I remember when I interviewed. Towards the end of the hour or so we chatted, my boss pulled out the salary schedule and pointed out how much I would make.
She said, “Here’s your salary, but add in your pension pick-up and this is your total pay.”
Honestly, I didn’t think much about it. It wasn’t until later that I realized that getting a pension meant not paying into social security. It hit home when I saw my W2 the next year — big $0.00 for social security.
I like getting the yearly social security statements. The unmistakable envelope with the green, italicized font “Social Security.” It’s like good tidings. My husband and I both save them in a binder. Looking over those statements is oddly comforting. I like seeing when I first started working in high school and made a whole $332 one year. It went up little by little every year, including my college years because I worked.
Well, those statements still arrive in my mailbox, but mine show zeroes. That lovely upward trend? It plummeted. In fact, at this point in time I haven’t contributed enough money to get social security. That’s a moot point because I wouldn’t be able to get social security with a teacher pension. You can’t “double dip.”
When I saw my first W2, I thought, “Well, I won’t do this forever. One day I’ll work at a social security job again.” That remains to be seen.
I know that social security and pensions are both unreliable. The government doesn’t have any money. But somehow in my mind, social security seems more secure. It’s probably because I have a family member who works in pensions and risk — funding is a big deal and many pension plans are underfunded. On the other hand, there’s no social security “lock box.” You know, I have a darn social security number and that’s got to mean something (insert laugh here).
With the governor of Wisconsin concerned over pension funding,, I have to take a step back. Being a young worker, I have lots of time because my best working years are ahead of me (I mean, hopefully…fingers crossed I’m still attractive to employers when I come out). Frankly, I’d consider opting out of the pension system and jumping back in to social security. I’m only speaking for myself here, but like I said, social security is what I know. That’s what I understand.
But what about my coworkers with 15, 20, 25 years in the system? No social security and only an underfunded pension? What’s going to happen to their retirement?
As with many complex problems in education (ahem, school lunch), there is no easy way out. I am just one person and I’m not an expert, but I think that pensions need to be funded properly — if not, then what’s the point of having a pension? Social security is not in great shape either. That’s why I try my best to contribute to my 403(b), which is a 401k for teachers. Regardless, I’ve figured out I’m going to be working for a long time.
Read part one about unions from last week and next week, I’ll tackle tenure…