Q: I'm not ready to retire yet, but it's on my horizon in the next five years or so. When should I attend a New York State Teachers' Retirement System Pension and Retirement Education Program seminar?
A: It's never too early to begin planning for your retirement; and attending a PREP seminar is a great place to start. These free seminars explain critical benefit-related decisions, and review financial and legal considerations. You can stay for the entire daylong seminar, or just for selected modules.
Attending a seminar in your 30s or 40s is a good plan; with so many different facets to retirement planning, it's never too early to learn. Contact NYSTRS at 800-782-0289, ext. 6180, to sign up for a PREP seminar — reservations are required. A PREP video, poster and brochure are also available at www.nystrs.org.
Q: You often refer members to the NYSTRS website for further information. However, I sometimes have a tough time finding the information I need. Is there any chance it will become more user-friendly?
A: You asked and NYSTRS listened. An updated website debuted this summer, providing a cleaner, clutter-free look for users, more intuitive navigation and a responsive design for better viewing and navigation on mobile devices. All the online information available previously is still there — it's just more user-friendly.
Other updates include print-friendly publications, and MyNYSTRS logins on every page. MyNYSTRS and other secure website areas, however, remain unchanged. Although those sections are also slated for a spruce up, they'll be upgraded at a later date. And don't forget — you can also contact NYSTRS toll-free at 800-348-7298.
DID YOU KNOW
The New York State Teachers' Retirement System has more than $13.5 million in its abandoned accounts fund. Visit NYSTRS.org to see if you, or someone you know, are owed a refund.
TRS RATES DROP FOR 2016
Public schools will see a 24 percent decrease in the employer contribution rate this year, according to the state Teachers' Retirement System. The TRS board adopted an employer contribution rate of 13.26 percent for 2015-16, down from last year's rate of 17.53 percent.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta said it's important to note that this welcome news for districts is an expected development in the cycle of contributions that go up and down due to changing economic forces.
"Too often, those who would strip away all benefits for working people paint a doomsday scenario of the costs of retirement security," he said. "This refutes those attacks and affirms once again why a system of defined benefits is good for working people, their families and our state's economic stability."
CHECK FOR YOUR COLA INCREASE
Eligible retirees receiving a monthly NYSTRS benefit should have received a 1 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment beginning with their September 2015 payment.
By law, the COLA is applied to the first $18,000 of a benefit. Retirees who become eligible for the COLA after September will receive their adjustment when first eligible.
To be eligible for a COLA, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- At least 62 and retired at least five years; or
- At least 55 and retired at least 10 years; or
- A retiree receiving a NYSTRS disability benefit for at least five years (regardless of age); or
- A surviving spouse of an eligible retiree receiving a lifetime benefit. (By law, the spouse receives an increase equal to one-half the COLA the retiree would have received.)