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  LACERA - Benefits Home > ACTIVE MEMBER > FAQs - Active Members  
     
   FAQS - ACTIVE MEMBERS  
   
 
SECTION 1
General
SECTION 2
Survivor Benefits
SECTION 3
Social Security
SECTION 4
Plan E Elective COLA
SECTION 5
Terminating Employment
SECTION 6
Final Compensation
SECTION 7
Planning for Retirement
   

SECTION 1: General
1. Q: What does vesting mean?
A:
"Vesting" is a term used to explain the amount of years of service credit required for a member to receive a retirement allowance. Once vested you are entitled to receive a retirement benefit when you meet LACERA's minimum age and service credit requirements. Vesting also entitles you to terminate County employment and defer receiving your retirement allowance until you are eligible and ready to apply for retirement.

Vesting requirements vary per plan. In Plan A, B, C, or D vesting occurs when you have earned 5 years of County service credit. You are vested in Plan E when you have earned 10 years of County service credit. Reciprocal service credit also counts toward vesting. (7-25-06)
Click here for more vesting information

2. Q: What is reciprocity?
A:
LACERA maintains a special relationship with certain other California public retirement systems. This relationship, known as reciprocity, was established by statute to encourage career public service and to protect retirement benefits earned by employees under two or more systems. Under reciprocity, your years of service earned under the reciprocal system will count toward meeting LACERA’s service credit requirements for vesting and retirement.

If you elect Plan D, your contribution rate will be based on your age when you joined the reciprocal system.

Your retirement allowance from both LACERA and the reciprocal system will be based on your higher final compensation, regardless of whether you earned that compensation as a member of LACERA or the reciprocal system. (6-27-06)

3: Q: I don’t know if my last job is reciprocal with LACERA. How do I find out?
A:
First check our list of reciprocal retirement systems. If you do not know which retirement system is associated with that job, contact LACERA with the name of your previous employer (public agency or district, city or town, county, school district, superintendent of schools office, etc.), and we can determine the corresponding retirement system. If the system is reciprocal, we will take the next step, to inquire about your individual retirement records and determine your eligibility for reciprocity.
(4-6-07)

4. Q: Can I withdraw my retirement contributions from LACERA while I'm in active service?
A:
No, federal law prohibits members from withdrawing any contributions from the retirement fund. The only way to withdraw contributions is if you terminate County service.
(7-26-06)

5. Q: Can I borrow money from my LACERA retirement plan?
A:
No. Your LACERA retirement plan is a defined benefit plan which stipulates that funds are not available to members during active service. (5-27-08)

6. Q: Will my monthly retirement allowance run out when I've received the total amount I contributed to my LACERA retirement plan?
A:
No, your LACERA plan is a defined benefit plan. “Defined Benefit” means that your benefit is a guaranteed monthly allowance paid for the rest of your life . Your benefit is based on your final average salary, retirement age, and years of service.
(6-26-06)

7. Q: I have dual retirement accounts as a General Member and a Safety Member. How will this affect my retirement allowance?
A: Members who have dual service credit as both a general and safety member in LACERA will receive a combined retirement allowance after retirement. The benefits for each type of service will be added together to determine the total retirement allowance payable.

Active safety members who have five or more years of service as a safety member may convert their previous general member service to safety member service. You may convert up to a maximum of five years of previous general service. If you elect to convert only part of your general member service, you must convert the most recent period of that service first and any remaining service will continue to be credited as general member service.

We recommend you call LACERA at 800-786-6464 and speak with a Retirement Benefits Specialist for details regarding your individual situation. (6-10-08)

8. Q: If I am drafted during a time of war, will I continue to receive retirement service credit while I'm deployed?
A: If a member is absent from service because of being drafted (involuntarily) during a time of war, the period of absence may be credited to the member at no cost.

If a member is absent from County service without pay because he/she volunteered for the military services, he/she is eligible to pay normal retirement contributions for the period of absence and receive credit for the time. The member must return to employment within 90 days of the discharge date.

Whether you are eligible to receive retirement service credit at no cost or pay retirement contributions and receive credit for this time also depends on other factors such as when you began County service and your retirement plan. We recommend you call LACERA at 800-786-6464 and speak with a Retirement Benefits Specialist for details regarding your individual situation. You can also email your questions about benefits or retirement plans to LACERA at welcome@lacera.com or mail your questions to: LACERA, P.O. Box 7060, Pasadena, CA, 91109-7060. (6-16-08)

9. Q: How does LACERA handle divorces for active members?
A:
If your marriage is dissolved, the Court may order a division or split of your monthly retirement allowance between you and your ex-spouse. Upon retirement, LACERA will send separate checks to you and your ex-spouse in accordance with the portions ordered in the Judgment of Dissolution. (7-14-08)

10. Q: I am getting divorced. How will this affect my retirement benefits?
A:
If the Court determines that your LACERA benefits are community property, a court order will direct the division of your LACERA benefits. Please contact LACERA as soon as possible to notify us of the divorce so that we can update your records. When the dissolution is final, LACERA will require a conformed copy (with the court clerk's filing date stamp and the judge's signature) of all the pages of your Judgment of Dissolution and, if applicable, a copy of the Domestic Relations Order (DRO). Our Legal Division will review the documents to ensure that they conform to LACERA's plan.

Please contact LACERA and submit these documents immediately to prevent any delay in your retirement benefit payments. If you are in the process of a divorce at the time of retirement, LACERA cannot pay your retirement allowance until the judgment is final and the court order directing the division of your LACERA benefits is received. (3-29-07)

11. Q: I just got divorced. What paperwork must I provide to LACERA?
A:
You must provide LACERA with a conformed copy (with the court clerk's filing date stamp and the judge's signature) of all the pages of your Judgment of Dissolution.

If the judgment states a further order is required, provide LACERA copies of a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). If you are unsure about the need for additional documents, LACERA's Legal Division will review the judgment to ascertain if an additional order is required. (2-6-07)

12. Q: I'm about to retire and I'm in the midst of a divorce. Will this affect LACERA sending my monthly retirement allowance when I'm retired?
A:
Yes. If you are in the process of a divorce at the time of retirement, LACERA cannot pay your retirement allowance until the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is final and a court order directing the community property division of your LACERA benefits is received. (2-6-07)

13. Q: What is a Registered Domestic Partner?
A:
A domestic partnership is established when persons meeting the criteria specified by Family Code section 297 file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State.

In accordance with a resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors, a person who meets certain qualifications as a domestic partner is eligible for the same survivor benefits as a spouse. The qualifications include:

  • The partnership is registered with the Secretary of State.
  • Both persons have a common residence.
  • Neither person is married or a member of another domestic partnership that has not been terminated.
  • Both persons are at least 18 years of age.
  • Either of the following:
    • Both persons are members of the same sex.
    • If of the opposite sex, one or both of the persons are over the age of 62.
  • Both persons are capable of consenting to the domestic partnership. (6-09-08)

14. Q: Why do some LACERA forms list “spouse” or “domestic partner,” while other forms don't?
A:
Although we continue to update our forms to include “spouse” or “domestic partner,” it is possible some older forms may still show “spouse” or “other.” If you have a question regarding a LACERA form, call 800-786-6464 to speak with a LACERA Retirement Benefits Specialist. Keep in mind, domestic partners must be registered with the California Secretary of State and meet certain other eligibility rules. (1-3-07)

15. Q: How do I apply for disability retirement through LACERA?
A:
Members in Plans A, B, C, & D may apply for two types of disability retirement.
1) Service-connected - Disability resulting from or caused by an illness or injury
related to your employment.
2) Nonservice-connected - Disability resulting from or caused by an illness or injury not related to your employment.

You may apply for service-connected disability retirement at any age regardless of the amount of service credit you have earned. You may apply for non-service connected disability retirement at any age, but you must have five years of County retirement service credit.

You are not eligible for a disability retirement if you are in Plan E or if you have withdrawn your retirement contributions. However, general members in Plans A, B, C, D, & E may apply for disability benefits under the County´s Long-Term Disability and Survivor Benefit Plan.

You should fill out an application:

  • While you are still employed, or
  • Within four months after you have terminated employment, or
  • Any time after terminating employment, provided you can prove
    • you are physically or mentally unable to perform your regular job duties, and that condition has been continuous from the date of separation
    • a delay in filing your application has not impaired LACERA’s ability to investigate your case

16. Q: I have been granted a Disability Retirement by the Board of Retirement. Can I exhaust my vacation/sick time before my retirement allowances begin?
A:
You may use any remaining sick time and 4850 benefits, but not vacation time. Payment in full for any remaining holiday or vacation time will be included in your termination pay. Coordinate with LACERA and your department’s payroll office to make sure your County sick time and 4850 benefits are exhausted before your LACERA allowance begins. (8-7-06)

17. Q: Does LACERA have retirement calculators on the web site?
A: Yes, we do.

The calculators are a great help in making retirement decisions. (Note: The LACERA calculators only provide an estimate. For an actual cost contact LACERA.)

18. Q: Who can register for My LACERA?
A:
Only active and retired members can register. Currently, access for deferred members and spouses is not available. You can access the My LACERA  icon from lacera.com to register. If you are an active member, you can create your preliminary Retirement Benefit Estimate on My LACERA. The Retirement Benefit Estimate feature will provide a personalized estimate (based on your actual data) of the benefits you will receive when you retire. You can also read more about this feature at About My LACERA. (6-11-08)

19. Q: How much money will I receive when I retire?
A: You can find out how much money you will receive by creating your own preliminary Retirement Benefit Estimate online at My LACERA. Once you register on My LACERA, the Retirement Benefit Estimate feature will provide a personalized estimate of the benefits you will receive when you retire. Look for the My LACERA icon on lacera.com. You can also read more about this feature at About My LACERA. You may also request an official retirement estimate by calling us at 800-786-6464. (6-23-08)

20. Q: How can I get a Retirement Benefit Estimate?
A:
You can create your own preliminary Retirement Benefit Estimate online at My LACERA. Once you register on My LACERA, the Retirement Benefit Estimate feature will provide a personalized estimate of the benefits you will receive when you retire. You can access the My LACERA icon from lacera.com or on the left side bar of each web page. You can also read more about this feature at About My LACERA.
You can call LACERA and request a Retirement Benefit Estimate at 800-786-6464. (6-04-08)

21. Q: When will I get my annual benefits statement?
A:
Benefit statements are prepared on the 15th of the month following your birthday month. After your yearly benefits have been calculated, it normally takes about 2-3 weeks for the statement to be printed and mailed. So those born in June should expect to receive their statements around the end of July or early August. Those born in July should get their statements around the end of August or early September, etc.

Also, once you register on My LACERA, you can review your Annual Benefit Statement online at any time. Look for the My LACERA icon throughout lacera.com to register. (5-12-08)

22. Q: Can I change plans?
A:
If you are a Plan D or Plan E member, yes, you may change plans. This change is called a plan transfer.
You may transfer Plan E to Plan D with a prospective transfer. We suggest you review the FAQs and try the Transfer Calculator to estimate your cost. Then, if you have any questions, or you are ready to request your transfer, call us at 800-786-6464.

A transfer from Plan D to Plan E is a prospective transfer. The change is effective immediately, and retirement contributions will no longer be deducted from your paycheck. Be aware that you will not be eligible for any active member death or disability benefits from LACERA.

If you transfer plans, you cannot transfer back for three years.

23. Q: I am considering a transfer from Plan E to Plan D and buying my years of County service. How can I pay for it?
A:
LACERA now accepts payments from a variety of sources. You may pay for any type of plan transfer, redeposit, conversion, or service credit purchase with funds from any of the following sources:

  • Transfer from your LA County 401(k) Savings Plan or Horizons 457 Plan, even while you are still employed (before-tax dollars only)
  • Rollover from a 401(k), 403(b), 457, or other plan sponsored by a previous employer (before-tax dollars only)
  • Rollover from your Traditional IRA, not ROTH IRAs (before-tax dollars only)
  • Personal check, which may be money from your checking or savings account, cash from home equity, etc. (after-tax dollars)
  • Payroll deductions (before-tax or after-tax dollars) (3-29-07)

24. Q: How can I find out about job opportunities with LACERA?
A:
We have a special section on lacera.com entitled LACERA Career Opportunities where we list jobs that are open to everyone. You can access this section from the lacera.com home page, Career Opportunities or from the Opportunities tab. (7-10-09)

25. Q: How can I obtain a job application for a job opening at LACERA?
A:
Go to the LACERA Career Opportunities Section on lacera.com. You may apply online for any open position by clicking on the job title you are interested in and clicking on the “Apply” button on the job announcement. This application can be saved and used to apply for additional or future job openings. You must have access to email to apply online. If you do not want to apply online, you can access the Job Application in PDF format on the LACERA Career Opportunities Section web page.

If you are interested in a job that is not currently open, you can submit a Job Interest Card by clicking on the Job Descriptions link. Locate the job you want, click on the job title, then click on the "Email me when this position opens" link. (7-10-09)

26. Q:I have service in Plan E and Plan D. How does that affect my retirement?
A:
When you retire, you will have service credit in both plans (double accounts), so your retirement benefit will be a combined allowance. First, your retirement allowance under each plan will be calculated separately, based on the service credit you earned under that plan. Then, the two amounts will be added together to determine your total monthly allowance.

You may retire from each plan when you meet the minimum retirement age (age 50 for Plan D; age 55 for Plan E) and service credit requirements. If you retire from Plan D and you are under 55, your Plan E retirement benefits automatically become effective on the date of your 55th birthday. LACERA will send you a letter one month before your 55th birthday to notify you regarding the effective date of your Plan E retirement benefit payments. (10-24-08)

27. Q: What is a monthly retirement allowance?
A:
Your monthly retirement allowance is the monthly retirement benefit (monthly amount of money) you will receive after you retire. The amount of your retirement allowance is based on three factors:

  • Age at Retirement
  • Years of Service (Service Credit)
  • Final Compensation (9-11-08)

28. Q: How can I find out how much service credit I have?
A:
You can visit My LACERA to find out how much service credit you have. My LACERA is a web feature that provides you with secure 24-hour access to your personal retirement benefit information including your retirement plan and contribution rate, the total amount of your contributions, annual benefit statement, and recap of your recent LACERA interactions. You can also call LACERA at 800-786-6464 and speak with a Retirement Benefits Specialist to find out how much service credit you have. (10-24-08)

29. Q: What is the Transfer Calculator?
A:
Our online Transfer Calculator is a web feature that will give you an estimate of the cost associated with a plan transfer. You can use the calculator to project:

  • Your monthly Plan D contribution rate if you transfer prospectively from Plan E to Plan D.
  • The Cost to purchase and convert some or all of your Plan E service credit for a Prospective Transfer.

(Back to the top)

SECTION 2: Survivor Benefits
1. Q: If I die while I am an active County employee, will my retirement benefits go to my spouse and surviving children?
A:
For active members in Plans A, B, C, and D who die while in County service, death benefits in the form of a lump sum or continuing monthly allowance may be payable depending on your length of service and whether the death was service- or nonservice-connected.

A surviving minor child may be eligible for benefits if the member does not have an eligible surviving spouse.

Plan E - LACERA does not provide death benefits for active members in Plan E.

For details see Pre-Retirement Death Benefits or contact LACERA at 800-786-6464 and speak with a Retirement Benefits Specialist to discuss your individual situation. (6-11-08) `

2. Q: I am the surviving spouse of an active member who died while in County service. Am I entitled to any survivor benefits?
If a member of a LACERA contributory plan (A, B, C, or D) dies prior to retirement, death benefits are determined based on:

  • Member's status: active or deferred
  • Category of death (service-connected or nonservice-connected)
  • Vesting status
  • Relationship of recipient to member (eligible survivor or named beneficiary)

Note: To qualify as an eligible survivor in cases involving the death of an active member, a spouse or domestic partner must have been married to or in a duly registered domestic partnership with the member prior to the member's death. No minimum length of marriage or domestic partnership requirement applies.

If the death is nonservice-connected and the Plan A, B, C, or D member is vested with five years of County employment, survivor benefits are payable. There are no minimum years of service required to receive the lump-sum death benefit. (7-21-09)

3. Q: If I am not married and don't have any children, who can I designate as my beneficiary when I retire?
A:
You may name anyone you wish to receive the $5,000 death benefit, and you may change that beneficiary designation at any time, even after you retire. If you wish to leave a monthly allowance to someone other than a spouse, domestic partner, or minor child, you may elect Retirement Option 2, 3, or 4. These options pay you a reduced allowance during your retirement years. Then, after your death, your beneficiary would receive a monthly allowance for the rest of his or her life. If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances, our Retirement Benefits Specialists can assist you. Call 800-786-6464 or visit our office in Pasadena for a one-on-one consultation. (3-29-07)

4. Q: How long do I have to be married before my spouse becomes eligible for survivor benefits on my LACERA retirement plan?
A:
A surviving spouse is eligible for survivor benefits if he or she married the member at least one year prior to the member’s date of retirement. As of August 26, 2003, a domestic partner is eligible for survivor benefits if he or she registered as a domestic partner at least one year prior to the member’s date of retirement. (1-3-07)

5. Q: Does Plan E provide survivor benefits?
A:
There are no LACERA pre-retirement continuing survivor benefits under Plan E; however, Plan E members are covered by the County's Long-Term Disability and Survivor Benefits Plan. All LACERA retirement plans, including Plan E, provide a $5,000 post-retirement lump-sum death benefit. LACERA also provides post-retirement continuing Plan E survivor benefits, which vary according to the retirement option selected. For additional information, refer to your Plan E Summary Plan brochure. (1-3-07)

6. Q: After I retire, can I provide my beneficiary 100% of my retirement allowance?
A:
If you select the Unmodified+Plus option when you retire, you can provide your eligible spouse, domestic partner, or beneficiary a customized percentage of your reduced retirement allowance. If you are in Plan A, B, C, or D, you can provide your eligible beneficiary a customized percentage between 66% and 100% of your reduced allowance. If you are in Plan E, you can provide your eligible beneficiary a customized percentage between 56% and 100% of your reduced allowance.

For additional information, call 800-786-6464 and speak with a LACERA Retirement Benefits Specialist. (7-10-08)

(Back to the top)

SECTION 3: Social Security
1. Q: What is the Social Security offset and who does it affect?
A:
Members who were employed by the County prior to 1983 are subject to the offset, which is a reduction in their LACERA retirement allowance for each year of their County service that was also covered by Social Security. (1-3-07)

2. Q: How does my LACERA benefit affect my Social Security benefit?
A:
If you receive a LACERA retirement allowance AND a Social Security benefit, your Social Security benefit will be calculated by the less favorable “Windfall Elimination Provision” (WEP) formula. This results in a lower Social Security benefit than you would have received if you were not eligible to receive a LACERA pension. The formula varies, based on your years of Social Security-covered employment, and does not apply at all if you have 30 years or more of Social Security coverage. For more information, visit the Windfall Elimination Provision page in the Active Member section.
(4-6-07)

3. Q: I am in Plan E. How will the Social Security offset affect my LACERA retirement benefits?
A:
If you are in Plan E, a percentage of your estimated Social Security benefit will be subtracted from your retirement allowance, based on the total number of years and months of County service covered by Social Security.

LACERA will use actuarial tables to compute your Social Security benefit offset and your retirement allowance. If you retire at or after age 62 and would like LACERA to use the actual amount of your Social Security benefit (rather than an amount based on actuarial tables) to compute your Social Security benefit offset and your retirement allowance, you must provide LACERA with information documenting your actual Social Security benefit. You must provide the documentation within six months after your retirement. LACERA recommends that you do this. (6-10-08)

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SECTION 4: Plan E Elective COLA
1. Q: What is Plan E Elective COLA?
A:
Elective COLA is a provision that offers you the opportunity to purchase a cost-of-living benefit for the portion of your allowance that is based on service credit earned prior to June 4, 2002 (this service credit is not eligible for Automatic COLA). If you purchase Plan E Elective COLA, you will become eligible to receive a cost-of-living benefit on a greater portion of your retirement allowance.

2. Q: Are there situations in which I would not benefit from Plan E Elective COLA?
A: Yes. Your cost for Plan E Elective COLA is based, in part, on actuarial assumptions for life expectancy and annual inflation. If you do not reach the actuarially-projected life expectancy, or inflation is lower than the assumption, you may not recover your total cost.
(8-1-06)

3. Q: How much Plan E Elective COLA may I purchase?
A: You may purchase Plan E Elective COLA for some or all of your eligible Plan E service credit earned prior to June 4, 2002.
(8-1-06)

4. Q: What types of funds may I use to purchase Plan E Elective COLA?
A: You may pay your contract with before-tax dollars from:

  • Rollover from your 401(k)*, 457**, IRA, or other tax-qualified plan
  • Monthly payroll deductions
  • Combination of rollover AND monthly payroll deductions

*The amount an active employee may roll over from the County’s 401(k) Savings Plan is limited by age, years in plan, and contribution type. Contact Great-West at 800-947-0845 to determine your eligibility.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 permits LACERA to accept rollovers by active employees from the County’s Horizons 457 Plan (effective August 17, 2006). (10-24-06)

5. Q: How do I calculate the cost to purchase Elective COLA for Plan E?
A:
The cost to purchase Plan E Elective COLA varies depending on your individual situation and actuarial factors. Please contact a Retirement Benefits Specialists at 800-786-6464. We will prepare a cost calculation and you will not be obligated to start a payment contract. If you decide to proceed with the purchase of Plan E Elective COLA, we will then prepare a payment contract for your signature. (5-28-08)

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SECTION 5: Terminating Employment
1. Q: What is a deferred member?
A:
A deferred member is a vested LACERA member who terminates County or outside district employment and leaves his or her plan contributions on deposit with LACERA. Contributory members (Plan A, B, C, or D) are vested with five or more years of County (or County and reciprocal) retirement service credit, Plan E members are vested with ten years of County service retirement credit. Deferred members may apply for a LACERA retirement allowance upon meeting the minimum age and service credit requirements set forth in their respective retirement plans. (1-3-07)

2. Q: Can I quit working now and defer my retirement benefits?
A: If you are vested in Plan A, B, C, or D (5 years of service) and you quit working and leave your contributions on deposit; they will continue to earn interest and you will automatically become a deferred member. If you are not vested in Plan A, B, C, or D (fewer than 5 years of service) and you quit working and leave your contributions on deposit; they will continue to earn interest. You may become eligible for future retirement benefits if you return to County service, or enter employment covered by a reciprocal retirement system within six months.

IMPORTANT: If you withdraw your deferred contributions and interest, you will forfeit all rights to future retirement benefits from LACERA.

If you are vested in Plan E (10 years of service credit), quit working and leave your contributions, you automatically become a deferred member. If you are not vested (fewer than 10 years of service) and terminate employment as a Plan E member, you are not entitled to receive any retirement benefits from LACERA. However, if you return and elect Plan D, you are eligible to purchase and receive Plan D credit for your previous non-vested Plan E service.

Remember to keep LACERA informed of address changes while you are on deferred status. (6-23-08)

3. Q: What happens to my retirement contributions after I terminate from County service?
A:
If you are a member of Plan A, B, C or D, and you leave County service, you have several options:

If eligible, you may retire, or if you are not eligible to retire, but are vested:

  • Your retirement will be automatically deferred or postponed, and you may retire when you meet the minimum age and service requirements.
  • Your contributions will remain on deposit and continue to earn interest. If you become a member of a reciprocal retirement system, visit the reciprocity page for additional information.

If you are not vested:

  • You may leave your contributions on deposit to earn interest until you withdraw them.
  • You would not be eligible for a future retirement benefit unless you return to service or become a member of a reciprocal retirement system.
  • You may withdraw your contributions and earned interest.
    Be advised that taking a withdrawal terminates your membership and you give up all rights to future retirement benefits from LACERA, including disability benefits. (7-17-08)

4. Q: If I terminate and leave my contributions on deposit, when am I eligible for LACERA retirement benefits?
A: If you are a vested member of Plan A, B, C, or D (five years of County retirement service credit) and terminate County service prior to meeting age and service credit eligibility for retirement, you may apply to receive your deferred retirement allowance when you reach age 50 and reach the date on which you would have earned ten years of service credit as a County employee.

If you are a vested member of Plan E (ten years of County service retirement credit), and terminate employment, you may apply for your retirement allowance when you reach age 55. (9-25-06)

5. Q: At what age is distribution mandatory for a deferred member?
A:
LACERA is required by law to begin paying a deferred retirement allowance to any deferred member (who is not a member of a reciprocal retirement system) on April 1 of the year following the year in which the member attains age 70-1/2. For additional information, refer to your Summary Plan Description brochure or contact a LACERA Retirement Benefits Specialist at 800-786-6464. (1-3-07)

6. Q : If I terminate from the County, can I roll my LACERA contributions over to an IRA?
A:
Yes, but choose carefully. CAUTION: If you elect to withdraw or roll over your contributions and interest, you will forfeit (give up) your right to any future retirement benefits from LACERA, including disability and retiree healthcare benefits.

If you choose to withdraw your contributions and interest when you terminate, you may elect to roll over to an IRA or other qualified employer plan. A surviving spouse or ex-spouse may also elect a rollover of the member's contributions and interest. Tax laws governing rollovers are complex, so consult your tax advisor for detailed information. Note: Certain restrictions may apply; check with the Plan Administrator. (12-20-06)

7. Q: How do I roll over an existing retirement account into a 457 Horizons account?
A:
Contact your financial institution or Great West at 800-947-0845. (3-3-08)

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SECTION 6: Final Compensation
1. Q: What is final compensation?
A:
Final compensation is one factor used to determine a member's monthly retirement allowance. It is an average of the member's highest monthly pensionable income during any one-year or three-year period. Generally, if you are a member of Plan A, B, C, or D, your final compensation will be based on one year (12 consecutive months).

If you are a Plan E member, your final compensation will be based on three years (either 36 consecutive months or three separate 12-consecutive-month periods). (7-18-06)

2. Q: Are overtime pay and excess vacation pay included in final compensation?
A: No, overtime is not considered “pensionable earnings;” therefore it is not included in final average compensation. The amount you receive upon termination for unused vacation and sick leave, also called “termination pay,” is not pensionable earnings. Active employees may be eligible to receive compensation for excess vacation, holiday, or sick leave (also called “buy-back”); up to certain maximums. This compensation is included in your final compensation.

If you have questions about buy-back eligibility, contact your personnel/human resources department. You can learn more about how to maximize your final compensation by attending LACERA's Pre-Retirement Workshop. (7-18-06)

3. Q: Which pay items are pensionable under the Ventura Decision?
A:
A list of pensionable items is located within our retirement calculator section. Click here to see the Ventura Decision pay items.
(6-26-06)

You may also request an official retirement estimate by calling us at 800-786-6464. (6-04-08)

4. Q: How much sick leave will I be paid for if I terminate County service?
A: If you are a permanent full-time employee who terminates with at least five years of continuous service, the County will pay you for ("buy back") accumulated sick leave at full pay to a maximum of 720 working hours, or in the case of employees assigned to a 56-hour workweek schedule, to a maximum of 1,080 working hours. The 720 hours and 1080 hours stem from 50% of the maximum 1440 hours and 2160 hours.
(8-06-08)

Note: Compensation for unused leave which is paid to the employee upon termination (also known as "termination pay") is not included in final compensation and therefore, not pensionable. (4-3-08)

(Back to the top)

SECTION 7: Planning for Retirement
1. Q: Why should I attend a Pre-Retirement Workshop?
A: Pre-Retirement Workshops
provide the essential information you need to know to maximize your retirement benefits. Each pre-registered attendee receives a personalized estimate of their retirement benefits, along with recommendations on the most advantageous retirement dates. All members within five years of retirement are strongly encouraged to attend a Pre-Retirement Workshop. Call 800-786-6464 to reserve your spot. (6-27-06)

2. Q: How can I determine my most advantageous date to retire?
A:
Our Retirement Benefits Specialists can help you with this. Call them at 800-786-6464 or visit LACERA's Member Service Center in Pasadena, Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. These Specialists will help you pick your ideal retirement date.

If you register and attend a Pre-Retirement Workshop at LACERA, you will receive a personalized estimate of your retirement benefits, along with advantageous retirement dates. (2-24-10)

3. Q: What is the minimum age I can begin receiving a retirement allowance?
A:
General members of Plans A, B, C, or D are eligible to receive a retirement allowance at:

  • Age 50 with at least 10 years service credit, or
  • 30 years service credit, regardless of age, or
  • Age 70, regardless of service credit

General Members of Plan E are eligible to receive a retirement allowance at:

  • Age 55 with at least 10 years service credit
  • Age 70, regardless of service credit

Safety members of Plans A or B are eligible to receive a retirement allowance at:

  • Age 50 with at least 10 years service credit, or
  • 20 years service credit, regardless of age (1-3-07)

4. Q: I plan to retire at age 50. When and how should I contact LACERA to begin the process?
A:
If you are in Plan A, B, C, or D, you are age-eligible to retire at 50. If you are in Plan E, you are not eligible to retire until you reach age 55. If you are 50, you may choose to terminate and defer your retirement until you are 55.

We suggest you attend a Pre-Retirement Workshop at least five years prior to your retirement, and again two years prior.

Four to six months before you plan to retire, contact LACERA for a Retirement Estimate. This estimate will show your personal retirement options in detail. Plan to visit LACERA to discuss your retirement options with a Retirement Benefits Specialist. You may elect your retirement option up to 90 days before your retirement date (no sooner).

If you choose to apply in person at LACERA's Member Service Center, you will need to bring the following items: your signed Retirement Benefit Estimate and Election form, original marriage or domestic partnership certificate, original birth certificate for your eligible spouse or domestic partner if you elect Option 2, 3, 4 or Unmodified+Plus, and your checkbook (to establish Direct Deposit for your retirement allowance). (11-2-07)

5. Q: Am I eligible to retire now, or am I too young? Can I stop working now and then start receiving my retirement benefits in a few years?
A:
Each LACERA plan has minimum age and service credit requirements. See the Retirement Eligibility page for your plan details and try the Retirement Calculator to compare benefit estimates based on different ages and years of service credit. You need five years of service credit to be vested in Plans A, B, C, and D and ten years of service credit to be vested in Plan E. Vesting means that you will be eligible for a future retirement benefit even if you leave County employment before you retire. If you are vested, you may “defer” (postpone) your retirement and retire at a later date, subject to the requirements for deferred members. (4-6-07)

6. Q: What Retirement Options will I have when I retire?
A:
When you get ready to retire and meet the requirements, you may select from several Retirement Options:

  • Unmodified: Provides member the highest monthly retirement allowance available.
  • Unmodified+Plus: Allows member to provide survivor a customized percentage of member's reduced allowance.
  • Option 1: Allows member to provide a single lump-sum payment to beneficiary. Member receives slightly reduced unmodified allowance. (Not available in Plan E.)
  • Option 2: Allows member to provide beneficiary 100% of member's reduced allowance.
  • Option 3: Allows member to provide beneficiary 50% of member's reduced allowance.
  • Option 4: Can be customized to provide for multiple beneficiaries. Member receives reduced unmodified allowance. (7-10-06)

7. Q: How can I find out when LACERA presents Pre-Retirement Workshops in different areas?
A:
Check our Pre-Retirement Workshop Calendar to see when workshops are scheduled in different areas. To reserve a space in the Pre-Retirement Workshop, call 800-786-6464. (5-27-08)

8. Q: When will a LACERA representative be visiting the High Desert Health System again?
A:
A Retirement Benefits Specialist from LACERA will be available at the benefit table in your cafeteria conference room to answer any questions you have on the 4th Thursday of every month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (3-18-08)

9. Q: If I retire on or before March 31 will I be eligible for the cost-of-living adjustment on April 1?
A:
Yes. Many members take advantage of the April 1 COLA by retiring on or before March 31. It is best to consult with a Retirement Benefits Specialist as factors like birth date and age are also important in choosing a retirement date. (8-16-11)

10. Q: What documents do I need to apply for retirement?
A: There are several documents you will need to initiate the process of retirement. First, you should contact LACERA six months before you plan to retire at 800-786-6464 and request a Retirement Benefit Estimate. Or, you can create your own preliminary Retirement Benefit Estimate if you register on MY LACERA at lacera.com. This estimate will show your personal retirement options in detail.

Plan to visit LACERA to discuss your retirement options with a Retirement Benefits Specialist. You will need to bring the following documents to apply for retirement: your signed Election to Retire form, original birth certificate for your eligible spouse or domestic partner if you elect Option 2, 3, 4 or Unmodified+Plus, and your checkbook (to establish Direct Deposit for your retirement allowance). We also suggest that you attend a Pre-Retirement Workshop at LACERA where we will review all the forms and information necessary to help you plan your retirement.

Another good reference for you is our The Process of Retiring web page which includes a Checklist for Retirement Planning to review all the necessary steps in applying for retirement. 
(6-11-08)

11. Q: When I become eligible to retire, will LACERA automatically retire me?
A:
No. You must contact LACERA at 800-786-6464 to initiate your application for retirement. LACERA does not automatically retire employees.*  We recommend you contact LACERA to attend a Pre-Retirement Workshop five years prior to retirement. Another source of information about the retirement process is our The Process of Retiring web page. (6-10-08)

*One exception is members with double accounts. They may retire at age 50 for Plan D and then be automatically retired at 55 for Plan E.

12. Q: If I provide a certified copy of my marriage certificate, will I get it back?
A:
LACERA does require original certified marriage certificates, domestic partner registration, and birth certificates for dependent children that have been recorded by the county, state, or country of residence for our files. Once we receive your original certificates, we will scan copies into our files and return the original certificate to you in the mail. (5-12-08)

13. Q: Should I report for work on my retirement date?
A:
No. Don't report to work on your retirement date. For example, if your effective retirement date is September 10, you don't have to report to work on that day. You are retired! (5-12-08)

14. Q: Once I retire, can I return to work for the County?
A:
An eligible retiree may return to work for the County for a period of up to 120 days (960 hours in any 12-month period) and continue to receive his/her retirement allowance. During this post-retirement employment, however, the member will not accrue any additional LACERA pension benefits, nor will the member or the employer pay contributions for this service.

There is a 90-day waiting period following retirement for retirees under Normal Retirement Age who are returning to work.

Normal Retirement Age for members of LACERA:

  • Age 57 for general contributory members
  • Age 65 for general noncontributory members
  • Age 55 for safety members

IRS penalties may apply to retirees under age 59.5 who have not had a "bona fide" separation (90-day waiting period) from service and are engaged in post-retirement work with the County. For information pertaining to your individual situation, consult with a professional advisor; LACERA does not offer tax or legal advice. (5-27-08)

15. Q: I'm going to retire soon, and I would like information about the health care plans available to retired members.
A: For a list of current LACERA-Administered Retiree Healthcare information online, visit our Retiree Healthcare section. (3-3-08)

16. Q: I am an active County employee, and I do not carry my wife on my health insurance. If I retire, can I add her as a dependent on my LACERA-Administered Healthcare Plan?
A:
Yes. Once you retire, you can enroll in a LACERA-Administered Healthcare Plan and include your spouse on your healthcare coverage. Eligible dependents for your LACERA-Administered Healthcare Plan include:

  • Your spouse
  • Your eligible domestic partner
  • Your unmarried natural or legally adopted children or stepchildren, under 19 or up to 23 who are enrolled as full-time students and depend on you for financial support
  • Your unmarried dependent children over 19 who are incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental handicap and meet specific requirements (6-09-08)

17. Q: I'm an active County employee and will turn 65 in a few months. Should I apply for Medicare?
A:
If you are still an active County employee at age 65, you should contact the County Employees Benefits Office at (213) 388-9982 to inquire about Medicare eligibility and enrollment. If you retire at age 65 and you are eligible for Medicare, you can enroll in a LACERA-administered Medicare Plan.
(5-27-08)

8/3/16
 
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