Retirement can be a very exciting, and yet stressful, confusing time. When you are ready to apply for retirement, please know that we will help you through the process. Depending on what stage you are at in your career, retirement may be the first or last thing on your mind. However, you need to understand your retirement benefits so that you may plan for a successful retirement.
What types of retirement benefits does the MTRS provide?
There are three types of retirement benefits:
“Superannuation” is the technical name for the most common type of retirement benefit: an allowance earned after a career of public service. Within this category, there are two types of allowances: a “regular” benefit and an enhanced, RetirementPlus benefit.
The average life expectancy at retirement is approximately 25-30 years. The best plan for future financial security involves having several sources of income rather than just one.
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 membership tier ),
- 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 able 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.
NOTE: If your effective membership date is BEFORE January 1, 1978, you are eligible to retire upon reaching age 55. There is no minimum service requirement, nor do you have to be an active member in order to apply for retirement.
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.
How and when do I file for retirement?
In order to retire, you must file an application for retirement with the MTRS—notifying your school district of your intent to retire does not begin any paperwork with us. You may file your application up to four months before your retirement date. If your application is received within 60 days after your date of termination of service, your retirement can take effect on your termination date. If, however, you file more than 60 days after your date of termination of service, your benefits will not be retroactive to that date; the earliest they may then begin is 15 days after we receive your application.
For example, if you decide during summer vacation that you want to retire instead of returning to the classroom in the fall, the MTRS must receive your completed application on or before August 29 to use June 30 as your retirement date and have your benefits be retroactive to June 30. If the MTRS receives your application on August 30, your earliest retirement date would be September 14, and you would lose two and a half months’ worth of retirement benefits (from July 1 through September 14).
For a step-by-step guide to regular (“superannuation”) retirement—including basic information and an online benefit estimator—please see Apply for retirement.
Do I have to retire at the end of the school year?
No—you may choose any day of the year as your effective date of retirement. However, if you choose to retire at the end of a school year and your school year ends in June, your retirement date will take effect on June 30, a date set by MTRS regulation.
What is my retirement benefit based on?
Except for accidental disability, ordinary disability/veteran and termination retirement benefits, your retirement benefit is based on the following factors:
- Your age on your date of retirement: If your birthday is January 1, and you are retiring on June 30, your age factor will be based on your age as of your last birthday. We do not round up your age when determining an age factor. If your Membership Tier is:
- Tier 1 (established membership BEFORE April 2, 2012), you will reach the maximum age factor at age 65.
- Tier 2 (established membership ON OR AFTER April 2, 2012), you will reach the maximum age factor at age 67.
- Your years of creditable service: This is the total number of years of creditable service you have accrued in the MTRS.
- Your final salary average:
- For Tier 1 members, the average of either your highest three consecutive years’ salaries ,or your last three years’ salaries, whichever is greater.
- For Tier 2 members, the average of either your highest five consecutive years’ salaries, or your last five years’ salaries, whichever is greater.
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.
If you are involuntarily terminated, the MTRS provides a termination retirement allowance (M.G.L. c.32, section 10(2)). The eligibility criteria and benefit calculation formula are different from those for a superannuation retirement allowance.
What are the eligibility criteria for the termination retirement benefit?
- Your effective membership date must be before April 2, 2012;
- You must have at least 20 years of creditable service;
- Your position must have been eliminated, or you failed to be re-appointed to your position;
- Your separation from service must be completely involuntary, and must not be due to moral turpitude or a violation of work rules;
- You may not have refused an offer of a comparable position in which you are certified.
What if my position is eliminated, or I am terminated but I do not meet the eligibility criteria for a termination retirement allowance?
If your effective membership date is before April 2, 2012, and you have at least ten years of creditable service, you may leave your funds on account and apply for a superannuation (regular) retirement benefit upon attaining age 55 or any time thereafter. Alternatively, you may withdraw your funds from the MTRS at any time, subject to the interest limits.
Please note that pursuant to M.G.L. c. 32, § 15, any member who is convicted of a crime involving the laws applicable to his or her position, shall not be entitled to a retirement allowance. Rather, such member will receive a lump-sum refund of his or her contributions to the MTRS, with no interest.
The termination retirement allowance is equal to one-third of the average of your three highest consecutive years’ salaries, plus an annuity amount that is based on your age and account balance at retirement.
What is the difference between regular (“superannuation”) retirement and termination retirement?
Superannuation retirement and termination retirement differ as far as their eligibility criteria as well as the formula used to calculate the Option A benefit amount. However, once the termination allowance under Option A is calculated, the termination allowances under Options B and C are determined in the same way as for a superannuation allowance.
How do I apply for a termination retirement allowance?
- As soon as possible after you receive formal notice of termination from your school district, contact us for a retirement application.
- As soon as possible—and, if you want your retirement to become effective on your date of termination, no later than 60 days after your effective date of termination—file your completed application with our office. For example, if your effective date of termination is June 30, you must file your application with our office no later than August 29 in order to have an effective date of retirement of June 30. If your retirement application is received after 60 days from your effective date of termination, the earliest you could retire, by law, would be 15 days from the date that we receive your retirement application.
- After we have received your completed application, we will contact your school district for written verification of your statement and determine your eligibility. If you are eligible, we will then send you additional information on the benefits you are entitled to.
A word of caution
Please be advised that once your termination retirement allowance becomes effective, you may not return to active membership service as a teacher. Specifically, if your name should appear on a recall list after the approval of your termination retirement allowance, you may not be able to “un-retire” and elect to take a teaching position if one is offered to you. “Un-retirement” can only be accomplished through Section 105 of the retirement law, which requires, among other things, repayment of all the retirement allowance you received, plus interest.
For more information, please see working after retirement. Additionally, if you are recalled prior to our approval of your application for a termination retirement allowance, you must immediately notify the MTRS, as you would not be eligible to retire under this formula. For these reasons, consider your options carefully. If you have any questions, please contact us.
Termination retirement allowance formula
The example illustrates the calculations for a 45-year old member whose effective membership date is prior to April 2, 2012, who is a non-veteran, and who, at the time of termination, has a salary average of $55,000 for his or her highest three consecutive years, an MTRS annuity savings account balance of $60,000, and a beneficiary who is age 44.
Also shown here is the member-survivor benefit payable only under Option C. This benefit is payable on a monthly basis to your beneficiary for the rest of his or her life.
Option A allowance
|3-year salary average||$55,000|
| Annuity portion|
The annuity portion is calculated based on your age and the balance in your MTRS annuity savings account. In general, the annual annuity portion for members with approximately 20 years of creditable service ranges from $3,000 to $6,000. Your actual figure will vary.
|Option A annual allowance|
Note: If you are a wartime veteran, $15 for each year of teaching service (up to a maximum of $300) is added to the Option A annual allowance.
Option B allowance
|Option A annual allowance (see above)||$22,708|
|99% (approximately 1% less than Option A)||99%|
|Option B annual allowance||$22,480|
Option C allowance and survivor benefit
|Option A annual allowance (see above)||$22,708|
|Option C factor (see Option C factor table )||0.9616|
|Option C annual allowance||$21,836|
|2/3 (allowed survivor portion||2/3|
|Annual member-survivor benefit||$14,557|
A note about this formula
The formula for estimating termination retirement allowances under Options A, B and C is also used in another situation. If your effective membership date is prior to April 2, 2012, and, at the time you apply for regular retirement you have 30 years of creditable service, we will automatically calculate your retirement benefits under this formula as well as under the regular retirement formula. Whichever formula results in the greater Option A amount is the one we will use to provide you with your estimated retirement allowance figures.
All applications for disability retirement must be reviewed by the members of the Board at one of their monthly meetings. Only the Board may grant disability retirement benefits.
If you should find yourself permanently disabled and unable to work for an extended period of time, you may be eligible to receive one of two types of disability retirement benefits:
- accidental disability benefits if your disability is work-related; or,
- ordinary disability benefits if your disability is non-work-related.
How do I apply for a disability retirement allowance?
To apply, you will need to complete our Disability Retirement Application , which includes a section that must be completed by your physician. It also contains various release forms so that we may gather documentation from doctors, medical institutions and insurers. However, because there are many issues involved in the disability retirement application process, you may want to have a conversation with the Disability Case Manager in our legal unit before filing the application to be sure that this is an appropriate option for your particular situation.
What happens after I submit my application?
- Upon receipt of your completed application, we will request the appropriate medical, hospital and insurance records and request that your school department complete our Disability Applicant’s Employer’s Statement regarding the circumstances of your disability. The Employer’s Statement is a questionnaire regarding the nature of the event, injury or accident which led to your present state of disability as well as your capacity for employment.
- Upon receipt of the documentation from your medical providers, we will review all of the materials and, in most cases, we will ask the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC ) to set up a three-member regional medical panel to examine you.
- After being appointed by PERAC, the regional medical panel will meet to conduct its examination of you.
- After completing its examination, the regional medical panel will report its findings and recommendation to PERAC, who will forward the report to the Board.
- After receipt of the report, we will notify you of the panel’s findings and provide you with a copy of all of the documents completed by the regional medical panel. Your application is then ready to be considered by the full Board.
- When a Board hearing is scheduled, we will notify you. If your application is approved by the Board, it will be transmitted to PERAC for final action; PERAC must act on your application within 30 days of its receipt. If your application is denied by the Board, we will advise you of your right to appeal the decision.
Do I have to appear at the Board hearing?
All disability applicants are welcome to attend the Board meeting and will be heard by the Board, though for many ODR cases, applicants’ attendance is not necessary. An applicant may choose to be represented by an attorney before the Board.
Am I required to have a medical panel examination?
Unless the Board denies your application as a matter of law prior to the convening of a medical panel, applicants must attend a medical panel examination. Pursuant to Chapter 32 of the Massachusetts General Laws, every member of a state contributory retirement system who applies for disability benefits must be examined by a regional medical panel. In very unusual cases where the member’s condition prevents travel, the panel will review documents only in lieu of an examination.
Will I be re-examined on a regular basis to see if I am capable of returning to work?
PERAC may conduct a re-examination of you once per year during the first two-year period after the effective date of your retirement, and then once a year every three years after that.
Does PERAC have the authority to suspend or modify my retirement allowance?
Yes. Please see M.G.L. c. 32, S. 8 and PERAC’s website.
Who can apply?
|Any teacher or administrator who is contributing a percentage of his or her salary to the MTRS.||Any teacher or administrator who is contributing a percentage of his or her salary to the MTRS and who has 10 years of service.|
What are the disability criteria?
|A medical panel of three physicians must certify and the Board must find that:||A medical panel of three physicians must certify and the Board must find that:
How is the benefit allowance calculated?
|The benefit allowance has two components:||If you are:
Are there any benefits for my children?
|Yes—if you have any dependent children you will receive an additional benefit of $450 per year per child, plus all of the cost-of-living adjustment increases paid since 1988. As of July 1, 2021, the additional annual benefit for eligible children was $1,010.21. A dependent child is a child under age 18 or a child of any age who is physically or mentally incapacitated from earning. If your child reaches age 18 and then continues his or her education on a full-time basis, the stipend will continue until he or she reaches age 22. The MTRS will verify that your child is a full-time student every semester until he or she reaches age 22.||No—there are no additional benefits for dependent children.|
Can I receive my allowance under any Option—A, B or C?
Please note that, because the disability benefit formulas vary by type and, for ordinary disability cases, whether you are a veteran or non-veteran and whether you are participating in RetirementPlus, they are not shown here.
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 by a Massachusetts public employer (in other words, you will not be employed in a position requiring membership in a Massachusetts contributory retirement system).
See Leaving the MTRS prior to retirement for more information on your options upon leaving active teaching service.