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Spring 2015

Inside This Issue
SamCERA CEO Retiring

SamCERA CEO David Bailey is retiring. He's passing the reigns over to his successor, SamCERA's new CEO Scott Hood, and leaving for greener pastures later this month. And while it's hard to see David go, he's got some great thoughts to share as he heads into retirement. Read his letter to members below.

David Bailey

3 Board of Retirement Seats up for Election

SamCERA will hold elections for a General member seat on the Board of Retirement, a Safety member seat, and the Safety alternate.

General Member Second Position Seat: Candidates must be active SamCERA General members. Each candidate for the general member position shall be nominated by a petition signed by not less than ten (10) active general members.

Safety Member Seventh Position Seat and Safety Member Alternate Seat: Candidates must be active SamCERA Safety or Probation Safety members. SamCERA members from both the Sheriff's Office and the Probation Department may vote for the Safety Member, and a Safety Member Alternate will also be named as a result of the election. Each candidate for the Safety member position shall be nominated by a petition signed by not less than ten (10) active Safety or Probation members.

The Safety Member candidate with the most total votes will be named to the seat. If the winning candidate comes from the Sheriff's Office, then the leading vote-getter from Probation will be named Safety Member Alternate. If the winning candidate comes from Probation, then the leading vote-getter from the Sheriff's Office will be named Safety Member Alternate.

The second position general member, as well as the safety member and the safety alternate will serve from July 2015 - June 2018.

Required Nomination Petitions & Declarations of Candidacy: These forms will be available and can be circulated beginning Monday, April 20, 2015, through Monday, May 4, 2015.  Qualified Candidates must obtain petitions in person at the County Elections Office, 40 Tower Rd., in San Mateo.

Completed Nomination Petitions & Declarations of Candidacy:  These completed forms must be filed in person with the County Elections Office no later than 5:00 p.m. on May 4, 2015.

Please call the Elections Office at 312-5222, if you have any questions or wish to make an appointment to take out Candidacy Papers.

The election will be held on Monday, June 8, 2015, and will be conducted in accordance with Article 4 of the Regulations of the Board of Retirement.  These regulations are available at the Elections Office or on SamCERA's website at:

You Can Take a SamCERA Class at Home!

SamCERA's classes can help you stretch your dollar or get you started drafting a will. And you can take some of our most popular classes from the comfort of your own home.

As always, our classes are free of charge and "conflict free," too—this means you won't get a sales pitch from the instructors. What you will get is unbiased financial planning advice from experienced professionals. Your spouse or partner is welcome to attend, too!

You can register for classes through the LMS "My Personal and Health and Well-Being (Private) Site," or go to for more information—including class listings and step-by-step instructions on how to register.

Class Listings

You can find a full list of classes with descriptions on the SamCERA website.

Successful Retirement Living (Retirement Planning for Those Nearing or in Retirement)
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Location: 455 County Center, Room 101, Redwood City
Time: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm (2 hours)

Buying a Home - Online Webinar
Monday, April 20, 2015
Location: Online
Time: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm (1 hour)

Getting Out of Debt and Developing Smart Credit Habits - Online Webinar
Monday, April 27, 2015
Location: Online
Time: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm (1 hour)

Creating and Managing Wills and Trusts
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Location: 455 County Center, Room 101, Redwood City
Time: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm (2 hours)

Retirement counseling in your office!

Would you like SamCERA benefits counselors to visit your department for drop-in counseling? Let us know! We've held a number of these popular drop-in sessions for agencies around the County, so let us know if you'd like us to stop by.

These no-appointment counseling sessions are first-come, first-serve and SamCERA staff will provide you with a customized pension estimate and answers to your retirement pension questions.

Whether you're close to retirement or just getting started in your career, SamCERA's benefi­ts staff can help.

Just give us a call or send us an email, and we can set up a time and location.

Interest Posted to Your Member Account

SamCERA member accounts earned a total of 7.5% interest last year. This includes 3.75% credited at the end of June, and 3.75% credited at the end of December.

The interest your SamCERA account earns is tied to the performance of the SamCERA investment fund, which was valued at $3.3 billion at the end of 2014.

While SamCERA's fund has posted a return of more than 11.3% over the previous two calendar years, these gains, as well as ups and downs over the last several years, are smoothed out over the long-term to minimize the impact of volatility on the fund and protect the value of member accounts. As a result, interest credited to member accounts may not match the investment fund earnings for a given year, but member accounts are never decreased if investment returns are negative.

Some Details on Your Account Balance

The main use of account balances is for payouts to members who terminate and take a refund of contributions. If you retire and receive a lifetime retirement benefit, it will not be based on your account balance. Your retirement benefit will be based on your years of service, your age at retirement, your final average compensation, and the payment option you select at retirement.

Your account balance will always be equal to your contributions plus the interest credited. Interest is credited twice a year; once on June 30, and again on December 31. No matter what happens to the economy, your account will not decrease nor will it be credited with more interest than half of the annual amount the fund is expected to earn, known as the fund's "assumed earnings rate."

This is because your account is credited in accordance with SamCERA's revised interested crediting policy, which states that member accounts will be credited with interest in amounts that are equal to the lesser of: (a) one-half of the assumed investment earnings rate, or (b) the Actuarial Earnings Rate for the prior six-month period, but the rate credited shall not be less than zero.

Additionally, keep in mind that you cannot borrow money from your account at any time, and you cannot withdraw your employer's contributions under any circumstances. You will benefit from your employer's contribution when you retire from SamCERA. 

Thinking about retirement? Retire before April 1 to get this year's COLA!

This year's Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) will be either 2% or 3%, depending on your retirement plan. So if you're thinking about retiring soon and would like to take advantage of the COLA, don't delay. Get in touch with SamCERA now. 

The COLA applies to eligible retirees and beneficiaries retired on or before April 1, 2015, and the amount of the COLA will depend on the retirement plan. The COLA for Plan 1 and Plan 2 is 3%, while the COLA for Plans 4, 5, 6 and 7 is 2%. Plan 3 does not provide a COLA.

The COLA amount will be added to the base retirement amount, boosting the total monthly benefit. All COLAs will be paid beginning with the April 2015 benefit payments.

If you're considering retirement this year, now is the time to get started. It takes time to process retirement applications. So if you want to retire before April of this year, contact SamCERA right away.

(Please note that if you are among the small percentage of SamCERA members in Plan 3, your plan provisions do not provide for a COLA.)

How is COLA calculated?

SamCERA's COLAs are calculated according to California law, which requires them to be based on the change in the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area (as determined by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics). The law also requires the amount to be rounded to the nearest one-half of one percent. This year, since the index increased 2.84%, the nearest one-half of one percent is 3.0%. The maximum allowable COLA for Plans 4, 5, 6 and 7 is always 2.0%. These COLA amounts are validated by SamCERA's actuarial firm, Milliman, Inc.

COLAs can increase or decrease depending on whether the Bay Area experiences inflation or deflation, but your pension will never go below the basic benefit allowance you receive when you first retire.

SamCERA's New Guidebooks

SamCERA has recently updated several guidebooks. Click on the links to read more.

Ready to Retire. SamCERA's retirement guide for all members.

Disability. All the information you need regarding Service-Connected and Non-Service-Connected Disability.

Reciprocity. Learn more about changing public employers and coordinating your retirement benefits.

Divorce and Your Benefits. How divorce or legal separation affects your SamCERA benefits.

You can find these and other guidebooks on the SamCERA website, here.


Are you eligible to retire? Take our seminar.

If you are 50 or older with 10 or more years on the job, you should consider SamCERA’s half-day seminar, “I'm Eligible to Retire: Now What?”

This session will help you figure out if you’re on the right track to retirement, and give you tips to maximize your benefits.

The session will also include a presentation from the San Mateo County Benefits department, a talk on health and fitness, and a Q&A with a representative from Social Security.

Seminar Dates
May 11, 2015, 9 am - 4 pm
November 9, 2015, 9 am - 4 pm

More Information
For more information, contact SamCERA at

The SamCERA office at 100 Marine Parkway, Redwood City.

To Register
Sign up through County LMS “My Personal Health and Well Being (Private) Site,” at

There will be a one-hour lunch break during the session. Lunch is not provided, so please bring your own.

Letter to SamCERA Members

by Retiring CEO David Bailey

David in 1987

For the last 27 years, I've spent every working day thinking about, talking about, and writing about "retirement."  But retirement was something other people did.  Now, the time has come and I too get to retire.

I got into this business in 1988 when I went to work for the Oregon Public Employees' Retirement System as their Communications Officer and administrator of internal services.  I was 37.  I knew nothing about retirement.  Until then I'd worked in a variety of industries and was tired of learning a new field ever few years.   I wanted to become an expert at something.  What I didn't know was how much there was to learn in the retirement business.

My first day on the job, my boss gave me a three-foot high stack of materials and told me to spend the week reading through it.  I started on that with enthusiasm, but at about 2:30 p.m. every day I wondered if there was a way I could sleep with my eyes open so no one would notice.  I wondered if I would ever become interested in actuarial science, benefits law, benefits communications, accounting, budgeting, information technology, and investments.

On Friday of that first week, I had read down the stack to the internal newsletter.  It was all about the people who worked at OPERS, their professional and personal lives.  Soon I was involved in meetings, got some issues to deal with and assignments to complete.  Within a few days it all became fascinating. 

One of the great things about government is that there is opportunity.  Work hard, learn all you can, and try looking at things from your boss's perspective.  In 1993 they made me the Deputy Director, the number two management position, and I spent the next 11 years responsible for carrying out the plans of the Board and the Executive Director for what was then a $45 billion fund with about 350,000 members and retirees. 

After a decade of working closely with the Executive Director, always thinking what I would say or do in that position, I decided I was ready to try my hand at the top job in a pension system.  I applied for a few such jobs.  One day, I got a call from Mary Welch, then Human Resources Director for San Mateo County.  Frankly, I could not recall applying for a job at San Mateo County.  In fact, I had only a vague idea where San Mateo County was.  I'm so glad I found out.

I started as the CEO of SamCERA on Jan. 3, 2005.  It's been a dream job.  Which is not to say there haven't been challenges.  On my first day I had a horrible cold.  But I couldn't call in sick my first day on a job!  So I went to my office, formerly occupied by my predecessor, Sid McCausland.  Sid retired to Alaska, and I think I know why.  He likes the cold.  I found that he'd blocked off the heating vents in his office so no warm air, only cold, came in.  I spent the first week sick and freezing.

But Sid left me a ton of good things.  Best of all, he hired outstanding staff members and created a governance framework that is still a bedrock of SamCERA today.  A few years into my tenure, a Governor's commission concluded that all retirement systems should adopt certain governance documents.  That was no problem for SamCERA.  Sid had already created them and they'd been adopted by the Board years before.

Of course, there were bigger issues than the temperature of my office.  The recession was an all-consuming problem.  Every day I watched the stock market zig-zag downward in an historic financial crisis that had no predictable end.  It was sometimes hard to look away from the screen.  The result was that employer contributions shot up to help stabilize the fund and governments at every level debated how to address the steep decline in resources.

Looking back at my time as a retirement administrator during the recession, I could not have been in a better place.  Our Retirement Board, Board of Supervisors, County management and union leadership managed through the crisis as well or better than any other retirement system in the country.  SamCERA and the County each took bold actions that have turned out well.  The County made the exceptional decision to contribute funds to the system, over and above the requirements of law and actuarial standards.  That decision was a collaborative example of government working well that I will always be proud to have been a part of.  Today, the many steps taken to improve the finances of SamCERA have helped return the fund to a position of strength.  Members can be assured that SamCERA is on solid ground to pay retirement benefits as promised.

Stakeholders can also be comfortable that SamCERA will continue to provide exceptional, dedicated, personal service.  The Retirement Board promoted from within when it selected a new CEO to lead the SamCERA staff.  A nationwide recruitment concluded when the Board chose Scott Hood to fill the position.  Scott has been with SamCERA for 14 years, and has served as Assistant Executive Officer since 2002.  He holds a BS in Engineering from the US Military Academy and an MS in Computer Information Systems from Boston University.  He has more than 30 years of combined active and reserve military service, including deployments in Bosnia, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.  You are in good hands.

So now I get to retire.  Retirees tell me I will enjoy it.   I know I will, and I am looking forward to it.  But it will be tough to top the feeling of adventure my jobs have provided or the time spent each day working with outstanding professionals.  To all our members and all the great people I've worked with or just come into contact with during this job, I extend my sincere thanks and gratitude.  It's been a privilege.


David plans on splitting his time in retirement between California and his native Oregon, and spending more time with his wife Melanie.