July-August 2012 Issue
June 29, 2012

TRS: Know the rules about working in retirement

Source: NYSUT United

Q: I'm afraid my pension will not be enough. Can I work for another school district or my local college?

A: If you are 65 or older, there is no limit as to how much you can earn in New York state public employment. If you're younger, you need to know about the earnings limit, which is set by the state Legislature and governor. The current earnings limit for retirees under age 65 who are working in public employment is $30,000 per calendar year. If you expect to earn more than $30,000 per calendar year, you may either suspend your retirement benefit or work under Section 211 (if your employer receives prior approval from the state entity with jurisdiction over your employment). The State Education Department is the approving authority for school district employment. Your employer must request a waiver.

If you return to work for the same employer from which you retired, SED requires that a gap in employment exist before resuming employment. (The exception is if you return to your same district and do per diem subbing and earn less than $30,000.)

The waiting period does not apply if you work for a different school district, if you are employed by the State University of New York or if you earn less than the statutory limit for that calendar year.

If you are considering working for a school district as a "consultant," you must have the agreement reviewed and approved by the state Teachers' Retirement System. As a consultant, you cannot be an employee of the district or perform a function that normally would be performed by a teacher or an administrator. A third-party agent may inform you that your earnings in retirement are unlimited as long as your pay does not come directly from the school district. This is not correct.

You may have unlimited earnings (without affecting your TRS retirement benefit) in the following cases: private or federal employment; public employment outside New York state; New York state public employment beginning in the calendar year you turn age 65; and New York state public employment as an elected official, inspector of elections, poll or ballot clerk, commissioner of deeds, juror or notary public. Find more information online at www.nystrs.org.

Q: Last month's column said that if you're laid off, you can keep your TRS membership active if you work 20 or more days as a substitute or part-time employee (like a part-time teaching assistant) in a school year, within a seven-year period. What if I'm laid off more than seven years? Do I have to work another 20 days?

A: If you are laid off for more than seven years, you can substitute to meet the above requirements. If there is no activity over a seven-year period, the membership will terminate if you are a non-vested member. It's important to note that working the equivalent of 20 full-time days equals one month of service credit, and nine months of credit equals a full year for NYSTRS.

Note: Members of all ages are invited to attend a TRS Pension and Retirement Education Program. Nearly two dozen one-day sessions are scheduled around the state this summer. These seminars are not designed for individual retirement counseling, but will answer your general questions about pension calculation rules, payment options, estate and financial planning, Social Security and more. You must register in advance for the free sessions.

For more information, go to www.nystrs.org.