SBCERA Cover Story

Among the many joys of summer, few can surpass the freedom and natural wonder of camping.

Stargazing, hiking, and relaxing amidst majestic trees are deeply woven into the California experience, and images of our parks and recreational sites – including many within San Bernardino National Forest – have become symbols of our state.

Of course, camping is only enjoyable with planning and preparation. Experienced campers know the importance of reserving a campsite, packing the necessary equipment and supplies, and following all safety instructions to ensure the best possible experience.

Similarly, enjoying a successful career and retirement through SBCERA is best accomplished when members stay on the trail. Often, it is difficult for new members to see the forest through the trees, as the very thought of retirement, not to mention all of the information and terminology, can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, SBCERA continues to provide easy access to resources and information to help you understand your membership, and guide you throughout your career and into retirement.

Regardless of your length of membership, it is always helpful to remember the basic aspects of participating in a defined benefit plan:

  1. Contributions: All SBCERA members (and employers) make contributions into a trust fund. These contributions are invested and grow, allowing SBCERA to pay benefits to retirees and beneficiaries. For members, contribution rates vary by your employer, membership tier (Tier I vs. Tier II), and classification (General vs. Safety).
  2. Lifetime Monthly Benefit: Unlike a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k) or 457(b), SBCERA administers a defined benefit plan. This means that when you retire, your benefit amount will not be based on how much you have contributed throughout your career. Rather, it will be based on your age at retirement, years of service credit, final average compensation, and your benefit formula.
  3. Vesting: Vesting is when you have earned 5 years of service credit. This major milestone qualifies members for a lifetime monthly benefit (upon also reaching eligible retirement age), as well as additional benefits.
  4. Reciprocity: If you previously worked for another California public retirement system, you may be eligible to link that system with SBCERA for continuous service credit. This is known as “reciprocity,” and it may bring you closer to vesting and/or retirement eligibility and allow your final average compensation to count for both systems. Reciprocity may also allow you to move from Tier II to Tier I membership (if you were part of another system prior to January 1, 2013), which may enhance your benefit.
  5. Service Credit Purchase: You may be eligible to purchase years of service credit in order to bring you closer to vesting, retirement eligibility and/or enhance your retirement benefit.
  6. Beneficiary: Your beneficiary is the person(s) designated to receive your contributions and/or a monthly benefit should you pass away. Remember to always know who you’ve selected as your beneficiary, and update with SBCERA as needed during your active membership.

To obtain more information about the fundamental aspects of SBCERA, including access to all important documents, retirement charts and brochures, newer members can now visit http://www.SBCERA.org/NewMemberOrientation. This simple page gives you all of the tools and equipment to establish your campsite and navigate the journey of SBCERA membership. With SBCERA as your guide, we are confident you will enjoy your journey and the path into retirement.