It's never too early to begin preparing and we're here to help. Be sure to take a look at our checklist of retirement planning steps that includes not only the "what," but also the "when."
You're considered retired once you begin receiving a retirement benefit. This is usually the first of the month after the month you've separated from employment.
If you separate from employment, but wait to start drawing a benefit, you'll be considered retired once you do begin receiving it.
Once you're no longer working in a position that is covered by SERS, you can withdraw your contributions at any time. Federal income taxes and penalties may apply, so you may want to check with a tax advisor before requesting a withdrawal.
You can also leave your contributions in your Plan 3 account, where your account value will continue to be based on the performance of your investments. Learn more about your options by calling ICMA-RC at 1-888-711-8773 or reading our booklet Plan 3 Request for Payment of Defined Contribution Funds, available online or from your payroll or personnel officer.
There are two catch-up options you can use to defer additional money to your DCP account. For details, call us at 1-888-327-5596 and select option 2.
As a Plan 3 member, you have a two-part retirement benefit. The defined benefit portion, funded by your employer, guarantees you a benefit for your lifetime and, if you choose a survivor option, for the lifetime of your survivor. The defined contribution portion, funded by your contributions, provides a benefit that is based on investment performance.
Once you separate from your employer, you can choose how you would like to receive the defined contribution portion. The option you choose determines how long you will receive payments.
To learn more about your options for receiving your defined contributions, register for a one-hour Withdrawing from Plan 3 or contact a Plan 3 representative toll-free at 1-888-711-8773. Your options are also described online in the Plan 3 Request for Payment of Defined Contribution Funds booklet.
You should receive your first benefit payment by the last working day of the month you retire, or a few days after. For example, if you retire on March 1 and the last working day of the month is March 31, you should receive your payment (by check or direct deposit to your bank account) by March 31 or shortly after. See When am I considered retired?
If you've arranged for direct deposit, your first payment may be mailed to your bank. All payments after that will be electronically transferred to your account.
We're only able to send your check to one bank account. If you would like your payment deposited in two accounts, be sure to arrange with your bank for an automatic transfer of funds.
Deductions to your retirement benefit check can include:
The good news is – some of the payroll deductions you currently see (Social Security, Medicare) will not be taken from your retirement benefit.
Plan 3 Defined Benefit provides a retirement benefit at age 65 or older with at least five years of service credit if:
*Plan 2 and Plan 3 provide an unreduced defined benefit at age 62 for members who were hired before May 1, 2013 and retire with 30 or more years of service credit. This benefit provision is part of legislation which ended gain sharing. If a court decides the repeal of gain sharing is invalid, the early retirement rules that were in place before the passage of the new law will apply.
Your Plan 3 handbook contains more specific information.
If you are a school district employee, you can retire earlier by forfeiting up to 45 days of sick leave. For example, if you have 45 days of sick leave and are age 65 or older, you may retire with four years and 10 months of service credit. (If you've cashed out the sick leave, however, you can't use it for this purpose.)
The sick leave won't be a part of your benefit calculation. If you plan to use sick leave to retire earlier, please call us before you leave your position.
You can use our online service to estimate your benefit or, if you are within two years of retirement, please call us at (360) 664-7000 or 1-800-547-6657 to request a written estimate. Here is the formula we will use to calculate your monthly benefit:
1 percent x Average Final Compensation x Service Credit Years x Early Retirement Factor (if applicable) = Monthly Benefit
Members sometimes think there is a cap on the amount of service credit used in Plan 3 benefit calculations. There is not. All of your service credit will be used in the calculation.
Average your monthly salary from the highest-paid 60 consecutive months in which you earned service credit, no matter when that is in your career. Your AFC does not include severance pay, such as lump-sum payments for deferred sick leave, vacation, or annual leave.
Cash outs are not included in your benefit calculation.
Each option has both benefits and consequences you will need to evaluate. Before making a decision, it's a good idea to consult a licensed tax advisor, estate planner, or financial planner who specializes in retirement law and planning.
You'll want to consider the following:
Applying for retirement – online
Go to your online retirement account. Log in (or sign up if you haven't already done so). The online retirement application will display only what you need based on your retirement system, plan and retirement eligibility rules. Follow the step-by-step instructions and electronically submit the application to us when you're ready. If you encounter any issues during the process, don't give up! Just give us a call and we will help walk you through it.
Applying for retirement – paper application packet
When you are ready to begin the process, request a retirement application from us. Be sure to submit the completed application with all required signatures and documentation, including proof of age for you and your survivor if you choose one of the options with a survivor benefit.
Remember – if you're purchasing service credit, you'll need to complete and turn in your purchase form with your retirement application.
If you prefer to talk with a Retirement Services Analyst (RSA) in person, just call us for an appointment. It works best if you first request an estimate and retirement packet and have enough time to look it over before making an appointment. That will give your RSA specific information to go over with you and also ensure your questions are answered.
You can reach us at (360) 664-7000 or toll free (outside the Olympia area) 800-547-6657. Here are directions and a map to DRS.
During the month of your retirement, we will send you notification with the amount of your benefit and the date you can expect to receive your first payment. Any time you have questions, be sure to call.
Here are a few things to consider when moving outside the country or state:
Your retirement system does not accept service credit from other states.
If you're an active member in any of the retirement systems listed below and you once belonged to another of these systems, you may be eligible for benefits as a "dual member."
There are three advantages to being a dual member:
To find out more about retiring as a dual member, see What is dual membership and how does it affect me?
If you were a member of SCERS, please call us at (360) 664-7000 or 1-800-547-6657 for information about dual membership with SCERS.