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Chapter Eleven: Post-Retirement Matters

Annuitants will want to be aware of special issues, such as health insurance, automatic annuity increases, post-retirement employment limitations, and re-entry into active membership.

Health insurance

In addition to current participants, enrollment in the Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) is open to:

  • any member who has eight or more years of TRS service credit and is receiving a monthly retirement benefit;
  • any beneficiary who is receiving a monthly survivor benefit from a member who had eight or more years of service credit; or
  • any member who is receiving a disability benefit, regardless of the years of service credit.

TRIP is a comprehensive program of quality healthcare coverage for retired teachers and their eligible dependents. TRS’s role is to provide members with basic coverage information, enroll them in the program, and collect the appropriate premiums. The State of Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) determines coverage benefits, establishes premiums, negotiates contracts with the insurance carriers, and resolves coverage and claim issues. CMS administers TRIP as set forth in the State Employees Group Insurance Act of 1971.

No TRS monies are used to fund TRIP.

There are four times when you may enroll in TRIP:

  • when you apply for monthly retirement benefits or disability benefits,
  • when you turn age 65 or become eligible for Medicare,
  • when coverage by a former group plan is involuntarily terminated, or
  • during the annual Benefit Choice Period.

Enrollment information, including premiums and a summary of benefits, is provided in our TRIP Summary publication that is available on our website.

TRS members with at least five years of service with a qualified state of Illinois agency may be eligible for benefit options under the State of Illinois Group Insurance Plan. At retirement, we will send information to members who qualify for the plan.

Annual increases in annuity

Nearly all annuitants receive a 3 percent annual increase in their annuities. You will receive the increase on the later of:

  • Jan. 1 following your first anniversary in retirement or

  • Jan. 1 following the date you reach age 61.

The increase is effective in January of each year and is reflected in the payment you receive in February. This increases your monthly benefit and is not a retroactive lump-sum payment. When we calculate the first increase percentage, we determine the number of years that have elapsed since your TRS retirement annuity began and the effective date of your initial increase, and then multiply that amount by 3 percent. This increased benefit continues until the next annual increase of 3 percent is applied.

Some annuitants may receive increases in their annuities prior to the initial post-retirement increase due to minimum annuity legislation. If you are affected, we will notify you.

Employment limitations for annuitants

While you are receiving a retirement annuity, certain restrictions apply regarding employment you may accept, the types of positions in which you may be employed, and the number of days and hours you may work.

Employment limitation

You may be employed by any college, university, or private school without limitation. In addition, you may be employed by a school district in a position not covered by TRS without limitation. For example, as a retired teacher you may be employed as a bus driver for any number of days or hours. You may also be employed in public school systems outside the state of Illinois without limitation.

Once you are retired, you may not resume employment in a TRS-covered position, including substitute and summer school teaching, in the same school year in which you last contributed to TRS. The school year is July 1 through June 30. Therefore, if you retire during the school year, you may teach summer school following retirement only if your first day of service is after June 30.

In addition, you must wait 30 days from the effective date of your resignation before performing any post-retirement teaching for the same employer.

120 days/600 hours limitation

Following the school year in which you last contributed to TRS, you may be employed in a TRS-covered position for up to 120 paid days or 600 paid hours per school year and still receive a retirement annuity. The 120 days/600 hours limit is in effect through June 30, 2023. 

State law does not allow optional TRS participation. You may not avoid TRS reporting by calling yourself an independent contractor, vendor or consultant.

If you work only full days (five or more hours per day), each day is counted toward the 120 days limitation. If you work all partial days (fewer than five hours) or a combination of full and partial days, the time worked is counted toward the 600 hours limitation. Each full day (five or more hours) is counted as five hours, even if you actually worked more than five hours on that date. For partial days, the actual number of clock hours worked is counted. For example, if you worked on two days during a given week, three hours on Tuesday and seven hours on Thursday, a total of eight hours (three for Tuesday and five for Thursday) would be counted toward the 600 hours limitation. It is your responsibility to keep a record of your hours worked to ensure you do not exceed the limitation.

Only work that requires teacher licensure (including summer school and substitute teaching) is subject to the 120 days/600 hours post-retirement employment limitation. All time that a teacher or administrator is required to be present for licensed duties is subject to the limitation. This includes preparation periods and time before, between, and after classes. For administrators, this includes all time that is required to be spent on administrative duties, such as attendance at board meetings and contract negotiations.

Extra duties that do not require teacher licensure are not subject to the 120 days/600 hours post-retirement employment limitation.

A person who received a single-sum retirement benefit is not subject to these limits.

Exceeding the limitations

If you exceed the employment limitations during any school year,

  • we must be notified,
  • your retirement annuity will be suspended,
  • you will re-enter active membership, and
  • your employer must remit TRS contributions on all creditable earnings after the employment limitations are exceeded.

There are two circumstances where you will be required to repay all annuity payments in full from the date of retirement:

  • if you resume teaching in the same school year in which you retired or 
  • if you exceed the employment limitations in the first school year following retirement. 

Special consequences apply if you exceed employment limitations following retirement under any 5&5 Early Retirement Incentive (ERI) program. Call Member Services, 877-927-5877 (877-9-ASK-TRS), for information.

Special Circumstances

Retirement Under Reciprocal Act

If you retire under the Illinois Retirement Systems Reciprocal Act, you must adhere to the post-retirement employment limitations of each retirement system that is, or will be, paying you a retirement benefit. Post-retirement employment in one system does not limit work in another system. Therefore, you should contact each applicable reciprocal system regarding employment limitations that may apply to you. All systems will discontinue benefits if the limits are exceeded.

Retiree Return to Work Program

To help alleviate the classroom teacher shortage problem in Illinois, a law that allows retired TRS members to teach for a full school year in districts declared to be subject shortage areas has been extended until June 30, 2024. Under the law, which was set to expire in 2019, retired teachers who go back to these designated districts are not subject to “return-to-work” restrictions imposed on other retirees. The regional superintendent must designate the employment to be in a subject shortage area in order for a retiree to be able to return to work without limitation. 

Retirement with CTPF

In 2019, the law changed when Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago (CTPF) retirees start contributing to TRS. CTPF retirees who return to teaching in a TRS-covered position will start contributing to TRS immediately. Contributing only after working 120 days/600 hours no longer applies. 

Re-entry into active membership

As an annuitant, the only way you can re-enter active membership is:

  • to teach in a TRS-covered position in the same school year in which you last contributed to TRS or
  • to teach beyond the 120 days/600 hours limitation (see “120 days/600 hours limitation” in this chapter).

If you resume active TRS member status,

  • contributions are required on all creditable earnings, and
  • you are required to send us a new age retirement annuity application form when you file for retirement again.

If your second retirement date occurs in less than one year, your retirement is reinstated. If it follows completion of at least one year but less than three years of creditable service, your annuity will be recomputed using the law in effect on your first retirement date. If at least three years of creditable service have been established after you re-enter active membership, your annuity will be recomputed based on current law, including any legislation that changed benefits while you were in retirement the first time.