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Prior service worth money in your future

New York Teacher

Were you employed by New York City or New York State before joining the Teachers' Retirement System or the Board of Education Retirement System?

You may have prior service credit to buy. It's worth checking. Purchasing credit for prior service increases your Total Service Credit — a key factor in determining your retirement eligibility benefits.

TRS may already have a prior record of service credit for you. You can find out in two places in the secure section of the TRS website: the Service Milestones section of your most recent Annual Benefit Statement from TRS or the Planning Tools from your My Home page on the website. If you see a prompt that says "Request Cost Letter," you have service credit verified by the Department of Education and you can purchase it. If you're a member of BERS, you can get information about buying service credit by calling 929-305-3791.

TRS does not automatically receive service records from employers other than the New York City Department of Education. So TRS may not be aware of pensionable prior service in your work history and you will need to notify TRS of such service. You can submit a service claim, and TRS will then determine whether you have service credit for purchase.

If you were enrolled in a retirement plan at your previous city or state job, you may be eligible for service credit simply by requesting it. However, if you held a position that wasn't eligible for a retirement plan — for example, a substitute teacher — or you chose not to enroll — for example, a paraprofessional — once you're appointed to a position in the DOE and are a member of a retirement plan, you have the option to buy service credit. You may buy prior service credit by paying what would have been your contribution to a plan, plus any interest your contribution would have earned, for the length of time in that previous position.

If you want to purchase prior service credit, it's best to do it sooner rather than later. Due to accumulating interest, the cost will increase over time. In addition, the extra credit may allow you to reach your vesting date and other important milestones sooner. Please note: You must have two years of service in your DOE job before TRS can credit you with the purchased prior service.

The first step in purchasing credit for service is requesting a cost letter. The cost letter will indicate the amount of service and the payment options available to you. For your convenience, TRS offers different ways to make your service purchase. These include a plan of deductions from your pay, a lump sum from your pay, a lump-sum payment (which you can make online through the secure section of the TRS website) and a transfer of funds from your Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) Program account.

For more information about purchasing prior service credit, please visit the TRS website.

View your Annual Benefits Statement

Your latest Annual Benefits Statement from TRS is now available for viewing in the secure section of the TRS website. Your Annual Benefits Statement summarizes your Total Service Credit and account information, reports on your eligibility for benefits and lists your designated beneficiaries as of June 30. The Service Milestones section of the statement can, as mentioned earlier, be very useful.

To view your available statements, please log in at www.trsnyc.org and choose "Statements." You will have the option to view your Annual Benefits Statements or, for more detailed account information, your Quarterly Account Statements.

For your convenience, a video demonstrating how to access your Annual Benefits Statement online is available on the TRS website and on YouTube.

This column is compiled by Tom Brown, David Kazansky and Debra Penny, teacher-members of the NYC Teachers’ Retirement Board.

Related Topics: Secure Your Future