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Frequently Asked Questions


Do all teachers pay into the Teachers' Pension Plan?

All public, separate and charter school teachers employed under a regular teaching contract, either permanent or temporary, must contribute to the Plan as a condition of employment. Only substitute teachers do not contribute to the Plan.

Contributions are not deducted during strikes or leaves of absences (other than health-related periods of maternity leaves). As well, you do not contribute on any salary above the maximum pensionable salary, in accordance with the Income Tax Act. For more information on maximum pensionable salary, refer to the questions in these FAQs in the category “Pensionable Salary.”​

How long must I contribute to ATRF?

​As long as you are employed as a teacher under contract, you must continue to contribute up to the end of the year in which you reach age 71. There is no maximum established for years of service. You will not contribute if you return to teaching after you start receiving a pension. Refer to the questions in these FAQs in the category “Retirement.”​

Can substitute teachers contribute to the Teachers' Pension Plan?

​No. According to the Teachers’ Pension Plans Act, substitute teachers may not contribute to the Plan on an ongoing basis, but may purchase the service when they return to contract teaching, or when they accumulate blocks of 186 days of substitute service, or when they apply for a pension. Refer to the questions in these FAQs in the category “Pensionable Service.”​

Does the employing school jurisdiction contribute to the Teachers' Pension Plan?

​No. The Alberta Government started making employer contributions directly to the Teachers' Pension Plan on September 1, 1992. The Alberta Government pays a percentage of all teachers' salaries to the Plan each month. The contributions are not allocated to each member but are used to fund benefits currently being earned and to amortize the unfunded liability.​

May someone teaching in a private school contribute to the Private School Teachers' Pension Plan?

​If the private school has applied to ATRF to participate in the Private School Teachers' Pension Plan and if the application has been approved, all qualified teachers employed by the private school must contribute to the Plan.​​

Marriage Breakdown

Is my pension affected by marriage breakdown?

​If you get divorced, your pension may be affected. You should contact ATRF for more information or refer to Marriage Breakdown under the Life Events tab.​

Pensionable Salary

How is the five-year average pensionable salary calculated?

Your five-year average pensionable salary is the average of your pensionable salary in the five consecutive years of pensionable service when your pensionable salary was the highest. The years do not have to be continuous – there could be breaks in your service. For example, a leave you haven’t purchased would be a break in your service.
  • Usually, your highest average pensionable salary occurs at the end of your career.
  • When you work part-time, the pensionable salary during the school year is annualized to the full-time equivalent to calculate the five-year average.
  • When there is a break in service, pensionable salary from a previous year of pensionable service is used to calculate the five-year average.


What is the maximum pensionable salary?

Effective January 1, 1992, the Income Tax Act (ITA) established a limit on how much pension can be earned in one calendar year in registered defined benefit pension plans like the Teachers' Pension Plans. This defined benefit limit is prescribed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and usually changes every year. 
This limit translates into a maximum pensionable salary (or pensionable salary cap). Plan members who have earnings that are higher than this maximum pensionable salary are not paying pension contributions on their salary earned above this cap, nor do they earn a pension on their salary above it.

At the time your benefit is calculated, your five highest years of salary (five-year average pensionable salary) will be compared to the average maximum pensionable salary over that same time period. The salary used to calculate your benefit cannot exceed that five-year average maximum pensionable salary.
The following table shows the defined benefit limit and maximum pensionable salary in each calendar year:
Year​Defined Benefit Limit Maximum Pensionable Salary
2003$1,722.22$ 98,081.00
2002$1,722.22$ 97,841.00
2001$1,722.22$ 97,601.00
2000$1,722.22$ 97,391.00
1999$1,722.22$ 97,331.00
1998$1,722.22$ 97,181.00
1997$1,722.22$ 96,851.00
1996$1,722.22$ 96,731.00
1995$1,722.22$ 96,581.00
1994$1,722.22$ 96,431.00
1993$1,722.22$ 96,131.00
1992$1,722.22$ 95,771.00
Pre-1992​No limitNo maximum

Pensionable Service

Can I purchase service?

Any employer approved leaves, substitute service, previously refunded service, past private school service and disability periods (prior to September 1, 1992) may be purchased upon application to ATRF. (Refer to Purchasing Se​rvice​ for more information.)

Is there a limit to how much leave time I can purchase?

​Under the Income Tax Act, there are specific limits for purchasing periods of leave. According to Information Circular IC 72-13R8, the limits for purchasing parental and employer-approved leaves are indicated below.

Pre-1991 Leaves

The maximum that can be purchased is three years of leave for any calendar years prior to 1991. The type of leave is irrelevant: it can be all parental leave, all employer-approved leave, or a combination of both. However, it cannot exceed three years in total.

Post-1990 Leaves

Members can purchase a maximum of:

  • ​​​three years of parental leave for calendar years after 1990, and
  • five years of employer-approved leave for calendar years after 1990.

Refer to Purchasing Service for more information.

Can I purchase substitute teaching days while I am not an active contributing member of ATRF?

​If you are not currently accruing pensionable service as an active contributing member, you may purchase only 186-day blocks of substitute service. Otherwise, you may purchase less than 186-day blocks at the time you apply for your pension. Refer to Purchasing Service for more information​.

Does my service accrue while in receipt of disability income?

​You may accrue pensionable service at no cost to you for any period after August 31, 1992 during which you were disabled and not actively teaching. Contact ATRF for an application or refer to the publication, Accruing Pensionable Service While Disabled​.

Does ATRF have Reciprocal Transfer Agreements with other pension plans?

ATRF has a Reciprocal Transfer Agreement with each of the teacher pension plans in all Canadian provinces, with three Alberta public sector pension plans, and with the Government of Canada Public Service Pension Plan. Refer to Transferring Service for more information.​​


When must I retire from employment?

​There is no age at which you must retire. Federal Income Tax Act regulations require ATRF to start paying a pension from January 1 following the year in which a member reaches age 71, whether or not the member has stopped their paid employment.​

Can I receive a pension before age 65?

​If your contract has terminated and you are at least age 55 with enough pensionable service, you can start receiving a pension before age 65.​

How much service must I have to be eligible for a pension?

You must have:

  • five years of pensionable service after August 31, 1992, or
  • five years of pensionable service that includes a period of pensionable service in each of the 1991-92 and 1992-93 school years, or
  • ten years of pensionable service.

Go to MyPension to estimate your pension using your current pension data on file with ATRF.​

Do I have to apply for my pension?

You must submit a formal application before any pension can be paid . If you are currently employed under contract, you will complete and Employee Termination Notice. If you are not currently under contract, complete a Pension Application.

You may also apply for your pension electronically through MyPension.

What deductions are made from pensions?

Only income tax is deducted from the pension payment with the amount based on the TD1 Canada Revenue Agency Personal Tax Credit Return (or Non-Resident Tax Return) and the TD1 AB Alberta Personal Tax Credit Return submitted to ATRF with your pension election form. A new TD1 and TD1 AB (obtainable from Canada Revenue Agency or ATRF) may be filed with ATRF at any time if circumstances change, such as if more tax must be deducted because taxable income from other sources does not have tax deducted.

Who pays for my health care formerly subsidized by my employer?

​You are responsible for making any payments to a provincial or private health care plan. Information about the continuation of health care and other insurance should be secured before your contract terminates. In Alberta, contact Alberta Health Care for mandatory basic health care coverage.​

If you are a member of the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP), or other benefit plan, contact the benefit plan or your employer for continuing group coverage to age 65. ASEBP has Early Retiree plans available to members who retire after reaching age 50. To be eligible, you must have participated in ASEBP benefits for five consecutive years prior to retirement.

You can also contact the Alberta Retired Teachers' Association (ARTA), which has a group plan for its members, with coverage available from retirement and continuing after age 65.

Links to health care-related websites are available under Resources​.

May I work after being granted a pension? Do I contribute to the Plan?

​ATRF retired members can be employed for up to 0.6 of a school year (Sept - Aug) under contract with ATRF employers without affecting their pension. If you are employed for more than 0.6 of a year with one or more ATRF employers, your monthly pension will be reduced by the amount of salary earned in each month after the 0.6 of a year limit is reached. Other types of employment do not affect ATRF pensions.​

If you return to employment with an ATRF employer, inform your employer that you are an ATRF retired member, so they are aware that you cannot contribute to the Plan.

Is there a provision to adjust pensions in line with increases in the cost of living?

​Yes. A cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is granted each January. COLA is calculated at 60% of the annual change in the Alberta Consumer Price Index (ACPI) for service before 1993, and 70% of the annual change in the ACPI for the service after 1992.​

Who do I Contact for Information on the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS)?

​For information on your federal government CPP and OAS pensions you can contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914 or go to their website at


What happens if I resign from teaching before age 55?

If you resign from teaching before age 55 you are eligible for a termination benefit.

If your pension benefits are not vested (under five years of service), you may request a return of your pension contributions and accrued interest, or leave your pension benefit in the Plan.

If your pension benefits are vested (you have enough pensionable service to be eligible for an ATRF pension), you may request a return of your contributions and accrued interest for service before September 1992, and a commuted value of your service after August 1992, a portion of which must be transferred to a locked-in retirement account (LIRA), or leave your pension benefit in the Plan as a deferred pension. Once you reach age 55, you will be eligible to commence to receive your pension and you will no longer be eligible for a termination benefit.

What is a locked-in retirement account (LIRA)?

A locked-in retirement account (LIRA) is a type of registered retirement savings account where funds are locked in so that they can be used to provide retirement income when the LIRA owner retires or at any time after age 50. This is done through either:

  • the purchase of a non-commutable life annuity, or
  • the purchase of a life income fund (LIF).

If I die before I retire from teaching, what happens to my pension?

The death benefit payable from the plan if your pension benefits are not vested is a refund of your contributions with interest.

If you're no longer actively contributing to the Plan (and you're not in receipt of long-term disability benefits) and you die, your spouse/pension partner will be entitled to a pension on the first of the month following the date you would have become 55.

If you're actively contributing to the Plan (or in receipt of long-term disability benefits) and you die and your pension benefits are vested, your spouse/pension partner will be entitled to a pension on the first of the month following your date of death.

If you have no spouse/pension partner but you have dependent minor children (under 18 years of age), your dependent minor children will receive double your contributions with interest, plus the value of any actuarial purchases of pensionable service.

If you have no spouse/pension partner or dependent minor children, your designated beneficiary or estate will receive your contributions with interest, plus the value of any actuarial purchases of pensionable service.

Please refer to Death Before Retirement for more information.

© Copyright 2015, Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund Board
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