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Secure Your Future

Union membership provides security

New York Teacher

Welcome back! The Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) marked its 100th anniversary on Aug. 1. We continue to celebrate that milestone for good reason as we enter the school year.

Through your membership in the union, you remain among the few Americans who still have a defined-benefit pension. The defined-benefit pension is a hallmark of union benefits that helps to provide a secure retirement after years of work. It is a benefit that we at the UFT; our parent union, the AFT; and our state affiliate, NYSUT, fiercely defend in our daily work.

Only 20 percent of all U.S. workers participate in a defined-benefit plan, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of unions, about 85 percent of public employees are still covered by defined-benefit pensions. That’s just one of the many good things unions do.

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

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 one of the most valuable benefits the UFT has achieved for its members. We encourage you to enroll in it if you haven’t already done so.

Membership in TRS is mandatory for most UFT members who work for the Department of Education. Paraprofessionals may choose to participate, and we urge them to do so. If you’re a paraprofessional and you’re not sure how to sign up, please call a pension consultant at your UFT borough office.

Over the years, TRS has grown into one of the largest pension systems in the nation, serving more than 210,000 in-service members, retirees and beneficiaries.

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 where you can fill out the enrollment application along with the designation of beneficiary form. (Questions? Call your UFT borough office and speak with a pension consultant.)

How much you contribute toward your Qualified Pension Plan, as the defined-benefit plan is known, is determined by your initial date of membership in TRS. TRS participants belong to a specific pension “tier.” For example, members who join now are in Tier VI.

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 further questions.

You may also enroll in the Tax-Deferred Annuity program to save more for retirement. To enroll, you file a separate TDA application as well as a designation of beneficiary form.

Other retirement options

Per diem teachers, long-term substitute teachers and substitute paraprofessionals may join the Board of Education Retirement System. For more information, call BERS at 929-305-3800.

Benefits of TRS membership

The main benefits include:

• A guaranteed retirement allowance once you have met certain age and service requirements;

• Voluntary participation in TRS’ Tax-Deferred Annuity program;

• Low-interest loans from the pension and TDA programs available after your first year of service or TDA participation, respectively; and

• Disability benefits and death benefits for beneficiaries.

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