October 2011 Issue
September 16, 2011

TRS: It pays to know your tier benefits

Source: NYSUT United

Q: If I teach full time, do I have to join TRS?

A: You must join the New York State Teachers' Retirement System if you are employed full-time as a teacher, teaching assistant, guidance counselor or educational administrator for a New York state (excluding New York City) public school district or BOCES, or by an eligible charter school which has opted to participate as an employer in NYSTRS. You may join NYSTRS if you are employed in a New York state community college or the State University of New York, where you may elect coverage by NYSTRS, the New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System or the Optional Retirement Plan (TIAA-CREF).

Q: If I teach part time or substitute, am I eligible to join TRS?

A: Yes. You may join if you are employed less than full time by any of the employers participating in TRS.

Q: What are membership tiers and how do I know which tier I am in?

A: Your tier is determined by different sections of law and regulations, depending on your date of membership. There are five membership tiers:

  • Tier 1: For those joining the system before July 1, 1973;
  • Tier 2: For those joining the system between July 1, 1973-July 26, 1976;
  • Tier 3: For those joining the system between July 27, 1976-Aug. 31, 1983;
  • Tier 4: For those joining the system between Sept. 1, 1983 and Dec. 31, 2009; and,
  • Tier 5: For those joining the system on or after Jan. 1, 2010.

Your benefits are determined based on which tier you are in. For example, member contribution rates vary, depending on your tier.

Those in Tiers 1 and 2 do not contribute. Tier 3 and 4 members must contribute 3 percent for 10 years. Tier 5 members must contribute 3.5 percent of their gross wage throughout their career.

That means that if you are in Tier 3 or 4 and are a 10-year Teachers' Retirement System member, you should check your pay stub and make sure your school district has stopped deducting your 3 percent pension contribution.

Remember, this means membership in the Teachers' Retirement System — not just years of service. It doesn't matter if some of your service is part-time, or if you've switched school districts.

Check your records and your most recent TRS member profile (which should state your tier and benefits). If you find your district is improperly deducting the 3 percent contribution, tell your local union president. Then call the TRS at 800-348-7298 and TRS will contact your district.

If you have trouble eliminating the deduction, call us at one of the numbers listed below, or contact us at our new email address, mailto:trs-q&a@nysutmail.org .