Educators are often confused or mistaken about what they will collect from Social Security in retirement. California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) participants do not pay into the Social Security system as California educators. Instead, they pay a higher percentage of their earnings into the CalSTRS fund. Therefore, they do not qualify for Social Security benefits at retirement, unless they are eligible due to a spouse's earnings or earnings from another job on which they did pay Social Security taxes.
Educators participating in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) do pay Social Security taxes (currently 6.2% of salary) and generally are eligible for Social Security benefits at retirement.
When Is a CalSTRS Participant Eligible for Social Security Benefits?
If you are a CalSTRS participant, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits:
- Through a spouse's earnings. However, if you receive a CalSTRS pension, your Social Security spouse’s, widow’s or widower’s benefits may be reduced due to the Government Pension Offset. Visit the SSA Web site to learn more or estimate your Social Security benefit.
- Through Social Security credits earned on income from other jobs. If you've paid Social Security taxes on earnings for at least 40 quarters, you should apply for Social Security. However, your benefits may be reduced due to the Windfall Elimination Provision. Visit the SSA Web site for more information or to estimate your Social Security benefit.
It's important to note that whether you receive a full Social Security benefit or a reduced benefit under the Windfall Elimination Provision or the Government Pension Offset, it will not affect or reduce your earned CalSTRS retirement benefit.
Your Annual Social Security Statement
If you are eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits, you should receive an annual statement from the Social Security Administration with estimates of your future benefits. The statements are sent out three months prior to your month of birth and include projected estimates of your Social Security benefit at age 62, your full retirement age (65 to 67, depending on your year of birth) and age 70. Your annual Social Security statement does not reflect adjustments based on pensions from work not covered by Social Security. You'll need to reference the Social Security Administration Web site to estimate your benefits if you will be affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision or Government Pension Offset. You can also call the toll-free number at 800-772-1213.