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Chapter One: Introduction

Created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1939, TRS has grown to be one of the largest teachers’ retirement systems in the United States with more than 420,000 active members, annuitants, and benefit recipients.

We provide retirement benefits for teachers who are employed by all Illinois public common and charter school districts located outside the city of Chicago. The Illinois Pension Code contains the laws relating to our creation, benefits, and administration.

Administration

TRS is governed by a 15-member Board of Trustees. Trustees include the state superintendent of education, six trustees appointed by the governor, four trustees elected by contributing TRS members and two trustees elected by TRS annuitants. The Board of Trustees appoints the executive director, who is responsible for the detailed administration of TRS.

Funding

We have several sources of funding:

  • member contributions,
  • investment income,
  • employer contributions, and
  • appropriations from Illinois state government.

As an active member, you contribute 9 percent of your salary toward retirement each year. We invest these assets to create diversified investment income. Our investment portfolio, which is managed by external investment management firms and monitored by our investment staff and consultant, includes stocks, bonds, real estate, cash and equivalents, and private markets. Employer contributions and appropriations from Illinois state government make up the remaining funding sources.

As a remittance agent for the Department of Central Management Services, we collect additional contributions from active members and employers to help fund the Teachers’ Health Insurance Security (THIS) Fund. Revenues from the THIS Fund are used to finance the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP). Federal law prohibits TRS monies from being placed in the THIS Fund.

Qualified pension plan status

TRS operates a qualified pension plan under provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, Section 401(a). The advantages of being a qualified plan include:

  • tax-sheltering of mandatory retirement contributions in the year that they are made to TRS;
  • deferral of income taxes on con­tributions until your retirement, at which time your effective tax rate may be lower; and
  • tax-free accumulation of interest credited to you by TRS.

To maintain our qualified pension status, we must meet certain Internal Revenue Service requirements, including:

  • annual benefit, salary, and contribution limitations,
  • compensation that may be reported for benefit calculation purposes,
  • benefit eligibility provisions,
  • benefit distribution limitations, and
  • rollover restrictions.

We are dedicated to complying with all requirements for qualified plans.

Confidentiality

All information contained in a member’s record is confidential. We provide such information to the member, to others at the member’s written request, to other retirement systems subject to the Illinois Retirement Systems Reciprocal Act, to the state of Illinois for annuitant health insurance purposes, and to the Social Security Administration for government pension offset determination and windfall elimination purposes. Member information also may be given pursuant to a subpoena issued during court proceedings.

Social Security numbers

TRS requires Social Security numbers (SSNs) for tax reporting obligations associated with payment of benefits and refunds and for internal verification and administrative purposes. You may rest assured that TRS understands identity protection concerns, complies with all applicable identity protection laws, and has policies and procedures in place to protect your SSN. We will never require you to transmit your SSN over the internet unless the connection is secure or the SSN is encrypted. We will redact your SSN from information or documents before release as part of a public records request. We will only print your SSN on documents and forms that we mail to you as part of an application or enrollment process, to establish, amend, or terminate your TRS account, or to confirm the accuracy of your SSN. For information about SSNs and Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Orders (QILDROs), please consult our QILDRO publication.

Administrative review

Any member, annuitant, beneficiary, or employer may appeal a staff determination or interpretation of the Illinois Pension Code or the TRS rules which specifically affects them to the Board of Trustees Claims Hearing Committee. A written request for an administrative review must be filed with the executive director no later than six months after a TRS staff disposition or interpretation is given. The TRS Board does not provide advisory opinions.