Retirement May Be Farther Away Than You Think

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is the first article in our new series:


WILD, WILD QWESTA–a place where anything goes.”


As reported to WWL, on March 13, 2013, John Murphy, from CalSTRS held an informational session on retirement planning. It was sponsored by Cuesta’s Human Resources Department.  Stephanie Vieira, the benefits specialist, was the coordinator of the event.  Approximately 25 teaching and service faculty attended the session.

According to Aaron Rodrigues, long-time political science professor, the session conveyed the basic pre-retirement information.  He says, “I learned the benefits of retiring before 25 years and after 25 years of service; the formula for determining an approximation of my retirement benefits; and, the importance of earning at least 80% of my pre-retirement income during my retired years.”

Each of the three faculty who spoke to WWL were stung with the news they heard at the meeting; apparently, others at the session were surprised as well.  Their STRS projections, made in prior good faith and planning (which would typically include an annual COLA–even a small one), were now, well, shot.  Rodrigues elaborates:

“Not having ANY type of salary raises these past five years has NEGATIVELY impacted the amount of my final retirement benefits because my retirement benefits are based on my highest annual salary during my years of service.  For example, I, like all other faculty, have been stuck at the same salary for these past five years.  Any amount of raises these past five years would have, obviously, boosted my income beyond the level I am at now and increased my “highest annual salary” year, thereby giving me a higher annual retirement income.  Getting no raises these past five years has seriously impacted my future retirement benefits package. I wanted to retire in three years in order to gain the benefits of 25 years of service, but based on no raises these past five years, I will have to work at least three extra years.”

Rodrigues was not alone. His colleagues, history prof, Anthony Koeninger, and counselor, Irene Nunez, had the same reaction.  Koeninger said that being stuck at the same annual salary these past five years has impacted his retirement plans, also.  He added, “I would hope we get effective union leadership that will aggressively fight for its constituency. We once had such leadership.”

Walking out of the session with Nunez, Rodrigues listened to her reaction.  But, he says, “she was more poignant when she voiced her observation.  She asked, ‘What has our union been doing for us these past five years?'”  Rodrigues echoed her:  “What did the “new approach” get me these past five years—NOTHING.”

Editor’s Note: You may recall that the prior union, on its way out, got faculty their last raise in Spring 2008–3%–even as the economy was beginning to crumble.  But, there was one year, 2008-09, in which the new union could have and should have gotten the faculty a decent raise; the budget allowed it.  That was an absolute loss to faculty that could have been avoided.  After that, negotiations should have brought small, incremental monetary gains in faculty compensation.  It didn’t.  The economy alone is no excuse.  The entire California Community College system faced serious budget cuts.  But, the faculty at the rest of the community colleges didn’t drop more than 35 (that’s right) 35 ranks in salary in some areas and between 25-30 in others in five years.  No, Cuesta faculty alone hold that distinction.

We recommend that if you and your STRS counselor began your retirement planning prior to 2008 and, as is typical, projected a small annual COLA (2% is not unusual) into your planning, you might want to set up another meeting with John Murphy and reassess where you are in your retirement projections.

  1. arthurshere says:

    It’s such a disaster. I was equally devastated at a recent STRS counseling session. I had planned to retire in 3 years but can’t afford it at all…I now have no projected date. I’ll be working until I drop and, at that, living further below the cost of living with each subsequent year. If this trend continues Cuesta faculty will continue to become poorer each year. What a sad, sad state of affairs. And yet, when I look at the amount I have paid to the union over the last four years, I am painfully aware that I am even poorer still by virtue of my membership in an organization that takes my money, and now wants even more of it, and gives nothing back! Is anyone else a little angry about this?

  2. 1staide says:

    With these last several years of rule-by-doing-nothing, I am truely sorry I supported Alison and her whining minions. Now that I am approaching retirement, I clearly see the error of my way. Marilyn has her faults, but she always got the job done, even when the budget was bad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s