"The Big R"

David Kier

Part-time History Professor at Gavilan


We asked David what he wished he'd known before he retired, and this is what he said.


For most of my career I taught as an adjunct, and in that capacity I submitted my retirement papers to CalSTRS just over two years ago. It's quite an ordeal, and everybody's situation is different, but here are a few things I think everyone should know.


Sick leave

Frankly, that was pretty much an afterthought in my computations. I learned that no two community colleges have the same policy. For adjuncts, many campuses do not accumulate it beyond one semester, and thus do not count it in an adjunct's post-retirement benefits. I got lucky: one community college at which I taught for many years did count it. So I filled out the paperwork, got the necessary signatures, and STRS added that amount to my monthly checks.


Golden handshake

A golden handshake for adjuncts? I thought it was silly, too, until one day, quite by accident, I saw an offer in a campus newsletter. I did all the paperwork, submitted it to STRS... and they accepted it! Again, not all campuses offer it. But the only way to know is to ask, right?



I did a lot of teaching in universities, which in California is covered by PERS. But since I spent much more time in the community colleges (which is STRS country) I figured I'd have to choose one over the other. Right? Wrong! So do the paperwork for both... and collect your reward.


Earnings after retirement

I didn't fully understand that until after my checks started coming. In a nutshell, here it is: presently, one can make up to 31K  per year, teaching or working in some other capacity in  California community colleges. It's the same amount for full-timers and adjuncts. So don't burn any bridges on your way out the door! And if you choose to make "extra" money somewhere else (universities; outside of education, etc.)? STRS puts no limits on that. (Social Security does...but that's another subject!)


Talk to STRS

At first, I balked at corresponding with STRS. (Dread of big, fat bureaucracies, and all that.) To my very happy surprise, they were extremely helpful, and it got to where I was sending them e-mails with monotonous regularity, on big things and little alike. They always replied promptly and I came away feeling that at least ONE bureaucracy is worth it! So don't be shy: ask.


Speaking of bureaucracies, the biggest surprise I got came from IRS. When I submitted my tax return to Dear Old Uncle Sam the first year of my retirement -- with the one-time Deferred Benefit Supplement, etc. --  they replied that I had short-changed myself; I'd not considered Schedule M, etc. --  and actually gave me substantially more of a credit than I had expected! So glom onto Schedule M... and laugh all the way to the bank!