Member FAQs

Overview

Frequently Asked Questions

To assist you in finding the answers you seek and to learn more about OCERS, we have created the follow list of frequently asked questions and answers.  The Q&A are group by categories.  

At any time, if you have questions or need assistance, please contact us.

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Contribution & Interest Questions

Can I withdraw or borrow my retirement contributions from OCERS while I’m in active service?

The County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (CERL) prohibits members from withdrawing contributions from the retirement fund while in active service. You may withdraw contributions once you terminate OCERS covered employment.

Do I receive interest on my contributions? How is the rate determined?

Yes, the Government Code requires that contributions receive 2.5% interest twice a year.

Member contributions are credited with 2.5% at the end of June and December based on the account balance as of the prior 6 months.

How much money do I have in my retirement account?

You can view your current retirement contribution balance by logging into your myOCERS portal account and visiting the Participant Account section. You also have the ability to print a personalized account balance statement by visiting the Member Statements section of your myOCERS portal account. 

Contribution balances are updated every pay period and interest is accrued at the end of June and December.

What happens to my retirement contributions after I separate from active employment?

When you separate from active employment, you have several options:

If eligible, you may retire and receive a monthly retirement allowance.

If you are not retirement eligible, your retirement will be automatically deferred (postponed). 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.

In lieu of retirement, you may withdraw your contributions and interest. Be advised that taking a withdrawal terminates your membership in OCERS and by doing so, you will forfeit (give up) your right to any future retirement benefits from OCERS, including disability benefits.

Why is OCERS using an older age as the basis for my contribution rate rather than the age I started with my employer?

Your age at entry is determined by using your nearest age within 180 days (six months) of when you became an OCERS member. 

For example, if you are hired on July 1, enter OCERS membership at age 30, and your birthday is September 5, your entry age and contribution rate will be based on age 31 as your next birthday is less than 180 days.

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Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Questions

I hear that the best time of year to retire is on or before April 1 because I will be eligible to receive the cost-of-living adjustment on April 1. Is this true?

Possibly. The yearly COLA of up to 3% is credited to all members who retire on or before April 1 of each year. Many members take advantage of the April 1 COLA by retiring on or before that date. 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.

What is a COLA Bank?

A COLA Bank is established for each retiree when the amount of the annual comparison for the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) is greater than the maximum amount of COLA (3%) that can be granted by the Board of Retirement. 

The difference between the maximum amount of COLA and the CPI is credited to each retiree’s COLA bank. The COLA Bank is used to supplement any future COLAs whenever the amount of COLA approved by the Board is less than the 3% maximum amount allowed.

What is COLA and how is it determined?

COLA stands for cost-of-living adjustment. It is an annual adjustment to your retirement benefit to offset a change in purchasing power, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI). Each year the Board of Retirement determines the amount of COLA, if any. The maximum amount of COLA that can be applied to a benefit is 3% per year and is effective April 1.

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Deferred Membership Questions

What is a deferred member?

A deferred member is an OCERS member who separates from OCERS-covered employment and leaves his or her contributions on deposit with the retirement system. Deferred members may apply for an OCERS retirement allowance upon meeting minimum age and service credit requirements. Members are required to contact OCERS to initiate the process for retirement and can do so up to 60 days prior to their first eligible date of retirement.

At what age is distribution mandatory for a deferred member?

If you are a deferred member of our system (and you are not an active member of a reciprocal retirement system), and you have not applied for a retirement allowance or a withdrawal of your contributions and interest by the age of 70 ½, OCERS is required by law to begin distribution of your retirement benefits. 

OCERS will contact you by letter at the time you turn age 70 and remind you that you need to apply for a retirement benefit if eligible, or a withdrawal of your contributions. If you fail to do so by the time you reach age 70 ½, OCERS will process a lump sum refund of your contributions and interest.

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Disability Questions

How long does the disability process take and where can I get a disability application?

The disability process takes approximately 9-12 months. Processing time depends on the complexity of the case.

You may request a disability application by calling our office during regular business hours.

What is the difference between a Service Connected Disability and Non-Service Connected Disability Retirement?

A Service Connected Disability is when the member cannot perform the duties of their job and the disabling injury, illness, or condition was caused by the member’s employment.

A Non-Service Connected Disability is when a member can no longer perform the duties of his or her job, but the disabling condition is not caused by their employment. A member must have a minimum of five years of service credit in order to be eligible for a Non-Service Connected Disability Retirement.

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Divorce Questions

I am getting divorced. How will this affect my retirement benefits?

If the Court determines that your OCERS benefits are community property, a court order will direct the division of your OCERS benefits. Please contact OCERS as soon as possible to notify us of the divorce so that we can update your records. When the dissolution is final, OCERS will need a 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). OCERS’ legal staff will review the documents to ensure that they conform to OCERS’ plan administration requirements.

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General Questions

How do I inform OCERS of my new address?

Active employees should report a Change of Address to their Human Resources department. Their employer will then forward the information to OCERS electronically via the bi-weekly payroll records. 

Retired and Deferred members may report changes to OCERS directly by logging in to their myOCERS portal account or by completing a Change of Address Form and returning it to OCERS. The form can be printed from the forms section of our website.

How does a Defined Benefit plan differ from a Defined Contribution plan?

In a Defined Benefit plan, the employer promises to pay a specified benefit upon the employee’s retirement. That benefit is a lifetime benefit. The employer invests funds through the Retirement System and bears the risk of adverse investment performance.

Defined Contribution plans, such as 401(k) and 457 plans, are savings accounts. Benefit payments (withdrawals) under these plans stop when your money runs out. In these types of plans the employee decides how to invest the funds and bears the risk of adverse investment performance. Benefit amounts in defined contribution plans are determined by investment performance and the amount of contributions.

OCERS’ retirement plans are defined benefit plans and provide a guaranteed monthly allowance paid for the rest of the member’s life. OCERS benefits are based on your final average salary, retirement age, and years of service.

I need to report the death of an OCERS member/payee. What information does OCERS need? 

Please contact OCERS at (714) 558-6200 to report the death. Information regarding what is required will be provided at the time the death is reported to OCERS.

What is final compensation?

Final compensation is one factor used to calculate your monthly retirement allowance. It is an average of the your highest monthly pensionable income during any one-year or three-year period, depending on your plan.

Would OCERS send a representative to my home to verify my account information?

No. OCERS staff would never go to your home to verify your account information. OCERS takes protecting your confidential member data very seriously and it is not necessary for our staff to come to your home to verify information on your account.

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Reciprocity Questions

What is reciprocity?

OCERS 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 OCERS’ service credit requirements for retirement.

Your retirement allowance from both OCERS and the reciprocal system will be based on your higher final compensation, regardless of whether you earned that compensation as a member of OCERS or the reciprocal system.

Do I have to elect to establish reciprocity?

No, reciprocity is established automatically when you enter service within 180 days of leaving a reciprocal system and leave your contributions on deposit with the prior system.

How does establishing reciprocity benefit me?

Reciprocity may benefit you in several different ways. 

Reciprocal systems coordinate salary information so benefits are paid on the highest salary earned in either system.

Service years from both systems are combined for determining eligibility for retirement benefits as well as death benefits.

When contributions are based on age, your employee contributions to the second system will be based on the age you entered the first system.

I don’t know if my last job is reciprocal with OCERS. How do I find out?

First, check our list of reciprocal retirement systems below. If you do not know which retirement system is associated with your last job, contact OCERS with the name of your previous employer (public agency or district, city or town, county, school district, etc.), and we can determine the corresponding retirement system. If the system is reciprocal, we will contact that system for information to determine your eligibility for reciprocity.

Alameda County Employees Retirement Association 
Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association 
Federated City Employees Retirement System
Fresno County Employees Retirement Association 
Imperial County Employees Retirement System 
Judicial Retirement System 
Kern County Employees Retirement Association 
Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System 
Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association 
Marin County Employees Retirement Association 
Mendocino County Employees Retirement Association 
Merced County Employees Retirement Association 
Metropolitan Trans Authority 
Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)
Sacramento County Employees Retirement Association 
San Bernardino County Employees Retirement Association 
San Clemente City 
San Diego City Retirement System
San Diego County Employees Retirement Association 
San Francisco County Retirement System 
San Joaquin County Employees Retirement Association 
San Luis Obispo Trust 
San Mateo County Employees Retirement Association 
Santa Barbara County Employees Retirement System 
Sonoma County Employees Retirement Association 
Stanislaus County Employees Retirement Association 
State Teachers Retirement System
Tulare County Employees Retirement Association 
Ventura County Employees Retirement Association

To qualify for reciprocity, what is the time limit for moving from one reciprocal retirement system to another?

To qualify for reciprocity, your date of hire with the second system must be within six months following the termination of your employment with the first system. Your employment at one public agency must terminate before employment at the next public agency begins. Overlapping service, even service due to vacation or sick time, may cause disqualification for reciprocity.​

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Termination, Withdrawal, and Survivor Questions

I am the surviving spouse of an OCERS member who passed away in active service. Am I entitled to any survivor benefits?

If you are a surviving spouse/domestic partner of an active member who passes away, you may be eligible for death benefits in the form of a lump sum or monthly allowance depending on the member’s length of service and whether the death was service- or nonservice-connected. If the member’s death was service-connected, you must have been married/registered to the member prior to the injury or illness which resulted in death.

If I separate from active employment, can I roll my OCERS contributions over to an IRA?

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 OCERS, including disability 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 plan. Tax laws governing rollovers are complex. You will need to consult your tax advisor for detailed information.

What happens to my retirement contributions after I separate from active employment?

When you separate from active employment, you have several options:

If eligible, you may retire and receive a monthly retirement allowance.

If you are not retirement eligible, your retirement will be automatically deferred (postponed). 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.

In lieu of retirement, you may withdraw your contributions and interest. Be advised that taking a withdrawal terminates your membership in OCERS and by doing so, you will forfeit (give up) your right to any future retirement benefits from OCERS, including disability benefits.

What is the withdrawal process? And what is the turnaround time?

Upon separation of employment, OCERS requires a written notice of termination from the employer. After receipt of the notice of termination, OCERS mails a letter notifying you of available options regarding your funds.

If you wish to withdraw your contributions and interest from your OCERS account, you will need to complete and submit a Member/Beneficiary Request to Withdraw Contributions/Elect Rollover Form, which you can download from the OCERS website, to initiate the process. 

Your withdrawal request is processed within 8 to 10 weeks from your date of separation of employment, to allow for final salary records to post from your former employer. 

Be advised that taking a withdrawal terminates your membership in OCERS and by doing so, you will forfeit (give up) your right to any future retirement benefits from OCERS, including disability benefits.

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Website & myOCERS Portal

What is my Security PIN?

All users are required to provide their unique “SECURITY PIN” when registering to create your myOCERS account. Security PINs are provided to all new members in your Welcome Letter/1st Benefit Letter.  If you do not remember what your SECURITY PIN is, please Contact Us for assistance.

How do I unlock my myOCERS member portal account?

After three unsuccessful attempts, you must call our office at (714) 558-6200 and speak to someone in our Member Services department to assist you. After identification is verified, staff can unlock your account and walk you through the process until you are logged in

What if I have forgotten my password?

If you have forgotten your myOCERS password, please click on the “Forgot Password” link located beneath the User Log section on the myOCERS log in page.  When prompted enter your myOCERS username.  Our system will send a temporary password to the email address we have on file for you.  The temporary password is only good for 2 hours.  During that time you must retrieve the temporary password from your email and use it to log on to the myOCERS portal.  Once you have sucessfully logged in, you will be prompted to create your new password.  If you need assistance please Contact Us.

What if I have forgotten my Username?

If you have forgotten your myOCERS username, please click on the “Forgot Username” link located beneath the User Log section on the myOCERS log in page.  When prompted enter the email address we have on file for you.  If you do not receive an email and need  assistance please Contact Us.

How do I enable Pop-ups on my PC so that I can view certain pages on the OCERS website?

Some of our links open to new windows which may be blocked if you have your pop-up blocker enabled. To allow pop-ups from the OCERS website please consult the following links for instructions on how to enable pop-up windows on the OCERS website.

Internet Explorer

Google Chrome

Mozilla Firefox

Why does the text overlap when I log into myOCERS?

If you log into the myOCERS Portal, and the text overlaps either on your screen or when you print, it is most likely due to the text size you have set on your browser. To check this, open your Internet Explorer browser window and go to the OCERS Web site. 

  1. On the Menu bar, click on “Tools”
  2. Scroll down to “Text Size”
  3. Select “Medium” text size (“Medium” is the default and the recommend viewing size for the myOCERS Portal)
  4. Log into the myOCERS Portal

If the Text size is set to “Medium” the text on screen should not overlap. A setting of “Large” or “Largest” will cause the text to overlap. OCERS is aware of this issue and is working to update the myOCERS Portal to allow for the larger text settings.