TRS Plan 1: Thinking About Working After Retirement?

For members of the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) Plan 1

Last Updated: February 2012

Print Version

This publication describes possible impacts to your retirement benefit if you return to work for an employer covered by the Washington State Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). The Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) has prepared this brochure to help you find answers to many of the questions regarding returning to work after retirement.

When do I become a retiree? What if I return to work after I retire? What do I need to do if I return to work after retirement?
How will I know when I reach the hourly limits? What if I work as an independent contractor or in a public education position in another state? Contract work with a Washington State educational institution
Can I return to active membership? What if I am receiving a disability retirement? If I return to work, can I contribute to a deferred compensation plan?
Does returning to work affect my health care? To learn more

When do I become a retiree?

You become a retiree when you:

  • Meet the age and service requirements for retirement;
  • File an application for retirement with DRS;
  • Terminate all eligible or ineligible employment with a DRS-covered employer(s); and
  • Sever all agreements for future TRS-covered employment.

Taking these actions will establish your effective retirement date – the first day of the month following the month in which you meet the conditions for retirement.

What if I return to work after I retire?

Keep in mind that you must be separated from employment for at least 30 days after your effective retirement date (see Returning to work less than 30 days after your effective retirement date) before you can return to work for a K-12 employer, state agency or institution of higher education and continue to receive an unreduced retirement benefit. You must not have a written or verbal agreement for re-employment with the same employer before your retirement.

Once you have been retired for at least 30 days, additional rules apply based on the date you retired and where you return to work:

  • If you return to work in for a public educational institution in Washington State (K-12, community colleges, universities) or in a higher education retirement plan (HERP)-eligible position (including as a substitute):
    • You can work for 867 hours in a fiscal year (July 1 – June 30) without impacting your retirement benefit.
    • HERPs are non-DRS retirement plans offered by institutions of higher education, such as, University of Washington Retirement Plan (UWRP), and Western Washington University Retirement Plan (WWURP). If you work for a higher education employer, please check with your employer to see if your position is HERP-eligible.
    • Note: You may continue to work once you have exceeded 867 hours. However, if you do so, your retirement benefit will stop. It will resume following your last day of employment or at the beginning of the next fiscal year (July 1 – June 30), whichever comes first.
  • If you return to work for a state agency or political subdivision (city, county, or other public employer):
    • You have no retire/rehire limitations. Your retirement benefit will not be impacted by hours worked for a state agency or political subdivision.

What do I need to do if I return to work after retirement?

When you return to work, you must let your new employer know that you are a retiree from TRS. If your employer does not know you are retired, you may be reported as an active member – which may stop your benefit. It is your employer’s responsibility to report any return to work hours to DRS.

Returning to work less than 30 days after your effective retirement date

If you return to work for a K-12 employer, state agency, or institution of higher education less than 30 days after your effective retirement date, your benefit will be reduced by 5.5 percent for every seven hours worked in a month up to a maximum of 140 hours per month. If the reduction is more than your benefit, the excess is taken from the next month’s benefit payment. The reduction continues until you stop working for a full 30 days. This rule also applies to substituting.

Note: If you terminate employment and apply for retirement, but return to work for a K-12 employer, state agency, or institution of higher education before your effective retirement date, your retirement is nullified, you return to active membership, resume paying contributions and you must return all retiree benefit payments to DRS.

How will I know when I reach the hourly limits?

DRS will notify you in writing when you near your hourly limit for a fiscal year. When you exceed your hourly limit, DRS will notify your employer. You may also track the number of hours you have worked within online account access.

Note: Your retirement benefit will stop once you exceed your hourly limit. It will resume following your last day of employment or at the beginning of the next fiscal year, whichever comes first.

What if I work as an independent contractor or in a public education position in another state?

Employment outside the state of Washington, or as an independent contractor, is not affected by retire/rehire rules.

Contract work with a Washington State educational institution

As a retiree, your employment status and rights differ from those of an active, tenured teacher. The duration of a return to work contract is limited to one year; however, a contract may be renewed each year at the discretion of your employer.

For more detailed information, contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) at (360) 725-6000.

Can I return to active membership?

You are not required to return to TRS membership, but you may elect to do so if you are a TRS Plan 1 retiree and you are employed in a full-time TRS-covered position for a public school.

Your return to active TRS membership may impact your future retirement benefit. You must contact DRS for a benefit estimate before returning to membership.

If you retired with less than 15 years of service credit, you may become a contributing member of the Public Employees', School Employees', or the Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' retirement systems. However, your TRS benefit may be suspended pending termination of your employment.

What if I am receiving a disability retirement?

If you retired because of a disability, your right to receive a benefit is subject to the same conditions as service retirees. However, DRS may require a disability retiree to have a medical examination at any time. If a medical examination shows that you have recovered from your disability, your disability retirement benefits will stop and you will be restored to TRS membership.

If I return to work, can I contribute to a deferred compensation plan?

Yes. Contributing to a deferred compensation plan has no impact on your retirement benefit. Only the hours that you work affect your monthly retirement benefit. If you have questions, contact the Deferred Compensation Program at 888-327-5596. For TTY, call 1-877-847-6041.

Does returning to work affect my health care?

Your health care coverage may be impacted if you return to work. For more information, contact the Health Care Authority (HCA) at 1-800-200-1004.

To learn more

For answers to your re-employment questions, contact DRS. When contacting DRS in writing, please include the following information:

  • System and Plan
  • The last four digits of your Social Security number
  • Your mailing address
  • Daytime telephone number