Glossary

Below are definitions for common SBCERA-related terms used throughout the website and on various communication materials.

 '37 Act – The County Employees Retirement Law of 1937–better known as the '37 Act– is a body of law enacted to govern retirement benefits for certain public employees. SBCERA is one of 20 county retirement systems in California subject to the provisions of the '37 Act.

Active Member – Member who is currently working for an SBCERA employer and participating in SBCERA membership.

Actuary – A licensed professional who assesses the financial security of the pension plan.

Additional Retirement Credit (ARC) – A type of service credit purchase that allowed Tier 1 members to buy up to five years of ARC to increase their total retirement service credit. The time purchased was not based on actual employment. Per the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), this type of service credit purchase is no longer available for any SBCERA members.

Age Factor – The factor determined by age that is used in determining retirement benefits. There are maximum ages for all membership tiers and classifications. Working beyond a maximum age will not provide you with any further age benefit, but you will continue to add to your retirement benefit by adding to your years of service credit and, possibly, achieving a higher final average compensation. The maximum age for Tier 1 Safety members is 50; for Tier 1 General members it is age 65. For Tier 2 members, it is age 57 for Safety members and age 67 for General members.

Annuity – A series of payments (retirement benefits) derived from your contributions and interest for a specific period of time such as a number of years or for life.

Beneficiary – Person(s) you name to receive a lump-sum distribution and/or monthly continuance (if eligible) upon your death. If no beneficiary is named or if the beneficiary is no longer living, the beneficiary will be your surviving:

  • 1. Legal spouse or registered domestic partner
  • 2. Children, or if none,
  • 3. Estate.
  • NOTE: Beneficiary designations are subject to modification by court order.

Benefits – Payments from SBCERA such as monthly retirement payments, disability payments or lump-sum payments.

Bona Fide Separation from Service – There are certain limitations, as established by legislation, SBCERA By-Laws and/or federal tax laws, for members who plan to return to work for a participating SBCERA employer following their retirement:

  • Safety members – If a Safety member retires from SBCERA prior to reaching "normal retirement age," age 50, they must wait at least 60 days following their retirement date to return to any paid employment status with a participating SBCERA employer. In addition, they cannot enter into a pre-arrangement, oral or written, to return to work with a participating SBCERA employer following retirement.
  • General members – All General members must wait at least 180 days following their retirement date to return to any paid employment status with a participating SBCERA employer. In addition, they cannot enter into a pre-arrangement, oral or written, to return to work with a participating SBCERA employer following retirement.

COLA – A Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is an annual percentage change in a member's monthly SBCERA retirement or death benefit, not to exceed 2% per year. The COLA is awarded by the Board of Retirement on April 1st of each year based on the increase or decrease in the regional Consumer Price Index (CPI) as of January 1st of that year.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) – An indicator of the cost of living published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. It is an indicator of the changing purchasing power of the dollar.

Contributions:

  • Employee – Money deducted from your pay and credited to your retirement account.
  • Employer – Money paid by your employer on behalf of SBCERA members, in total, to finance all SBCERA benefits.

Deductions – Money taken out of your active employee pay or retirement benefit.

Deferred Reciprocal Member – A member who is no longer employed by a participating SBCERA employer, has elected to defer receiving their retirement benefit and has entered employment with a reciprocal public agency within 180 days of termination from their SBCERA-covered employment.

Deferred Retirement – As a vested member, you may leave your retirement contributions, if any, on deposit with SBCERA and elect to retire at a later date when you are eligible and ready to begin receiving your retirement benefit.

Disability Retirement – For purposes of the Retirement Plan, "disabled" means you are "permanently incapacitated for the performance of duty."

  • Service-Connected Disability – The disability is a result of injury or disease arising out of and in the course of employment.
  • Nonservice-Connected Disability – The disability is not related to your job. NOTE: You must have at least five years of service credit to be considered for nonservice-connected disability retirement benefits.

Domestic Partnership – A State-registered committed partnership between same-sex couples or opposite sex couples where one partner is age 62 or over. While registration is not the same as marriage, it does secure many important rights and responsibilities. SBCERA recognizes registered domestic partners as eligible beneficiaries if they meet the required criteria.

Domestic Relations Order (DRO) – A legal judgment, decree or order acknowledging the right of a former spouse or domestic partner to a community property interest in your retirement benefits. The DRO directs SBCERA to pay benefits to a former spouse or domestic partner.

Earnable Compensation – For Tier 1 members, earnable compensation is your base pay plus any additional payable items, allowances and cash-outs such as uniform allowance or shift differential. Earnable compensation does not include pay for overtime worked.

Eligible Beneficiary – This is a person you name in writing to receive certain benefits provided by the plan upon your death.

Eligible Child – Your child (or children, if applicable) who is unmarried and under the age of 18, or under the age of 22 if an unmarried, full-time student.

Eligible Domestic Partner – The same-sex partner to whom you are legally registered. Or, it could be your opposite-sex partner over the age of 62 to whom you are legally registered. For purposes of receiving a benefit, the term is defined differently depending on the situation.

Eligible Spouse – The person to whom you are legally married. For purposes of receiving a benefit, the term is defined differently depending on the situation.

Entry Age – For Tier 1 members, this is your age when you joined and/or rejoined SBCERA membership or your entry age from another public pension system with which you have previously established reciprocity. Your entry age is used to determine your member contribution rate and stays the same throughout your membership with SBCERA.

Final Average Compensation – One of the factors used in determining your lifetime monthly retirement benefit. For Tier 1 members, it is your highest 12-consecutive months of earnable compensation at any time during your membership or another agency with which you have established reciprocity. For Tier 2 members, it is the average of your highest 36-consecutive months of pensionable compensation at any time during your membership with SBCERA.

General Member – You are a General member if you do any work for an employer other than active law enforcement or active fire suppression.

Member Statement – An annual account notice sent to your mailing address providing Active, Deferred Vested and Deferred Reciprocal members with a summary of their SBCERA retirement account including future benefit estimates and their designated beneficiaries.

Nonrefundable Contributions Option – An option your employer may offer that allows you to contribute to SBCERA at a lower rate (rate subject to annual review); however, upon your termination of employment with a participating SBCERA employer or your death, you and/or your beneficiary will not be entitled to a refund of any nonrefundable contributions.

Pensionable Compensation – For Tier 2 members, it is your normal monthly rate of pay, or base pay, paid to similarly situated members of the same group or class of employment for services rendered on a full-time basis during normal working hours. Pay items excluded from pensionable compensation include, but are not limited to, leave cash outs, standby pay, overtime, payments for services outside of normal working hours, bonuses and allowances. There is a cap on pensionable compensation equivalent to 120% of the Social Security level adjusted by changes in the Consumer Price Index annually on January 1st following the annual valuation.

Prior Public Agency Service (PPAS) – Prior service in a public agency such as Federal civil service, military service and some public employers in California. NOTE: This service is not purchasable if you are entitled to receive a pension or retirement benefit for it.

California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) –State legislation, i.e. Assembly Bill 340, that set forth sweeping changes to public employee retirement benefits in California. While PEPRA had little to no impact on existing SBCERA members, new benefit levels were mandated for those hired on or after January 1, 2013. In response, SBCERA established a new tier, Tier 2, for those hired on or after January 1, 2013 and, therefore, subject to the provisions of PEPRA.  

Refundable Contributions – Contributions paid at the normal rate to SBCERA. You would be eligible to receive a refund of these contributions, your employer refundable pick-up portion (if applicable or if any) and the interest on both upon termination of your employment with a participating SBCERA employer or your death.

Reciprocal – Referring to the shared relationship/membership in two or more California public retirement plans that enhances benefits and “links” them together. See also "reciprocity."

Reciprocity – An agreement between SBCERA and another California public retirement system allowing you to receive retirement benefits from both, under certain circumstances and requirements.

Redeposit – Paying back money and related interest previously withdrawn from your Retirement Plan account to restore service credit.

Retirement Date – The first date retirement income is payable to you and the date when your retirement election becomes irrevocable.

Safety Member – You are a Safety member if you are employed in active law enforcement or active fire suppression.

SBCERA – San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Association (also referred to as “the Plan” or “the System”).

Service Credit – Credit you earn over time as an SBCERA member. It is expressed as years and/or portions of a year. For members who are part-time employees, a proportionate amount of credit is earned.

Summary Plan Description – A general description of SBCERA retirement plan provisions offered to plan participants and beneficiaries (also known as “The Compass”).

Survivor Benefits – Those benefits payable to a General member’s eligible spouse, registered domestic partner or children upon their death.

Tier 1 Member – Those SBCERA members with a membership date prior to January 1, 2013. Or, those members who are eligible for and establish reciprocity with an eligible public retirement system for service prior to January 1, 2013.

Tier 2 Member – Those SBCERA members with a membership date on or after January 1, 2013, unless the member is eligible for and establishes reciprocity with another eligible public retirement system for service prior to January 1, 2013.

Vested – Members are considered “vested” or eligible to receive a future benefit after achieving five years of service credit.