February 2011 Issue
February 08, 2011

How much is a TRS pension?

Source: NYSUT United

Q I'm sick of hearing all the complaints about public-sector pensions. What is the average pension for TRS members?

A: As of 2010, the average annual pension for TRS retirees is $37,000.

Q: I am a Tier 4 math teacher with 27 years of service. I'm wondering about income limitations after retirement. Are there exceptions for math teachers due to the shortage of math teachers?

A: There are no exceptions. When a retired member is receiving a New York state pension, the limitation in public employment in New York is $30,000 per calendar year.

However, there is no limit to what you can earn in the private sector after retirement.

Q: I am completing 11 years as a high school teacher and previously spent 10 years working at a non-profit agency funded by state and federal monies. Do those 10 years qualify as years of service since I was basically working for New York state government?

A: Unfortunately, the answer is no. Credit in the New York State Teachers' Retirement System can only be earned if the service rendered was for an employer (school district or state university) enrolled as a participant in the NYSTRS.

Q: In the December column your answer to a pension question mentioned a penalty for less than 30 years of service. Teaching is my second career and in four more years I will be 66 with 26 years of service. If I decide to retire then, will I have a penalty for less than 30 years of service? If so, is there a table on the TRS website showing penalties/years of service?

A: The majority of the TRS members are under 55 years of age, hence if they wish to retire at 55 they must have a minimum of 30 years of credited service. However, there is no penalty for a member who is 62 or older.

Q: I have 14 years of service as a teacher in New York state. I am in Tier 4. My question pertains to about 1 1/2 years that I worked at a SUNY college as a full-time lab technician in their graduate biology department before beginning teaching. Can those years be added to my years of teaching? I was in TIAA-CREF while at SUNY but I was a state employee, so I am hoping that this counts as years of service.

A: Unfortunately, the answer is no. Service credited in TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund) cannot be transferred to the state TRS.

Note: In response to last month's column about which states have no state income tax , we received a call from a retiree who has relocated to Pennsylvania. She wanted to let us know that although Pennsylvania has an income tax, like New York state, it does NOT tax public pensions. Thanks for letting us know, especially at a time when critics are questioning why New York does not tax NYS pensions!