Frequently Asked Questions



If you are a resident of Oklahoma, your OTRS retirement benefit is subject to state income tax. You may exclude the first $10,000 received in OTRS benefits from your state adjusted gross income in tax year 2006, and thereafter. If you reside in another state, OTRS retirement income will be subject to the tax laws of the state of residence.

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Federal law requires OTRS to withhold federal income taxes unless you request no taxes be withheld. When you retire, OTRS will explain your options to have taxes withheld and give you the choice to keep monthly deductions in accordance with applicable tax tables. Or you can specify a monthly amount to be deducted that differs from the tax tables. Notices received by the 15th of the month will be reflected in the retirement check due the first of the next month. If you elect no deductions or an amount less than your annual tax liability, IRS may impose a penalty and/or interest on the unpaid amount. Some retirees do not have monthly deductions taken from their retirement check because they make quarterly estimated tax payments directly to IRS. OTRS will also withhold state income taxes for Oklahoma residents when requested. OTRS cannot withhold state income taxes for other states.

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To view some of the documents on our site, you will need to use Adobe Acrobat Reader. Adobe Acrobat Reader is free software that lets you view and print Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files. If you do not have this program visit www.adobe.com to download a free copy.

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OTRS no longer processes Name & Address changes for active members. Name & Address information is sent to OTRS monthly by each school as part of the Contribution Reporting system. Ensuring that your information is correct at the school will ensure it is correct on the OTRS database. OTRS always defaults to information supplied by each school. If you have a change in Name or Address, please contact your school and have them change your information in their payroll records. When the school submits their monthly Contribution Report your information will be updated in OTRS database. Thank you. If you are not currently employed by a school but you are still a member of the retirement system and wish to change your name and/or address please click HERE, complete the Name & Address form, sign and mail to OTRS.

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All clients may obtain a Change of Beneficiary Form. It is very important to keep your beneficiary designation up to date. The Beneficiary form provides for up to three primary beneficiaries and up to three contingent beneficiaries. It is not necessary to name six individual beneficiaries but you should name at least one primary and one contingent beneficiary. Your estate or a trust fund can be named as the beneficiary to your account. OTRS requests you provide a copy of your trust if named as a beneficiary.

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Upon termination of employment the member may withdraw all contributions and refundable interest. Interest is refundable based upon years of membership (date of first contributions) and in accordance with the following schedule: Up to 16 years of membership 50% of accumulated interest At least 16 years but less than 21 years 60% of accumulated interest At least 21 years but less than 26 years 75% of accumulated interest 26 years or more 90% of accumulated interest Note: Since July 1981, the interest rate set by the Board of Trustees is 8% compounded annually.

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Your retirement options can be changed after your retirement, however, your beneficiary must remain the same. If your beneficiary dies before you, your monthly retirement benefit "pops-up" (increases) to the equivalent of the Maximum retirement plan. In the case of a divorce the contract remains in force and your beneficiary (ex-spouse) will receive your monthly benefit after your death.

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A court may order that your former spouse receives a portion of your retirement benefits. This can only be accomplished if a copy of the court order or judgment is filed and approved by OTRS. Such an order is commonly known as a Qualified Domestic Order (QDO) and the former spouse is referred to as an Alternate Payee. If you anticipate a divorce, you or your attorney should download the documents on this website. It is important that you, your alternate payee and your attorney(s) understand the difference between Oklahoma statutes concerning QDOs and the division of Oklahoma pension assets compared to how private pension plans assets can be divided. For more information see Qualified Domestic Order page. If you have any other questions, please contact OTRS

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When you retire, you will be notified of the amount that you contributed to the retirement plan on an "after-tax" basis, how much of each monthly benefit payment will be taxable and how much will be a return of your after-tax contributions. The amount of money you contributed to the plan that was subject to tax in the year in which the contributions were made is known as the "investment in contract." This amount will include any after-tax payments you may have made toward the purchase of additional service credit. Each year OTRS will send you an IRS Form 1099R. This form will show the gross amount you received during the last calendar year, the taxable amount and the amount you received that is not subject to federal income taxes. The form will also include federal and state taxes that were withheld to pre-pay your tax liability for the year. It is very important that you follow directions on the IRS 1040 Form under the heading "Pensions & Annuities" in filing your taxes after retirement. For more information, please contact the IRS directly or visit their website. For more information on taxes, visit our Income Tax Obligation section.

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OTRS will deduct for federal and state income taxes, health insurance premiums for retirees enrolled in the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Plan and monthly dues for membership in the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association. OTRS is required to deduct for federal income taxes unless you request no withholding. Federal and state income tax withholdings can be made based on federal withholding tables or you can specify an amount to be withheld each month. You must remember that IRS may charge a penalty if federal income taxes are not pre-paid prior to the end of the tax year. For more information on taxes, see our section on Income Tax Obligation.

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No. The OTRS Board of Trustees has the legal responsibility for investments. They oversee the hiring of highly qualified experts, some of whom help the Board develop an investment strategy, policies and objectives. Others are hired to manage different investment portfolios to implement the Board's investment plan.

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The OTRS Board of Trustees and staff are fiduciaries and monitor the activities of the firms employed to make day-to-day investment decisions. They also oversee the activities of the custodial bank, which keeps track of every investment transaction made on behalf of OTRS. Each portfolio manager prepares written reports to the Board on the purchase and sale of securities held in their account. The Board's investment consultant meets monthly with the Board's Investment Committee to review performance of each portfolio manager, and to ensure the asset allocation model and investment strategy is being following and is working. In addition, the Oklahoma State Pension Commission receives a quarterly update on the investment performance of each of the state-run pension plans.

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The K-12 PowerPoint Presentation used during the regional seminar presentations for early retirement planning is available on our website. Click HERE to view the K-12 PowerPoint Presentation.

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At retirement, you may elect one of the annuity distribution options offered by OTRS and subject to IRS requirements. They are: minimum distribution option, lump-sum surrender, life annuity option and partial lump-sum surrender. Additional information will be furnished upon request. The summarized data in this FAQ is provided for general information only. If any conflicts arise between material in this FAQ and that of the law, the law takes precedence. For more detailed information about 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities, we advise that you consult IRS Publications 571 and 575, your tax preparers or a financial consultant.

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We suggest you submit the necessary proof of your birth date as soon as possible after you start the retirement process. OTRS must have this proof in order to avoid a possible delay in your retirement. A copy of a birth certificate is the best proof, but since one is not always available, OTRS will accept any of the following documents as a substitute: a vaild state or federal government issued photo identification or passport. Do not send original documents, please send readable copies of documents. IMPORTANT: Be sure to identify any documentation you mail by writing your client id number OR Social Security number on it. IF YOU SELECTED PLAN OPTION 2 OR 3, YOU MUST PROVE THE DATE OF BIRTH OF BENEFICIARY AND YOUR AGE.

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You may visit our online benefit calculator and receive an unaudited estimate of your retirement benefits. After supplying information specific to your account the Retirement Benefit Calculator will provide an estimate for the Maximum, Option 2 and Option 3 retirement plans. You will need to have the following information to use the Retirement Calculator: Projected retirement date; Date of birth; Beneficiary's date of birth; Service credits (total service) prior to July 1, 1995; Service credits (total service) since July 1, 1995; Unused accrued sick leave days; Date of OTRS membership; and Salaries for the last three or five years depending on membership date. NOTE: At this time, the calculator is not tied directly to your account; therefore, your estimate will be based solely on the information you give. If you would like to request an estimate from OTRS, you can fill out a Pre-Retirement Information Verification Form and mail to Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System P.O. Box 53524 Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3524

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No. Once you are vested (have 5 years of service credit) and you leave covered employment, your contributions may remain in the system. With as few as 5 years of Oklahoma contributory service you will be eligible for reduced monthly benefits at age 55, or unreduced benefits at age 62. You could be eligible for unreduced benefits when your age and total credited service equal 80 (providing you joined OTRS prior to July 1, 1992) or when age and total service equal 90 (if your OTRS membership date was after June 30, 1992). You would also have the option of withdrawing your retirement contributions and refundable interest upon termination of employment.

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As an inactive member, you are not required to withdraw your funds immediately. Your account will continue to accrue interest for up to five years. However, you should contact OTRS for information on your options. Generally, you should consider withdrawing your deposits and any applicable interest unless you plan on returning to covered employment within five years. Be sure to keep OTRS informed of your current home mailing address. With less than 5 years of service, there are three options: You may leave contributions in the system for up to five years. If you don't resume active participation by the beginning of the sixth year, your account will be terminated and no additional interest will accrue on the account, or Your may withdraw all retirement contributions and refundable interest at termination of employment. Your contributions are only refunded at your request and cannot be made until at least four months after termination of employment, or Any tax deferred contributions and interest may be transferred to an IRA or another qualified tax-deferred savings plan.

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Members who terminate employment with any agency covered under TRS may request a withdrawal of their contributions and refundable interest. Withdrawal request forms must be submitted by any member wishing to withdraw his or her contributions. Click here for more information on withdrawal privileges. Please contact OTRS about withdrawal forms.

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Members may purchase service for employment in the public schools of other states, District of Columbia and territories of the United States to obtain additional credited service. Other ways to purchase credit include Service for six months or more in the U.S. Armed Forces and Peace Corps (at least 180 days) or employment as a member of the other public retirement systems operated by the state of Oklahoma contact OTRS.

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Retiring members should contact OTRS at least 6 months before the expected retirement date. Retirement paperwork is completed in two phases. In the first phase - a Retirement Allowance Estimate showing projected monthly benefits for available retirement plans will be prepared and mailed to you. You then select a retirement option and return the estimate 60 - 90 days prior to your expected date of retirement to request a retirement contract. That final retirement contract documnets must be submitted to OTRS 30 - 90 days before the first of the month that retirement is to be effective. If a final contract is received less than 30 days prior to the projected retirement date, the retirement date will be delayed by one month.

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A member of OTRS is eligible to apply for retirement benefits: At age 55 with at least 5 years of Oklahoma service, or If you joined OTRS prior to July 1, 1992, when age and total service equal 80 or more, or If you joined OTRS after June 30, 1992, when age and total service equal 90 or more.

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You may contact OTRS to talk to a OTRS staff member or schedule an appointment. Many questions CAN be answered by telephone if you are unable to make an appointment. You may also request an estimate of your benefits by phone. OTRS responds to inquiries in a timely manner, providing estimates of retirement benefits under all options for the date(s) requested.

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At retirement (or termination) of employment a client with at least 10 years of creditable service may elect to continue health insurance coverage in the insurance program he or she was enrolled in prior to termination of employment. This can be the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Plan or a private health insurance plan provided by the local school district, college or university. Dependent and dental coverage is available when the retiree is enrolled in the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Plan. If the retiree's insurance plan is not the state plan, dependent coverage is subject to the provisions of the specific plan.

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Upon the death of a OTRS member, your designated beneficiary or estate is entitled to survivor benefits. The amount of those benefits depends on whether you were an active in service, inactive or retired member. "Active in- service" is defined in OTRS administrative rules, but generally means a member currently employed by an Oklahoma public education institution. Upon the death of an active in-service member, the member's beneficiary(s) or estate will receive a lump sum distribution that includes an $18,000 death benefit, total contributions paid during membership, plus interest on those contributions. If one beneficiary had been named as the primary beneficiary, and the member had 5 or more years of Oklahoma service and had reached age 55, or if the member's age and total service equal 80 or more, the beneficiary may be entitled to a monthly benefit instead of the lump sum payment. Upon the death of an inactive member, the member's beneficiary(s) or estate will receive a lump sum distribution of the member's contribution plus interest on those contributions. Beneficiaries of inactive members do not qualify for the $18,000 death benefit or the monthly retirement benefit payment payable to the beneficiary of active in-service members. Upon the death of a retired member, the member's beneficiary(s) or estate will receive a $5,000 death benefit, plus any survivor benefits provided under the terms of the retirement option chosen by the member at the time of retirement. Certain retirement plan options provide the beneficiary(s) with a continuing monthly retirement benefit.

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You can change your federal or state tax withholding by completing a Monthly Tax Withholding Request. Simply indicate the new monthly deductions you want. Notices received by the 15th of the month will be reflected in the retirement check due the first of the next month.

Top of Retired Client FAQ


Please notify OTRS in writing or by phone in the event of a death of a retired member. One copy of the deceased member's death certificate will be required before any distribution can be made to beneficiaries. The funeral home normally provides several copies of the death certificate to the next of kin within a week of the member's death. Upon notification of a member's death, OTRS will contact the beneficiary(s) directly with final settlement information. For retired members, the final settlement includes a $5,000 death benefit and any payment due in accordance with the retirement plan selected by the member when he or she retired. State statutes also provide that beneficiary(s) receive a last benefit check for the month in which the member died. Any and all payments issued to the deceased member for the month(s) after the date of death must be returned to OTRS.

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Statutes provide that the beneficiary(s) of a retired member will receive a $5,000 death benefit following the client's death. This applies regardless the retirement option you selected or how long you receive benefits. When more than one beneficiary is named, the $5,000 is divided equally among the surviving beneficiaries. You can change the beneficiary for the $5,000 death benefit at anytime.

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Make sure the address OTRS has on file, including the zip code is correct. You may contact OTRS and make sure your address is correct. If it isn't, OTRS can send you an affidavit to complete. Note: The form MUST be completed with your notarized signature. Once the affidavit/form is returned, OTRS will cancel the original check and issue a duplicate to replace the original. A duplicate check cannot be issued until at least 10 days after the first of the month. IMPORTANT: Because of the length of time it takes to issue a duplicate check, there will be a delay in receipt of your monthly retirement check. You may wish to consider direct deposit of your retirement benefit, which provides for electronic transfer of your monthly benefit. This means your check is automatically deposited into your bank account on the first business day of the month. Direct deposits eliminate the need to worry about your check being stolen or delayed in any way. It is safe, convenient and on time. Generally, when a check or any piece of mail is returned to OTRS, it is for one of following reasons: New Address - These are returned to give OTRS the opportunity to obtain the member's new address from the National Change of Address (NCOA) directory in order to mail a change of address notification. Incomplete Address - This shouldn't be a problem on retirement checks. However, if a staff member has addressed the envelope using a typewriter, there is a possibility for human error. Short Paid (Postage Due) - This shouldn't be an issue on a retirement check. The postal service returns mail for the following reasons: Bad address; Forwarding order has expired; or No forwarding address on file. If you move to another state you will need to notify OTRS of your new mailing address so we can send your information to your most current mailing address. Also you will need to complete a new Tax Withholding Form to stop Oklahoma State taxes withheld from your retirement benefits.

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Direct deposits are credited to your account on the first working day of each month. Please note: It is your responsibility to inform OTRS of all address changes that affect retirement checks. These changes must be in our office by the 10th of the month to take effect by the next check.

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Your IRS Form 1099R will be mailed by the end of January to the home address in our files. Be sure to always keep us informed of your current home address. If your address has changed, fill out a change of address form and mail to Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System P.O. Box 53524 Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3524

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TRS will provide a duplicate Form 1099R upon request. Your original Form 1099R is mailed to your home address on file with TRS. If you have moved and have not provided TRS with your corrected address, the postal service may not forward your Form 1099R. To change your mailing address, TRS must receive written verification of your new address. Be sure to include your full name, Social Security number, phone number and complete mailing address. Be sure to always keep us informed of your current home address. If your address has changed, fill out a change of address form and mail to Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System P.O. Box 53524 Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3524

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Rules have been established regarding employment after retirement. See Returning To Work After Retirement for more information.

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"> 5.  If I leave covered employment and do not have 5 years of service credit (not vested), what are my options in reference to my contributions?
As an inactive member, you are not required to withdraw your funds immediately. Your account will continue to accrue interest for up to five years. However, you should contact OTRS for information on your options. Generally, you should consider withdrawing your deposits and any applicable interest unless you plan on returning to covered employment within five years. Be sure to keep OTRS informed of your current home mailing address. With less than 5 years of service, there are three options: You may leave contributions in the system for up to five years. If you don't resume active participation by the beginning of the sixth year, your account will be terminated and no additional interest will accrue on the account, or Your may withdraw all retirement contributions and refundable interest at termination of employment. Your contributions are only refunded at your request and cannot be made until at least four months after termination of employment, or Any tax deferred contributions and interest may be transferred to an IRA or another qualified tax-deferred savings plan.

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6.  Do I get a refund if I terminate my membership with OTRS?

Members who terminate employment with any agency covered under TRS may request a withdrawal of their contributions and refundable interest. Withdrawal request forms must be submitted by any member wishing to withdraw his or her contributions. Click here for more information on withdrawal privileges. Please contact OTRS about withdrawal forms.

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7.  How can I obtain additional service credit?

Members may purchase service for employment in the public schools of other states, District of Columbia and territories of the United States to obtain additional credited service. Other ways to purchase credit include Service for six months or more in the U.S. Armed Forces and Peace Corps (at least 180 days) or employment as a member of the other public retirement systems operated by the state of Oklahoma contact OTRS.

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8.  If I retire this year, what do I have to do?

Retiring members should contact OTRS at least 6 months before the expected retirement date. Retirement paperwork is completed in two phases. In the first phase - a Retirement Allowance Estimate showing projected monthly benefits for available retirement plans will be prepared and mailed to you. You then select a retirement option and return the estimate 60 - 90 days prior to your expected date of retirement to request a retirement contract. That final retirement contract documnets must be submitted to OTRS 30 - 90 days before the first of the month that retirement is to be effective. If a final contract is received less than 30 days prior to the projected retirement date, the retirement date will be delayed by one month.

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9.  When can a OTRS member retire?

A member of OTRS is eligible to apply for retirement benefits: At age 55 with at least 5 years of Oklahoma service, or If you joined OTRS prior to July 1, 1992, when age and total service equal 80 or more, or If you joined OTRS after June 30, 1992, when age and total service equal 90 or more.

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10.  How do I go about making an appointment to discuss my retirement benefits?

You may contact OTRS to talk to a OTRS staff member or schedule an appointment. Many questions CAN be answered by telephone if you are unable to make an appointment. You may also request an estimate of your benefits by phone. OTRS responds to inquiries in a timely manner, providing estimates of retirement benefits under all options for the date(s) requested.

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11.  What options do I have for health insurance after I retire?

At retirement (or termination) of employment a client with at least 10 years of creditable service may elect to continue health insurance coverage in the insurance program he or she was enrolled in prior to termination of employment. This can be the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Plan or a private health insurance plan provided by the local school district, college or university. Dependent and dental coverage is available when the retiree is enrolled in the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Plan. If the retiree's insurance plan is not the state plan, dependent coverage is subject to the provisions of the specific plan.

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12.  How would my account be settled in the event of my death as an active teacher?

Upon the death of a OTRS member, your designated beneficiary or estate is entitled to survivor benefits. The amount of those benefits depends on whether you were an active in service, inactive or retired member. "Active in- service" is defined in OTRS administrative rules, but generally means a member currently employed by an Oklahoma public education institution. Upon the death of an active in-service member, the member's beneficiary(s) or estate will receive a lump sum distribution that includes an $18,000 death benefit, total contributions paid during membership, plus interest on those contributions. If one beneficiary had been named as the primary beneficiary, and the member had 5 or more years of Oklahoma service and had reached age 55, or if the member's age and total service equal 80 or more, the beneficiary may be entitled to a monthly benefit instead of the lump sum payment. Upon the death of an inactive member, the member's beneficiary(s) or estate will receive a lump sum distribution of the member's contribution plus interest on those contributions. Beneficiaries of inactive members do not qualify for the $18,000 death benefit or the monthly retirement benefit payment payable to the beneficiary of active in-service members. Upon the death of a retired member, the member's beneficiary(s) or estate will receive a $5,000 death benefit, plus any survivor benefits provided under the terms of the retirement option chosen by the member at the time of retirement. Certain retirement plan options provide the beneficiary(s) with a continuing monthly retirement benefit.

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Retired Client FAQ

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1.  How do I increase the federal taxes withheld from my retirement check?

You can change your federal or state tax withholding by completing a Monthly Tax Withholding Request. Simply indicate the new monthly deductions you want. Notices received by the 15th of the month will be reflected in the retirement check due the first of the next month.

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2.  How should OTRS be notified of a death of a retired member?

Please notify OTRS in writing or by phone in the event of a death of a retired member. One copy of the deceased member's death certificate will be required before any distribution can be made to beneficiaries. The funeral home normally provides several copies of the death certificate to the next of kin within a week of the member's death. Upon notification of a member's death, OTRS will contact the beneficiary(s) directly with final settlement information. For retired members, the final settlement includes a $5,000 death benefit and any payment due in accordance with the retirement plan selected by the member when he or she retired. State statutes also provide that beneficiary(s) receive a last benefit check for the month in which the member died. Any and all payments issued to the deceased member for the month(s) after the date of death must be returned to OTRS.

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3.  What about the $5,000 death benefit that will be paid at my death? Who is the beneficiary and can I change the beneficiary if necessary?

Statutes provide that the beneficiary(s) of a retired member will receive a $5,000 death benefit following the client's death. This applies regardless the retirement option you selected or how long you receive benefits. When more than one beneficiary is named, the $5,000 is divided equally among the surviving beneficiaries. You can change the beneficiary for the $5,000 death benefit at anytime.

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4.  I receive my retirement a paper check. What should I do if my check does not arrive? My check was late because it went to another city before arriving. What can be done? My check has two different date stamps. Why? What if I am receiving retirement benefits from OTRS and I move to another state?

Make sure the address OTRS has on file, including the zip code is correct. You may contact OTRS and make sure your address is correct. If it isn't, OTRS can send you an affidavit to complete. Note: The form MUST be completed with your notarized signature. Once the affidavit/form is returned, OTRS will cancel the original check and issue a duplicate to replace the original. A duplicate check cannot be issued until at least 10 days after the first of the month. IMPORTANT: Because of the length of time it takes to issue a duplicate check, there will be a delay in receipt of your monthly retirement check. You may wish to consider direct deposit of your retirement benefit, which provides for electronic transfer of your monthly benefit. This means your check is automatically deposited into your bank account on the first business day of the month. Direct deposits eliminate the need to worry about your check being stolen or delayed in any way. It is safe, convenient and on time. Generally, when a check or any piece of mail is returned to OTRS, it is for one of following reasons: New Address - These are returned to give OTRS the opportunity to obtain the member's new address from the National Change of Address (NCOA) directory in order to mail a change of address notification. Incomplete Address - This shouldn't be a problem on retirement checks. However, if a staff member has addressed the envelope using a typewriter, there is a possibility for human error. Short Paid (Postage Due) - This shouldn't be an issue on a retirement check. The postal service returns mail for the following reasons: Bad address; Forwarding order has expired; or No forwarding address on file. If you move to another state you will need to notify OTRS of your new mailing address so we can send your information to your most current mailing address. Also you will need to complete a new Tax Withholding Form to stop Oklahoma State taxes withheld from your retirement benefits.

Top of Retired Client FAQ

5.  When do direct deposits go to the bank?

Direct deposits are credited to your account on the first working day of each month. Please note: It is your responsibility to inform OTRS of all address changes that affect retirement checks. These changes must be in our office by the 10th of the month to take effect by the next check.

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6.  When will you mail my end-of-year tax Form IRS 1099R? If my check is electronically deposited, where will you mail this form?

Your IRS Form 1099R will be mailed by the end of January to the home address in our files. Be sure to always keep us informed of your current home address. If your address has changed, fill out a change of address form and mail to Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System P.O. Box 53524 Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3524

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7.  I did not receive a 1099R tax form from TRS. How do I get one?

TRS will provide a duplicate Form 1099R upon request. Your original Form 1099R is mailed to your home address on file with TRS. If you have moved and have not provided TRS with your corrected address, the postal service may not forward your Form 1099R. To change your mailing address, TRS must receive written verification of your new address. Be sure to include your full name, Social Security number, phone number and complete mailing address. Be sure to always keep us informed of your current home address. If your address has changed, fill out a change of address form and mail to Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System P.O. Box 53524 Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3524

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8.  What if I wish to return to work after I have retired?

Rules have been established regarding employment after retirement. See Returning To Work After Retirement for more information.

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