1. I plan to retire in two years. What should I do to prepare and when should I do it?

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."

2. When am I considered retired?

You're considered retired once you begin receiving a retirement benefit. This is usually the day following the last day you work. If you separate from employment, but wait to start drawing a benefit, you'll be considered retired once you do begin receiving it.

3. Can I return to public service in Washington state after I retire?
Yes. But your benefits will be affected if you return to work as a commissioned Washington State Patrol officer. Contact DRS before accepting employment. For more information, read the Thinking About Working After Retirement? publication.
4. I'm close to retiring. Can I increase the amount I contribute to my DCP account?

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.

5. How long will my benefit last?

You are guaranteed a retirement benefit for your lifetime and, if you have an eligible survivor, for the lifetime of your survivor.

6. Once I retire, when will I get my first benefit check?

Our goal is for you to receive your benefit payment by the end of the month.

If you choose direct deposit, and it has become effective, you will receive your first benefit payment by the last banking day in the month you retire (a banking day is any day the bank is open) .

Direct deposit example:
You retired on March 1, and the last banking day of the month is March 31. You will receive your payment by March 31. See When am I considered retired?

If you don’t choose direct deposit, we will mail your paper check with the intention of it reaching you by the end of the month.

Paper payment example:
You retired on March 1. You should receive your paper payment by March 31 or shortly after. Sometimes, the US mail may cause a delay. See When am I considered retired?

Please note: 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.

7. What kinds of deductions can be taken from my benefit?

Deductions to your retirement benefit check can include:

  • Income tax authorized by the withholding form you submit with your retirement application
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Life insurance premiums
  • Combined Fund Drive contributions
  • Dues for retiree organizations
  • Any other approved deductions

The good news is – some of the payroll deductions you currently see (Social Security, Medicare) will not be taken from your retirement benefit.

8. When is the earliest I can start receiving my benefit?

It depends on your age and your service credit.

You can begin drawing your retirement benefit:

  • At any age, with 25 or more years of service credit, or
  • At age 55 or older, regardless of the amount of service credit you have accumulated. If you leave your State Patrol commission before age 55, you must be vested to receive a benefit.

You'll need to begin drawing your retirement benefit no later than the first of the month that follows the month you turn 60. (The one exception is for the Chief of the State Patrol.)

If you separate from employment and wait to begin drawing your benefit, and if you retire between the age of 55 and 60, your benefit will be reduced.

9. When I retire, what will my monthly benefit be and how will it be calculated?

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 800-547-6657 to request a written estimate. Here is the formula we will use to calculate your monthly benefit:

Service credit months ÷ 12 x 2% x Average Final Salary = Monthly Benefit

Your service retirement benefit is limited to 75% of your Average Final Salary.

10. How do I calculate my Average Final Salary (AFS)?

Average your monthly salary from the highest-paid 24 consecutive months in which you earned service credit. Usually, this is your last 24 months of service. In some cases, other payments may be included in your AFS. For more detail, see Your Contributions in your member handbook.

11. When I cash out my annual leave or roll it over, will the cash out be included in my benefit calculation?

If you cash out annual and/or holiday leave, you may be able to use all or part of its value in your Average Final Salary (AFS) calculation. To be included, the leave must have been earned during your AFS period (your highest-paid 24 consecutive service credit months) and you must have been commissioned before July 1, 2001.

If your AFS period is more than 24 months prior to your retirement date, you may not be eligible to include leave cash outs.

12. How do I decide which benefit option to choose?

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:

  • What is your target "income replacement" (the income you'll need to maintain your standard of living) amount?
  • Will you have other retirement income?
  • If you are married, do you have life insurance for yourself and/or your spouse?
  • Can you live on less than the maximum retirement benefit?
  • What is your health status and life expectancy?
  • What will your health care costs be after retirement?
  • Do you expect any lifestyle changes that will affect how much income you need?
  • What is the status of your short-term and long-term debt?
  • Will you continue to support any dependents after retirement (such as children or elderly parents)?
13. How do I start the retirement process?

You may retire online by signing up for your retirement account, or you may contact us for a paper application. The choice is yours.

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 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 Specialist in person, you can stop by our Olympia office anytime during our normal business hours of 8 am – 5 pm, Monday – Friday, excluding holidays. It works best if you first request an estimate and retirement packet and have enough time to look it over before you visit. That will give your Retirement Specialist specific information to go over with you and also ensure your questions are answered.

You can reach us at 360-664-7000 or 800-547-6657. Here are directions and a map to DRS.

14. I received notification that says you have my application. When will I hear from you again?

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.

15. I plan to move out of the country (or state) after retirement. Are there any special considerations I should be aware of?

Here are a few things to consider when moving outside the country or state:

  • Washington does not have a state income tax, but some states do. If you move to one of these states, be sure to check into the tax obligations for your retirement benefit.
  • Your health insurance coverage may be affected. To find out if it is, contact the insurance plan you intend to be covered by when you retire.
  • Direct deposits can only be made to banks within the United States. If you're moving outside the country, be sure to find a bank that can process electronic deposits within the U.S.
16. Can service credit I earned in another state be used to qualify for retirement?

Your retirement system does not accept service credit from other states.

17. How does membership in another system affect my retirement?

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."

  • Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) Plans 1, 2 and 3
  • Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) Plans 1, 2 and 3
  • School Employees' Retirement System (SERS) Plans 2 and 3
  • Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System (LEOFF) Plan 2
  • Washington State Patrol Retirement System (WSPRS) Plans 1 and 2
  • Public Safety Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) Plan 2
  • City Retirement Systems for Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma.
  • State-wide City Employees' Retirement System (SCERS).

There are three advantages to being a dual member:

  • You can restore service credit you withdrew from a dual member system.
  • You can combine service credit to help you become eligible for service retirement.
  • You can use your highest "base salary" in a dual member system to calculate your service retirement benefit in other dual member systems.

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 800-547-6657 for information about dual membership with SCERS.