General Member Handbook Information
SCERS was integrated with Social Security on January 1, 1956. This combination of benefits provides you with a retirement allowance from SCERS and, if you meet the required minimum quarters of coverage, qualifies you for Social Security benefits when you reach the minimum retirement age as defined by the Social Security Administration.
If you have any questions regarding Social Security benefits, you should contact the Social Security Office, at 1(800) 772-1213.
If you are a Sacramento County employee, you are eligible for inclusion in Sacramento County’s Deferred Compensation Plan which is not a plan administered by the SCERS Board and is not a benefit provided under the 1937 Act. For information regarding the County’s Plan, you should contact Sacramento County’s Human Resources Agency, Deferred Compensation Office: 700 H Street, Room 6750, Sacramento, CA 95814. The phone number is 916-874-3491 and the fax number is 916-874-8419.
SCERS is a “qualified plan,” i.e., the plan conforms to the requirements of section 401( of the federal Internal Revenue Code.
- Taxed Contributions vs. Tax-Deferred Contributions
All your contributions to SCERS prior to January 1, 1984, were subject to income tax withholding; consequently, they are referred to as “taxed” contributions. However, effective January 1, 1984, Sacramento County and member districts implemented a deferred tax program which enabled you to defer the payment of income taxes on your retirement contributions until those contributions are taken out of SCERS. At retirement or upon termination of employment, you are advised of the amounts of taxed and tax-deferred contributions in your retirement account.
- Withholding of Tax
Pursuant to Federal Law, the County Auditor-Controller will withhold income tax on the taxable part of amounts paid to you as a retiree unless you choose not to have tax withheld. You may make this choice by submitting to SCERS an Internal Revenue Service Form W-4P, “Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments,” indicating that you do not want tax withheld. Form W-4P may also be used to have tax withheld from periodic payments at the rate that applies to the chosen filing status and number of exemptions. An alternate form (Form 6190) for designating Federal and California tax withholding amounts is provided to you by SCERS. Form 6190 may also be used to make an election not to have tax withheld. If you do not fill out either of these forms, tax will be withheld from periodic payments as if you were married and claiming three withholding allowances.
- Taxable Benefit
The taxability of retirement benefit payment amounts is generally explained in the federal Internal Revenue Code. Certain service-connected or “industrial” disability benefit allowances may be excluded from taxation. When in doubt refer to the Internal Revenue Service and/or California Franchise Tax Board; or, a professional attorney or accountant with expertise in tax law or tax accounting.
Notice is required to be given to your current spouse before you select benefits or change the nomination of a beneficiary. An application for refund of your accumulated contributions, and election of optional settlement, or change of beneficiary nomination must contain the signature of your current spouse of the member, unless you declare, in writing under penalty of perjury, any of the following:
- You are not married.
- The current spouse has no identifiable community property interest in the benefit.
- You do not know, and have taken all reasonable steps to determine, the whereabouts of the current spouse.
- The current spouse has been advised of the application and has refused to sign the written acknowledgment.
- The current spouse is incapable of executing the acknowledgment because of incapacitating mental or physical condition.
- You and the current spouse have executed a marriage settlement agreement pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 1500) of Division 4 of the Family Code, which makes the community property law inapplicable to the marriage.
Dissolution of Marriage
California is a community property state. Retirement plan benefits earned during marriage are community property, subject to division upon dissolution of marriage (divorce). If your SCERS account involves a community property interest, contact SCERS for assistance. Failure to resolve a community property interest issue before retirement could result in considerable delay in receiving refund of contributions or payments of applicable retirement or survivor’s benefits.
The SCERS Board does not have authority to create membership categories. Membership categories benefit components are authorized by statute and made applicable to SCERS when adopted by resolution of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. Participation in a particular plan or tier is based on a variety of factors as described in “Membership Categories.”
Retirement benefits are a negotiable item between recognized collective bargaining units and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors recognizes twenty-four bargaining units with which it has entered into nineteen bargaining agreements. At this writing, certain benefits may be under discussion in bargaining unit negotiations . Such discussions could result in changes to benefits as described in this Handbook. Before relying upon information described in this Handbook, please inquire with your recognized bargaining unit to determine what changes, if any, arise out of any new bargaining agreement.
Retirement Counseling Service
- Priority Processing
It is the administrative policy of the SCERS Board to render every possible service to the membership. However, hundreds of inquiries are received each month and answered in addition to the actual processing of service credit purchase requests, benefit applications, claims and death benefit payments to members and their beneficiaries. We strive to provide more comprehensive information and counseling service as an added benefit to you, but those whose immediate welfare depends upon the prompt settlement of benefits to which they are entitled are handled first.
- Retirement Handbook
It is hoped that this Handbook will greatly assist you in obtaining desired retirement information. The estimate tables and quick reference guides which have been devised will simplify the calculation of a reasonably accurate estimate of your maximum service or disability retirement benefit (unmodified).
- SCERS Seminars
In addition to this Handbook, SCERS offers one-day retirement planning seminars. One seminar is intended for those who are within 10 years of retirement. The other is for those who will retire in more than 10 years.
- SCERS Newsletters
SCERS enhances our information output with the publication of two newsletters, each published semi-annually. The Finish Line is intended for active members, while The Latest Wrinkle is intended for retired members.
- SCERS Website
Not to be overlooked is SCERS website which provides important notices, financial statements, SCERS organization charts, Board of Retirement Investment Policy and Objectives, copies of the newsletters, and related links to other retirement systems. A service retirement benefit calculation program is also available at the website, by which you may input variables, i.e. plan/tier, length of service, expected retirement date and final compensation. After such input, you receive an estimate of the unmodified service retirement allowance. The website address is: www.scers.org.
Planning for Retirement
If you have serious intentions of retiring, you should coordinate activities with your Department Head and personnel payroll unit, and make an appointment with the SCERS staff to process an application. The benefits provided by SCERS are not conferred automatically but must be applied for in every case. In accordance with Retirement Law, an application for service retirement may not formally be made except within a period of sixty days immediately preceding the chosen retirement date. However, it is advisable to inform SCERS of an intended retirement within ninety days of the intended effective retirement date.
Suggested Time Frames
|Time Remaining Before Retirement||Things to Do|
|Within ten years||Attend a one-day retirement planning seminar|
|One year||Gather documentation, i.e. your birth certificate, birth certificate(s) of your intended beneficiary(ies), marriage certificate.
Resolve any community property issues.
|Six months to one year||Estimate your retirement benefits (monthly allowance).|
|Two months||Submit application and schedule group interview.|
|As scheduled||Attend group interview.|
Estimating Your Benefit
To estimate your service retirement benefit, please refer to the Service Retirement Estimate Worksheet and accompanying tables or access SCERS website calculation program.
Inquire about the availability of documents in alternate formats.