April 2011 Issue
March 18, 2011

TRS: Is my pension safe from bankruptcy?

Source: NYSUT United

Q: I am a member of the New York State Teachers' Retirement System and just read NYSUT United's recent article about state pensions. With the current financial crisis in our state, I'm wondering how safe and secure my pension is. Is it possible that our state can file bankruptcy and my pension will be lost? 

A: Despite the market volatility of the past few years, your TRS pension is safe and secure. NYSTRS remains fully funded, is designed to weather market fluctuations and is guaranteed under the New York State Constitution. TRS's funding foundation is stable because it is financed three ways: by member contributions, employer contributions and investment returns. With a defined benefit plan, benefits are protected, regardless of investment returns. 

Q: I will be undergoing surgery and depending on the results of that procedure, and possible follow-up treatments, I may be taking an extended sick leave. If I wanted to retire in June, would a paid sick leave preclude me from doing so? Is there a minimum number of days I would physically need to be at work to be eligible to receive credit for this year? 

A: There is no prescribed time of physical presence in the classroom. If you are using sick days, you are technically on the payroll of the district and receiving service credit.

Q: I have been teaching for 24 years. While I was in college, I was employed by another school district for a six-week summer migrant program for three summers. I believe it was funded through a federal grant. Would this count as additional credit?

A: If you were paid through the district payroll, we would suggest that you file for prior service credit by downloading the forms from http://www.nystrs.org OR call 800-348-7298, ext. 6250.

Q: In a recent issue of NYSUT United a question was raised about coaching and record keeping. How do we get credit for prior coaching? 

A: If you coached for a New York state public school district before you became a member of the TRS, and were paid on the district payroll, you might wish to apply for such service by downloading the prior service claim forms at http://www.nystrs.com. ( http://www.nystrs.com. ) If you are a full-time teacher and coach, there is no additional service credit. If the coaching is done within your three-year Final Average Salary years, then the additional monies will be included for the retirement calculation.

Q: I was trying to transfer my five years of service at a community college to New York State Teachers' Retirement System and was told that it can't be done since I belonged to a different retirement system, TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association — College Retirement Equities Fund). I would like to know if I can buy the five years of service credit.

A: This TRS tip could mean money in your pocket. There is no provision under current New York state law that would allow the purchase of such service (i.e. already credited to another retirement plan).