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COLA for Faculty

Dear Scotty,

I was very excited in the spring to see the COLA for faculty through the FA negotiations. I just moved to class 4, step 23 this year from class 4, step 22 last year. Knowing I would be making 2% more in the fall, I began planning to put in a pool for the family. Now that I've got my first check, it is not enough to cover the costs. I feel like I'm in another jelly-of-the-month club. My cousin Eddie says it's the gift that keeps on giving, but I just wonder: where is my money? A friend said you put on a good session about how to read our paystub, and she thought you could clarify. Help!

--Clark W. Griswold

beach ball in water

Dear Clark,

Building a pool in California? The amount of water in the pool would be enough to take care of your family for months - perhaps reconsider and invest in a 403(b) or Roth account to provide for your future! Clark, you bring up some interesting points about the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that was negotiated in spring 2015 by FA. The contract does indicate the adjustments are 2% for 2015-16, 1.5% for 2016-17, and 1.0% for 2017-18. Many faculty might be in the same position and wondering where the money went. Remember, when you are paid more in gross income, the federal and state income taxes will increase. A rule of thumb for our state is about one-third to taxes, two-thirds to you! If you were planning on an additional $3,000 of income, taxes would swipe about $1,000 of that. (Ouch!) But there is a bigger issue for the next two years - STRS.

Back in 2014, California passed AB 1469 which increased the contribution rates for employees and employers into Cal-STRS. This actually happened in 2014-15, but the increase was only 0.15% so many folks didn't even notice. However, this year it is an increase over last year of 1.05% (assuming 2% at 60 for STRS), which immediately ate up more than half the COLA. In one sense, your money is going to protect STRS so you'll have a comfortable retirement and solid pension. Your money is working for you, just in a different way. Imagine what would have happened to your plans if the COLA had not come about!

Check the FA website for the grid indicating changes for someone lower than step 15 and for those in your situation (above step 15) as there are big differences between the two.

--Scott Fallstrom, Math Guru, FA Treasurer and Dear Scotty

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