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Secure Your Future

In uncertain times, count on a defined-benefit pension

New York Teacher

While the opening of school this fall has been surrounded by uncertainty, one thing you can count on is your defined-benefit pension, thanks to the Teachers’ Retirement System and the UFT.

TRS celebrated its anniversary on Aug. 1, marking 103 years of providing financial security to New York City’s education professionals. One of the greatest benefits of union membership is the guaranteed retirement allowance provided through the Qualified Pension Plan, and the UFT has protected this valuable financial asset through thick and thin.

The defined-benefit pension helps to provide a secure retirement after years of service. It is a benefit that the UFT and its state and national affiliates fiercely defend in their daily work.

A defined-benefit pension guarantees a lifetime annuity — regular payments based on a formula. The formula takes years of service, salary and age into account. You don’t have to worry about the ups and downs of the stock market that affect 401(k) savings plans — with a defined-benefit pension, your pension benefit stays the same throughout your retirement.

TRS membership is mandatory for teachers and Department of Education-employed UFT members in most other titles. It is optional for DOE paraprofessionals, but the union strongly urges everyone who can enroll to do so. If you’re a paraprofessional and you’re unsure about how to sign up, please call the UFT Contact Center at 212-331-6312.

Other DOE-employed 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 99-year-old Board of Education Retirement System. For more information, call BERS at 929-305-3800.

The date when you became a member of TRS or BERS determines your pension tier and how much you contribute. Those joining either system today are in Tier 6. TRS and BERS members contribute to the defined-benefit plan through automatic payroll deductions.

In addition to the defined-benefit pension, UFT members may participate in the Tax-Deferred Annuity program, a low-fee savings plan established in 1970. The TDA program is another valuable UFT benefit, which is separate from the defined-benefit plan. We encourage you to enroll, if you haven’t already done so, by filing a TDA application as well as a designation-of-beneficiary form.

What new UFT members should know

TRS will soon send a welcome letter explaining enrollment procedures to all new regularly appointed teachers, school secretaries, school counselors, education officers and analysts and other pedagogues. The welcome letter will direct you to the TRS website at, where you can fill out the enrollment application and the designation-of-beneficiary form.

If you worked for New York City or New York State before joining TRS, you may qualify for credit for prior service. Please contact TRS at 888-869-2877 if you have any questions.

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

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