Can I Withdraw My Pension Contributions In Order To Avoid An Offset To My Divorced Spousal Benefits?

Jun 3 2017 - 10:04am

I'm was married 21 years.
I have taught in Ohio since 1981 on and off.
I put into STRS State Teachers retirement for 13 years.
I withdrew all of the money 6 different times. The was a 10% penalty on the funds I received. These funds were NOT matched by STRS. I got back only what I put in minus the 10% penalty. By doing this I was no longer vested.
Since then I have accrued 3 years in my STRS account totaling about $9000.00 and in 2 more years I will be vested again. I am 58.5 years young.
When I apply for social security based on my x husbands record since we were married >10 years , will my benefit be decreased by all of these withdrawals from State teachers retirement system even though I no longer have the money? As I stated earlier , I withdrew the money in the STRS account but it was NOT matched by STRS.
I want to again withdraw all of the money in two years when I am vested again , the 9000.00 that's in there now plus what I put in during the next two years.
I was told by STRS I am not eligible for health insurance from them because I will never have enough years in to get it (23) . So I'd rather have my x-husbands social security withdraw any finds left in STRS and reinvest the money without STRS offsetting the social security. I have basically butchered my state teachers retirement account and see other ways to retire .
Can I retire as a teacher when I want, withdraw all my remaining and recently earned STRS funds, pay the penalty and apply for his social security without having anything from my past State teachers retirement withdrawals offset this?
I was told by SSecurity that the GPO and Windfall don't apply to me because "I already punished myself" That's how she at ssecurity put it.
I just don't know weather she is correct.
Can you answer this? Thank you!! vb

Hi VB,

Your withdrawals from the STRS will not count for purposes of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision provided that no employer contributions are involved, and you forfeit all rights to a pension (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202608400). Therefore, based on your description, it sounds like you'll be able to receive divorced spousal benefits without an offset being applied.

Note, though, that if you did receive a STRS pension, no more than 2/3rds of the pension amount would be offset against your divorced spousal benefits. So, it's certainly arguable whether or not withdrawing your contributions is a good plan. The maximization software available on this website can handle GPO computations, so you may want to use it in order to explore your options.

Best, Jerry