As a Texas Teacher will I get Social Security?

Chris Reddick |

Will I Get Social Security?

It depends. There are two critical laws that Texas teachers should know about that can impact whether you will receive Social Security.1

The Windfall Elimination Provision or WEP and the Government Pension Offset or GPO. Both of these laws can reduce or eliminate a Social Security benefit. This will depend upon whether you, as a teacher qualified for the Teachers Retirement System or TRS and did not pay into Social Security.

Whether you get it or not, Social Security can be confusing for Texas teachers since many have held previous jobs where they have paid into Social Security. For example, you could be a teacher who is a career changer from a job that paid into the system for many years and expects some benefit from previous employment.

The sad news is that you really cannot learn whether these two reductions apply to your social security benefit until you apply for Social Security benefits. You will only get a clear idea of what will happen to your Social Security benefit when you retire as a teacher. Hence, it is essential to know what to expect.

Windfall Elimination Provision

Imagine the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) as a rule that affects how much Social Security you get if you worked in a job where you didn't have to pay Social Security taxes, like a government job or some jobs outside the U.S.

Let's say you had a career as a teacher in Texas, and you paid into TRS that didn't take out Social Security taxes. Now, when it's time to get your Social Security benefits, the WEP comes into play. It adjusts your benefits because you didn't pay as much into Social Security during your non-Social Security job.

So, the WEP essentially prevents people from getting the full Social Security benefits they might have received if they had paid Social Security taxes throughout their entire career. It's like a way to level the playing field for everyone, but it can sometimes feel like a bit of a curveball if you don't know about it when planning for your retirement.

The WEP recalculates your Social Security benefit if you have a previous position where you paid into Social Security. The maximum monthly WEP for 2023 is $558 for 20 or fewer years of employment in a covered job. The WEP completely phases out if you worked 30 or more years in a previous job where you paid into Social Security. One way to eliminate the WEP is to work part-time or take on another job after teaching to get the 30 years of required work. A study has shown that this could be worth an additional $100,000 of extra income over a 20-year retirement! 2

Government Pension Offset

As a Texas teacher, you're looking forward to getting some Social Security benefits as a spouse. Now, the Government Pension Offset (GPO) is like a rule that comes in, and if you have a government pension from a job where you didn't pay Social Security taxes, we're going to adjust your Social Security spousal or survivor benefits.

So, let's say you're married, and your spouse is getting Social Security benefits. The GPO might reduce the amount of spousal or survivor benefits you can receive based on your own government pension. It's kind of like a balancing act to make sure people with government pensions don't end up getting more from Social Security than others who paid Social Security taxes throughout their careers.

It's one of those things that can catch you by surprise if you weren't aware of it, but it's there to make sure the system is fair for everyone.

The GPO is that if you are entitled to Social Security benefits based as a survivor or spouse and have a TRS pension where you did not pay into Social Security, your survivor or spousal benefit will be reduced by 2/3rds your pension.

For example, if you get a monthly TRS pension of $600, two-thirds of that, or $400, must be deducted from your Social Security benefits. For example, if you’re eligible for a $500 spouse, widow, or widower benefit from Social Security, you’ll get $100 a month from Social Security ($500 – $400 = $100). If two-thirds of your government pension is more than your Social Security benefit, your benefit could be zero.3

Worst Case Scenario

If you have never paid into Social Security and only qualify for TRS, likely, you will likely not receive any Social Security benefit. If this is the case, you should prepare ahead of time and save money in addition to TRS for retirement.

What are your options?

If you are a teacher in Texas and do not pay into Social Security, you should be proactive and save extra each month into a 403(b) plan if available in your district. Teachers in Texas can defer in 2024 as much as $23,000 per year into a 403(b) plan and an additional $7,000 if 50 and older. You can use this to supplement your retirement pension from TRS. Another option is to save in a Roth IRA, and you can take the money out tax-free in retirement.

Other options are working part-time or having enough covered years to eliminate the WEP. To eliminate the WEP, you would need at least 30 years of covered Social Security. You can read other blog posts on how to navigate Social Security Loopholes for more details.


Public School teachers are well-advised to contact the Social Security Administration to learn more about their benefits and how they interact with the Teachers Retirement System of Texas. It is also best to talk to a financial planner to see what options work best with your retirement goals. Reach out to me below on the contact page, and I can estimate the WEP and GPO and their impact on your Social Security benefit.






*This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on to avoid federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their tax or legal counsel. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team, including their own personal legal or tax counsel. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a representation by us of a specific investment or the purchase or sale of any securities. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

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