Saturday, March 9, 2013

Reno Weekend

No, I didn't fly to Nevada for the weekend.  I drove to Oklahoma City on Friday evening and stayed at the Econo Lodge Inn Near Bricktown at
1750 E Reno Ave. It isn't an upscale hotel, as the name implies, but it met all of my needs: a warm room in a safe environment, TV, WiFi, coffee pot, comfortable bed (they upgraded me to a king size), microwave, small fridge, good lighting and it was quiet. The man who checked me in reminded me of my friend, Afzal, form my public library job.  He was so nice and friendly and made me feel like I was his favorite guest ever.  The next morning, his wife (I assume) checked me out with the same warmth.  I should probably write a review for them because they were wonderful.

Saturday morning, I left in plenty of time to get to my retirement workshop. It was just 1.5 miles down the road at the Cox Convention Center across the street from Chesapeake Energy Arena (Thunder up!) at 100 W Reno Ave.  I had studied my google map the night before and reviewed it over coffee before I took off.  I knew exactly how to get there. I made an easy right out of the parking lot and I was on my way.  Unfortunately, as is usually my situation, I was going the wrong way.  I drove for 10 minutes and thought, "Well, google didn't get the time right on this journey."  After 15 minutes I started to suspect I was going the wrong way.  The sun in my eyes was a confirmation, but to be sure, I pulled into a WalMart parking lot and looked at the compass on my phone. I was indeed going east when I should have been going west.

A quick u-turn and a 15 minute drive in the opposite direction (being directionally challenged can be so annoying) and I made it to the workshop with seconds to spare. A fresh cup of coffee, a seat in the back row and I was ready to learn.

The next part of this post is only for people who are truly interested in the details of my retirement quest.

My first impression was, does everything have to be so complicated? The upside is the presenters understood the complexity and could explain it.

My situation is:
  • I'm working under the rule of 80 which means my age and years of service have to equal 80.  The teacher retirement people sent me a form stating I have 23 years of service; add my age to that and I am at 86.  I'm golden.

  • In the rule of 80, retirement is based on your highest three years of service. For most people, me too, it's your last three years.

  • But there's a wrinkle.  People who worked before July 1, 1995 (that would include me) have a two tier system.  Money made before 1995 was capped (you could only draw retirement on $45,000 no matter how much you were making) but after 1995 salaries were uncapped and your retirement was based on your actual salary.

  • So instead of getting paid based on your highest three years, they average your highest three years before 1995 with your highest three years post 1995.  YIKES!  I didn't make very much money in those olden days.  Starting teacher pay in 1988, when I started, was $17,500 a year. So those pre-1995 years are dragging me down.

  • But there's a solution.  To encourage people to continue working past retirement eligibility, they offer a wear-away plan.  For every one extra year you teach, two years of pre-1995 service are worn away, or actually moved in with the post-1995 years.

  • I started my school position in 1988, but it was part-time (4/7 of a day) for several years. I worked 6 years before July 1, 1995.  I need to find out when I went full time (there was at least one year I worked 5/7 of a day) and how much actual time I have to wear away.  I've probably worn them all away since I'm at 86 but i ant to officially confirm that.

  • More to the wrinkle - You can count 180 days of unused sick leave ass one year of service, which has been included in my 23 years.  But it goes into the capped side of the situation and is another year to wear away.

  • So why would you want to include the sick days as another year?  Because the formula for figuring a person's monthly retirement check is: 2% x career salary x service years / 12. That makes my sick leave another year of salary to add into the equation.
I decided to stay another year at school. My principle was very encouraging (he practically said the school would dry up and blow away if I didn't come back) and my superintendent did her best to convince me to stay as well. The more years I work, the higher the number of service years in the retirement formula. It's only two years until I can get full social security with medicare and all the benefits (assuming the system doesn't crash and burn).

I've only committed to one more year.  I'll make an appointment with the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System for sometime this summer and at some point decide if next year is the last year or not.