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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Overview

Frequently Asked Questions

General information

Retirement Benefits

What retirement benefits does SamCERA offer?

SamCERA is a “defined benefit” retirement plan. Under a defined benefit plan, qualified members are eligible for a monthly benefit, also called a “pension.” 

SamCERA also offers monthly disability retirement benefits for eligible members who can no longer substantially perform their job duties. 

How much money will I get when I retire?

For a regular service retirement, your benefit amount will be based upon:

  • your plan formula (i.e. Plan 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,or 7);
  • your length of service;
  • your pensionable earnings (roughly equal to your salary);
  • your age at retirement.  

In general, the longer you work and the more money you make, the higher your monthly benefit will be. 

To get an retirement benefits estimate, go to Web Member Services

Disability retirements are calculated differently than regular service retirements. Please refer to the “Disability Retirement” guide for more information.

What about a deferred compensation plan?

SamCERA does not offer or administer deferred compensation plans.  You need to contact your employer’s benefits division for information regarding deferred compensation plans. 

Will participating in Voluntary Time Off (VTO) affect my SamCERA benefits?

For those members who participate in VTO, your service credit will not be affected by VTO. However, because VTO will reduce your salary, it would reduce your Final Average Compensation (FAC) if you participate in VTO during the time period used to calculate your FAC — In which case your benefit will be affected.

General information

Cost of Benefits

How much am I paying for my SamCERA benefits?

 Your contributions are structured as a percentage of your bi-weekly earnings (also called your “contribution rate”), and are collected through automatic payroll deductions.

In addition to these rates, certain members pay additional contributions in the form of a “cost share” and a “COLA share.” The cost share is a contribution which helps offset the plan costs. The COLA share helps fund future cost of living adjustments to your retirement benefits.

Your pay stub will reflect all of the contributions you are making to SamCERA.

What happens to my contributions?

Your contributions are held in trust by SamCERA. A separate account is created in your name and all the contributions that you make (and any employer pick-ups of your contributions) are deposited in this account. 

Interest is credited to your account on June 30th and December 31st of each year at a rate determined by the Board of Retirement.

If you leave employment, you may withdraw your contributions and interest. (You cannot withdraw your employer’s contributions. Your employer’s contributions are only used to fund your pension benefits.) If you withdraw your contributions, you waive all rights to SamCERA pension and disability benefits. 

Can I borrow money from my account?

No, you cannot borrow money from your account at any time, and you cannot withdraw your employer’s contributions under any circumstances. 

The only way you can take money out of SamCERA is to terminate your employment and take a refund of your contributions and interest. If you do that, you lose all rights to your benefits.

How is the money invested?

The Board of Retirement invests the money in the retirement fund in accordance with its Investment Policy that sets forth the diversification of the investments. The Board works with professional pension fund investment management firms to carry out the investment functions and manage the assets.

SamCERA’s assets are generally invested in things like stocks, bonds and real estate funds.

General information

Retirement Planning

What  should I do before I retire?

Preparing for retirement doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that should start well in advance of your anticipated retirement date. 

To jump-start the retirement planning process and help you understand your SamCERA retirement benefits, read the Guide to Your SamCERA Benefits.

It will help you understand the retirement process. It includes step-by-step instructions on the forms you will need to complete and when you need to get them submitted to SamCERA. It also provides an overview of what you need to do to get ready for retirement.

You should also visit our Retirement Planning page for additional ideas. 

What should I do about health insurance, life insurance, and deferred compensation?

SamCERA has no role in health benefits, life insurance, or deferred compensation programs. 

It is important for you to understand your health care, life insurance and deferred compensation options before you retire.

Please contact your employer’s benefit division for information about your health benefits, life insurance and deferred compensation programs. 

General information

After Retirement

Can I work after I retire, and what effect will it have on my retirement?

There are certain restrictions for post-retirement employment with a SamCERA employer.  If you are considering returning to work in any capacity (permanent position, extra help, or as a contractor), please read the Guide to Your SamCERA Benefits

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