So, what should you do to get started?
For me, it began with getting records of employment collected and submitted to the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System. This gives you details of your “creditable” service. And here’s a surprise: even though you THOUGHT you’d been subbing for two years, it’s not a full two-year credit. What I thought was ‘at least’ two years of subbing time actually resulted in less than a year of applicable time.
The same goes for your years working before being an educator. If you did work as an aide, those years can be applied and purchased back. Do add your summer jobs if they are part of a town situation (such as at a public library or summer school, for example). Again, what I thought was five years as a library aide ended up closer to four and a half.
Now all of this might not impact you, if you began as a teacher and are retiring as a teacher, with your years at the same school, same position and same employer. But many of us began at a different place or position, and that begins the lovely search for records.
If you do have time to “buy back”, the MTRS has the forms and information necessary to submit. Be prepared: it is a lot of paperwork! You may need to work with your school/town’s accountant if you don’t have payroll information at your fingertips. Hint to all NEW teachers: keep track of your information now! It helps in the long run!
After you submit your information, give it time but you WILL hear back from MTRS. They will be able to give you details about what your “creditable” service is… and that’s when you can really begin to plan.
Should you meet with MTRS?
I did set up a meeting. It was helpful, informative, explained about ways to collect, and provided short, but good one-on-one time with a representative. If you’re fine with the online information, you don’t necessarily need a sit-down like this. It was my preference but the information is available on the website, too.
Meet with your Financial Advisor
Again, this is a personal choice and everyone’s situation is different. However, if you do have a Financial Advisor, meet and talk about your plans. It should provide you with details regarding actual numbers that will be available to you.
The next step…
The MTRS website has forms that need to be completed when you decide to set that retirement date. You should ALSO be checking with your school system regarding any notice they require, as well as any early retirement incentive plans available. Some schools do offer such ‘bonus’ plans, but you need to explore the contract details: does a letter of intent need to be submitted? If so, to whom and by what deadline? Odd as it seems, many teachers - including school librarians - do not READ their contracts. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you were unaware of the details.
And then taking that step…
Okay - this is the hardest part for me: when do I actually retire? If I’m considering retiring during that last week before school vacation, it’s probably not the best indicator! Still, I do want to leave on good terms, while the library is in an upward focus, my programs are running well, and I have the resources and health to enjoy retirement. In discussion with my retired colleagues, there is indeed “life after retirement”!
Some folks retire to help with grandchildren, to travel, or to try a new career (Yes, it’s possible! Grandma Moses started painting at 78!). Then there’s that “book” I’ve been wanting to write for the past 40 years… might be time to look at that! And, of course, if you have a partner, it’s definitely a topic you both need to discuss and plan.
Retirement isn’t what it used to be!
Just like 70 is the new 50 (I’m hoping!), what “retirement” formerly inferred is not what it is today. I know of no recent retiree who isn’t actively involved in something, whether it’s a hobby, a volunteer program, or a long-awaited project.
My recent library volunteers are two ‘retirees’ who love coming and helping with shelving and projects. (Some towns also offer volunteer hour credits towards taxes: check out your local Senior Center.)
The amount of “senior discounts” will astonish you - and save you money, as well.
SO Welcome to the “Soaring 20s”!
Whatever path you choose, here’s hoping that 2020 is the start of a wonderful year for everyone. Please feel free to share you thoughts and experiences, as well. Have a great new year!