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Texas Teacher Retirement & Social Security

Instructor: Alyssa Kominsky

Alyssa has taught middle school and high school English and has a bachelor's degree in secondary English education with a minor in creative writing.

Learn about the benefits and eligibility requirements for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). You'll also find out how enrollment in the TRS affects the amount you can receive from your Social Security pension.

About the Teacher Retirement System of Texas

Texas is one of 15 states offering its own retirement plan to employees of public agencies. Its Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) provides individuals who work for public schools and postsecondary institutions with pensions as well as disability retirement and death benefits.

Once you meet the eligibility requirements outlined below, you'll be enrolled in this defined benefit program automatically, in which 7% to 8% of your pre-tax income is contributed to your retirement account. When you reach retirement age, you'll receive an annuity based on a formula that factors in your years of service and your salary.

Eligibility Requirements

You'll be eligible for enrollment in the TRS once you begin working in a position that requires a minimum of 15-20 hours of work a week for at least four-and-a-half months or, if you're employed by a public postsecondary school, more than one semester.

Retirement Age

In most cases, you'll be eligible to receive your monthly benefit once you turn 65 or reach the point at which your age and combined work experience total 80 years or more. You must also have a minimum of five years of work experience with a Texas public educational institution. Early retirement is available to teachers who are at least 55, though work experience requirements vary by age.

Social Security and the TRS

If you have previous work experience with another employer, you'll also be eligible to receive pension benefits from Social Security once you turn 62, as long as you've contributed enough of your earnings in the form of Social Security taxes. Typically, this requires a minimum of 10 years of employment in a position that deducted these taxes from your pay.

However, a couple of laws have been passed that may impact how much money Texas educators are eligible to receive from Social Security. These laws are outlined below.

Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

Under the WEP, the formula used to determine your Social Security annuity - which is based on your average monthly pay and is designed to ensure low-income pensioners receive more of their earnings - will be adjusted so that educators are not receiving more of their pre-retirement funds than individuals who paid Social Security taxes for the duration of their careers.

You could be exempt from this law if you paid into the Social Security system for at least 30 years.

Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act

The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA) is a bill awaiting Congress' approval. If this law passes, your Social Security benefits would be based on the amount you paid into the system, instead of using the WEP formula that takes your earnings into account.

Government Pension Offset (GPO)

If you're married, you're also entitled to receive all or part of your spouse's Social Security benefit. However, the GPO prevents individuals who are eligible for TRS from also getting full spousal/widower pensions by reducing the amount they can receive from this benefit by two-thirds of their TRS pension.

Additional Resources

Without a doubt, the terminology and laws associated with pension plans can be intimidating and confusing. Study.com can help. Check out these short video lessons to learn more about what a defined benefit plan entails and explore other retirement planning options, such as the different types of 401ks:

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