The time period to file for starting phased retirement in Fall 2015 has been moved back; the new deadline is November 15, 2014.
Under a three-year pilot program negotiated last year by the PSC and CUNY, eligible full-time faculty may take a voluntary phased retirement of one, two or three years in which they carry 50% of workload and receive 50% of pay. Eligible HEO-series employees and full-time CLTs can take a phased retirement for either six months or one year, at 80% of workload and 80% of pay. (Unfortunately, current New York law creates obstacles to a phased retirement option for participants in TRS, which is the only retirement plan open to CUNY adjuncts.)
To be eligible to begin phased retirement, faculty and staff must be enrolled in TIAA-CREF (or in the Optional Retirement Plan’s alternate funding vehicles with MetLife or Guardian); must be at least 65 years of age; must have tenure, a CCE, or 13.3b status; and must have at least 15 years of continuous, pensionable service. (All these must be true as of the date that phased retirement is scheduled to begin; they need not all apply at the time that you file your papers.)
The decision to retire completely after the phased retirement period is irrevocable.
“For people who can financially afford this option, this can be a good way to transition into retirement,” Jared Herst, PSC Coordinator for Pension & Benefits, told Clarion when the program was announced last year. “But you need to be sure about your decision, because it’s irrevocable.” If you take phased retirement, you can decide to fully retire sooner, but not later, than your original target date.
The financial aspects of phased retirement are important because, while “phasing,” employees remain active employees and will not have access to their primary CUNY retirement annuities. In fact, retirement contributions will continue from both CUNY and employees, based on their reduced rate of pay. On the other hand, those who are “phasing” will have access to funds in their supplemental retirement accounts, because they are older than 59 and 1/2. Employees may also have access to other sources of income – but while they are working part-time during phased retirement, they cannot collect their primary pension from TIAA-CREF or other ORP plans.
Health insurance continues during phased retirement.
To be approved for phased retirement, faculty members are required to meet with their department chairs, while HEOs or CLTs must meet with their supervisors, to reach a mutually agreeable configuration of their reduced work schedules. Any subsequent changes in a member’s part-time workload configuration must be approved by their department chair or supervisor.
Notice of intent to take phased retirement must be submitted in writing to an employee’s department chair or supervisor by November 15, 2014, in order to take phased retirement in Fall 2015. Forms are available from college HR offices, or online (click on “Retirement Benefits” and then look for the forms under “Phased Retirement.”) Final arrangements, including an agreed-on schedule of work, must be in place by February 1.
Professional staff also have a second option: they can begin phased retirement at the start of the Spring semester. To start “phasing” in Fall 2015, they must file by November 15, 2014 (with final schedule arrangements completed by the following February 1). To start in Spring 2016, they must file by May 1, 2015 (with final schedule arrangements complete by the following October 1.)
“Keep in mind that once you sign a phased retirement application, your decision becomes irrevocable – so choose carefully before you sign,” the PSC’s Herst told Clarion this October.
Financial planning is an important part of making this decision. Herst encourages members to meet with their TIAA-CREF consultant or financial planner before reaching a final conclusion. Members can also meet with Herst to review details of the program; to contact the PSC Pension and Benefits Office, call 212-354-1252.
For more details on phased retirement, see previous Clarion coverage, or read the letter of agreement.