When Can You Retire From Teaching in South Carolina?

Beaches are serene, but South Carolina's teacher retirement system is anything but.

myrtle beach south carolina ocean view image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com

South Carolina boasts a romantic past and a low taxation rate – and the climate is mild enough to lure vacationers year-round. But if you’ve been teaching school in the Palmetto State, you might not be looking forward to retirement as much as you expected, as a result of tightening budgets and controversy surrounding the retirement program. In this state, all public sector worker pensions are lumped into one resource, with teachers making up a disproportionate share of the universe. That stated, once you rack up 28 years of service – or reach age 65 – you can retire from teaching in South Carolina.

South Carolina Retirement System

The South Carolina Retirement System oversees all fiduciary duties associated with the state’s pension fund that covers police, firemen, teachers and public sector workers. Toward that end, the SCRS processes SC teacher retirement payments, handles inquiries, manages claims, enrolls new teachers in the pension plan and reports on earnings throughout a teacher’s career until the day she formally retires. Because teachers make up the largest sector of pension fund participants, funding gaps are prorated and based on the share of teacher participation.

Work 28 Years for Full Benefits

For a South Carolina public school teacher to collect full benefits, she must work 28 years and contribute 7 percent of her salary to her account each month to build her retirement bank. Once a South Carolina teacher turns 65 years old, she can start collecting benefits as long as she has worked a minimum of five years. Your monthly pension amount is calculated using a formula that includes your years of service, days of unused sick leave and a benefit multiplier.

Retirement Filing Protocols

Even if you keep great records, you may not know exactly where you stand when you start thinking about retiring from teaching in South Carolina, so it’s a good idea to meet with a South Carolina teacher retirement systems counselor early in the game. Collect pertinent information years before you intend to submit your retirement papers, and by the time you're within striking range of your 65th birthday – or your 28th year of teaching – you'll have a good handle on your monthly pension benefit amount so you can plan accordingly. The SCRS recommends submitting your retirement application six months in advance. All paperwork must be filed 90 days before your last day of teaching.

What You Should Know

If you decide to move into another field of work after you take retirement, you don't have to worry about it impacting your retirement as long as the employer doesn't participate in the PEBA retirement system. However, if your employer does participate in PEBA, you may be required to follow PEBA's ReturnToWork restrictions. This means a limitation of $10,000 in earnings per year if you retired before the age of 62. Until recently, teachers could return to the classroom and continue to enjoy their retirement earnings, along with possible earning limitations, under the Teacher & Employee Retirement Incentive program. However, that program recently expired. Teachers can still return to the classroom after retirement, but they have a $10,000 earnings cap. The South Carolina legislature is still in constant talks about extending this cap in order to address teacher shortages.

Future Retirement Changes

South Carolina is facing a teacher shortage, which means SC retirement system restrictions are constantly being reevaluated. Although some politicians are still fighting hard to retain retiring teachers by removing the $10,000 cap on earnings, that has so far been unsuccessful. In the meantime, the state is recruiting teachers from other states in order to try to close the gap.