Ready to retire?
Please be prepared to spend some time reviewing the information in steps 1 and 2 below. This is your retirement—it is important that you understand both how your benefits are calculated and the retirement application process. Your MTRS benefits will most likely be one of your most valuable assets in retirement, and your decisions will affect the rest of your life.
As you begin—and as you go through—the retirement process, access these pre-retirement resources, which provide answers to our members’ most common questions:
Ready for Retirement program, which includes a sample of a completed retirement application
Our three-part Ready for Retirement video series:
Note: For information on applying for disability and termination retirement benefits, see Retiring from the MTRS.
When will I be eligible to receive a regular (“superannuation”) retirement allowance from the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System?
Your eligibility to receive a regular retirement allowance is based on:
- your effective membership date in a Massachusetts public retirement system (which determines your Your membership),
- the number of years of creditable service you have, and,
- depending on your membership date, your age.
Specifically, depending on which Membership Tier you are in, you will be eligible to receive a retirement allowance as follows:
- Tier 1 (established membership BEFORE April 2, 2012): when you:
- have 20 or more years of creditable service, regardless of your age, OR
- are at least age 55 and you have 10 or more years of creditable service.
- Tier 2 (established membership ON OR AFTER April 2, 2012): when you are at least age 60 and you have 10 or more years of creditable service.
If you are participating in RetirementPlus, in order to be eligible to receive the enhanced RetirementPlus benefit, you must also have at least 30 years of creditable service, of which 20 years are membership service with the MTRS or Boston Retirement System as a teacher.
The Massachusetts Retirement Law (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 32) regulates your retirement allowance and allows you to choose one of three benefit options. These options differ with regard to the amount paid and whether any benefits will be paid to someone else after your death.
Instead of receiving a retirement allowance, can I receive a refund of my contributions and interest?
Yes. You may receive a refund if you have officially resigned from your position and will not be re-employed in a position requiring membership in a Massachusetts contributory retirement system.
However, you are not eligible to withdraw the balance in your account if you are:
- receiving Workers’ Compensation payments either on a weekly basis or, in the case of a lump-sum settlement, during the period of time over which the lump-sum settlement is allocated,
- on a paid or unpaid leave of absence or
- accepting employment with a public school system or any other political subdivision which requires membership in a Massachusetts contributory retirement system.
Note: The law provides certain forfeiture provisions in the event you are convicted of a criminal offense involving your job. For additional information, see Leaving MTRS service prior to retirement.
What constitutes “creditable service” and can I receive credit for earlier teaching and public service?
“Creditable service” is time that you have worked as a teacher, administrator or other Massachusetts public employee, and for which you have paid or transferred retirement contributions to the MTRS. Creditable service also includes certain military service, as described further below. You may be able to purchase credit for prior substitute teaching, teaching in an out-of-state public school, certain nonpublic school teaching, other Massachusetts public service and active military service. Also, if you withdrew your retirement account from the MTRS or any other Massachusetts contributory retirement system, you may receive creditable service if you repay the amount withdrawn plus interest, prior to your date of retirement. The cost of purchasing past service is based on what you would have paid in contributions during that period (plus interest to date) or what you actually paid and withdrew (plus interest to date).
Creditable service includes the following types of service:
- Regular Massachusetts public teaching service
- Out-of-state public school teaching service
- Overseas dependent school teaching service (in a school supervised by the United States Department of Defense)
- Nonpublic school teaching service
- Massachusetts public school substitute, temporary or part-time teaching or tutoring service
- Other Massachusetts public service (with a Massachusetts town, city, state or regional authority)
- Peace Corps service
- Authorized leave of absence or a sabbatical from a Massachusetts public school
- Authorized leave of absence for active military service
- Active military service in the armed forces of the United States, Massachusetts National Guard or active reserves
- Pre-1975 maternity leave credit
How much does it cost to purchase past service credit?
The cost of purchasing past service is based on what you would have paid in contributions during that period (plus interest to date) or what you actually paid and withdrew (plus interest to date).
Depending on how much creditable service you already have, it may or may not make financial sense for you to purchase outstanding service. If, based on your established creditable service and age, you are not at or near the maximum retirement allowance—80 percent of your final salary average—then, depending on how much outstanding service you have, purchasing it may result in a meaningful increase in your retirement allowance. While the present cost of purchasing the service may seem substantial, the difference in your retirement allowance may allow you to recoup the expense in a short period of time and pay off in the long run. If, however, you are already eligible to receive the maximum retirement allowance (80 percent of your final salary average) by reason of your established creditable service and age, then purchasing outstanding service will be an expense that will not result in an increase in your retirement allowance.
To determine the effect of purchasing your outstanding service—and increasing your amount of creditable service—on your retirement allowance, go to our Retirement benefit estimator. Do your calculations with your current years of service and then with your increased number of years. Evaluate the difference in light of the cost of purchasing your service.
When must I purchase creditable service?
You must be an active member at the time of application (except for the purchase of Peace Corps service), and you must purchase creditable service before the effective date of your retirement.
How do I purchase creditable service?
In order to purchase creditable service, you must supply us with specific information about the type of service, where and when you rendered it, and what you received as compensation. We will then determine how much you would have paid in contributions for that service under our system, and calculate an invoice, and send it to you for payment. Depending on your particular situation, you may pay the total in full or, if eligible, in payments over time on our installment plan. Because an interest charge is added to the amount due, the cost of purchasing creditable service increases monthly.
Are veterans entitled to additional benefits?
If you are a military veteran pursuant to M.G.L. c. 32, § 1, a veteran’s bonus will be added to your allowance. The veteran’s bonus is equal to $15 per year of creditable service, up to a maximum annual total of $300. Please note that this is the only amount that may be added to the calculated Option A allowance. This benefit is automatically granted based on documentation; you do not need to “purchase” it. However, you will need to submit a copy of your military discharge, also known as form DD214. If you are eligible to receive the maximum retirement allowance—80 percent of your final salary average—by reason of your established creditable service and age, you will still receive your veteran’s bonus on top of your maximum allowance.
Note: Generally, your military discharge form is form DD214. However, depending on when and with which branch of the military you rendered military service, your form may have another code.
Is my retirement allowance taxable?
Your retirement allowance is not subject to Massachusetts state income taxes, but if you move to a different state, it may be subject to that state’s taxes. For guidance on how other states treat your pension, see the Massachusetts DOR’s site. The federal government (IRS), however, will tax a large portion of your retirement allowance immediately upon retirement; approximately 95-98% will be taxable at the federal level.
By January 31 of each year, we will provide you with a Form 1099-R for tax purposes. Your 1099-R is the “retiree version” of the W-2 earnings statement that you receive from your employer while you are working. This form will indicate:
- the total amount of your retirement benefits for the previous calendar year,
- the amount withheld for federal income tax purposes, and,
- the amount, if any, withheld from that total for your group health insurance premiums, and
- if you retire after November 19, 1996 and have after-tax contributions in your MTRS annuity savings account at the time of your retirement, the amount that you are able to exclude from your gross distribution for the calendar year, as well as the amount of your remaining total after-tax contributions that you will be allowed to exclude over your lifetime.
We will also provide this information to the IRS.
If you are under age 59 when you retire, please note: In the tax year in which you turn 59-1/2, you will receive two 1099–R forms from us, as the IRS requires that we identify and distinguish between payments that are made to you when you are under age 59-1/2, and payments that are made to you when you are over age 59-1/2. Accordingly, please note:
- Each form will be different: One will reflect the amount totals for the months that you were under age 59-1/2, and will have a distribution code of 2 in Box 7; the other will reflect the amount totals for the month in which you turn 59-1/2 as well as for the following month(s) that you were over age 59-1/2, and have a distribution code of 7 in Box 7.
- You will need both forms to determine your tax reporting information for the year: To get your annual totals, simply add the different amounts on the two forms. For example, to determine the total amount that you received from the MTRS for the year, add the figure in “Box 1, Gross distribution,” on one form to the figure in “Box 1, Gross distribution,” on the other.
Is there a special benefit when both spouses are members of the same or different Massachusetts contributory retirement systems?
Yes—if your effective membership date is before November 1, 2003, and:
- you and your current spouse were members of a Massachusetts contributory retirement system on November 1, 2003,
- your spouse will be retired from a Massachusetts contributory retirement system on your date of retirement, and
- you have at least ten years of creditable service but, will be under age 55 on your date of retirement,
then you will be eligible to retire under a superannuation (regular or RetirementPlus) retirement allowance, irrespective of having attained age 55, using the age factor for age 55.
Are there any restrictions on working after I retire?
For employment in the private sector, the federal government or public employment in another state, the answer is no. For Massachusetts public employment, the answer is yes. Please see our page on working after retirement.
Overview of Options A, B and C
Under the Massachusetts Retirement Law (M.G.L. c. 32), you may choose to retire under one of three benefit options: Option A, B or C. These options differ with regard to the amount paid and whether any benefits will be paid to someone else after your death. In brief:
Please note that at the time of your retirement, your spouse must acknowledge his or her awareness and understanding of your option selection.
Of all three options, Option A provides you with the highest possible monthly allowance; it does not, however, provide for any continuing survivor benefits. Upon your death,
- all Option A payments will stop and
- your beneficiary will receive only the amount of the retirement allowance that you were entitled to in the month of your death. (Note: If a member dies within 30 days of the effective date of his or her retirement under Option A or B, and is survived by a spouse, that spouse can opt to receive a monthly survivor allowance equal to two-thirds of what the member would have received if he or she had retired under Option C.)
Your beneficiary will not receive any balance remaining in your annuity savings account.
Option B provides you with a monthly allowance that is approximately one percent less than an Option A allowance. This option’s payments are slightly less because Option B does provide for a possible one-time, lump-sum survivor benefit. The Option B survivor benefit is a lump-sum payment of the balance, if any, remaining in your annuity savings account at the time of your death. During your retirement, the balance in your annuity savings account decreases by an amount equal to the annuity portion of your retirement allowance. In most cases, the annuity account will be depleted after 11 years. For all intents and purposes, this record keeping is “invisible” and the reductions do not affect monthly retirement payments. Upon your death,
- all Option B payments will stop;
- your beneficiary will receive the amount of the retirement allowance that you were entitled to in the month of your death; and,
- the balance remaining in your account, if any, will be paid in a lump sum to your beneficiary or estate. (Note: If a member dies within 30 days of the effective date of his or her retirement under Option A or B, and is survived by a spouse, that spouse can opt to receive a monthly survivor allowance equal to two-thirds of what the member would have received if he or she had retired under Option C.)
If your annuity savings account is depleted while you are receiving an allowance, you will continue to receive the full Option B retirement allowance for life; upon your death, your beneficiary will receive only the amount of the retirement allowance that you were entitled to in the month of your death. Under Option B, you may designate more than one person as your beneficiary and that person or persons need not be related to you.
Option C provides you with the smallest monthly allowance (approximately 9 percent to 11 percent less than an Option A allowance). It also provides your surviving beneficiary with monthly payments for the rest of his or her life. The calculation of the Option C allowance is based on the life expectancies of both you and your beneficiary at the time of your retirement. Upon your death,
- all Option C payments will stop;
- your beneficiary will receive the amount of the retirement allowance that you were entitled to in the month of your death; and,
- your beneficiary will receive a survivor benefit equal to two-thirds of the amount of your Option C allowance. Your beneficiary must be your spouse, parent, sibling, child or unmarried former spouse.
A special note about Option C: If you retire under Option C on or after January 12, 1988 and your beneficiary predeceases you, you cannot name a different “Option C beneficiary.” Under the terms of the so-called “pop up” provision of the Pension Reform Act of 1987, your monthly benefit will “pop up” to the Option A benefit amount that you would have received on the date of your retirement, plus any cost-of-living adjustments. This new, higher amount is then paid to you as of the date of the death of your beneficiary and until you die. In the event that your Option C beneficiary predeceases you, please send us a brief letter, along with a copy of your Option C beneficiary’s death certificate, and we will then recalculate your retirement allowance.
A note about eligibility verification
Massachusetts law requires all public retirees to file an affidavit verifying their eligibility to receive a retirement allowance. Periodically after you have retired, the MTRS will contact you to confirm your eligibility.
This is the last step in the application process. We don’t think that you’ll find it difficult to complete the application form, but it will take you some time. As we said in the beginning, this is your retirement—please be willing to devote some effort to completing your application completely and accurately.
In this step, you will access and print the 19-page Retirement Application. But before you proceed, please note:
- You must print the application, sign it, and sent it to the MTRS. Your application may not be submitted online or via e-mail.
- The first page contains instructions on how to complete and send us your application. The second page contains the retirement process timeline and document checklist. The third and fourth pages contain our benefit estimate worksheet. Please keep these four pages for your reference.
- YOU must complete Part 1 (pages 1 through 10), as well as Section 1 of Part 2.
- Your PAYROLL OFFICER must complete Part 2, which is five pages. At the same time that you are completing Part 1, you should give Part 2 to your payroll officer for him or her to complete and return to you.
- YOU are responsible for gathering your required documentation and for submitting your completed application—Parts 1 AND 2—to us at the same time.
- You should send us your completed application three to four months BEFORE your date of retirement.
- After you have submitted your completed application, we will review and process it. If we have any questions or need any additional information, we will contact you.
- Within three to four months, you will receive your NERB (Notice of Estimated Retirement Benefit), which will include the estimated amount of your retirement allowance.
- You will then receive your first retirement allowance payment—which will include benefits retroactive to your date of retirement—either at the end of the first full month after you receive your NERB, or at the end of the first full month after your date of retirement, whichever is later. (Note: The earliest that your first retirement payment may be issued is at the end of the first full month after your retirement date.)
About the file format
- The Retirement Application is in portable document format (PDF), which is best accessed using Adobe Acrobat Reader X or later, available for free from the Adobe website.
If you have an earlier version of Acrobat Reader, you may still be able to access the document, but if you have any problems, please check your version of Reader and upgrade if necessary.
How to complete your Retirement Application
The Retirement Application is an interactive PDF, which means that you can download the form and enter data into the highlighted fields. Accordingly, CLICK on the button, below, to access the form, and then CHOOSE either to:
- Complete the application entirely by hand: Simply PRINT the 19-page document now, and complete it by hand, or
- Save the form to your computer for future completion onscreen or by hand: When you see the application form in your browser’s window, click on the small disk icon at the top left of the Acrobat Reader menu bar, and save the file to your desktop. You may then complete your application at a later time—either onscreen or by hand—without being connected to the Internet.
Want to see a sample completed retirement application? Take a look at our Ready for Retirement program booklet 3MB (pages 11-21).
If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Good luck!
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO TERMINATION RETIREMENT APPLICANTS
If you are applying for a termination retirement benefit, you must submit a completed “Termination retirement statement and release” form along with your completed retirement application. Click on the link below to download this form, and then click on the “Go to Retirement Application” button below.
Termination retirement statement and release