Video: The “Why” Behind The Weird Social Security Rules For Educators

Social Security for Educators is the hottest topic that I speak on. At these speaking events I usually get asked a lot of questions. Many of them are similar from place to place, but there is always one question that is asked every time. Why?  Why do they pick on educators with these crazy Social Security rules?

In this video I’ll go into the thinking that went into setting up these weird rules.

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Video: Social Security for Educators (and other public servants)

Social Security is different for educators. It’s more complicated, and the rules aren’t always fair.

If you’re an educator, when your turn comes to file for Social Security benefits you may need to fight for what’s rightfully yours. But first, you need to understand the rules!

Thankfully, it’s not that hard. In this video I’ll help to simplify the rules.

Here are a few of the areas I’ll cover:
– How Your Teacher’s Pension Will Affect Your Benefit Amount
– The Windfall Elimination Provision
– The Government Pension Offset
– Can You Expect to Collect Spousal Benefits?
– Will You Be Eligible for Survivor Benefits?
– Strategies to Reduce the Impact of These Rules


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Mailbag: Trigger for The Government Pension Offset

answers to social security questions

This reader had a question about avoiding the Government Pension Offset for as long as possible.


Enjoyed your informative article (“Your Social Security and Retirement Benefits”) in the latest issue of ATPE News magazine.

I am an ex-serviceman (24-year career, US Army), currently a teacher, and will not be affected by the WEP when I retire and begin collecting my TRS pension.

I do have a question about the GPO:  Can a spouse who is paying into TRS, not retired, and at FRA (under Social Security rules) apply for a spousal support benefit (under SS) when her husband who is at FRA applies for SS benefits?


I like this kind of question. It makes me think!

What I’m pretty sure you’re asking is this: If you are not receiving your pension from non-covered work, does the Government Pension Offset apply?

The simple answer is…NO!

If you are still working and your spouse has filed for benefits, you can file for and receive a Social Security benefit that is not affected by the Government Pension Offset. Enjoy it while it last. Once you retire, your Social Security benefit will get reduced by 2/3 of the amount of your TRS pension.

A note for all readers.

Over the past few years, I’ve found that most Social Security questions can be answered with an understanding of just six  simple Social Security basics. I cover these basics in a 100% free report that you can download by clicking HERE.

If you still have questions after reading this report, send me an email.  I can’t promise that I’ll respond individually, but I love interacting with my readers and answering Social Security questions! The questions and answers that’ll have priority are those that may benefit a wider audience. I’ll answer the question individually and then publish the Q&A on my blog. (Don’t worry, I’ll change up enough personal details so you’ll stay unknown.)

If you want to make sure I answer your question, I am still accepting individual consultations. You can click HERE for more information on booking a call with me.

Thanks for reading!


Mailbag: Switching from Disability to Retirement Benefits

answers to social security questions

A reader has a question about the suitability of switching from Social Security disability benefits to Social Security retirement benefits.


Dear Mr.Carroll,

I was awarded Social Security disability prior to age 62. I and am now age 62 and am entitled to Social Security retirement benefits simultaneously with disability benefits.

Also, I have three minor children currently receiving auxiliary benefits on my DIB.

I am interested in applying for Social Security retirement benefits since it may yield me an overall larger family-benefit (even if my personal-benefit (reduced-RIB) will be smaller than DIB).

I specifically am interested in how my Social Security Retirement Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) may be calculated relatively (from how my Disability-PIA was previously calculated).

My Questions, please:

Will my RIBPIA be calculated, like my DIB-PIA was, using the:

  • “freeze” (excluded the 4-years of my disability prior to my disability onset date and used only 31 of the usual 35-yrs) or will it calculate my RIB-PIA using the usual 35-yrs?
  • the national average wage index (NAWI) factor previously used to calc my DIB (2-yrs prior to my disability onset date) or will it calculate my RIB-PIA using my new age-60 NAWI?

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Mailbag: Non Typical Pension and The Windfall Elimination Provision

answers to social security questions

Question from a reader on what actually qualifies as a pension for purposes of applying the Windfall Elimination Provision.


Hi Devin,

I just listened to your interview on Radical Personal Finance. I was hoping for a more applied discussion, but Joshua couldn’t get off the politics! Ha. Oh, well. You’ll have to do another sometime.

I had a couple topics in mind where I have not found an answer to, and low and behold, you have a couple blog posts on it. Feel free to add these as addendums to the posts if that adds value/clarity to them.

You’re post entitled “What Illinois Teachers Need To Know About Social Security” hit home with me, as I am in the same situation as teachers in Illinois. I work for our University system here in Alaska, and we do not participate in SS taxes, aside from Medicare. Your explanation of WEP and GPO are the best I’ve seen, although the definition of what is and is not considered a “Pension” is one thing I have not found an answer to. My employer currently pays into 2 separate 401(a) accounts, one of which is actually called a “Pension“, but we manage and bear all investment risks in both accounts, so it’s not a guaranteed monthly income like a traditional pension. Am I correct in saying that the SS administration doesn’t care about the type of account, and that I’ll likely be subject to WEP when the time comes (assuming I meet the other conditions for WEP to become applicable to me)?

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Mailbag: Update on the Repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision

answers to social security questions

Kathleen asked me about the current status on the repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision.


Where do things stand legislatively now re Windfall Profit Elimination?

As someone who worked as a teacher for only 10 years–the rest of my employment having been primarily with non-profits–I’m suffering from the cuts to what would have been my  social security. To add insult to injury, California (at least) was not required to alert potential new teachers about the WEP effect until 2 months after I was employed, so I wasn’t informed about it until it was  close to my retirement.

I hope you can send me an update.

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Ohio Social Security: What Ohio Public Employees Need to Know

Coordinating STRS, SERS, OPERS and Social Security Benefits


Ohio public employees and social security benefits


Ohio public employees have a right to be perplexed about their Social Security benefits. The rules for collecting STRS, SERS and OPERS and Social Security can be confusing and intimidating. It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of really bad information on the internet!

The good news is, the rules can made understandable so you can use them to your advantage in planning your retirement strategy.

The Basics of Social Security in Ohio

If you work in local or state government in Ohio, there are two rules that could affect your ability to claim 100% of your Social Security benefit. The rules are called the “Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)” and the “Government Pension Offset (GPO).”

These two provisions reduce (or completely eliminate) benefits for individuals who worked at a job where they:
A) did not pay Social Security tax
B) earned a pension from that work

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Teacher’s Retirement: 3 Reasons It’s Different

If you’ve been teaching for long, you’ve probably become an expert in planning ahead. It’s a good thing you’ve developed this skill because you’re going to need it as you start getting closer to retirement.

a teachers retirement is different

Teacher’s retirement planning can appear deceptively simple; you have a teacher’s pension and the option of an additional savings plan like a 403B. At face value, it seems that these simplified options should reduce your decisions and make the retirement planning process easier.  But teachers have a unique retirement scenario that is much deeper than it appears on the surface.

Here are 3 reasons why your retirement situation is different than most of your non-educator friends.

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Choosing The Best Option: Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) or Teacher’s Retirement System

If you’ve recently been hired in public higher education, you have a very limited time window to make a big decision. Should you choose the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) or Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS)? You have one chance to get it right. This is an irrevocable decision.

Here’s what you need to know.

choosing between the teachers retirement system and optional retirement program

Most teachers are automatically enrolled in TRS. However, certain employees of public colleges are eligible to choose the Optional Retirement Plan instead of the TRS pension plan. This is not a decision to be taken lightly! Although both of these accounts are meant to be for retirement savings and income, they each approach this goal using two distinctly different paths.

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Texas Teacher’s Retirement and Social Security Benefits

Texas teachers have a right to be perplexed about their Social Security benefits. The rules for collecting Texas Teacher’s Retirement and Social Security can be confusing and intimidating. The overabundance of bad information on the internet doesn’t help!

The good news is, the rules can be simplified and condensed into something that’s understandable for normal folks like us.

Texas teachers retirement and social security benefits

Even if I didn’t live in Texas, I think it would still be my favorite state. If you live here as well, I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s a lot to love about the Lone Star state. However, on a slight negative note, it’s one of only 15 states where teachers do not participate in Social Security. Instead, the state has their own pension plan that takes its place. That’s not a bad thing on its own, but it can cause confusion if you don’t know the rules on how Social Security benefits and Texas Teacher’s Retirement Pensions fit together.

Here’s a closer look at what you need to know.

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