I have recently changed careers after working for 20+ years outside of education, and now I'm being told I will never be able to access any of the SS dollars I have contributed because now my contributions go to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. Is this really true?

  • 2
    You changed careers to work as a teacher, and had prior worked in positions that contributed to the Social Security system (ie, had the usual 7.8% withheld)?
    – Joe
    Jan 27, 2017 at 16:16
  • The U.S. Ways and Means Committee is set to vote on HR 711 on Wednesday, July 13, 2017. HR 711 & Texas Retired Teachers Association I am a retired CSRS employee with 20 years of service plus 40 quarters of Social Security in the private sector. This would be awesome if passed! Feb 8, 2017 at 20:05
  • Joe...Yes, I changed careers to become a teacher. I worked as a general contractor in my hometown (I still piddle around with it on the side) and have since went back to school to complete my degree and am now a high school math teacher.
    – A. Chat
    Feb 10, 2017 at 16:24

2 Answers 2


Your contributions that you've already made are made and done, and will not disappear.

What the Windfall Elimination Provision does is make sure that people do not collect the subsidized low-income payments while also collecting a full pension. People who did not pay anything into SS are able to collect money - less, but still something - from the system. Prior to this provision, people on full pensions who were exempt from SS contributions (such as teachers in many places) were able to still collect those amounts (which were never earned through contributions) even though they had quite significant pensions; that led to subsidies being given to people that didn't have as much need for them, as opposed to the indigent people who did need them.

In your case, earning for 20+ years and then presumably only earning a small pension, you may be affected by this, but not necessarily severely.

First of all, you are limited in how much your total reduction is to the lesser of a bit over $400 ($413 in 2015) or half your pension amount per month; so if you earn a $200 in pension monthly, your SS benefits are reduced by $100 monthly at most.

Second, your percentage (and total cap) is reduced if you have over 20 years of credited work at 62 by 10% per credited year, and if you hit 30 years it's eliminated. So if you have 25 years right now, your total reduction is more like $200 at most.

You also have an option to keep earning via credited work. Do some part-time work or summer work, for example. Sell things online. Whatever you need to do in order to get more years of credited work such that you end up with 30 years at 62. That will then increase your benefits back to the full amount.

This article published on Nasdaq's website explains how this works in detail, including tables of benefit reductions. And, log in to ssa.gov to check how many years of creditable coverage you have and to see if you can get to 30 years and avoid any issues with this at all.

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    We don't actually know how much he contributed (via payroll tax) in his 20 years. We do know that if he makes no further contributions, he gets 15 more years of ZERO averaged in to the final calculation. That could very well put him in the low-income subsidy category. Jan 27, 2017 at 18:12
  • I don't think that matters, actually, other than it's possible OP is low enough that the pension reduction could eliminate all of their benefits. If the 20+ years are all counting years, then they reduce the maximum amount of the reduction, regardless of what the total contribution amount was. As long as they were above the baseline for being a counting year, anyway, which is nontrivial (almost $20k income now).
    – Joe
    Jan 27, 2017 at 18:42

The Windfall Elimination Provision will possibly reduce your benefits from Social Security depending on how much money you receive as a pension from the TRS.

Money that is earned toward your TRS pension will not have payroll taxes withheld, so it will certainly not count toward the calculation of your Social Security retirement numbers. Beyond that, this page from the Social Security Administration will help you calculate the impact on what you'll receive.

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