One in two teachers think about returning to work after retirement, according to research carried out by Teachers' Assurance. Three teachers who have done just that share their experiences of post-retirement teaching – plus share financial advice for those thinking of doing the same.
Jim Baker, who retired in 2008, teaches chemistry one day a week at St Peter and St Paul Catholic Voluntary Academy
I retired in 2008 after teaching chemistry for 38 years at Lincoln Christ's Hospital School. I was almost 61 when I decided to retire in order to spend quality time with my dad. In fact, he died unexpectedly before I retired, but everything was already set in motion so I decided to carry on with my plan. But I've never stopped teaching because, after 43 years, I still have so much to offer and I love teaching chemistry.
In the January after I retired, my old head of science at Christ's asked me if I could do a week's supply teaching. He then told me about the 'starting out' programme run by LSN – an initiative to help support science and maths teachers, due to 50% from these disciplines leaving the profession in the first three years of teaching. I started working for LSN almost full time as a mentor to support teachers, a role I savoured and I know it made a difference to teachers' lives.
Since 2011, I've been working as a chemistry teacher one day a week at St Peter and St Paul Catholic Voluntary Academy, and would like to thank the leadership there for their vision in giving me pretty much a free hand to teach A and AS level chemistry the way I want to and know works.
I devote the rest of my time to promoting my ideas on education more widely through my website and social media (my twitter handle is @teknojimmy), and working with teachers and students all over the world. This, and the positive feedback I receive, fuels my passion to continue.
My passion for my subject and for educating students into becoming independent learners is only growing with age and I don't see myself ever stopping.
Understanding the financial implications of retiring and becoming self-employed was quite a learning curve for me. I was allowed to earn around half my final salary as a teacher without my teachers' pension being affected. However, when I worked for LSN I needed to become a self-employed educational consultant. I discovered that my self-employed earnings are counted separately from my pension – this means your pension will be unaffected by self employed earnings which is quite a good tip for teachers wanting to work after retirement.
Of course, if you are coming into a school as a self-employed educational consultant you will need to have your own insurance. As a chemistry teacher I am known for my "bubbles of fire" demonstration, so insurance was important for me to sort out.
I've got professional indemnity and public liability insurance, which I got discounted as I am still a member of the NUT. It's definitely worth staying with your union after retirement for these kind of benefits.
Maria Warren retired in 2004 and now teaches physics at the Royal Hospital School in Suffolk
I was teaching physics in a school where I'd taught for 20 years full time and I got exhausted. I took early retirement when I was 56. I had a term off and I enjoyed it, but I felt restless. When a part time job came up at Royal Hospital School just near my home in Suffolk I decided to apply and got the job. I've been there for nine years and I've no intention of stopping yet.
I think what makes a tremendous difference is that I'm part time. I get to teach the subject I love with none of the extras, and to spend my time teaching the subject I love. I have so much time for the students, which I find incredibly rewarding.
Financially, I'm not that much worse off working part time because of my pension. I get a pension from the Teachers' Pension Agency. I have what's called a "salary of reference", which was worked out from the amount I earned during my last year of teaching before retirement. As long as my pension and my part-time salary don't add up to more than that, I get to keep all my earnings. If for some reason your part-time salary plus pension is more than your salary of reference then your pension is docked – which is pretty unfair considering you've paid in the same amount as everyone else.
I'm taking each year as it comes. At the moment I'm loving working. People may think, "why on earth is she still working? She must be desperate for the money." But money is not my motivator.
I do think it's boring to be at home, nice in the summer but isolating in the winter. To be honest there are all sorts of groups I could join, but mixing only with older people you often find the conversation turns to ailments and I find it rather depressing. I like to be with a variety of ages and the staff at school are interesting and stimulating.
I really enjoy interaction with the pupils. I think teaching in my retirement keeps me young: the pace of school keeps the adrenalin flowing and I've got to be really on the ball. I like being motivated and it helps that this is a very good school, with small classes and few discipline problems.
Jenny Knight retired in 2009 and now works with adult learners through the Workers' Education Association
I finished my career as a headteacher an Oxfordshire primary school at the age of 60. It felt like the right time to go and I thought I would explore leisure for a bit. But of course retiring from a job like this leaves a huge gap in your life. As a teacher your job is always in your head; it's a huge wrench to stop.
After a while, wanting to do something became more important to me. I didn't want the pressure of full time headship or even supply teaching. I wanted to be involved in something else and use my experience and skills, but I didn't want to do what I'd done before.
It took me quite a time to find the role I wanted, but now I've found it. After 30 years in primary schools and middle schools, I'm now teaching adults.
I work for the Workers' Education Association, a charity set up to offer adult learners a huge range of learning opportunities. I teach two courses for people who want to volunteer or work as teaching assistants in schools, one accredited by the Northern College of Further Education. It's wonderful to see the adults I teach grow in confidence and go on to get jobs.
I teach one or two days a week and am able to negotiate the times; for example, I don't want to work through the summer. This term I'm becoming a school governor and I'm looking forward to that. It's important for me to keep up-to-date on the changes in education which just keep rolling in.
I don't think I can imagine not working at all. I have to be busy and feel useful. I get an awful lot from my learners – who are from all walks of life and parts of the world – and regard it as a real privilege to teach them.
• Are you a retired teacher who has returned to the classroom? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments field. We are also interested to hear retirement stories that don't involve going back to school. What have you been getting up to post-retirement? Let us know in the comments section below.
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“Is it true that I don’t get my Social Security benefit because I’m a teacher?” I hear that question almost every time I speak on Social Security.
If you’re a teacher, you’ve probably seen lots of conflicting information on this topic. There’s no denying that it’s a complex issue, so here’s a closer look at the rules on teacher’s retirement and Social Security.
In the 1970s and 1980s, laws were passed that amended the Social Security Act in an effort to keep individuals from “double dipping” – receiving both a Social Security benefit and a pension from work where they did not pay into the Social Security system. The results of these amendments are two rules that could impact your ability to claim a full Social Security benefit: The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO).
These provisions reduce benefits for those who worked in a job in which they qualified for a pension and did not have to pay Social Security taxes. This is not limited to teachers, but can also include firefighters, police officers and numerous other state, county and local employees.
Employment not covered by Social Security
Not all public sector employees are covered by Social Security, and in fact, initially Social Security didn’t cover any of these employees. However, over the years, many states abandoned their own pension plans and adopted coverage agreements with the Social Security Administration. Today there are 15 states that participate solely in their own state-run pension plans instead of Social Security.
If you are a teacher in one of those states, the rules for collecting a Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS) pension and Social Security can be confusing and intimidating. That’s especially true if you’ve also had a job in which you paid into the system for enough quarters to qualify for a Social Security benefit, which is fairly common among teachers.
For many, teaching is a second career, after they’ve spent years working in a job or a state where Social Security taxes were withheld. For example, teachers in my town, which is divided between the states of Texas and Arkansas, may qualify for both. If they worked in Arkansas (where teachers participate in Social Security) for at least 10 years and then taught in Texas (where teachers do not participate in Social Security), they would qualify for both Social Security and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
If You Qualify for Both
Since your Social Security statement does not reflect the reduction in benefits thanks to your state-run teacher’s pension, it’s hard to know what to expect if you qualify for both.
The WEP rule only applies to individuals who are entitled to a Social Security benefit based on their own work history and have a pension from work where they did not pay Social Security tax. Meanwhile, the GPO rule only applies to individuals who are entitled to a Social Security benefit as a survivor or spouse and have a pension from work in which they did not pay Social Security tax.
Here’s a look at how each rule would impact your benefit.
Windfall Elimination Provision
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is simply a recalculation of your Social Security benefit if you also have a pension from “non-covered” work (no Social Security taxes paid). The normal Social Security calculation formula is thrown out and substituted with a new calculation that results in a lower benefit amount. According to the Congressional Research Service, as of December 2014, about 1.6 million Social Security beneficiaries were affected by the WEP.
It would be easy to write a three-part essay on the WEP, but the necessary components can be consumed in a few simple points:
- The maximum Social Security reduction will never be greater than one half of your pension amount. This is capped at a monthly reduction of $413 (for 2015).
- If you have more than 20 years of substantial covered earnings (where you paid Social Security tax), the impact of the WEP begins to diminish. At 30 years of substantial covered earnings, the WEP does not apply.
Source: Devin Carroll, Data: Social Security Administration
This phase-out of the WEP reduction offers a planning opportunity if you have worked at a job where you paid Social Security tax. For example, if you worked as an engineer for 20 years before you began teaching, you may be able to do enough part time work between now and when you retire to completely eliminate the monthly reduction.
Would it be worth it? If you consider how much more in benefits you could receive over your retirement lifetime, it could be worth $100,000 in extra income over a 20-year retirement. Obviously, not everyone has the option of accumulating enough years to wipe out the big monthly WEP reduction. But for those who do, or can get close, it’s worth considering.
For more information, see the Social Security Administration’s WEP Benefit Calculator and other resources.
Government Pension Offset
The mechanics of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) are simple. If you meet both of requirements for the GPO – you are entitled to a Social Security benefit as a survivor or spouse and have a pension from work where you did not pay Social Security tax – your Social Security survivor or spousal benefit will be reduced by an amount equal to two-thirds of your pension.
As an example, let’s say Michael worked for 30 years as a schoolteacher in California (one of the 15 states where teachers are not covered by Social Security) and his wife was a pharmacist. Upon retirement, he began receiving his California teacher’s retirement pension of $3,000 per month. His wife retired at the same time and filed for her Social Security benefits of $2,300 per month. Sadly, she passed away a short four years later.
Upon her death, Michael learned that he would not be eligible to receive a normal Social Security survivor’s benefit. Thanks to the GPO his survivor’s benefit was reduced to $300 per month. Here’s the math:
Source: Devin Carroll
Some would say that’s not fair and I think they have a valid point. Why? The GPO only applies because of Michael’s profession. This is effectively a penalty for public service (what I call the hero’s penalty). If he had been an accountant instead of working in education, he would have been eligible to receive the full $2,200 per month. (Of course, under those circumstances he would have paid into Social Security during his career as an accountant.)
If You Only Qualify for TRS Pension
If you have never paid a penny of Social Security tax, most likely you’ll never receive a Social Security benefit. Although this makes perfect sense to some, others think it’s unfair that this isn’t true for everyone. For example, if you had chosen to stay at home as the household manager, you would not have paid into the Social Security system. However, you would be eligible for spousal and survivor benefits. Meanwhile, in certain states, teachers who never pay into Social Security won’t receive any benefits. (But of course in this case, teachers and other public sector employees may have pension benefits that a stay-at-home spouse would not).
These intricate Social Security regulations and how differently they may affect a worker’s retirement income make it critical that you plan ahead. Before you make your elections on your TRS pension, you must consider how your monthly cash flow would change with a spouse’s death.
As a teacher, you have plenty to keep up with and these complex rules on Social Security don’t make it any easier. But don’t let it get to you. Instead, get informed so you can make best decisions for you and your family.
Update: Not long ago, we made a video that covers the topic of Social Security for Educators. I hope you find this helpful as well!
In addition to my blog, this article was also published on Nerdwallet.