In SBCERA’s continued effort to easily explain the complex information related to pensions, our retirement experts have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and answers to those questions.
Retired or Deferred Members
I can’t login to mySBCERA. What do I do?
Have you clicked either “Forgot your Password” or “Forgot your Username” on the mySBCERA page? This will send an email to the email address we have on file for you in our system. You may not receive anything if we have an old or outdated email, but check in your email’s spam folder first. If you don’t receive the email or think we have an outdated email, you can send a message to SBCERA’s IT Support at firstname.lastname@example.org and they can help get you logged in.
What deductions can I have from my retirement check?
Most Benefit deductions are elected by you and set up either when you retire or during an open enrollment period. If you want additional details on retiree deductions you can visit Optional Benefit Deductions page. There you will find contact information for numerous organizations that may be deducting from your benefit check. You will also find the forms you will need to fill out to designate or change a deduction. Keep in mind that certain deductions cannot be changed or canceled if they are court ordered.
I didn’t receive my retirement benefit direct deposit or check. Is there a problem?
All monthly retirement and death benefits are scheduled to be paid on the last business day of the month. If you do not receive your benefit payment by the 8th of the following month, please contact SBCERA by emailing email@example.com.
What benefits are available to my beneficiary if I die while retired?
The benefits that are available to your beneficiary if you pass away in retirement are determined by the retirement option you choose at retirement. To review those options and the benefits available to a beneficiary, please visit Beneficiary Resources page.
Can someone contact me to set up an appointment?
All of SBCERA’s retirement representatives are happy to help consult and inform the over 40,000 members and beneficiaries of SBCERA. Keep in mind, that SBCERA offers numerous Seminars, Webinars and Group Consultations to help you better understand retirement. For information on these opportunities, please visit the Seminars page.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to have a retirement representative discuss scheduling an appointment. When we receive the email, we can notify the retirement representative associated with your last name.
I terminated employment and I am waiting for a refund check. When will it be ready?
Upon termination of your employment, you must request a refund from SBCERA; it is not automatic. To request a refund/rollover of your contributions, you must complete a Request for Refund of Contributions form. Please be aware that it will take six to ten weeks for your refund to be issued.
Keep in mind the following factors that may affect your refund processing time:
- You were married during your membership with SBCERA and are now divorced. SBCERA requires your final judgment along with your refund request.
- You are married but your spouse will not sign the spousal acknowledgment form.
- You selected any item under Section 3 of the Justification for Non-Signature of Spouse form.
Any of the above scenarios will require review by SBCERA’s Legal Services department, which may delay your refund beyond the six to ten week processing time.
I am leaving my job with an SBCERA covered employer. What are my options?
There are several options available to you depending on why you are leaving and where you are going. If you are leaving for another public employer with which SBCERA has a reciprocal relationship, you may want to review our web page on Reciprocity. If you are terminating employment with no plans to join another public employer and establish reciprocity, you can review the web page Termination Before Retirement.
Can I borrow money from my SBCERA retirement account?
No, you are unable to borrow money from an SBCERA retirement account.
I want to register for an SBCERA seminar.
The fastest and easiest way to register for a seminar is to log into MemberDirect by visiting www.SBCERA.org/MD. After you login, there is a menu on the right side with Seminar – Register. Click Register and select the seminar you would like to attend under the Available Seminars. Click Details and put the number of attendees, and then click Register. Please visit the Seminars page for additional information.
What benefits are available to my beneficiary if I die while actively employed?
If you die while in active service, there are various death benefit options available for your beneficiary or beneficiaries. To view all the options that are available to your eligible beneficiaries if you pass while in active service, please visit the Death Benefits page.
What kind of service can I purchase and how do I figure out how much it will cost?
There are several types of service you may be eligible to purchase. For a full list please visit the Purchasing Service Credit page. To determine the cost of service you are interested in purchasing, please send an email to servicecredit@SBCERA.org. Please include the type of service you are interested in and any details regarding the time you are interested in, i.e., “I am an employee with the San Bernardino County Department of Human Services and I am interested in purchasing some authorized sick leave from January of 2017 to March of 2017. I was not being paid or using sick time accruals during this authorized leave.” The cost for purchasing will depend on a number of factors and an SBCERA representative will provide a no obligation estimate based on the type of service purchase.
What type of service purchase counts toward vesting, retirement eligibility or 30 Year Milestone?
Redepositing Withdrawn Contributions, Past Ineligible Service and Authorized Leave are the three types of service you can purchase that count towards vesting, retirement eligibility and the 30 Year Milestone. Purchasing Prior Public Agency Service (PPAS) does not count towards vesting and retirement eligibility.
My coworker mentioned I could buy time even if I didn’t earn it. Can I?
No. Prior to January 1, 2013, SBCERA Members were allowed to purchase Additional Retirement Credit (ARC) time. The California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) now prohibits the purchase of ARC time.
I received an estimate to purchase service. How can I pay for it?
If you received an estimate from SBCERA to purchase service credit and would like to begin the process, you can contact the SBCERA Representative listed on the estimate. They will be able to provide you the options for paying for the service, which include an after-tax lump sum, an after-tax payment plan or a pre-tax roll-over from an employer-sponsored defined contribution retirement savings account, such as a 457(b), 401(a) or 401(k) plan.
How do I apply for a Disability Retirement?
You will contact SBCERA by emailing BORDisabilityUnit@sbcera.org or by calling 909-885- 7980. You will be sent a Disability Retirement Application with instructions on next steps in the process.
These additional documents were created to address other common questions associated with the following topics:
Cost-Of-Living Adjustments (COLA)
How was the 2.00% COLA created?
On June 6, 1983, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors adopted California Government Code (GC) section 31874 and implemented an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for every SBCERA retirement allowance, optional death allowance, or annual death allowance, not to exceed 2.00% per year in accordance with GC section 31870.
Is the COLA vested?
The COLA is a vested benefit, but the amount of the COLA depends on the regional Consumer Price Index (CPI). Therefore, it may vary from year to year.
Is the COLA always 2.00%?
No. The COLA depends on the change in the regional CPI, but in no event can the COLA exceed 2.00% per year.
Does the Board of Retirement determine the regional CPI?
No. The regional CPI is determined by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How is the COLA determined?
Prior to April 1st of each year, the Board of Retirement must refer to the November 30th, Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for the area in which the county seat is situated in order to determine whether there has been an increase or decrease in the CPI as of January 1st of each year.
Where can I find the current Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) CPI?
Go to https://www.bls.gov/cpi/ and follow these steps:
- Click on CPI Data (third blue box from the left, towards the top of the screen) and select Regional Resources. Select “Riverside,” under Metro Areas on the right side of the screen.
- To determine the CPI increase from November of one year to November of a later year, you must divide the CPI amount from November of the latter year by the CPI amount from the November of the earlier year. The November 2019 CPI amount was 106.573. Therefore, 106.573 (November 2019) divided by 103.616 (November 2018) is 1.0285, or an increase of 2.85%.
Is there a carryover in cost-of-living for years that exceed 2.00%?
Yes. Pursuant to GC section 31870, the cost-of-living increase or decrease in any year which is not met by the maximum annual change of 2.00% in allowances shall be accumulated or “banked” to be met by the increases or decreases in allowance in future years; except that no CPI decrease shall reduce the allowance below the amount being received by the member or beneficiary on the effective date of the allowance. Below is an example of how the accumulation or “banked” amount would work for a member who has retired between April 2, 1996 and April 1, 1997:
|Date Granted||CPI (%)||Adjusted CPI* (%)||COLA (%)||Change in Bank (%)||COLA Bank Balance (%)|
* GC section 31870 requires CPI to be rounded to the nearest one-half percent.
Is there a carryover if the cost-of-living is negative?
Yes. If the annual CPI index is negative, any positive accumulations from prior years will be offset by the current year’s negative figure. In this case, a retired member will still receive a COLA, not to exceed 2.00%, if there is a positive credit in their accumulated or “banked” balance from previous years.
What happens if the annual CPI index is negative and the accumulated or “banked” account is already negative or zero?
The negative CPI figure will be accumulated or “banked” and offset against positive increases in the CPI in future years. In this situation, the retired member would not receive a COLA in the current year and would not receive a COLA in future years until their accumulated or “banked” balance is positive.
How much is in my COLA “Bank”?
It depends on the member’s retirement date. See the table below.
|Member Retirement Date||COLA Bank Balance 4/1/2018||Adjusted CPI*||COLA Effective 4/1/2019||Change in Bank||COLA Bank Balance 4/1/2020|
|Pre-April 1, 1984||April 1, 1984||32.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||33.50%|
|April 2, 1984||April 1, 1985||30.00%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||31.00%|
|April 2, 1985||April 1, 1986||27.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||28.50%|
|April 2, 1986||April 1, 1988||24.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||25.50%|
|April 2, 1988||April 1, 1989||21.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||22.50%|
|April 2, 1989||April 1, 1990||18.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||19.50%|
|April 2, 1990||April 1, 1991||14.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||15.50%|
|April 2, 1991||April 1, 1992||11.00%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||12.00%|
|April 2, 1992||April 1, 2000||10.00%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||11.00%|
|April 2, 2000||April 1, 2001||9.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||10.50%|
|April 2, 2001||April 1, 2003||8.00%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||9.00%|
|April 2, 2003||April 1, 2005||6.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||7.50%|
|April 2, 2005||April 1, 2006||4.00%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||5.00%|
|April 2, 2006||April 1, 2018||3.00%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||4.00%|
|April 2, 2018||April 1, 2019||1.50%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||2.50%|
|April 2, 2019||April 1, 2020||0.00%||3.00%||2.00%||1.00%||1.00%|
* GC section 31870 requires CPI to be rounded to the nearest one-half percent.
Does the COLA compound?
Yes. The COLA compounds.
This FAQ Sheet was drafted by the SBCERA staff in order to help members understand complex pension issues surrounding the COLA. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information offered. However, you should not rely solely on the information contained herein. In the event of any discrepancy between the information contained in this FAQ and the Government Code provisions or the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, the Code provisions and the CPI will govern.
SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney
What is the purpose of having a power of attorney for my SBCERA retirement account?
Whether an Active, Retired or Deferred Member of SBCERA, a power of attorney will allow you to designate a representative to conduct retirement affairs on your behalf. By doing so, this designated person called an Attorney-In-Fact can perform important duties relating to your retirement affairs.
What is an SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney form?
The SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney (POA) form has two distinguishing features:
- It allows an SBCERA member or their beneficiary to designate someone known as an Attorney-In-Fact to handle retirement affairs such as filing applications, making tax withholding elections, and endorsing checks.
- It also contains a durability clause, which allows the Attorney-In-Fact to work on retirement matters on the member’s behalf in the event the member becomes ill or incapacitated.
Why would I need one?
As you age or experience illness, the chance that you may become unable to handle your personal business and financial affairs increases. You have the option to make the POA effective immediately or only upon the event of your incapacity. If you elect to make the POA effective immediately, then it will continue even after you, the principal, become incapacitated or unable to handle your own affairs.
Can I still handle my own retirement affairs with a Special Durable Power of Attorney on file?
Yes. With any type of POA form on file, you may still handle your own retirement affairs.
Can I use the SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney form to appoint an administrator of my estate prior to my death?
No. California Probate Code prohibits the use of this form to appoint an administrator of your estate. An administrator of your estate must be appointed by a court of law.
Does the SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney form automatically authorize my Attorney-In-Fact to conduct business after my death?
No. The Special Durable Power of Attorney form terminates upon your death.
Can I terminate my SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney should I desire to do so?
Yes, as long as you are still competent, you may submit a written request to SBCERA asking that the SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney form be revoked or terminated.
Can I execute the SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney form outside of California?
Yes, as long as it is properly notarized or witnessed as required on the form.
If I do not have an SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney form, can my Attorney-In-Fact change my beneficiary designation?
If you have already retired, neither you nor your Attorney-In-Fact may change your beneficiary designation. However, if you are not retired, either you or your Attorney- In-Fact may change your beneficiary designation depending on the type of POA that is on file with SBCERA. California Probate Code requires that an Attorney-In-Fact may only change beneficiary information if that power is expressly stated in the power of attorney form.
Should I retain a copy of the SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney?
Yes. It is a good idea to keep a copy of the original form for your personal records.
Are all power of attorney forms the same?
No, there are three types of power of attorney forms:
- General or Special Power of Attorney Form
A General or Special Power of Attorney form allows you to designate a representative to handle your retirement plan transactions as specified on the form. However, it does not contain a durability clause. Therefore, it automatically terminates once you become unable to act on your own behalf.
- Durable General Power of Attorney Form
Unlike a General or Special Power of Attorney form, a Durable General Power of Attorney form includes a durability clause. This durability clause is a provision stating that your designated representative can continue to act on your behalf should you become unable to handle your own retirement affairs.
- Special Durable Power of Attorney Form
A Special Durable Power of Attorney form grants broader powers than a General or Durable General Power of Attorney. In addition to changing your address, endorsing checks, and making tax elections, a representative holding a Special Durable Power of Attorney may be able to perform other actions depending on the language in the power of attorney. A Special Durable Power of Attorney will be terminated upon your death and the Attorney-In-Fact will no longer be able to conduct business on your behalf. SBCERA offers a Special Durable Power of Attorney form for your retirement matters.
If you can no longer handle your own retirement affairs and have a Durable General or Special Durable Power of Attorney, your designated representative will still be able to conduct them for you. However, if you only have a General or Special Power of Attorney without a durable provision, your representative may not be able to continue handling your affairs.
Does SBCERA accept power of attorney designations that are not on SBCERA forms?
Yes. However, the use of a non-SBCERA POA form may limit the scope of your Attorney-In-Fact’s ability to conduct SBCERA business on your behalf. The primary advantage of using an SBCERA Special Durable Power of Attorney form is that it contains a durability clause and specifically shows your intent that your Attorney-In- Fact can conduct your retirement business with SBCERA.
This FAQ Sheet was drafted by the SBCERA staff in order to help members understand pension issues surrounding powers of attorney. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information offered. However, you should not rely solely on the information contained herein. In the event of any discrepancy between the information contained in this FAQ and state and federal law, the state and federal law will govern.
SBCERA’s staff is unable to address specific legal questions. If you have legal questions about your power of attorney or executing one, then you should consult competent legal counsel.
Domestic Relations Order
What is a Domestic Relations Order (DRO)?
A DRO is a court order containing certain information and legal requirements that identify your former spouse’s interest in your retirement benefit. The DRO directs SBCERA to pay benefits to your former spouse.
Do I need to file any other document with the Court prior to submitting the DRO to SBCERA?
Yes. SBCERA cannot accept or review a DRO until you have filed a Joinder with the Court and it has been served on SBCERA. Upon doing so, the DRO should be submitted to SBCERA for review prior to submitting it to the Court.
What is a Joinder?
A Joinder is a legal document joining SBCERA as a third party to your divorce proceedings. It must be served on SBCERA before preparing a DRO. The Joinder notifies SBCERA that your former spouse is claiming a right to a portion of your retirement benefits. Once SBCERA has been joined to your divorce, generally SBCERA cannot make any benefit payments or distributions to anyone until a DRO has been received.
Why do I need to have a DRO?
Without a DRO, SBCERA cannot legally make any payments to your former spouse. In addition, if SBCERA has been served with a Joinder, SBCERA cannot make any distributions of your retirement benefit to you or your former spouse.
Do I need to file the DRO with the Court?
Yes, the DRO must be filed with the Court. SBCERA cannot implement a DRO until it has been filed with the Court and signed by the judge.
Does SBCERA need to approve the DRO before I file it with the Court?
Yes, SBCERA should approve the DRO before you file it with the Court. By submitting a proposed copy of your DRO to SBCERA for review, you can ensure all general legal requirements and required language and/or provisions are included to prevent unnecessary delays and multiple court orders.
If SBCERA identifies any changes that need to be made to the DRO, you will be notified in writing. The same will occur if SBCERA does not identify any changes. The DRO should continue to be submitted to SBCERA until it has been approved. Once SBCERA has approved the proposed DRO, it can be filed with the Court.
Does my former spouse have to sign the DRO?
A DRO is an agreement between you and your former spouse. Therefore, your former spouse must sign the DRO. The DRO must also be signed by the judge.
Once I file the DRO with the Court, when do I need to submit the DRO to SBCERA?
Once the DRO is filed with the Court, submit it immediately to SBCERA. Most importantly, the DRO must be delivered to SBCERA before retiring or refunding; otherwise, SBCERA will be unable to make any distribution of your retirement benefit to you or your former spouse.
What requirements must a DRO contain?
Although every DRO may be different, the basic requirements that a DRO should contain are:
- The name and last known mailing address of the Member and former spouse.
- The date of marriage and the date of separation.
- The calculation for the former spouse’s dollar amount or share of the Member’s retirement benefits.
- A selected retirement option.
What cannot be included in a DRO?
- The DRO must not grant the former spouse any type or form of benefit, or any option that would not otherwise be available to the member under SBCERA.
- The DRO must not provide the former spouse increased benefits (as determined on actuarial value) not available to the member.
- The DRO must not order payment of any benefit to the former spouse that is already required to be paid to another former spouse under a different court order.
- The DRO must not provide payment to the former spouse of benefits forfeited by the Member.
- The DRO must not change the benefit selections of the Member once the Member has retired.
Does the DRO need to specify which retirement option the Member must select at the time of retirement?
Yes. The DRO must include the retirement option the Member is to select at the time of retirement that provides for a continuance to the former spouse and/or an eligible surviving spouse.
What are the different retirement options that can be incorporated into the DRO to provide for a continuance?
There are four different retirement options that you can incorporate into the DRO to provide for a continuance:
- Unmodified Option –provides for a 60% continuance to an eligible surviving spouse. The former spouse may be entitled to a portion of a surviving spouse’s continuance. However, if the unmodified option was selected by the Member at retirement, but prior to the member’s divorce then the spouse named as the beneficiary at the time of retirement, which is now the former spouse, will no longer qualify for the unmodified continuance. This is pursuant to Government Code section 31760.1 or for death benefits under Government Code sections 31765, 31765.1, or31786.
- Option 2 – provides for a 100% continuance to the nominated beneficiary (i.e. former spouse).
- Option 3 – provides for a 50% continuance to the nominated beneficiary (i.e. former spouse).
- Option 4 – provides for various continuances to multiple beneficiaries, such as the former spouse and/or an eligible surviving spouse. Typically, the continuance is based on the calculation of a share of the benefit payable to the former spouse.
Note: Depending on the option selected, the Member or former spouse may receive a reduced benefit. Please consult with a Retirement Specialist for more information about the retirement options.
Does the DRO need to address any pre-retirement death benefits?
Yes, the DRO needs to address pre-retirement death benefits. The DRO should provide instructions to SBCERA regarding how to pay out various death benefits if the Member dies during active employment.
Does the DRO provide for SBCERA to create separate retirement accounts for the Member and former spouse?
No, SBCERA is unable to create separate accounts for the Member and former spouse.
I am an active member, who is eligible to retire, and a joinder has been filed with the Court and served on SBCERA. I am already paying my former spouse his/her interest in my retirement as part of the property settlement agreement. Do I still need to file a DRO and submit it toSBCERA?
Yes. In the event that you retire, since a joinder has been served on SBCERA, you must file a DRO. SBCERA will be unable to make any distribution of your retirement benefits to you or your former spouse without the DRO unless the Joinder is released by the Court.
I am retired and subsequently went through a divorce. Do I need to file a DRO and submit it to SBCERA?
In this situation, the need for a DRO is dependent on the division of property as determined by the Court in your property settlement agreement (dissolution judgment). If the Court awarded your former spouse an interest in your retirement, then yes, you must file a Joinder and DRO and submit it to SBCERA, even though you are retired. However, if the Court did not award an interest in your retirement to your former spouse, then you do not need to file a Joinder and a DRO.
Does SBCERA have sample DROs that I can use?
Yes, SBCERA offers various sample DROs to assist you in the development of an acceptable order. You can find them on our Web site at www.SBCERA.org (click here) or you can request samples by mail or phone by calling (909) 885- 7980 or toll free (877) 722-3721. The disposition of retirement benefits in DRO proceedings involve complex marital and tax issues. Therefore, SBCERA encourages you to seek competent legal counsel to assist you with any of these issues.
This FAQ Sheet was drafted by the SBCERA staff in order to help members understand pension issues surrounding domestic relations orders. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information offered. However, you should not rely solely on the information contained herein. In the event of any discrepancy between the information contained in this FAQ and state and federal law, the state and federal law will govern.
SBCERA’s staff is unable to address specific legal questions. If you have legal questions about your power of attorney or executing one, then you should consult competent legal counsel.