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C'est la Z

Pension Consultations

Devorah and I just got off a Zoom pension consultation. Very enlightening.

I'm 54 so regardless, can't retire for another year but Devorah hit 55 last November and the DOE can really kill ones spirit and grind you down.

Overall I've been pretty happy at Hunter but I've written before about the fact that I've been feeling some burn out and have been basically doing 2+ full time jobs myself at Hunter for the past few years and that's just not sustainable.

Not saying I know what I'm going to do but it's important to know your options.

I wasn't sure what our retirement benefits would look like but when I came in to teaching, looking at the older tier 1 teachers, I felt that back then there was something of a societal pact, at least in NYC. As a teacher back then, you weren't going to get rich. In good times, you'd do okay - not great but okay. On the other hand, in bad times, you wouldn't do terrible. You'd be able to have a decent home and while you couldn't jet set you'd be able to vacation reasonably and at the end of it all, you'd have a comfortable retirement. Again, you wouldn't be rich, but you wouldn't have to worry about making ends meet either.

Over the course of my career, I saw that pact erode, even in NY. Young teachers don't earn enough for the housing market and the workload and work pressures have just exploded. For the newest teachers, the retirement end of the deal has also gotten worse.

So, what does it look like for us after putting in and paying in for 30 years?

With 30 years in, it turns out that pension will net me just a few hundred dollars less than my current net. It's much closer than I thought it would be. Devorah doesn't do quite as well. Her difference is greater but that's because she hasn't crossed the 30 year barrier yet. If she stays one more year, she will.

Add to that a substantial TDA and we're actually in really good retirement shape.

A lot of older teachers say they finally "had" to retire because based on tax benefits and other factors, they were actually losing money by not retiring.

Based on the differences I mentioned above we're not there yet but when you factor our housing, we might be, or if not it's really close. We currently live in what's known as a "limited equity coop." It's a coop but it receives local and state tax benefits. In return, there are earning caps on the residents. We currently earn well over the cap so pay a significant surcharge on our monthly maintenance.

When we retire, our lower incomes will result in a much lower surcharge or maybe it will remove the surcharge entirely - we're working on figuring that out.

Depending on how that plays out we might actually be losing money if we don't retire.

We'll have to see.

As I said at the top. I'm basically happy at Hunter and I think I've accomplished a lot so I'm not saying I'm out the door as soon as I can walk. We've got to lower my workload but they've known that for a while so hopefully are working to solve the problem. Devorah and I also have to figure out what we want to do in our next phase. I do know that regardless, I think I've still got something to give in the CS Ed space.

For any young teachers out there - make sure to max out on that TDA. It seems like nothing at first but when you look back after 20 or 30 years it'll surprise you - that + the defined pension are what allow you to have a few years of leisure at the end of a life of service. And don't let anyone tell you that you don't deserve it or that it's an entitlement. You've paid into it for your whole career and are just getting back what you've earned.

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