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Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Shine

John W. Pinkerton


Twenty years ago my wife and I retired from public education.  Linda had worked as a teacher for 30 years; I had worked as a teacher and librarian for 35 years.

A few years before our retirement, our local district had a visit from a representative of the Texas Retirement System who told the local employees that they could now choose to become part of the federal social security system but did not expect that we would be able to draw retirement from both systems; therefore, we opted to simply stay with TRS.  Neither of us had enough quarters to qualify for social security.  In the year we were planning to retire,  a ridiculous program was offered to allow for a small fee anyone retiring to become part of the social security program by attending a one day work offer which technically made one a social security employee.  The local district even offered one of these work days.  We declined the opportunity because, frankly, it seemed a little dishonest.

Each year TRS offers free workshops for folks who are considering retiring.  We were told at our workshop in College Station that retirees should not expect an increase in retirement payments for ten years because as a result of 911 attacks, the bottom had fallen out of the economy.  I was not alarmed by this and it seemed reasonable at the time.

Ten years came and went without an increase; we are now in the twentieth year without an increase.  However TRS did provide a “catch-up” payment two or three times which amounted to a one time payment roughly equivalent to a 13th check.  Glad to get them, but it was just kicking the bucket down the road.

By  the way, the legislature voted to build the Texas Retirement System spanking new facilities in Austin.  I would have no objections to this nice addition if they were willing to pay retirees more than a 4% cost of living increase.

In the current Legislative session, they are talking about a cost of living increase of 4%; wow,  the cost of living has increased about 40% in the last 20 years.  That means my first retirement dollar is worth about 60 cents today.

Reading this, you're probably thinking that John and Linda must be getting short of funds; wrong: we've always been conservative with our incomes, saved regularly, invested wisely, and have developed skills which provide some pocket change.

My concern with the teacher retirement system is for school employees who have retired, did not get in as many years as we did, or perhaps did not have the opportunities we've had.

What makes the legislators think they can treat retirees  as though they're throwaways?  It's simple: the legislators know the retirees are old and will soon die…problem solved.

…and the state wonders why the school districts are having more than a little difficulty attracting qualified young people to the teaching profession.

Stick your 4% where the sun don't shine.