ADJUNCTS and CONTINUING EDUCATION TEACHERS are eligible to join the NYC Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Qualified Pension Plan and Tax-Deferred Annuity programs from their first semester at CUNY. You can get application forms from your campus Human Resources Office or the TRS website.
The Teachers’ Retirement System plan includes a pension, death benefits, and a disability pension. It’s funded by the employee and the employer.
Over the years, TRS members’ pension benefits have changed. It all depends on the date you joined TRS. As a TRS member, you are considered to be in one of the five following five tiers:
- Tier I members joined TRS before July 1, 1973.
- Tier II members joined TRS after June 30, 1973, but before July 27, 1976.
- Tier III members joined TRS after July 26, 1976, but before September 1, 1983.
- Tier IV members joined TRS after August 31, 1983, but before April 1, 2012.
- Tier VI members joined TRS after March 31, 2012.
Pension Benefits Tier I-IV: Follow this link for information about pension choices for those hired before April 1, 2012.
Pension Benefits Tier VI: How TRS works
CUNY employees pay 3% of regular compensation on a federally tax-deferred basis through 3/31/2013. Thereafter, the contribution rate varies for the remainder of service, dependent upon an employee’s salary:
--$45,000 or less: 3.00%
--More than $45,000 to $55,000: 3.50%
--More than $55,000 to $75,000: 4.50%
--More than $75,000 to $100,000: 5.75%
--More than $100,000: 6.00%
These gross salary deductions occur from your CUNY paychecks by automatic payroll deductions. You’ll earn 5% interest on these monies while they grow in your qualified pension plan (QPP). Important: If you do not see your employee pension contributions being deducted from your paychecks, please contact TRS immediately.
Tier VI: How TRS calculates your service
A year of credited service is equated as 360 paid adjunct hours. A three-hour course over a fifteen-week semester is 45 hours; a six-hour course with one weekly paid office hour over a fifteen-week semester is 105 hours. Starting with the spring 2020 semester, the paid office hour (1 per week for each 3-5-hour course, 2 for 6-8 hours, 3 for 9+ hours) will also be credited, so a 3-hour courses is 60 hours per semester.
Tier VI: TRS Vesting
After accumulating ten years of total credited service, you will be vested. This means you will be eligible when you reach the age of 63 to receive full pension based on your years of service, whether or not you earn further credit in TRS. If you want to buy back prior service you may do so two calendar years after your initial enrollment, at the percentage of your earnings during that service plus percentage interest compounded annually. A member can also purchase prior service credit if he or she has less than 2 years of membership service to save on the interest that accumulates on the cost of prior service. The prior service will be posted to the member's account once he or she reaches 2 years of membership service. For example, if you are 63, have two calendar years of TRS membership and buy back eight credited years, you can start collecting your pension. Although you may continue to work after you start collecting your pension, deductions and contributions will cease.
Tier VI: Starting the Pension
A member can retire between the ages of 55 and 63; if the member does not have 30 years of total service at retirement, an age reduction will be applied to the calculation if the member is not age 63 at retirement. If you are employed by New York State of New York City after your retirement date and are under 65 years of age, you cannot exceed $30,000.00 in earnings after retirement. If you are employed by New York State or New York City after your retirement date and are 65 years of age or older, there is no limit on your earnings after retirement.
Tier VI: Calculating how much you’ll get after retirement
To calculate your retirement benefits, you must know your Final Average Salary (FAS), which is the average salary of your highest five consecutive years of credited service. An annualized year is defined as 360 times the wages earned in a year, divided by the hours of credited service in that year.
For instance, if you earned $10,000 in a year and were credited with 180 hours, the formula would look like this: $10,000 x 360=$3,600,000 / 180=FAS of $20,000.
The retirement allowance for those who have less than 20 credited years of service is 1.67% of your Final Average Salary times your years of service. Someone who has 10 credited years of service and FAS of $15,000 will get $2,500 a year.
The retirement allowance for those who have over 20 credited years of service is: 1.75% (for first 20 years) times FAS times years of service + 2.0% times FAS times years of service over 20 years.
Tier VI: Taxes
For NY State residents, these pension payments are exempt from state and city taxes.
Tier VI: Disability Benefits
Ordinary Disability Retirement benefits are available to a member of TRS who have 10 or more years of service credit (3600 hours). Benefit schedules and formulas are spelled out in the laws relating to Tier VI. There is no minimum service requirement if a member is approved for and retires under a Tier VI Accident Disability Retirement.
Of further interest to part-timers:
- Harsh New Pension Law Approved. Tier 6 Slams Future CUNY Employees – Clarion, April 2012
- Adjunct Pensions: A Surprising Return -- Clarion, February 2004, Revised September 2011
- If You're in Another Retirement System -- Clarion, January 2006
- Act Now on Adjunct Pensions -- Clarion, January 2010