Teachers Retirement System: Unclaimed Benefits

Public school teachers may sometimes overlook their retirement benefits.

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Teaching public school is a tough but rewarding job. Some of the rewards are emotionally satisfying, like seeing your students mature and discover what they're capable of accomplishing. Other rewards are more material. Public school teachers generally participate in retirement systems that provide some financial security once the teacher's career is over, in the form of retirement income and other benefits. If you neglect to claim your funds after retirement, you can usually identify and recover your unclaimed benefits.

Teacher Retirement Systems

Public school teachers are generally eligible to participate in retirement systems. The systems are usually run by the state in which they teach, though a few large cities run their own retirement programs. Although each state or city runs its program independently, the overall features of teacher retirement systems are similar. They provide benefits after retirement that include retirement income, disability benefits and death benefits. Participation in the program, the amount and type of benefits received depends on a number of factors, such as your age at retirement, the number of years you taught and your overall earnings as a teacher.

Collecting Benefits

Programs typically provide detailed instructions about the process for receiving your retirement benefits in the form of classes, direct consultations, printed materials, videos and instructional websites. Teachers generally must submit an application to receive their benefits; the act of retiring, alone, is no assurance the benefits will be paid in a timely fashion. The detailed process for collecting retirement benefits will be specified by the system in which you participate.

Unclaimed Benefits

Teachers sometimes neglect to file for their retirement benefits and the funds are considered unclaimed. This can be caused by a variety of situations. A teacher may be vested in a public school retirement system, leave the system for another job and neglect to file for their pension when he retires years or decades later. Illness or other emergency situations can cause someone to miss filing for retirement benefits. Funds sent to a closed bank account will also be returned to the retirement system's unclaimed funds section.

Recovering Unclaimed Funds

Teacher retirement systems generally keep records of all unclaimed funds and may even make a concerted effort to notify the retiree about the availability of the funds. Many funds also maintain publicly viewable lists of unclaimed funds that you can check, often online, to see if money is owed to you. If your name is listed, the source of the information will also provide instructions for filing a claim for the missing funds. Unclaimed funds may also be turned over to a state office that handles a large variety of unclaimed funds, including teacher retirement funds. You can search for such funds at Unclaimed.org, a site that works cooperatively with state governments to compile a nationwide list of unclaimed funds.