Q: How can I retain my membership in the state Teachers' Retirement System during the time I am laid off?
A: If you joined the New York State Teachers' Retirement System before Jan. 1, 2010, and have five or more years of credited service, you are vested in the system. If you joined NYSTRS on or after Jan. 1, 2010, however, you must have 10 years of service before you are vested.
The membership of any non-vested person will automatically terminate unless you keep your membership active. You can do this, and still accrue time toward vesting rights, by working the equivalent of 20 full-time days in a school year for a participating NYSTRS employer(s) every seven years.
For example, you could work as a part-time employee such as a substitute teacher or teaching assistant. The equivalent of 20 full-time days equals one month of credit, and nine months of credit equals a full year for state TRS. Only days worked in the same school year can be added together when calculating service credit; days worked may be in different school districts.
Q: What happens if I withdraw my benefits from the system?
A: NYSUT strongly recommends that you NOT withdraw. If you do, you forfeit all benefits.
If you are re-employed after such a withdrawal, you may rejoin the system. Current guidelines allow you to apply for reinstatement in your plan and to pay for prior service credit. You will be enrolled in the plan in effect at the time of such new employment and would need to apply and pay for a re-instatement of your former membership to effect a change in your date of membership.
Tier 1 and 2 members may withdraw from membership at any time. You would need to submit a signed statement indicating you understand the consequences of withdrawing your membership and terminating your rights to any future benefit. Other members may withdraw only if they have less than 10 years of service credit.
Q: What happens if I leave teaching before I vest?
A: If you leave teaching before you vest and do not intend to return to service, you may consider withdrawing your member contributions and interest earned and cancel your membership. You will not receive your employer's contributions.
As explained above, if you decide to return to teaching, you may reinstate your former membership under your former tier.
Note: Members of all ages are encouraged to attend a TRS Pension and Retirement Education Program. Nearly two dozen one-day PREP sessions are scheduled around the state this summer. These seminars are not designed for individual retirement counseling, but will answer general questions about pension calculation rules, payment options, and estate and financial planning. To register and for more information, go to www.nystrs.org.