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Retired Member Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to apply for retirement?
Yes. You need to submit a retirement application up to 60 days prior to your retirement date. If you submit your retirement application after you have terminated employment, your retirement date will be either the date SDCERA received your application or a future date that you specify on your application, whichever is later.

When I apply for retirement, do I have to terminate my employment?
Yes. You must terminate your employment with your employer when you apply for retirement.

How is my retirement benefit calculated?
SDCERA uses several factors to calculate your retirement benefit, including:

Age Factor: Your age factor is a percentage based on how old you are on your retirement date (rounded down to the nearest completed quarter year).

Service Credit: Service Credit represents the time that you have worked as an employee in paid status and made retirement contributions (or had them made on your behalf) to SDCERA. Under certain circumstances, you may not have made contributions to SDCERA at the time of your employment and may be eligible to purchase the associated service credit (e.g., County service prior to Membership, sick leave, prior public agency service, etc).

Final Average Compensation (FAC): For Tier I and Tier A Members, FAC is an annualized average of your highest compensated 26-consecutive pay periods. For Tier B and Tier C Members, it is the annualized average of the highest compensated 78-consecutive pay periods.

For example, if your highest monthly compensation for 26 consecutive pay periods is $2,000 per pay period, your calculation would be: $2,000 x 26 ÷ 12 = $4,333.33

Not all compensation types are FAC-eligible (e.g., overtime, vacation pay out, etc.). Please refer to the Earnings Categories chart for Tier I, Tier A and Tier B members or the Earnings Categories chart for Tier C members for a list of the most common earning categories included in your FAC.

Social Security Integration: Because General Tier I, A and B Members contribute to both SDCERA and to Social Security, SDCERA's retirement benefit is integrated with Social Security. Therefore, when SDCERA calculates a General Tier I, A and B Member's retirement benefit, an adjustment is made because General Members pay reduced contributions on the first $350 of monthly earnings.

The integration adjustment varies by Tier and retirement age. The Social Security integration factor is multiplied by the total service credit at retirement to determine the retirement benefit reduction.

SDCERA's online retirement benefit calculator automatically includes the Social Security integration factor in the estimate amounts.

What are my retirement benefit payment options?
SDCERA Members can select one of five different benefit payment options. Each option pays a different amount to you and your designated beneficiary.

  1. Unmodified Option. This option pays the maximum benefit amount to the Member for their lifetime. Upon the Member's death, the Member's surviving spouse or eligible child receives 60% of the Member's benefit for the rest of their lifetime. (To qualify for this benefit option, an eligible child must be unmarried and under the age of 18, or under the age of 22 if they are enrolled as a full-time student.)
  2. Option 1 - Cash Refund Annuity. This option pays a reduced monthly retirement benefit to the Member for their lifetime. Upon the Member's death, any remaining Member contributions and interest are paid in a lump sum to the Member's beneficiary. There is no monthly survivor continuance.
  3. Option 2 - 100% Joint and Survivor. This option pays a reduced benefit to the Member for their lifetime. Then, upon the Member's death, 100% of the reduced benefit is paid to the Member's beneficiary for their lifetime.
  4. Option 3 - 50% Joint and Survivor. This option pays a reduced benefit to the Member for their lifetime. Then, upon the Member's death, 50% of the reduced benefit is paid to the Member's beneficiary for their lifetime.
  5. Option 4 - Multiple Beneficiaries. This option pays a reduced benefit to the Member for their lifetime. The reduction is based on the number of beneficiaries and their ages. Members who are required by court order to choose this option, may have their benefit further reduced. Beneficiary benefits are based on the Member's reduced benefit and split into assigned percentages for each beneficiary to be paid for their lifetimes upon the Member's death.

For more information about these options, visit the Retirement Benefit Options page in the Active Member section or call SDCERA's Member Service Center at 619.515.6800.

What is the "Temporary Social Security Supplement?"
Qualifying Members who retire before turning age 62 can select the Temporary Social Security Supplement (TSSS) to increase temporarily their SDCERA monthly retirement benefit. The TSSS increases your monthly benefit by a percentage of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) estimate of what your Social Security benefit will be at age 62. However, when you turn 62, your monthly benefit (including the TSSS) will be reduced for the rest of your life by the full amount of the SSA's age 62 Social Security benefit estimate.

The TSSS is optional. If you are interested in this payment option you should consult a tax or financial professional to help you evaluate the TSSS' long-term financial implications.

How long will it take to process my service retirement application?
Generally, service retirement applications are processed within 30 business days.

Can I change or cancel my retirement date?
It depends. Once SDCERA has processed your application for payment and sent the file to the bank for payment, you cannot change your retirement date.

However, if SDCERA has not completed processing your retirement application, you may change your retirement date.

When will I receive my first retirement benefit payment?
Retirement benefit payments are made on the last business day of the month. In most cases, you will receive your first payment the month following your retirement effective date. The first payment includes all monies retroactive to the retirement effective date.

Can my retirement benefit payment be electronically deposited into two accounts?
No. Your monthly benefit payment only can be electronically deposited into one account.

How do I change the tax withholding on my retirement benefit?
Retired Members must submit a tax election form to SDCERA.

How can I obtain a Pension Verification Letter to verify my monthly retirement benefit amount?
If you need a letter verifying the amount of your monthly benefit, please contact the SDCERA Member Service Center at (619) 515-6800 or email memberservices@sdcera.org to request one. The amount of your pension benefit can be found on the monthly pay advice you receive.

 

BENEFICIARY

Can I designate someone other than my current spouse or Registered Domestic Partner to receive a monthly survivor benefit after my death?
It depends. Only your surviving spouse or Registered Domestic Partner can receive the 60 percent monthly survivor benefit under the Unmodified Benefit Option. If you select Option 2, Option 3 or Option 4, you can designate someone other than your spouse or Registered Domestic Partner that has an insurable interest in your life (e.g., relative by blood or law that relies on you for financial support). Keep in mind that if you are married or in a registered domestic partnership at the time of your death, your surviving spouse or Registered Domestic Partner has superior legal rights to your assets. This means that if you name someone other than your spouse or Registered Domestic Partner as your beneficiary, your spouse or Registered Domestic Partner will retain the right to claim those assets after your death unless your spouse or Registered Domestic Partner forfeits their rights in writing to SDCERA.

Does my current spouse or Registered Domestic Partner have to be designated as my beneficiary for the lump-sum death benefit?
No. You may designate anyone to receive this benefit. If you have not named a beneficiary specifically for the death benefit, it will be granted to the beneficiary receiving a continuance or your most recent designated beneficiary on file with SDCERA.

 

COLA

What is a COLA?
A COLA is a Cost of Living Adjustment. Every year, SDCERA calculates a COLA based on the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) in San Diego County increase or decrease. Tier I, Tier II and Tier A Members may receive up to a 3% COLA each year. Tier B and Tier C Members may receive up to a 2% COLA each year.

What is a "COLA Bank?"
Any annual CPI increase that is above that maximum 3% is placed in a Member's COLA "bank", and any decrease in the annual CPI is subtracted from the COLA bank. The balance in a Member's COLA bank can be applied in future years.

For example, if you are a General Tier A Member and the CPI increases 4%, SDCERA would increase your benefit by 3% and "deposit" 1% in your COLA bank. The following year, if the CPI increases only 2%, you still would receive a 3% COLA that would include the 2% based on the annual CPI increase and the 1% from your COLA bank.

When is the COLA applied to my benefit?
If a COLA is approved by the Board of Retirement, it is applied in April.

 

RETIREE HEALTH PROGRAM

What medical and dental health plans does SDCERA offer?
Retirees and their dependents are eligible to participate in SDCERA-sponsored group medical and dental plans. Information about each plan is available under Retiree Health Insurance Program.

When can I enroll?
You can enroll within 30 days of your retirement date (or other qualifying event) or during Open Enrollment in November each year.

How do I enroll?
Visit the Retiree Health Insurance Program page. If you have questions about how to complete your enrollment forms, call SDCERA's Retiree Health Program Service Center at 1-866-751-0256. Mail your enrollment forms directly to the SDCERA Retiree Health Program Service Center at PO Box 14464, Des Moines, IA 50306, or submit them online at health.sdcera.org.

How do I cancel an SDCERA-sponsored medical or dental plan?
Call the SDCERA Retiree Health Program Service Center at 1-866-751-0256.

I cancelled my SDCERA-sponsored health coverage, but premiums are still being deducted from my retirement benefit payment. Why?
This may be due to the timing of your cancellation request. Any premiums deducted after you terminate coverage will be refunded to you in a subsequent retirement benefit payment.

Can my former spouse participate in SDCERA's Retiree Health Program?
Yes, if they are receiving a monthly benefit from SDCERA as the result of a court-approved Domestic Relations Order (DRO).

How does Medicare work?
Medicare is a U.S. government program. For information about Medicare, call (800) 633-4227 or visit the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov.

 

DIVORCE

I'm getting a divorce. What do I need to do?
Because California considers retirement benefits earned during marriage to be community property assets, they must be considered in your property settlement agreement and may be divided by the court. As part of the marital dissolution process, you must join SDCERA as a party to the dissolution proceeding and have SDCERA's Legal Department review your draft domestic relations order (DRO) prior to filing it with the court.

My divorce is not yet final. Can I retire now?
Yes. If you are in the process of a divorce but still want to retire, you may submit your retirement application at any time. The filing of or outcome of a divorce proceeding does not impact your retirement date.

What is a Domestic Relations Order (DRO)?
A DRO is a stipulation signed by all parties and a judge identifying how retirement benefits are to be divided. Sample DROs may be requested by calling the SDCERA Member Service Center at 619.515.6800.

Do I need to file any other document with the court prior to submitting the DRO to SDCERA?
Yes. SDCERA will not accept a DRO until you have filed a joinder with the court and it has been served on SDCERA. SDCERA will identify any changes to be made and return the DRO to the parties for them to finalize and sign. Once the parties have signed the DRO, SDCERA will sign the DRO and return it to the parties to file it with the court.

What if my SDCERA benefit is not discussed in my DRO?
A DRO that does not address SDCERA benefits will not be accepted by SDCERA.

How long will it take SDCERA to process my domestic relations order (DRO)?
Generally, DROs are processed within 30 days after SDCERA receives the court's signed order.

Will SDCERA notify my former spouse of any portion of a benefit they are eligible to receive?
SDCERA does not provide actuarial valuations of a Member's retirement benefits, legal advice, or tax advice concerning the division of a Member's benefits. An actuary may be retained by the parties to determine the present value of the benefit. After the DRO is completed, the parties will be notified of the portion of the benefit they will be receiving.

Can my former spouse contact SDCERA and discuss my benefit?
By law, a Member's retirement records are confidential. To release information about a Member's account, SDCERA must receive one of the following:

  • Written request from the Member authorizing the release of the specific information to be provided to the spouse or former spouse; OR
  • Subpoena duces tecum, which may be served on SDCERA by mail

What if I am legally separated but not divorced?
When a legal separation or marital dissolution action has been filed, the Member should notify SDCERA immediately in writing. The non-Member has an interest in the Member's retirement account if he/she was married to an SDCERA Member while the Member worked for the County of San Diego or participating employer. To protect the non-Member's interest in the plan, SDCERA should be notified in writing that the non-Member is asserting a claim for community property interest in the Member's benefit.

What happens if a spouse or former spouse asserts a claim for a community property interest in the Member's benefit?
If the Member has not yet been retired, SDCERA is unable to distribute any payments from the Member's account until the legal separation or dissolution is resolved. If a Member is retired, SDCERA is required to withhold the spouse's or former spouse's community property share from the monthly retirement benefit pending the completion of the separation or dissolution.

What if the court awarded the Member the retirement as his/her sole and separate property?
Provide SDCERA proof that the court awarded the retirement benefit to the Member as his/her sole and separate property as soon as possible so that your retirement application processing will not be unnecessarily delayed.

What is the SDCERA process for Dissolution or Legal Separation?

  1. Notify SDCERA in writing of pending dissolution or legal separation
  2. Prepare and file Joinder
  3. Serve SDCERA with Joinder
  4. Prepare DRO and submit draft to SDCERA for review/approval
  5. Execute approved DRO and return to SDCERA for signing
  6. File DRO with court
  7. Return conformed copy of court-approved DRO to SDCERA
  8. Update beneficiary designations upon dissolution or legal separation

What if I have multiple DROs from different divorces on file with SDCERA?
Each DRO will be processed based on the community property interest specified in the DRO and the retirement benefit that is available to each former spouse. Subsequent former spouses will not have a community property interest in the amount awarded to previous former spouses.

 

POWER OF ATTORNEY

What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney permits another individual to access your SDCERA Member information and to make decisions on your behalf.

How do I establish an SDCERA Power of Attorney?
You may download an SDCERA Power of Attorney form.

You may also submit a non-SDCERA Power of Attorney but it will need to be reviewed by the Legal Department before being accepted.

The San Diego County Employees Retirement Association (SDCERA) website provides general information only. SDCERA makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, with respect to the materials found on this website.

SDCERA is governed by the California Constitution, the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (Government Code Section 31450 et seq.), as adopted and implemented by the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors and the SDCERA Board of Retirement, the California Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013 (Government Code Section 7522 et seq.), the Internal Revenue Code, and various other rules and regulations, all of which are subject to change. In the event of any conflict between these governing authorities and the information contained on this website, the governing authorities take precedence.

The information on this website is not intended to provide legal, tax or financial advice. SDCERA Members who have these or related questions are encouraged to consult an appropriate professional.