Retiring from OPERS
There are certain steps all OPERS members need to take to prepare for retirement, but there are also unique considerations for each of the three retirement plans.
Questions to ask when considering retirement
Am I eligible to retire?
Perhaps one of the most important things to be aware of when considering retirement is whether or not you meet the retirement eligibility requirements for your plan and retirement group.
You may be financially and mentally prepared to retire, but you need to meet the age and service eligibility requirements set by OPERS to take that next step.
Have I saved enough?
Experts say the average person will need 80 percent or more of their working income in retirement. This number may be different for each person depending on the lifestyle you expect to have during your retirement.
By comparing your working income with your retirement income you'll be able to see if there are any gaps you need to compensate for. You can do this by saving more with personal savings or Deferred Compensation, or just by working a few years longer.
Have I considered the cost of health care?
Due to rising costs of health care, you may see annual increases in the amount you pay for medical and prescription coverage. Think about how you will pay for expenses not covered by your health plan. Health care costs such as deductibles, copayments, and other out-of-pocket expenses can quickly eat up your retirement savings.
OPERS offers planning tools and resources to help you estimate your health care costs so you won't be caught off guard.
How many years do I expect to spend in retirement?
Today in the United States, most people can expect to live approximately 20 years or more after retirement.
While you can't outlive your OPERS pension, you may outlive your supplemental savings.
There are a number of tools and resources available to help you plan for your retirement and guide you through the retirement application process.
Things to Keep in Mind when preparing to retire
Service Credit with other systems
If you have service credit in the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio Defined Benefit Plan, or the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund you may retire independently from each system or have your contributions and total service credit in the OPERS Traditional Pension Plan, School Employees Retirement System and State Teachers Retirement System Defined Benefit Plan combined for the purpose of determining eligibility for and calculation of benefits.
The system that has the most service credit will pay the benefit, while funds and service credit in the other system(s) are transferred to the paying system.
Please refer to the Service Credit and Contributing Months leaflet for more information.
Social Security Coordination
If you are eligible for Social Security benefits and are receiving a retirement benefit from OPERS, your Social Security benefits may be affected by the Government Pension Offset or the Windfall Elimination Provision. The Government Pension Offset may also affect you if you are eligible for Social Security benefits through your spouse. The Windfall Elimination Provision may affect you if you qualify for Social Security benefits due to your own work history.
If you have questions concerning the Government Pension Offset or Windfall Elimination Provision, contact your local Social Security office or access its website at ssa.gov.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety Officers
OPERS provides special retirement coverage for certain law enforcement and public safety officers who are required to participate in the Traditional Pension Plan. If you are a Law Enforcement or Public Safety Officer, please refer to the Law Enforcement/Public Safety Officers leaflet for information specific to your situation.
How to Apply for Retirement
Once you are ready to make the transition from active member to retiree, OPERS can guide you through the retirement application process.
Register for an OPERS online account
Establish your online account to access important account information, run benefit estimates, register for seminars and webinars, and even schedule a counseling session.
Registration is quick and easy.
Speak with an OPERS counselor.
If you are thinking about retirement, we encourage you to speak with an OPERS counselor. They can answer your initial questions about the retirement process over the phone and help your decide if you should come in for a one-on-one counseling session.
Our counselors can walk you through the retirement application, run benefit estimates, discuss payment options and answer your questions along the way.
Call us at 1-800-222-7377 to speak with a counselor or schedule an in-person counseling session.
Choose your retirement effective date
Your retirement effective date is the first day of the month following your last day of employment.
You’ll need to make your employer aware of your retirement plans and choose your last date of employment.
You may want to ask your employer when your health care coverage ends and if there’s a policy for any sick leave and vacation time payouts.
Complete your retirement application
To apply for your retirement benefits, you'll need to complete the appropriate retirement application for your plan.
When completing your application you'll be asked to pick your payment plan for your monthly benefit and decide if you want to receive a partial lump sum option payment.
You'll also need to designate at least one beneficiary.
A number of additional documents are required to process your retirement, such as your birth certificate or marriage certificate. You can submit copies of these documents to OPERS at any time during the application process.
Be sure to include your full name and either the last four digits of your Social Security number or your OPERS ID (which can be found on your online account) on each document.
|Proof of your date of birth|
(birth certificate, baptismal certificate, etc.)
|Proof of date of birth for your beneficiary|
(if you will be leaving them a monthly benefit after your death)
|Proof of date of birth for any eligible dependents that you wish to cover under OPERS health care|
|Marriage certificate |
(Marriage license is not acceptable)
|Addresses, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for beneficiaries and dependents|
|Proof of Medicare A and B, if applicable |
(for you and eligible dependents)
|Direct deposit information, including bank account and routing numbers |
(Please bring a voided check or savings deposit slip.)
|Any court orders that may pertain to your retirement|
|Early Retirement Incentive Plan Agreement |
(if your employer offers Early Retirement Incentive Plan)
|Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) claim number |
(if you have been paid by the BWC during public employment)
Receiving Your First Check
You can expect to receive your first payment about 30 to 45 days from your retirement effective date or the date OPERS receives all paperwork, whichever is later.
If you chose a partial lump sum option payment, it will be released 90 days after your first benefit check.
Monthly benefit payments will be deposited directly into your savings or checking account. Direct deposit is required.
State and federal tax withholding
Federal and/or state of Ohio income taxes can be taken out of monthly benefit payment.
Changes can be made to your withholding amounts at any time through your online account.
- If you do nothing, federal income tax will be withheld from your benefit payments using withholding rates applicable to a married individual claiming three withholding exemptions.
- Even if you elect not to have federal income tax withheld, you are liable for payment of federal income tax on the taxable portion of your payments.
- The payments may be subject to Ohio state income tax and you may elect to have Ohio state income tax withheld.
What Happens After You've Retired
Retirement is an exciting chapter in your life that may lead you in any number of directions. Here's a short list of things for the newly retired OPERS member to keep in mind:
Keep your information up to date
It's important to keep your information up to date with OPERS, especially in retirement!
You can safely and quickly change your address, contact, and banking information at anytime from your OPERS online account.
Annual cost-of-living adjustments
Most OPERS members who retire will be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment. The purpose of the cost-of-living adjustment is to offset the cost of inflation during your retirement.
The cost-of-living adjustment is not compounded, it will always be based on your initial retirement annuity benefit, not the benefit plus accumulated allowances.
OPERS uses a Consumer Price Index to measure the cost-of-living adjustment against inflation. If the Consumer Price Index used to determine the cost-of-living adjustment is negative, no allowance will be granted the following year.
Your cost-of-living adjustment is determined by your retirement group, and may differ based on your retirement plan. For more information refer to your plan's leaflet below.
Traditional Pension Plan and Combined Plan
While not required by law, OPERS recognizes the important role health care coverage plays as part of a secure retirement. OPERS health care is comprised of several medical plans as well as a prescription drug plan and optional vision and dental plans. Which medical plan you will participate in is based on your Medicare status (pre-Medicare or Medicare-eligible) and whether or not you are re-employed in an OPERS-covered position.
Each year during the open enrollment period, retirees can make changes to their plans or choose to continue in their current plan.
Although Member-Directed Plan participants do not have access to OPERS health, they do have access to the funds in their Retiree Medical Account. These funds can be used to cover health care expenses such as premiums and copays for you and your qualified dependents.
Benefit Change Notices
If you annuitize any portion of your account and select one of the OPERS payment plans, you'll receive a Benefit Change Notice any time there is a change in your benefit. You'll also receive a Benefit Change Notice if there is a change in any deductions to your benefit. For example, the notice will show changes such as your cost-of-living adjustment, deductions for health care coverage or Medicare adjustments.
Benefit Change Notices are sent at the beginning of the year, or any time a there is a change in your amount of your retirement benefit.
Once you retire and begin receiving a benefit from OPERS, your retirement benefit must be reported on your federal income tax return.
Returning to Work After Retirement
Your retirement benefits may be affected if you retire from OPERS and return to work in a job covered by OPERS or another Ohio retirement system. This includes service as an elected official and certain volunteer positions.
For example, if you become re-employed within the first two months after your retirement effective date, you will forfeit your retirement benefit during this period. It's important to inform your employer that you are receiving an OPERS benefit if you become re-employed by an OPERS-covered employer.
Please refer to the Returning to Work After Retirement leaflet for more information regarding re-employment.
You can find detailed information about retiring from each of the three plans in the leaflets below. If you have specific questions about the retirement application process, call us at 1-800-222-7377, or schedule an appointment with an OPERS counselor.