Sunday, January 15, 2023

Teachers, Public Employees, the WEP - GPO and Your Retirement

Many working Americans are unaware of how the decisions they make during their career could affect the amount of money they might receive when they retire.  After retirement, they often wish they had been given more information before they changed their careers.  Most of us are completely unaware of how our career choices in our 20s can affect our retirement in our 60s or 70s.

One issue which teachers and other public employees often overlook is how much money their school pensions will provide for them in the future, and whether or not they will also be able to receive Social Security.  This article is designed to help you avoid some of the pitfalls which create problems for many public service workers after they retire.

As an example in this post, I use the CalSTRS teacher pension plan, because it is one of the largest in the country, and I personally know a number of working and retired California teachers, even within my own family.  As a result, I have been able to get first-hand information from some of them.  However, much of the information is similar for many other teachers and public employees across the U.S., especially if they live in states where their pensions are subject to either the WEP or GPO, which are discussed below.

One of the people who was especially helpful in writing this post was Elizabeth Wallace, a retired California teacher and the author of "Free College: How Graduates Earn the Most Scholarship Money."  If you are a parent or a grandparent of a school age student from kindergarten to high school, you might want to use this link to see her book on Amazon.  She was very helpful in explaining some of the issues she discovered when she retired as a California public school teacher, and I have included her suggestions in this post.

The most important information you should get from this post is that every teacher and public employee needs to research their retirement plans as soon as possible, so they do not receive an unpleasant shock when they reach retirement.  This post will help you be prepared and, hopefully, know what to expect.

What Teachers and Public Employees Should Know About Their Pensions

Like many state pension plans, CalSTRS is a defined benefit pension. You pay into it and, depending on how long you work and how much you earn, you will receive a defined pension when you retire.

If you work for a private company, most Americans can expect to receive Social Security benefits when they retire, which will provide them with a small basic income during their retirement years. If you work as a teacher or a public employee, however, you will receive a state pension, which should also give you a secure pension when you retire. Some things about these state pensions are similar to Social Security, but other aspects of these plans can be quite different. 

CalSTRS is the California State Teachers Retirement System and much of the information in this article comes from their website. Every state teacher’s retirement program, and public employee retirement system, should have a website and provide you with information similar to what is available to CalSTRS members. Since CalSTRS is one of the largest teacher retirement programs in the U.S., the information provided here about their pensions is similar to what teachers can expect in many other states, so it is a good example of some of the retirement problems public employees and teachers can experience.

Whether you are a teacher in California or a public employee in another state, it is very important that you learn about your retirement program as soon as you start working. The CalSTRS website can be found at and contains a wealth of information for both new and long-term California teachers. On that website, you can watch a video which gives an overview of the retirement system at

The average California teacher who retired in 2021 received, on average, a $57,756 annual pension or about $4800 a month. Of course, some teachers received much more or less than that amount.  The average teacher pension is much more generous than what the average person receives from Social Security. This is because they paid far more into their teaching retirement system. The average Social Security recipient received about $1632 in 2022, with most high earners receiving less than $3000 a month, even if they worked until their full retirement age of about 67 years old. In this respect, the average teacher retirement may be much better than the Social Security benefits paid out to even the highest earning private sector retirees. Consequently, people who work solely in the private sector must save much more money in their personal retirement accounts if they want to have a retirement which is comparable to being a retired teacher.

You can use the calculator on the CalSTRS website to get an estimate of how much of a pension a teacher can expect to receive, based on their current income and the number of years they have worked. In California, you have to teach for at least 5 years in order to get a pension when you turn 55. You will also get a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) added to your pension after you retire, based on the Consumer Price Index (2.77% for those who retired in 2021 and less for earlier retirees) although, like the Social Security COLA, it is unlikely to keep up with the rate of inflation, since it does not compound over time.

In addition to getting a COLA, CalSTRS is similar to Social Security in that you are still eligible to get Medicare at age 65. 

However, there are some significant differences between the two systems, as well, particularly in California and the 25 other states where teachers are subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision or WEP. Under the WEP, if you worked in the private sector in addition to teaching, and you paid into Social Security during your career, your Social Security benefits will be cut by as much as 67% because of the WEP. This is despite the fact that you contributed to Social Security and earned those benefits!

Here is an example of how the WEP affects teachers in 26 states. Let’s say you are entitled to receive a CalSTRS pension when you turn 55 because you have worked for more than five years as a teacher. In addition, you may have worked in the private sector and paid into Social Security, too. Under the WEP, your Social Security benefits will be cut by as much as two-thirds. So, if you are entitled to $1200 a month in Social Security benefits, you will only receive $400 because of the WEP. This is despite the fact that you paid into both retirement programs, CalSTRS and Social Security. The WEP is particularly unfair, because it is only applied to teachers and public workers in about half the U.S.

Can you avoid the WEP? It is not easy, because you will need to pay into Social Security and earn a substantial amount for over 20 years for the WEP to decline, and you will have to work for 30 years in the private sector, earning a substantial income, for it will go away completely. Few teachers will achieve that.

What does this mean for the average teacher? It means that if you make a career change, you may end up earning a low CalSTRS pension, because you left your public school teaching job and lost out on your earned retirement benefit, and you may also have your Social Security earnings reduced by the WEP, unless you live in one of the states without the WEP.  In other words, a career change can cost you a portion of your retirement benefits in both program.

Currently, the only solution to this unfair law is to continue to work in a school district, in your current state, and over a period of 30 years, make sure you earn a substantial additional salary in your side job.  Of course, this means that you are working almost full time in TWO different careers at the same time. Only then can you receive the full amount of your earned teacher retirement and the full amount of your earned Social Security. This is not a very satisfactory solution. 

Moving to a non-WEP state during retirement is not a solution, because it would still not allow you to collect your full Social Security in addition to your full teacher's benefit, since your teacher's pension is coming from a WEP state.  Unless the law changes, teachers continue to be subject to this unfair provision.  

The same is true for other public service employees who are subject to a similar program known as the GPO or Government Pension Offset.  When they also work in the private sector and pay Social Security withholding, they currently will not receive a fair share of their Social Security benefits when they retire. 

Remember, these public service employees are getting short-changed by not receiving Social Security benefits which they paid for and earned, often after they paid into the system for decades!

If you live in one of the states affected by the WEP, you should talk to someone at your pension office, as well as someone in your local Social Security Administration office, to see how WEP would affect both your pensions, especially if you are thinking about a career change. 

In addition, everyone who is affected by the WEP or the GPO should write their Congressperson about this unfair situation in half the U.S. As of the publication of this blog post, there is a bill pending in Congress to change this unfair law, but teachers and other public service workers are going to have to be vocal if they want to see Congress make the change.  Encourage your unions and the AARP to take up this cause, as well.

Another issue which is different for teachers and many public service workers is that most of them are never able to collect their spouse’s Social Security benefits. Other retired spouses typically can receive up to 50% of their spouse’s Social Security benefits, while their spouse or former spouse (if they were married over 10 years), is still alive. This is true even if they did not earn any Social Security benefits of their own, because they were a non-working spouse. Then, a surviving spouse may receive a bumped up payment after their spouse dies. 

However, teachers have to choose either their teacher’s retirement OR a percentage of their spouse’s Social Security, and the teacher’s retirement is nearly always far more than 50% or even 100% of their spouse’s Social Security benefits. As a result, they only rarely collect any benefits from Social Security. They cannot receive most of their own, earned benefits, and they cannot receive any benefits based on the earnings of their spouse.

Whether a retiree is going to rely on Social Security or a teacher’s retirement or other public service retirement program, they need to use the online calculators provided by their retirement plan to get an estimate of how much money they can expect to receive when they retire.  They should do this early in their career and repeat it often, especially if they are considering a career change.  They owe it to themselves to have a clear idea of the consequences if they make a change.

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I encourage retirees who read my blog to have a "side-gig" to earn a little extra money and help them stay ahead of inflation.  Especially for energetic, healthy retirees, earning extra money can be a good way to help yourself financially and socially.  Depending on what you do, a side-gig can also challenge you mentally and help you stay up-to-date with current technology.

In my case, I run a little Etsy gift shop where you can find items for retirement parties or retired friends, people who are in 12 Step groups like AA, friends who love nature prints, and so much more.  Check it out at!

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about saving money, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Source:  Facts about aging from the June 2022 AARP Bulletin.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Friday, December 30, 2022

Top Retirement Stories of 2022 - What Interested Retirees the Most?

Ending 2022 Learning to Take Care of Ourselves

Every year, Baby-Boomer-Retirement ends with a single post featuring the stories which most interested retirees and senior citizens during the year.  It is always fascinating to see the topics which received thousands of views during the preceding year. Perhaps it is because Baby-Boomers are starting to age, but overwhelmingly the topics of most interest in 2022 were related to dementia and longevity.  

Fortunately, because of my involvement with the MIND program at the nearby University of California in Irvine, I was able to provide my readers with the results of that university's incredible research in several posts I wrote over the past year.  

Other topics which interested my readers were related to how to make your money last, second marriages, how to order your groceries from Amazon Fresh, and dangerous food and drug combinations.  

Below are links to the articles which most interested my readers in 2022. I look forward to writing more posts on these topics, as well as others, in the coming year, and hope my readers will join me in researching the topics which are affecting us all as we age:

The Top Retirement Posts of 2022 in Order of Preference

Cut Your Dementia Risk by 40% in 12 Steps - Some forms of dementia are beyond our control. However, researchers have learned that making some changes to our behavior can substantially reduce our dementia risk.  

Retirement Income: Making Your Money Last a Lifetime - One of the biggest concerns of many senior citizens is how they can feel confident that their money will last as long as they do. While there are no guarantees of future financial security, there are things we can do to protect ourselves from disaster as much as possible.

Baby Boomer Life Expectancy - How Long are You Likely to Live? - On average, how long can you expect to live?  That depends on a number of factors, including which state you live in.  This article gives the longevity statistics for different groups of people in the U.S.   Are you doing better or worse than the average person?

Activities Which Promote Longevity - Add Years to Your Life - We all know that person who has done everything "wrong" and still lived a long life.  However, for the most part, our personal lifestyle is an important contributing factor in how long we are likely to live.  See what you can do to extend your longevity.

Late in Life Second Marriages - Things to Consider If You Remarry - Many people who find themselves widowed or divorced in their 50s, 60s or even older will decide to remarry. However, marriage in our later years is more than a romantic decision. It also has important legal and family considerations.  Learn about the different issues you need to consider before you remarry.

Electrical Brain Stimulation for Memory Improvement in Seniors - tDCS Machines and Our Brain - As part of my volunteering to be a test subject for the MIND program at the University of California in Irvine, I willingly allowed them to test my memory, give me a series of MRIs and stimulate my brain every day for a week using a tDCS machine. Months later, I have still found that it enhanced my memory. Read about the experiment here.

Ordering Groceries from Amazon Fresh Can Help Many Seniors - During the worst of the Covid pandemic, I learned how to order my groceries on Amazon Fresh and have them delivered to my home.  I loved the safety and convenience.  However, it was a bit confusing the first couple of times I did it, so I wrote this post to make it a little easier for my readers.  It is very convenient to know how to use this service, especially if you are recovering from surgery or have other reasons why a trip to the grocery store may be difficult.

Dangerous Food and Drug Combinations - Be Careful! - This post was based on an article in the AARP Magazine.  I was shocked at the large number of food and drug interactions which could affect me.  I didn't know about many of these issues, and I assume many other people are not aware of them, either.  Read this article before you take your next medication!

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Another topic I have mentioned often in the past few months is the importance of learning new skills, staying busy, and having a volunteer or part-time job in your later years.  These are the types of things which will keep your brain functioning well and, if you can earn a little extra money, may also help you financially. I frequently recommend that people continue to work from home, do some tutoring, or start a home business. You don't want to do so much that it stresses you out.  However, you do want to choose something that will help you financially, mentally, and socially, if possible, so you stay involved in the world around you.  

I have personally followed my own advice by starting my own Etsy store,, and frequently advertise some of my products on my blog as well as other places. Learning the technological skills to keep this business going has been great for me mentally.  I hope you will visit my shop when you have a chance.  I now have hundreds of gifts listed there.

If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Well Established Baby Store Serving Toronto Since 1945. Find Quality Top Brands & Everything Baby Related. Best Baby store in Toronto Shop for Strollers, Furniture, Car Seats and Much More. Customer Service Is Our # 1 Priority. 

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, or other type of ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Sunday, December 25, 2022

Holiday Touch Retirement Living Communities

Recently I wrote a blog post about Continuing Care Retirement Communities ... CCRC's.  These are communities where you can move in and age in place.  In other words, residents typically start out living independently in a private cottage or apartment and eventually get whatever additional assistance or skilled nursing care they may need as they age.  This is a very appealing option to retirees who want to make their own decisions, in advance, about where they will live for the remainder of their life, regardless of the health issues that may arise.  While the median age for people to move into a CCRC is about age 80, people do move into these communities in their 70s and, occasionally, when they are even younger. 

One of the lifestyles that came up repeatedly in my research and sounded very appealing was Holiday Retirement Living by Atria.   As a result, I thought I would write a post that focuses exclusively on this retirement option.  While these are independent living senior apartments and cottages, some of them also have on-site assisted living and memory care facilities and all of them can help you arrange for home health care services to come to your location to give you additional assistance with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, eating or taking your medication, should you need something between independent living and full assisted living.  In addition, since your basic rent includes all your meals, as well as housekeeping and transportation, most people can manage well in their apartments with very little additional help.  Every apartment also has a pull cord or similar devices so residents can easily contact the management in case of an emergency.

Holiday Touch Retirement Living Communities

There are currently about 314 Holiday Communities located around the United States, with additional locations in Canada.  In fact, Holiday is one of the largest provider of independent living units in North America and they have been in existence for 40 years. Here are a few interesting facts about their communities:

Management Teams live in the Communities
Residents have private apartments (or cottages) with a variety of floorplans available
Three meals prepared daily by professional chefs
Meals served restaurant style in a dining room
Weekly housekeeping in your residence
Linen service ... clean sheets and towels are provided
Free washers and dryers in on-site laundry rooms
Community game rooms and TV rooms encourage socializing
Exercise rooms and fitness programs for residents
Scheduled transportation to local businesses
Additional transportation to appointments and other errands
Volunteer opportunities in the community
A full schedule of activities and social events

Pet Friendly policies ... both cats and dogs are welcome
Emergency call systems in every apartment; get help when you need it
Locations in 43 states, as well as Canada
Independent living, assisted living and Alzheimers or Memory care options available in specific communities

Cost of Holiday Retirement Communities

One of the aspects of these communities that particularly appealed to me was the price.  Unlike many other CCRC's, residents of Holiday Retirement Communities do not have to pay the average $250,000+ deposit to buy into the facility and they do not have to make a permanent commitment or sign a long-term lease.

Instead, residents pay a monthly rental fee ranging from about $2100 to $3200 a month (in 2022), depending on where you live, the size of the apartment you select, etc.  This is an all-inclusive price for basic living expenses that includes your apartment, utilities (except for your phone), basic cable, meals, activities and social events.

In later years, if you need it, you may incur additional fees for extra care you need such as home healthcare, assisted living or memory care.  Assisted living and memory care can be provided in select Holiday Communities; other services may be provided by outside home health service providers.

There are no long-term leases.  In addition, if you have long-term care insurance through a private provider or the Veteran's Administration, you may be able to use it to pay for your additional expenses, when they become necessary.  Check with your insurance provider and the specific Holiday Community where you wish to live.

This total care arrangement has made Holiday very attractive to Veterans, with over 12,000 currently living in their communities, out of more than 30,000 total residents.

Holiday Travel Program

Another aspect of these retirement communities that I found appealing is their Travel Program.  At no additional expense, you can spend one week per stay in a guest room at one of the other Holiday communities in the United States or Canada.  Your stay will include all meals and access to all the programs and activities that are available at that site.  You can travel just for fun or in order to spend an occasional week near family members who live in another part of the country.

This means that you can enjoy warmer weather or celebrate special occasions with family members without having to pay for a hotel stay or meals in your temporary location.

If you are currently planning your retirement, check the tabs at the top of this page for more articles about where to retire in the United States or abroad, health issues as we age, financial information and changing family relationships. 

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Thursday, December 15, 2022

Positive Aging and an Easier Retirement


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If you are over the age of 60, you have probably looked around at your friends and casual acquaintances and realized that not everyone ages the same, and not everyone has an easy retirement.  Of course, most of us want to definitely be in the group that is active and doing well when we reach our 70s, 80s and beyond, but we may think it is our of our hands.

While it might seem easy to just shrug our shoulders and say, "Some people have better genes," there are actually quite a few things we can do to improve our odds of living longer and more comfortably than many of our peers. It really is possible for many people to continue to enjoy their lives and feel "Forever Young," at least for a couple of decades after retirement.  So, what do you have to do? 

According to the AARP Bulletin in June, 2022, there are several ways to improve the chances you will have a better future after retirement.  Here's a guide to their tips for positive aging and an easier retirement.

1. Get regular medical check-ups.  Nearly every private insurance and Medicare plan includes a free annual wellness visit.  When you go to the doctor, you are likely to get vaccine boosters and screenings for a variety of illnesses which, if caught in time, could be treated and, possibly, cured.  Don't be surprised if they recommend vaccines for the flu, Covid, shingles, pneumonia, tetanus and whooping cough, as well as screenings for breast cancer, colon cancer and other common health problems.  Simply avoiding those illnesses could improve the quality of your life as you age. 

2. Get regular dental care.  The AARP article asked, "Could you pick your dentist out of a line-up?"  While that is a humorous way to put it, the truth is that many senior citizens avoid the dentist until they are in pain.  By then, they may have done a lot of damage to their mouth and the rest of their body. If you have gum inflammation, for example, it increases your risk of heart disease. There is also some evidence it can lead to some types of cognitive decline.  Research also shows that the more teeth you have at age 70, the longer you are likely to live. 

3.  Stay physically active. Everyone should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a minimum of five days a week.  Get more if you can.  Any kind of movement counts, including walking, golf, housework, dancing and gardening.  Just get out of your chair and move as much as you can, as often as you can.

4.  Make your home as safe and accessible as possible.  Do you have a one-story home or a master bedroom on the main floor of the house?  Is your shower large enough for you to add a seat and sit down if you get light-headed?  Are there grab bars conveniently located by the bathtub?  Are light switches low enough to reach, even in a wheelchair?  Are the doorways large enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker?  If you cannot answer "yes' to all these questions, you may either want to make some renovations, or move to a senior community which is better suited to keeping residents safe and comfortable as they age.

5.  Do you have a plan for when you cannot drive? Many people lose the ability to drive as they age, whether it because of diminished vision or other health problems.  How will you handle this, if it happens to you?  Is there a convenient bus service in your area?  Could you use a golf cart for short local trips? Would a motorized wheelchair be feasible? Have you learned how to order groceries and other services on the computer?  Even if you don't need to give up driving, yet, you should see what is available in your area so you know what to do in an emergency.  

Practice ordering your groceries online, occasionally.  I frequently order my groceries through Amazon Fresh, and love it!  I've written another post with detailed instructions about it, which you can find, here:  "Ordering Groceries from Amazon Fresh Can Help Many Seniors."  Check it out and make sure you are ready to use it whenever you cannot easily get out to the store in person. 

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You may also want to do your shopping for other things online. To help, I have opened the DeborahDianGifts gift shop on Etsy where you may be able to find items for your own home, or gifts for your friends and family members, including jewelry, t-shirts, tote-bags, coffee mugs, hats, LGBTQ gifts, and gifts for people in 12 Step Recovery programs, like AA and Alanon.  Most items are priced between $15 and $40. You can find unique gifts there, and in other online shops, for most people you know, without having to travel to a mall or department store.

Learning to shop online is one way you can safely remain in your home as you age, whether or not you can drive.

6.  Stay busy and active.  Even if you cannot drive, it is important to have regular planned activities and a purpose to your life.  The more activities and projects you have, the longer you are likely to live.  Just because you have stopped working, it does not mean you should sit home and watch TV.  Instead, record your favorite shows and get active doing other things.  Walk the dog.  Take an exercise class. Meet friends for lunch or coffee. Volunteer at your place of worship, your favorite charitable organization, or the local food bank.  Write a book.  Learn a new language.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea!

7.  Take control of your finances.  While you cannot control everything in your life, nearly everyone has some control over how much they spend in comparison to how much income they have.  If your spending exceeds your income, the sooner you change things the better off you will be.  If you aren't sure where to start, go to and use AARP's free online digital retirement coach, Avo.  In a few minutes, it can give you a personalized retirement action plan.  If you still need more help, meet with a financial planner through your bank, credit union, or pension plan.  You can also find financial planners through, or

8.  Plan for the best and prepare for the worst.  Get to know the local assisted living facilities and home care agencies in your area.  You can Google a list of them, or get a list from the local senior center.  Then, check them out when you have the opportunity. Read the online reviews. Do you know someone who had to spend two weeks in assisted living after hip surgery?  Did a neighbor need a caregiver either temporarily or permanently?  Ask them questions. What did it cost? How much help did they get?  Find out what they liked and did not like about the services they used, and what they would have done differently.  Armed with this information, you will be better prepared if the time comes when you need a little extra help. 

9.  Put together an emergency phone list.  Everyone needs at least one person they could call in the middle of the night in an emergency, whether that is an adult child, a neighbor or a friend.   Put several names on the list for extra peace of mind.  Post the list on the refrigerator, along with your medical information, so you have it in a handy place if you ever need the EMTs to come to your home. They will also ask for a list of your medications, when they show up.  Remember the Scout motto:  Be Prepared!

Once you have done all the above things, you can relax and simply enjoy your retirement.  You've done everything you can to assure yourself that you have prepared as well as you can for the future!

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about saving money, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Source:  Facts about aging from the June 2022 AARP Bulletin.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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