October 22, 2019

Forget the weekend, thank the people who gave you retirement security: Your Union!

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source:  NYSUT Communications
retirement planning

We fought for this!

It’s National Retirement Security Week, a week for NYSUT members in the state’s public retirement systems to recognize that our union has fought for and secured retirement security for our members.

It’s also a good time to remember two things:

1) Because you are a member of NYSUT, a union that fought for this, you have security and options when it comes to your retirement and...

2) It’s never too early to start planning.

The retirement systems

Most NYSUT members are in the New York State Teachers’ Retirement system or the State and Local Employees’ Retirement System. The NYSTRS and ERS are funded in three ways: investments, employer contributions and member contributions. Employers contribute a certain percentage of member payroll into the system. Members contribute varying amounts to the pension fund according to their retirement tier.

There are a few other options for some members who are not in TRS or ERS:


NYSUT helps elect teacher members to the TRS Board of Directors.

TRS members with questions may contact your teacher members:

  • David Keefe — 516-741-1241 (retiree representative)
  • Sheila Sullivan Buck — 585-454-5550, sbuck@nysutmail.org
  • Beth Chetney — 315-431-4040, bchetney@nysutmail.org
  • Ronald Gross — 631-273-8822, rgross@nysutmail.org

The ERS is operated by the Office of the State Comptroller, but NYSUT ERS consultants are available to help SRP members navigate the system, answer questions, provide forms and more.

  • Trudi Davis — 914-592-4411, troers@nysutmail.org
  • Patti Lennon — 516-496-2035, ext. 324, nroers@nysutmail.org

As a new teacher or school employee you think, correctly, that retirement is decades away. However, it is crucial to start planning for it now.

  • Attending a Pension and Retirement Education Program seminar is a great first step. Contact NYSTRS at 800-348-7298, ext. 6180, for details.
  • Set up a MyNYSTRS account at www.nystrs.org, so you can quickly and easily access your retirement information.
  • Register for your ERS Retirement Online account at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire to tap into information and assistance.


Your pension benefit will be a big piece of your retirement income, but you’ll still need to save on your own.

  • Many local unions have negotiated tax-deferred 403(b) retirement savings accounts — for employees of public schools — with their districts in addition to the pension. Check your contract for how to enroll.
  • The state’s 529 college savings accounts are also a helpful way to save for family education expenses in the future. See www.nysaves.org.
  • Additionally, your pension benefit provides premium-free disability and death benefit coverage once eligibility requirements are met. If you decide to purchase additional coverage, it may be easier, and less expensive, to buy when you’re younger and healthier.
  • Prior service credit is also a consideration. If you worked in New York state’s public sector, you may have claimable prior service credit, meaning a bigger benefit and earlier retirement.
  • Know your vesting status. Once you are vested, you get to keep your employer’s contributions to your retirement plan, as well as your own, and you are eligible to collect a future retirement benefit. Your tier membership determines when you become vested. Tier 5 and 6 members vest with 10 years of state service credit.
  • Review you retirement portfolio regularly. Here’s what to look for: Make sure your beneficiary information is correct. And check your own name and address as well. Incorrect listings can cause unnecessary benefit delays.