By Jim Lucia, president of the Massachusetts Retirees United (MRU)
HAPPY RETIREMENT!!!!! Wait. What? You are not ready to retire? Maybe you just began your teaching career, or you just finished your tenth year, or twentieth year, or thirtieth year? So why start to think about retirement?
From day one of your teaching career, you contribute to the MTRS, the Massachusetts Teachers RETIREMENT system. Since that day you are officially a retiree in waiting.
When you finally start the retirement process, whenever that may occur, there are many options and decisions that you will be faced with. Many decisions are one and done with no changes allowed. For example, do you take Option A (when you die your pension ends), or Option B (when you die your spouse receives a one lump sum of your total contributions), or Option C (when you die your spouse receives two thirds of your pension for the remainder of their life). Your decision is irrevocable.
As you continue in the classroom make sure that you are involved with all local, state, and federal politics and legislation. To coin a phrase, all politics are local. Your local school boards and city councils determine your pay, your benefits, and your working conditions. Run for a local office or become a town meeting member. Advocate for yourself, your family, and your fellow teachers. Beware of state legislation that controls your future pension and Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). At the federal legislation level make sure that programs that will affect your retirement are protected, such as a secure Social Security and protected Medicare and Medicaid. Fight for the full repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the full repeal of the Government Pension Offset (GPO).
These last two Social Security provisions have cost retired public employees millions of lost pension and Social Security benefits. This is how these laws may affect you. If you find that your teaching salary is not keeping up with inflation and you end up with a part-time job contributing to Social Security you will lose about one half of your Social Security monthly benefits when you retire because of the WEP. If your spouse has a career that is less than forty hours per week and they pay into Social Security, and when you both retire if their Social Security benefit is less than two thirds of your pension, then you will receive none of their survivor Social Security benefits when they die thanks to the GPO.
These provisions can be confusing for someone nowhere near retirement. It is very daunting and terrifying to consider losing half your Social Security and all of your spousal benefits. However there are retirement organizations that are fighting for your full pension and Social Security benefits, your job security, and your financial future. We are the Massachusetts Retirees United, the MRU, a retired chapter of the AFT Massachusetts and AFLCIO, local 8019R with the emphasis on United like in Union. There are other retirement groups whose name sounds a lot like ours but we are the only one looking out for the health of our members.
Join us at retireesunited.org. Scroll down on the left-hand side to click on MRU then click membership application. It is that easy. Join our all-volunteer organization tirelessly working for all retired public employees.