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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Benefits Packages > Retirement Plannning Information

Retirement Plannning Information

Retirement Planning

RETIREMENT PLANNING FOR FULL TIME PROFESSORIAL FACULTY, INSTRUCTIONAL STAFF AND PROFESSIONAL STAFF 
 As a member of FT professorial, instructional and professional staff approaches his or her target date for retirement, it is important to take the time to develop a realistic retirement plan.  There are a number of areas to be considered, including financial projections, Social Security payments, retirement plan options, and medical insurance options.  It is often helpful to confer with other retired faculty, instructional and professional members who have faced the same issues.  It is also useful to attend retirement planning meetings offered from time to time by the Office of Human Resources, TIAA-CREF representative, and other groups on campus.  For an overview of the benefits ramifications at retirement, members are strongly encouraged to schedule a meeting with an Office of Human Resources staff member.   
 
One-on-one counseling sessions with TIAA-CREF representatives can be particularly useful. These sessions are generally held each month on campus. To schedule a personal meeting with a TIAA-CREF representative call 1-800-842-2776.
 
You may also want to meet with the Social Security Office several months before retirement. 

When Can I Retire?

Teachers College does not have a defined retirement age. However, there are certain age requirements for different benefits one may receive upon retirement.
 
Post Retirement Medical: an eligible faculty, professional and instructional staff hired before January 1, 2006 with 15+ years of continuous full-time eligible service may retire at age 55 or older to receive Post Retirement Medical benefits.
 
Medicare: one must be at least 65 years old to be eligible for Medicare.
 
Social Security (Full Retirement Age): If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your FRA is 65.  If you were born from 1938 on, your FRA is determined by a schedule based on your birth year.  Depending on your birth year, your full retirement age may be anywhere between 65 and 67 years of age.  Your full social security benefit will be reduced for each month you begin collecting your benefit before reaching your FRA.  Conversely, you would be entitled to a greater social security benefit if you retire between your FRA and age 70, when you must begin to collect your social security.
 
No matter what your full retirement age (also called "normal retirement age") is, you may start receiving social security benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. 
 
TIAA-CREF: one must be at least 59 ½ to start withdrawing funds from his or her TIAA-CREF contract(s) without penalty. If you are at least 59 ½ years old, you can take an in-service withdrawal when you’re an active employee or withdraw funds after leaving the College. 
 
Phased Retirement for Faculty
Phased Retirement Deadlines:
While the College has set August 31, 2011 as a decision deadline for faculty who wish to take regular retirement and retain their pre-September 2011 retiree health benefits, for faculty who are eligible to elect retirement under phased retirement and retain pre-September 2011 retiree health benefits, the decision deadlines are different and depend on the intended start date of phased retirement.
•         For faculty who request a 1- year or 2-year phased retirement starting September 1, 2011, there are two decision dates:  a priority decision date of March 31, 2011 and a final decision date of July 30, 2011.
•         For faculty who request a 1-year phased retirement starting September 1, 2012, the decision deadline to retire and retain their pre-September 2011 retiree health benefits is August 31, 2011.
Please note that there are other phased retirement options under the provision of the Phased Retirement program, but faculty who elect these options will not be eligible to retain pre-September retiree health benefits:
•         Faculty have the option to request a 3-year phased retirement staring September 1, 2011 (the priority decision date is March 31, 2011 with a final decision date of July 30, 2011).
•         Faculty will also have the option to request a 2-year or 3-year phased retirement starting September 1, 2012  (the priority decision date will be January 31, 2012 and the final deadline will be  March 31, 2012).

Retirement Notification

Faculty in most cases retire as of the end of the academic year. Therefore, full salary and benefits are paid, as usual, through August 31st. Faculty who resign as of the end of the Fall semester will receive salary and benefits based upon their last date of employment.
 
A professional staff member must provide at least two weeks of working notice to his/her immediate supervisor in order to leave the College in good standing.
 
It is also important to notify the Office of Human Resources of the pending retirement date so that necessary actions may be initiated to facilitate the retirement process.  

Teachers College Benefits

[Note:  The following information describes benefit policies and coverage in effect as of January 2011.  Please refer to the latest Summar Plan Description or contact the Office of Human Resources for current information.] 
 
RETIREE MEDICAL BENEFITS
 
Full-time faculty and professional staff with 15 consecutive years of eligible service may be eligible for retiree medical coverage under the Plan. 

To be eligible for the fully-paid benefit, you must:

• have at least 15 consecutive years of eligible service immediately prior to your  retirement date;
• retire at age 55 or later;
• have been hired before January 1, 2006; and
• retire:
- before September 1, 2011, if you are not a faculty member who has, by May 31, 2011, entered into irrevocable agreements to retire before September 1, 2011; OR
- before September 1, 2013 if you are a faculty member who has, by August 31, 2011, entered into irrevocable agreements to retire before September 1, 2013

You may be eligible for a retiree medical benefit at a cost to you if you do not meet the requirements above. Please use the Retiree Medical Benefits Calculator to determine whether you are eligible for the Retiree Medical Benefit and what your cost will look like, if any.

Retirees aged 60 and over with at least 5 years of continuous eligible service may continue medical insurance coverage for self by paying the full cost of benefit regardless of the date of hire.

Eligible retirees under age 65 continue with the same coverage as active employees until age 65. Eligible retirees aged 65 and over must be enrolled in parts A and B of Medicare on the date of retirement to receive full plan benefits if the retiree will not be employed elsewhere. Even if the retiree will be employed after retiring from Teachers College, s/he should enroll in Medicare Part B upon reaching age 65 unless the retiree takes health insurance from the new employer.  If the retiree enrolls after age 65 without having had health insurance through active employment, the retiree will be responsible for a penalty of 10% increase in Medicare premium per 12 month period of late enrollment. Medicare will be the primary insurer, and the Teachers College sponsored plan will be secondary. For people who retire on or after September 1, 2011, reimbursement of expenses will not be duplicated between Medicare and the College retiree medical program.

Depending on your eligibility for the Retiree Medical Benefit, coverage may be provided for the spouse covered by a TC health plan on the date that the staff member retires and dependent children on record as of the date of retirement. Dependent child who is not eligible for other group coverage due to his or her own employment or as a spouse shall be eligible for benefits until the date the child turns age 26, regardless of marital status, employment, student status or support.
 
Retiree who is 65 years of age or older must show his or her Medicare card to an HR Associate in order to be enrolled. When a retiree reaches 65 years of age after retirement, one should show his or her Medicare card to an HR Associate or send a copy for our records.
 
Cost for retiree and spouse coverage varies depending on certain factors, and you can use the Retiree Medical Calculator to find what the cost will be, if any. Retiree must submit premium for the total cost of coverage for each dependent child. Retiree may submit monthly premium checks to TC by the first of each month, or a check for multiple months at a time.
 
Spouse and Dependent Coverage Upon the Death of the Retiree eligible for Retiree Medical Plan1
 
  • If your surviving spouse was covered at the time of your retirement but not covered by the Retiree Medical Plan at the time of your death, s/he will assume the retiree "self" contribution rate (depending on the age of the surviving spouse), and will be able to enroll once reaching Medicare-eligible age. If your surviving spouse had reached Medicare-eligible age prior to your death, s/he will not be able to enroll into the plan. Once enrolled, s/he will remain covered as long as s/he continues to pay the premium in a timely manner (if applicable).
  • If your surviving spouse was covered by the Retiree Medical plan at the time of your death, s/he will assume the retiree “self” contribution rate (depending on the age of the surviving spouse). Once enrolled, s/he will remain covered as long as s/he continues to pay the premium in a timely manner (if applicable).
  • If your eligible dependent children on record at the College were not covered by the Retiree Medical plan at the time of your death, they can enroll with your surviving spouse once the spouse reaches Medicare-eligible age.
  • If your eligible dependent children were covered by the Retiree Medical plan at the time of your death, they can remain covered for as long the plan terms provide for dependent children, as long as your surviving spouse continues to pay the premium in a timely manner.
  • Any surviving spouse not covered and dependent children not on record at the time of your retirement will not be eligible for this plan.
  • These provisions only apply if the rules for coverage in place when you retired allow for spouse or dependent coverage. If your category of retiree medical coverage does not permit spouse or dependent coverage, your dependents would not be eligible for surviving spouse and dependent coverage under this section.

1- If the eligible retiree had not elected to participate in the retiree medical plan upon retirement, and passes away prior to enrolling into the plan, surviving spouse and eligible dependents will be eligible based on requirements listed.

Spouse and Dependent Coverage Upon the Death of Active Employee Prior to Retirement

  • If you meet the eligibility criteria for the Retiree Medical plan at the time of your death:

o        your spouse who is covered on the active plan will be considered for the Retiree Medical plan under the terms as if you had retired. There will be two entry points: 1) within 30 days of your death and 2) upon your surviving spouse’s becoming Medicare-eligible.

o        your eligible dependent children on record at the College at the time of your death may enroll with your surviving spouse when s/he enrolls at one of the two entry points above.

  • If you have not met the eligibility terms upon passing, your covered dependents would be eligible for continuation of benefits for up to 36 months under the terms and contribution costs defined under COBRA.
  • These provisions only apply if the rules for coverage in place at the time of your death allow for spouse or dependent coverage. If your category of retiree medical coverage does not permit spouse or dependent coverage, your dependents would not be eligible for surviving spouse and dependent coverage under this section.


BENEFITS THAT TERMINATE AT RETIREMENT      
 
When a person retires from Teachers College, under provisions of a federal law known as “COBRA”, the person may remain in the Teachers College group dental plan (either Columbia Dental or MetLife), vision plan (EyeMed) and/or Health Care Flexible Spending Account for up to 18 months after the termination/retirement date.  The individual is responsible for paying the total cost of coverage.  Coverage may be cancelled any time during the 18 months, but once cancelled cannot be renewed.  If you choose not to remain in the Health Care Flexible Spending Account through COBRA, you will not be able to use the funds that you contributed toward that account beyond your retirement date.
 
Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account, Long Term Disability and Commuter (Public Transportation and Parking) benefits will be terminated upon the retirement date. 
 
Duration of COBRA
When the qualifying event is the covered employee’s termination of employment or reduction in hours of employment, qualified beneficiaries are entitled to a maximum of 18 months of continuation coverage.

When the qualifying event is the end of employment or reduction of the employee’s hours, and the employee became entitled to Medicare less than 18 months before the qualifying event, COBRA coverage for the employee’s spouse and dependents can last until 36 months after the date the employee becomes entitled to Medicare. For example, if a covered employee becomes entitled to Medicare 8 months before the date his/her employment ends (termination of employment is the COBRA qualifying event), COBRA coverage for his/her spouse and children would last 28 months (36 months minus 8 months).

Note on Medicare enrollment & COBRA

Termination of COBRA coverage does not count as the loss of group health insurance for SEP purpose, and you must wait until the next GEP to enroll for the following year.


If you qualify for Medicare based on age or disability, whether you can have both COBRA and Medicare depends on which you have first.

• If you already have COBRA when you enroll in Medicare, your COBRA coverage usually ends on the date you enroll in Medicare. If you have COBRA and become Medicare-eligible, you should enroll in Part B immediately because you are not entitled to a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) when COBRA ends. Your spouse and dependents may keep COBRA for up to 36 months, regardless of whether you enroll in Medicare during that time.
Note: You may also be able to keep COBRA coverage once you get Medicare for services that Medicare does not cover. For example, if you have COBRA dental insurance, you may be allowed to drop your medical coverage but keep paying a premium for the dental coverage for as long as you are entitled to COBRA.

• If you already have Medicare when you become eligible for COBRA, you must be allowed to enroll in COBRA. Unless you qualify for Medicare because you have ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease), Medicare acts as the primary payer and COBRA as the secondary payer, so you should stay enrolled in Medicare Part B. You may wish to take COBRA if you have very high medical expenses.

LIFE INSURANCE OPTIONS AT RETIREMENT     
 
Employees are automatically enrolled in a Basic Group Life Insurance plan paid for by Teachers College. Employees may also have Supplemental and/or Dependent Life Insurance coverage paid for through payroll deductions.  All of these insurance programs are term insurance plans, which means there is no cash reserve or surrender value in the policies.  The coverage stops at the end of the month of the retirement date.  During the 31-day period following termination of coverage, a person may normally “port” the Basic, Supplemental and/or Dependent group term life insurance to an individual term policy with pooled term rates. 
 
The portable coverage amount is limited to a minimum of $25,000 and a maximum of the less of (1) the amount in effect on the date your employment terminates; or (2) $300,000 (including Basic and Supplemental life coverage). The portable coverage amount for Dependents Life Insurance is limited to a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of the lesser of (1) the amount in effect on the date your employment terminates; or (2) $5,000. For a personalized portability kit, which includes rates and additional information, please call the Standard portability customer service number at 1-800-378-2409 x6785. Someone who is retiring due to illness or injury, or who prefers “whole-life” insurance, has the opportunity to “convert” the Basic and/or Supplemental Life Insurance to an individual “whole-life” insurance policy. “Whole-life” insurance is more expensive, especially at retirement age.  For more information, call The Standard at 1-800-378-2409 x6785. 
 

DEPENDENT TUITION BENEFITS AT RETIREMENT
Dependent tuition benefits will be provided to members of the full-time professional, instructional staff and professorial staff who were in continuous service at the College for a period of 15 or more years immediately preceding their retirement. Children of record at the time of the employee’s retirement may use this benefit, provided they meet the other conditions of the tuition policy.

Hired prior to 1/18/79:

Undergraduate:
1. Full tuition at Columbia-affiliated schools
2. Must meet admission requirements and be formally admitted to TC or Columbia University-affiliated schools
3. Maximum of 35% of Columbia University’s tuition at non-Columbia undergraduate schools
4. Must be enrolled in a degree program in an accredited four-year College or in a non-terminal program of a junior college
5. 8 semesters only (exceptions given based on proof of longer program)

Graduate:
1. Full tuition at TC or Columbia University-affiliated schools
2. Must meet admission requirements and be formally admitted to TC or Columbia University-affiliated schools


Hired on or after 1/18/79:

Undergraduate
1. Maximum of 35% of Columbia University’s tuition.
2.  Must be enrolled in a degree program in an accredited four-year college or in a non-terminal program of a junior college
3.  8 semesters only (exceptions given based on proof of longer program).

Graduate:
1. Full tuition at TC; must be matriculated in a degree program at Teachers College.

Government Programs (Social Security and Medicare)

This information on government benefits is by necessity brief and is subject to change.  These matters can be quite complex and are dependent on your individual circumstances.  Please consult the Social Security Administration directly at the phone number and/or web address provided below for complete information. If you are working with a financial advisor to plan for your retirement, it is recommended that you include medical care in your discussions.
 
Medicare is a government program that provides medical coverage to qualified people, 65 years of age or older.  Medicare now has three parts. 
• Part A is Hospital Insurance, which pays some of the costs of hospitalization and limited nursing-home care.
• Part B is Supplementary Medical Insurance, which primarily covers doctors’ fees, most outpatient hospital services, and certain related services.
• Part D is Prescription Drug Coverage, which pays some prescription costs. Parts A and B also cover many home health services. 
 
Part A of Medicare is free for eligible participants.  The cost for Part B is normally deducted from the retiree’s Social Security checks. The premiums are adjusted every January for the year.  Part D coverage is purchased from a private insurance vendor.  Programs and costs vary by vendor. 
 
Post Retirement Medical benefit provided by Teachers College is determined to be “creditable”. Enrolling in Medicare Part D will cause a participant in the College’s post retirement prescription drug coverage to lose the College’s coverage. Since TC’s prescription drug coverage is bound with the medical coverage, if a retiree who is eligible for the TC benefit chooses to enroll in Medicare Part D, it may jeopardize his or her continuation of the College's post retirement medical program.  
 
Part A has a deductible and, once the deductible is met, generally pays 80% for covered services, leaving a patient co-payment of 20%.  Part B also has a deductible and also pays 80% for covered services once the deductible is met.  
 
SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE PART A:
 
Contact the Social Security Administration by phone or online to review the monthly benefit for which you will be eligible on a given retirement date. The Social Security web site has a handy calculator that will assist you in determining the benefit for which you would be eligible, or you can discuss this with a representative on the phone.  Social Security representatives are well trained and helpful.  It is not an intimidating process! We've been informed that the best time to contact Social Security Administration is in the beginning of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month.
 
Social Security will also assist you with enrollment in Medicare Part A (Hospital Coverage).  You should sign up for Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) within 4 months of your 65th birthday. It is easy to enroll in Medicare Part A on the telephone, and it is recommended that you enroll when eligible, even if you are still employed.  There is no premium for Medicare Part A coverage.  You have paid for that through payroll deductions over the course of your working years.
 
MEDICARE PART B (MEDICAL COVERAGE):
 
If you are currently covered by Teachers College’s medical insurance for active faculty, instructional and professionals, you will not need Medicare Part B until you stop working and your current Teachers College coverage as an active employee (for you and your spouse, if covered) ends. You will have an Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and, if you are working, a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).  There’s also a General Enrollment Period that lasts from January 1 through March 31 each year with coverage beginning on July 1. We suggest strongly that you speak with a Social Security representative about enrollment dates that will apply in your particular circumstance as enrollment periods can be somewhat complex and very specific.  Medicare Rights Center (800-333-4114) also has a help line for any additional counseling.
 
If you are not covered by Teachers College’s health insurance or other private health insurance (through a spouse, for example) you will also want to make certain you understand how to enroll in Medicare Part B when you are eligible. 
 
As is the case for Medicare Part A, eligibility for this benefit occurs on the first of the month in which you reach your 65th birthday, but please consult Social Security regarding specific enrollment dates that apply in your circumstances.
 
Keep in mind that you will need Medicare Part B to enroll in Teachers College’s Post Retirement Medical coverage, if you are eligible, or any private retiree medical coverage you might be considering, such as Medigap or Part D (prescription drug) coverage, so Part B enrollment is very important.
 
There is a monthly charge for Medicare Part B.  For the majority of retirees, that premium will be $110.50 per month in 2011; however, if your income from 2 years prior to premium year exceeds certain income levels, your premium could be higher.  If you miss the Part B enrollment deadline that applies to you, you could be subject to financial penalties when you do enroll.  It is very important to enroll in Medicare Part B when you are eligible and your employment circumstances warrant enrollment.
 
MEDICARE PART D (PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE):
 
Medicare prescription drug coverage is insurance that covers both brand-name and generic prescription drugs at participating pharmacies in your area. Medicare prescription drug coverage provides protection for people who have very high drug costs or from unexpected prescription drug bills in the future.
 
If you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or Part B, you can join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. To get prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan, you must have Part A and Part B.
 
You may sign up when you first become eligible for Medicare (three months before the month you turn age 65 until three months after you turn age 65). If you get Medicare due to a disability, you can join from three months before to three months after your 25th month of cash disability payments. If you don't sign up when you are first eligible, you may pay a penalty. If you didn't join when you were first eligible, your next opportunity to join will be from November 15, 2011 to December 31, 2011.
 
Post Retirement Medical benefit provided by Teachers College is determined to be “creditable”. Enrolling in Medicare Part D will cause a participant in the College’s post retirement prescription drug coverage to lose the College’s coverage. Since TC’s prescription drug coverage is bound with the medical coverage, if a retiree who is eligible for the TC benefit chooses to enroll in Medicare Part D, it may jeopardize his or her continuation of the College's post retirement medical program.  
 
More detailed information about the Medicare program can be obtained by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or going on-line at www.socialsecurity.gov
 
Here are the relevant telephone numbers and web sites for further information about these important government benefits:
 
Social Security Administration – 1-800-772-1213 www.ssa.gov
Enrollment for both Social Security benefits and Medicare is handled through the Social Security Administration.
 
Medicare – 1-800-MEDICARE; 1-800-899-1118 (Coordination of Benefits) www.medicare.gov
Contact Medicare for general information and helpful online search programs to identify types of private coverage, such as Medicare Advantage, Medigap and Part D drug plans. 
 
Medicare Rights Center - 1-800-333-4114 www.medicareinteractive.org

Retirement Process

HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICE PROCESSING
 
As soon as the retirement date has been finalized, it is very important that the faculty and professional staff member contact the Office of Human Resources (x3175) to make necessary arrangements for implementing his/her retirement actions.  As discussed in the previous section, there are certain steps to be taken concerning Post Retirement Medical coverage, retirement plan options, and other benefits. 
 
An eligible faculty and professional staff member will be enrolled in the Post Retirement Medical benefit on the 1st day of the month following 30 days of submitting an enrollment form or the day after the retirement date, whichever comes later. For smooth transition without any gap in coverage, it is recommended that the retiree submit the enrollment form to the Office of Human Resources at least one month prior to retirement.
 
SOCIAL SECURITY
 
Applications for Social Security retirement benefits should be made by calling Social Security’s toll-free number (800-772-1213) or by contacting a local Social Security Office about three months before the expected retirement date.  Full benefits are payable after age 65, depending on the person’s year of birth; reduced benefits are payable as early as 62. Note that when a person reaches full retirement age (FRA) he/she can begin collecting Social Security income even while still working full-time, with no reduction in the benefit. 
 
Application for Medicare enrollment (available at age 65 and after) should be made about three months before the retirement date.  Enrollment in both Parts A and B of Medicare is necessary in order to be eligible for the College’s post retirement medical plans.  See additional information in the following section on medical benefits at retirement.
 
MAILING CHECKS          
 
Retirees/spouses responsible for paying for eligible dependent health coverage need to mail checks by the 1st of each month. One may choose to send a check for multiple months at a time. Teachers College will send annual notification or upon any plan changes. Checks should be payable to Teachers College and sent to the following address:   
Teachers College, Columbia University    
Attn: Post-Retirement Dependent Benefit    
525 W 120th Street    
Box 149    
New York, NY 10027
 
It is most important to make the payments on time in order to avoid cancellation of coverage. Any questions concerning the premium payment can be directed to the Office of Human Resources at 212-678-3175.

Useful Websites and Telephone Numbers

www.ssa.gov (800-772-1213)– The official site of the Social Security Administration. www.medicare.gov – The official Medicare site.
www.tiaa-cref.org – Register on this site for access to your accounts and for planning information.
www.aarp.org – American Association of Retired Persons
www.aarphealthcare.com – Access to healthcare options offered through the American Association of Retired Persons
www.n4a.org – The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging 
www.medicareinteractive.org (800-333-4114) - Medicare Rights Center 

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