In Oklahoma, public school teachers have a competitive retirement plan. Oklahoma Teacher Retirement (OTR) is Oklahoma’s statewide teacher retirement system that provides comprehensive benefits for retired teachers and their spouses. This blog post is an introduction to Oklahoma Teacher Retirement and how it can help Oklahoma teachers.
Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System
Teachers don’t just show up to the classroom with a lesson plan in their hands and expect everything to go smoothly. They spend hours researching, preparing new lessons, and creating fun activities for students.
The way that teachers plan for the future should not be limited to their classrooms. As you move through your profession, it’s important to think about what life after teaching may look like and how much money is necessary in order to afford this lifestyle.
Oklahoma teachers are able to plan for the future with their comprehensive benefits package. This includes health and retirement options that help them prepare for a variety of outcomes in life, including whether they decide on going back to school or keep teaching indefinitely.
The Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System (OTRS) is a state-run system that provides lifelong benefits to participating members who qualify for retirement. Members of the program are able to collect their monthly payments from OTRS after they become eligible or if they wish to retire early and start receiving funds earlier than normal. For more information about this plan, contact your local representative at OTRS.
Choosing a Retirement Plan
The Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System is a defined benefit plan like your traditional pension. Your retirement benefits continue throughout the rest of your life and are calculated based on formula instead of an account balance.
- Contribution: You contribute a certain amount, about 7% of your total compensation, to the fund.
- Retirement Benefit: Your benefit for retirement is computed using a formula that includes your total service credit and your average total compensation during the five highest-paid years of service credit x 2% x average total compensation for your five highest-paid years = your retirement benefit.
- Contribution Start Date: You can start paying your membership or contributions to OTRS beginning with the first day of the month after you receive your agreement. If you want to pay a catch-up fee for some time in the past when you were eligible, contact OTRS directly.
If you joined before July 1, 1992, you could retire with full benefits from OTRS:
- If you are age 62 with at least five years of service credit OR
- When you are over 80 years old and have put in at least many years of service, then you can retire.
People who joined OTRS on or after July 1, 1992, can retire with full benefits:
- You can retire at age 62 if you have five years of OTRS service credit OR
- When the age of someone plus their years of service equals 90 or more, then they can retire.
For members who joined OTRS on or after November 1, 2011, they are able to retire with full benefits from OTRS:
- At age 65 with a least of 5 years of OTRS service credit OR
- When their age plus years of service credit equals 90 or more (Rule of 90).
Retirees in Oklahoma may apply for disability benefits from the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System at any age with ten years of service credit. Members with at least five years of service credit may retire from their teacher position and start receiving a reduced benefit when they reach age 55 or after they have reached 30 years of service, no matter what their current age is.
Reduced benefits are available for clients who do not yet meet the age requirements for regular retirement. Depending on age and date of membership, the reduction factor varies.
If a client terminates employment before reaching regular retirement age, they may wait (without working) for additional birthdays to reach the normal retirement date and avoid unpleasant penalties.
When you retire, the benefits are calculated using a defined retirement formula: 2% x (service years) x (final average salary) ÷ 12 = monthly benefit. The factor of 2% is fixed; however, depending on your service years and final average salary when retiring will vary.
What if you became disabled before reaching the usual retirement age??
Any Oklahoma public school employees who are diligent and contributing to the retirement system may retire for medical reasons if they so choose, which makes the client unable to execute regular employment duties given such client:
- has at least ten (10) years of contributory service
- is not entitled to usual, unreduced retirement
- provide an application for disability retirement
- receives a disability award from Social Security Administration, or is discovered by the System’s Medical Board to be medically inadequate to carry on regular duties
A client who has terminated employment for reason of the disability or is on leave without pay status shall be eligible to receive 10 Disability retirement if they can prove that their disabilities were already evident while they are out without a paycheck.
If you’re approved for disability retirement, the maximum monthly benefit is calculated just as it would be if you chose to retire on your own. The client can elect to take a reduced benefit for their spouse if they are the only beneficiary. If the client dies, then their spouse will get 100% of the benefits. The benefit payment begins the month after approval by the Board of Trustees that does not include any retroactive payments.
The Education Employees Service Incentive Plan (EESIP) is a way of rewarding employees for staying with the company. To participate, you need to be on a high base cap at $40,000 and have enough time left until retirement eligibility.
EESIP provides a way to have the salary cap worn away by moving two years of 14 service from the $40,000 salary tier for each year worked beyond July 1 of that school year you meet regular retirement eligibility. Under the current 2-for-1 ESPIP plan, the number of uncapped years is used to calculate your final salary increases each year.
Qualifiers for EESIP include:
- Continuously contributing under a participating employer.
- The client should work at least one year past the eligibility age for retirement.
- The client’s uncapped average salary class surpasses $40,000.
- Before July 1, 1995, the client’s contributions were remitted on the maximum compensation level (full salary up to $40,000).
- The client pays the contribution loss on years from 1987 to 1995, where their salary is greater than $40,000 (high base cap). No balance is due on service years where the salary was less than $40,000 or if they are not counted in the uncapped range.
The Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees is responsible for selecting investment managers. They hire financial advisers to make day-to-day decisions and managers who are ultimately in charge of the performance of various portfolios.
How can I be sure that TRS is acting responsibly with my investment?
The Board of Trustees and staff have a responsibility to ensure that the firms they invest with are trustworthy. They also oversee how their investments are tracked, ensuring that no transactions go unaccounted for.
Every manager has to send written reports for the Board of Directors to know how their money is being used, which helps make sure they’re using it wisely. In addition, monthly meetings with an investment consultant ensure that not only are managers following directions but also doing a great job at it.
The Oklahoma State Pension Commission receives updates about the performance of investment funds at the end of every quarter.
The Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System’s mission is to provide retirement security for educators in accordance with their years of service and level of contributions. They provide many benefits such as health insurance, dental coverage, long-term care insurance, life insurance, and even prescription drug discounts.
They are committed to providing a secure, reliable income stream for all eligible members during retirement as well as protecting them from financial risk.