Retired teachers scraping by on fixed pension income, health-car

Retired teachers scraping by on fixed pension income, health-care costs

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

A Teacher Retirement System vote reduced the rate from 8 percent to 7.25 percent. That is a lot to retirees, since it is unlikely they will get a cost of living increase in fixed pensions. Factor in skyrocketing health care costs, and some will barely scrape by. 

"If you retired after September 1, 2004, which I did. Those people have not received a cost of living raise in 14 years," Terri Navrkal, president of the Lubbock Retired Teacher Association said.

Navrkal said this decision has her and hundreds of retirees in our area left feeling uneasy. 

"Health care costs have increased, our cost of living have increased, and we receive an annuity that has stayed the same," Navrkal said. 

After TRS vote to decrease the assumed rate of return, that cost of living increase may not happen anytime soon. 

"We are wanting them to go to the legislature and ask for more money to be put into the system because it's TRS responsibility to be fiscally sound," Navrkal said. 

Lubbock Senator Charles Perry said it is a math game. Tweaks may be made financially, asking the employer, district, or state to put more money in. However, Perry said that is just one component. 

"But maybe if we put that age out there where it's 62 before you can draw that, that sets that path right up to where it gets to a 90 percent," Perry said.

Right now, the defined benefit plan is about 80 percent funded. Perry said Texas is the best off when it comes to the plan, but that is still not enough. 

"To be realistic, honest and transparent, at an 80 percent pension plan, there's not room give a COLA adjustment until that reaches at least 90 percent," Perry said.

Perry said it is crucial for future and current educators to look into additional retirement options.

"Inflation and all the things we are facing, specifically the medical costs have gotten so high, that it's not rational or realistic to expect $2,000 a month to cover your monthly living expenses," Perry said.

Retired teachers are also urging lawmakers to make adjustments to an underfunded health care program that has caused soaring deductible and out of pocket costs. While the legislature added funding to the program, retirees claim it is still not enough. The legislature reconvenes in January.

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