understand them. TRS and BERS provide you with the information you need to prepare for your future. Be aware that information on blogs from independent “pension consultants” may not be accurate. Always check with TRS or BERS before making a decision based on information you get from an unofficial source.

For more information about TRS, call 888-869-2877 or visit the TRS website. TRS also provides two newsletters per year with updates about member services, legislation and TRS’ investment performance; quarterly account statements and an annual benefits statement; and workshops on TRS topics and pension clinics.

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


TRS resources at a glance

To make the most of your retirement, be sure to take advantage of these services:

  • Pension consultants in every UFT borough office to answer questions
  • Pension clinics for Tiers 4 and 6 offered in all boroughs
  • A regular column in the New York Teacher and on the UFT website
  • Speakers at union and chapter meetings
  • TDA workshops in all boroughs
  • Preliminary pension consultations
  • A final pension consultation before retirement
  • BERS workshops
  • Ready-or-Not preretirement informational workshops
  • Financial wellness workshops

Pension Clinics

The UFT’s popular pension clinics — a mini-course in pensions and related retirement matters — have been scheduled for the fall. For your convenience, all information will be included in one session, and more clinics will be available in each borough year-round.

The clinics are for UFT members only. Registration is required. Seating is limited and walk-ins will not be admitted. Please register on the UFT website. Online registration links will be available three weeks prior to each event. Bring proof of registration and your UFT membership card. Please do not call to register.

Tier 4

  • Oct. 17, 4–6 p.m.
    Bronx borough office, 2500 Halsey St., & Queens borough office, 118-35 Queens Blvd., 8th floor
  • Oct. 24, 4–6 p.m.
    Brooklyn borough office, 335 Adams St., 25th Floor,& Staten Island borough office, 4456 Amboy Road
  • Dec. 5, 4–6 p.m.
    Shanker Hall, 52 Broadway, Manhattan
2019 Diversified Equity Balanced Fund International Equity Inflation Protection Socially Responsive Equity
June 92.578 15.927 10.181 9.980 16.694
July 98.450 16.248 10.756 10.079 17.608
August 98.938 16.193 10.577 10.094 17.950
Related Topics: Secure Your Future, Pension