If you are approaching retirement with a mix of anticipation and confusion, you are not alone. You may be thinking: What will I do once I retire? Have I saved enough to retire? How does my retiree health insurance work? When should I start taking my Social Security and Medicare benefits? Creating a retirement timeline can help resolve these questions and relieve anxiety.
What’s Right for You?
Start by envisioning a retirement date. Full-time CUNY instructional staff members can retire with full benefits at age 62, if they have met the years-of-service requirements. At age 62, you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits – but at a lower monthly benefit amount than if you wait until the age the government has set for full retirement (65, 66 or 67, depending on your birth date).
Once you have determined your retirement date, put together a personal timetable for planning. The union conducts retirement planning forums twice yearly, and has helpful planning materials on the PSC website.
Consulting a personal financial planner is always useful, starting, if possible, five years out from your prospective retirement date. One to two years before your expected retirement date, plan to meet with the PSC benefits counselor concerning how to access Travia Leave and the form to be filed with your HR Office. While staff can schedule Travia Leave starting any time, faculty need to work with their departments and college HR offices at least a semester in advance.
You should also develop an understanding of your projected retirement benefits. Full-time instructional staff members who belong to an Optional Retirement Program (ORP) plan (TIAA-CREF, MetLife or Halliday) should have a retirement planning meeting with a representative of the appropriate plan. Members enrolled in the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) should review TRS pre-retirement calculations with the PSC benefits counselor.
Three months before you are scheduled to retire, you should complete CUNY pre-retirement paperwork and your TRS retirement or TIAA-CREF “Lifetime Income Annuity” paperwork (whichever is applicable). If you are 65 or older and have not already applied for Medicare, you should do so.
In the month before your retirement date, remind Medicare of your pending retirement and do the paperwork to secure a Medicare Part B reimbursement.
Visit the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund website for any steps needed to continue optional benefits.
Health and Welfare Fund Coverage
Retired members eligible for New York City retiree health insurance coverage typically fall into one of two categories: those who are eligible for Medicare, and those who are not. If you opt to retire at 62, you will not be eligible for Medicare until your 65th birthday. Those who stay with the same primary health insurance plan they had as active employees will not see much change in their coverage. Your NYC health benefits plan will serve as your primary insurance, supplemented by your PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund benefits, which cover optical, audiological, dental, prescription drugs and extended medical benefits. (Only GHI-CBP plan participants are eligible.)
At 65, if you have already retired, Medicare will become your primary insurance (Part A covers hospital stays, and Part B, doctors’ visits), and your New York City health plan becomes your secondary insurance, functioning in a way similar to what’s known as “Medigap” insurance, covering the 20 percent of office-visit fees not paid by Medicare Part B when you go to the doctor. (You should always consult your health provider to see if there are potential additional expenses beyond what Medicare and your NYC health plan will pay for any treatment you seek.)
At whatever age you retire, be sure to ask your campus human resources benefits manager how your dependents’ basic health and benefits coverage will be affected by your change of employment status.
Jared Herst is the PSC’s coordinator of pension and health benefits.