By Todd Fuller
One of the most-asked questions I have responded to, as a staff member at MSTA, is a variation on the topic of Social Security as it relates to educators. More specifically, the questions relate to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the General Pension Offset (GPO). In “The Hero’s Penalty,” Devin Carroll sets out to demystify Social Security and explain how it affects the financial future of teachers receiving a defined plan benefit such as that provided through the Public School Retirement System (PSRS).
The first half of the book explains Social Security in general with information that would be beneficial to anyone regardless of his or her profession. Carroll explains what it means to reach full retirement age as well as what constitutes a Social Security credit. As someone who is not a PSRS member, I found chapters 1-6 very informative and helpful.
Part II, “Specific Social Security rules for teachers and educators,” will be of more interest to Missouri teachers. Carroll goes into detail concerning the history of WEP and GPO. He explains how both rules apply, when and how they go into effect and even describes potential workaround for GPO. I thought I understood WEP and GPO fairly well but as Carroll explains, “with only 4% of the working population covered by these complex rules, there aren’t many sources of knowledge and information.” Carroll fills in the gaps nicely.
“The Hero’s Penalty” can be a quick, yet informative read. However, it’s the kind of book an educator will want to keep around and perhaps highlight or dog-ear as retirement draws near.
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