While you cannot transfer (“roll over”) contributions earned in a public retirement system to and/or from another retirement system, you may be eligible to establish reciprocity with the new system. Reciprocity allows you to link public retirement systems to preserve and enhance your total retirement benefits. Essentially, it gives you portability by allowing you to leave your retirement contributions on deposit, regardless of your length of service, and to take a deferred retirement.
Advantages of Reciprocity
- The service credit earned in one system may be used to meet the service credit requirements for vesting and/or retirement eligibility in another system. However, when calculating your benefit amount, each system will only use the years of service credit earned with their system.
- Your highest final average compensation from either system may be used by both (or all) systems to determine your retirement benefit.
- If you were a member of an eligible reciprocal public retirement system prior to January 1, 2013 and establish reciprocity, you may be eligible for the tier and benefit levels in place prior to January 1, 2013. Therefore, those entering SBCERA as Tier 2 members who establish reciprocity with another public retirement system, where they were a member prior to January 1, 2013, may be eligible for Tier 1 SBCERA membership. Upon doing so, your SBCERA contribution rate will likely change based on the tier you are placed in. Be aware that you may owe additional contributions or receive a refund for overpayment of contributions due to the change in your contribution rate.
Requirements to Establish Reciprocity
To establish reciprocity between SBCERA and another eligible public retirement system, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must elect to establish reciprocity with an eligible public retirement system. It is not automatic.
- The time between leaving one public retirement system and entering another cannot exceed six months, or 180 days.
- There cannot be any overlapping service credit. You must have a clean break in service from the previous system before entering the new one. For example, you cannot be on vacation time with the previous system while working at the new system. SBCERA may be able to delay your membership date for up to six weeks.
- Your contributions from the previous system must be “on deposit” with that system, meaning you did not withdraw them when you terminated your employment.
- You cannot be retired from the other system earning your retirement benefit.
Electing to Establish Reciprocity
To elect to establish reciprocity, you must complete one of the following steps:
- New SBCERA members or returning SBCERA members: Complete the appropriate section regarding reciprocity (prior public agency employment) on the SBCERA Membership Enrollment Affidavit provided to you by your employer when you begin your employment.
- Current SBCERA members: Submit a written request to SBCERA including the name of the system with which you wish to establish reciprocity.
- Members leaving SBCERA-covered employment: Complete a Request to Defer Retirement form and indicate the reciprocal retirement system you want to establish reciprocity with.
Upon submitting your request, SBCERA will work closely with the other public retirement system to complete all necessary processes. SBCERA will inform you if, and when, reciprocity has been established. This process can take up to 8 to 10 months to complete.
Eligible Public Retirement Systems
SBCERA has reciprocal agreements with the following systems for those entering into membership with SBCERA:
- California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS)
- California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)
- Judge’s Retirement System (JRS) and the Judge’s Retirement System II (JRS II)
- Any pension plan that has reciprocity with CalPERS
- Retirement systems in the other 19 counties operated under the County Employee’s Retirement Law of 1937 (1937 Act), which includes:
- Contra Costa
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Joaquin
- San Mateo
- Santa Barbara
IMPORTANT: Tier 2 members leaving employment with an SBCERA participating employer may or may not be able to establish reciprocity with the systems listed above. Please check with the other public retirement system regarding whether they will allow reciprocity with SBCERA.
Retiring with Reciprocity
You must retire concurrently from both (or all) systems on the same date. You should provide proper notification to both (or all) agencies of your intended effective retirement date in order to start the retirement process with all systems at the same time.