A Georgia teacher’s retirement is complicated and can leave many teachers feeling confused and frustrated. To take advantage of this option, you must meet specific qualifications. It is important to understand that the Georgia Teacher Retirement System can’t operate without dedicated professionals. This blog post will discuss those requirements and help you determine if GTRS is right for you.
Teachers Retirement System of Georgia Membership
TRS administers a fund to which teachers in the state’s public schools, many employees of the University System Georgia, and certain other designated employees in educational work environments have access.
It offers a defined benefit plan, guaranteed to provide the employee with monthly payments – dependent on their final average salary and service. This is payable for life or until they retire when applicable (transferable if desired).
A 401A plan is a good option for those who want security and simplicity. With this type of retirement account, your future will be in the hands of TRS when it comes to making investment decisions, so you don’t have to worry about anything else!
Eligibility for Retirement
To help you determine your eligibility for retirement, there are a number of categories that count towards membership.
- Normal Service Retirement: When a member gains the service eligibility requirements that let them retire, they have two ways they can do so:
Some members may choose to complete 30 years of service regardless of their age.
Those who complete ten years of creditable service and are 60 or older
An important fact regarding normal service retirement:
- If you are a vested member who is not eligible for early retirement, and your TRS-covered employment ends before age 60 with the system – you will have benefits that start at full eligibility.
2. Early Retirement: If you’re under 60 years old and have at least 25 but less than 30 years’ worth of creditable service, then the government will pay your monthly retirement benefits as long as that meeting other requirements like completing forms or proving age.
Note: If a member has unused sick leave credit, they can use it to increase their total years of service in order for them to qualify for a faster retirement. To do this, the TRS must process the credits before they are applied toward an application for retirement.
- Important facts about early retirement:
- The penalties for early retirement are permanent.
- Members need to have an active account in order to retire.
- The member is not eligible for their first cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) until such time that they have attained 30 years of service or reaches 60, whichever comes first.
- If a teacher is not eligible for the Program of Lifetime Pension benefit
3. Disability Retirement: If a member has been employed for ten years or more and is unable to meet his job requirements as a result of physical or mental impairment.
- Processing disability retirement applications requires a lot of time due to medical records from health care providers. You should send TRS forms to multiple providers at once and await a response from them before submitting your application.
- The TRS medical review board will base its decision on your disability case based on the data you provide. Having all the information they need is what helps officials determine if a disability qualifies as legitimate.
Member Contribution Rates
Each member currently contributes 6.00% of earnable compensation to TRS by payroll deduction, which is defined as pay for a member’s full normal workday. This is done before any taxes are taken out, so the contributions go farther and have more impact on your retirement plan!
Your employer will contribute to TRS in addition to your contributions. Effective July 1, 2021, the contribution rate is 19.81%
In Georgia, you are protected from having your benefits taken away or transferred to someone else. The only exception is the payment of eligible benefits to designated beneficiaries at death.
Contributions and interest that you earn on your account as an active member cannot be divided between your spouse as is a divorce decree or Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).
Optional Retirement Plan (ORP)
Faculty and all exempt benefit-eligible staff have the chance to make a one-time choice whether or not they want to participate in an Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) instead of their current retirement system. If you choose this, it will be irreversible after 60 days from your employment date.
In 1990, the General Assembly of Georgia passed legislation establishing an Optional Retirement Plan known as the Regents Retirement Plan. ORP became effective October 1, 1990. A duplicate of the plan document is placed in the Board of Regents Central Office. The details are intended to summarize the ORP in general terms. In all questions of interpretation, it will control how things work.
Your retirement account is portable and flexible with an ORP. With a defined contribution plan, your benefits are not based on one predetermined formula; instead, you have the choice between various investment options, which can provide flexibility in terms of how much risk or return you want to accept for yourself.
Rather, contributions are paid by you and your employer, resulting in a fund that is used to provide a monthly income during retirement. Your account balances depend on how much each year of employment contributed to your overall balance.
Depending on the number of contributions to your retirement account and the performance of your investments, this can vary.
The Optional Retirement Plan is for all regular faculty members and other administrative positions designated by the president, who is employed at least one-half time in a benefit-eligible position.
Newly hired employees, as well as those first eligible for retirement benefits, should look into joining ORP. Employees recently promoted to an ORP-eligible position that was previously covered by the Teachers Retirement System should not join ORP.
Georgia Defined Contribution Plan
The Georgia Defined Contribution Plan was established to give state employees a retirement plan. The law went into effect on July 1, 1992, and the program’s purpose is to provide pension plans for temporary or part-time workers who are not eligible for membership in one of three other systems: Teachers Retirement System (TRS), Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), Optional Retirement Program at any University system colleges/universities.
This is specifically for seasonal employees, temporary workers, and part-time staff to provide retirement benefits.
- The State Board of Education
- Departments, institutions, bureaus, boards, or commissions of the State of Georgia
- The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia
- The following groups of employees are excluded from membership:
- Those who are working for an institution who are constantly enrolled and attending classes at that institution and who fulfill IRS student exception criteria
- Those who are active or retired in or from TRS or ERS
- Employees allowed as bona fide independent contractors
The Georgia Teacher Retirement System administers the fund from which teachers in the state’s public schools and certain other designated employees in educational-related work environments receive retirement benefits. If you are a teacher or school administrator who has worked for at least ten years within one of these occupations, you may be eligible to enroll in this system.