While you work in a full-time retirement-eligible position for one of ACERA’s participating employers, you earn service credit toward retirement. Service credit is measured in years. In general, you earn a year of service credit for each year you work full-time in an ACERA-covered job. Your service credit earnings are measured to a fraction of week, so for example, if you earned 5 years and 8 weeks of service credit, you will have earned about 5.15 years of service credit.
If you work part time, you get part time service credit. For example, if you work half time for 10 years, you get 5 full-time years of service credit in the formula.
Purchased service will also increase your total service credit. In general, the more retirement service credit you have, the higher your benefit.
You Earn Service Credit During Earned Leave
When you take the following types of leave, you earn service credit while out on that leave:
Earned Vacation Leave
Times When You Don’t Earn Service Credit
Overtime, On-call, or Standby
Unpaid Leave - When you are out of the office on unpaid leave, you do not earn service credit during that time. If the unpaid leave is unpaid medical leave, that time can be purchasable (see section on purchasing service credit below).
Purchased Vacation - Some ACERA employers will allow you to purchase additional vacation beyond your earned vacation. During the time when you’re out on this purchased vacation leave, you do not earn service credit. And this time is not purchasable as service credit.
Sold Vacation - If you sell your earned vacation to your employer to get extra cash, you don’t get service credit for it. However, you may get salary credit for it. See Highest Average Monthly Salary for more information.
If you terminate your employment prior to retiring, you loose all of your accrued sick leave.
Working Until Retirement
If you go straight from active pay status into retirement (either working or on leave the day before your retirement date), ACERA will convert your unused sick leave into service credit, as allowed by your bargaining unit. For most members, upon retirement, 50% of any unused sick leave balance can be converted to service credit and added to total years of service. Limitations can be found in your Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for your bargaining unit. Many MOUs limit the amount of sick leave that is convertible up to 125 days. Check with your Human Resources department for a copy of your MOU.
To convert your unused sick leave to service credit, your retirement effective date must be the day after you terminate employment. Retirement-eligible members who terminate employment and choose not to apply for and begin retirement will not receive credit for unused sick leave. So if you spend even a single day in deferred status between active employment and retirement, ACERA will not be able to convert your sick leave to service credit.
For example: your MOU limits the amount of sick leave that is convertible to service credit up to 125 days of sick leave. You have 130 days of sick leave left on the books when you retire. If you go straight from active work into retirement, you may be eligible to receive half of 125 days as service credit, so you will receive 62.5 days of service credit. The remaining five days above 125 days that you had left on the books you do not get credit for.
Limits for Alameda Health System (AHS) members are little different: AHS members receive PTO rather than sick leave. Unused PTO does not count toward service credit (but can count toward highest average salary). AHS members also receive Extended Sick Leave and some members may still have some unused Intermittent Sick Leave (this leave was phased out in 2014). For AHS members who go straight from active work into retirement, ACERA will add together the remaining Extended Sick Leave plus remaining Intermittent Sick Leave (if any), and the member will receive half the total as service credit, up to a limit. Limitations can be found in your Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for your bargaining unit. Many MOUs limit the amount of sick leave that is convertible to 125 days (which would result in a maximum of 62.5 days of service credit). Check with your Human Resources department for a copy of your MOU.
What Happens to My Unused Comp Time, Management Leave, and Floating Holidays?
Compensatory time (comp time), management leave, and floating holidays are “use-it-or-loose-it”. Any remaining amounts of these leave times on the books at retirement do not count toward service credit and you do not get compensation for them, so you should use them prior to leaving your job and/or retiring, especially since you get service credit for using them.
In general, the more service credit you have as an ACERA member, the higher your retirement benefit. ACERA will also use service credit to determine when you can retire and receive a benefit. Thus, by purchasing service credit, you can increase your retirement benefit and, in some cases, become eligible to retire at an earlier date. If applicable, it would also count towards 30-year membership.
Time Eligible For Service Credit Purchase
There are specific periods of employment that may be purchased as service credit:
First pay period of employment prior to your entry into ACERA membership (days prior). Your ACERA member entry date is the typically first day of the second pay period of employment in an ACERA-covered position (a permanent, full-time position). You may purchase the days worked prior to your ACERA entry date (commonly the two weeks between your date of hire and your ACERA entry date), to increase your service credit. However, this purchase of service does not change your entry date.
Non-contributing work with an ACERA participating employer. If you are employed in a retirement-ineligible position by a participating employer, you may be eligible to purchase this service if you become eligible for ACERA membership at some point in the future. (You may not purchase service credit for time worked as an independent contractor or for an outside temporary agency or employment agency.) Here are types of time that fall into this category:
Part-Time Work (that you didn’t already earn service credit for)
Temporary Assignment Pool (TAP) Work
Per Diem Work
Medical leave without pay (including FMLA and/or maternity leave). If you were on leave for a medical reason, and you were not receiving pay from your employer, that means you were not earning service credit. (This includes time that is considered FMLA—Family Medical Leave Act which is the federal law that allows you to be away from work for up to 12 weeks in a year for certain medical reasons, even if you’re out of earned leave time.) You can buy that time back once you return from that leave for periods of up to one year per instance, with a doctor’s certification. This is only for your medical conditions, not when you’re on leave caring for family members. You must provide documentation—see section below.
State disability insurance (SDI) leave or uncompensated worker’s compensation time. If you were receiving partial pay from the state’s disability insurance system, and partial pay from your employer, you didn’t earn service credit for the state disability insurance time. You can purchase any service credit you didn’t earn from this time once you return from that leave. You must provide documentation—see section below.
Military leave without pay during membership. If you go out on military leave during your active membership, you can purchase that time when you return from that leave. (Military time prior to membership isn’t purchasable, unless it was prior to August 9, 1972.)
Redeposit of withdrawn ACERA contributions. (further explained in section below)
Redeposit of community property. This situation is where you divorced or dissolved your state-registered domestic partnership and part of your ACERA employee contributions and interest (and also service credit) was divided off as community property for your ex-spouse or ex-partner. If your ex-spouse or ex-partner takes a refund of their portion of the contributions and interest, you can redeposit that money to regain the service credit that was divided off.
Other prior public service / other agency service (further explained in section below)
Declaring Your Intent During First Year of Membership to Purchase Some Types of Service Credit
If you are currently an active or deferred ACERA member, and you think you may want to purchase certain types of service credit in the future, you have one year from your date of ACERA membership to declare your intent to purchase that service credit.
How To Declare Your Intent
Check the box to declare your intent on your ACERA Member Enrollment Questionnaire that your employer requires you to complete when you start work.
You’re Not Obligated to Actually Make the Purchase
By declaring your intent to purchase the time, you are under no obligation to actually make the purchase; however, if you don’t make the declaration with a year of your date of membership in ACERA, you will lose your eligibility to ever purchase the time. Once you declare your intent, you may make the purchase any time prior to retirement.
What If I’m Not Sure What to Choose?
If you are unsure of whether you have eligible service to purchase, just go ahead and check the box on the ACERA Member Enrollment Questionnaire. You’re under no obligation to actually make the purchase.
What If I Don’t Remember Whether I Checked the Box to Declare My Intent?
Types of Service Credit For Which You Must Declare Intent To Purchase
Part-time or Service-as-needed
TAP (County Temporary Assignment Pool)
Temporary (not with temporary agency)
Other Prior Public Service Time
Do I Have To Declare Intent To Purchase Other Types Of Service Credit?—No.
Other types of service credit not listed above that are eligible for purchase do not require a declaration of intent.
If I’ve Already Purchased The Service, Do I Have To Declare My Intent?—No.
If you have already purchased the service credit in question, you do not need to complete this form or submit a statement of intent to ACERA.
Time NOT Eligible For Service Credit Purchase
Educational or sabbatical leaves
Strike, except “blue flu” for sheriffs
Non-medical leave without pay
Out of state service
Service from schools outside Alameda County
Contract or consultant services
Work for a temporary agency or employment agency
How Much Does Service Credit Cost to Purchase?
When you purchase service credit, you must pay 2 amounts:
The amount of retirement contributions you would have contributed if you had been able to during the time you’re trying to buy.
For example: if you’re trying to buy 3 months of Medical Leave Without Pay time, had you worked that time, you would have made 3 months worth of retirement contributions out of your paycheck; during that 3 months, you would have paid a percentage of your paycheck into the retirement fund at your individual contribution rate. So that 3 months’ worth of employee contributions is what you have to pay to buy that time as service credit.
The interest that money would have earned had it been invested in the fund between the time you’re trying to buy and now, when you’re trying to buy it. So the more time that passes, the more expensive a service credit purchase costs, because it would have earned more and more interest.
For example: if you’re trying to buy 3 months worth of Medical Leave Without Pay time from 5 years ago, had you worked that time and paid your required employee contributions during that time, that money would have been invested with the rest of ACERA’s fund and earned 5 years’ worth of interest, at the rate that ACERA’s fund earned interest over those particular 5 years. So in addition to paying the employee contributions for that 3 months, you’ll have to pay the 5 year’s worth of interest on that money.
How to Request to Purchase Service Credit and/or Request to Know How Much a Service Credit Purchase Will Cost
ACERA staff will do research and calculations, and send you a letter telling you whether your time is purchasable and how much it’s going to cost. At the time you receive the letter, you can determine whether you want to make the service credit purchase or not.
For all of the types of purchases except for redeposits, you can purchase just a portion of the service credit if you want. Redeposits are all or none.
For all of the types of purchases except for other prior public service purchases, you will only pay the employee contributions and interest amount. For other prior public service purchases, you will pay the employee and employer contributions and interest, so those purchase can cost double or triple what the other types cost.
Redeposit of Withdrawn ACERA Contributions from Prior Memberships
If you terminate membership with ACERA, withdraw your accumulated contributions and interest, then become an ACERA member again at a later date, you may redeposit the withdrawn funds plus interest that would have accrued up to the redeposit payment date. ALL previous service credit must be purchased; partial purchases of service credit are not allowed. A decision to forego redeposit means your prior service credit does not count towards establishing your eligibility for retirement.
In effect, a redeposit of your contributions restores your past service credit earned. This will increase your retirement benefit allowance when you retire. In addition, this purchased service will count toward determining your retirement eligibility date and toward becoming vested in the retirement plan and 30-year membership, if applicable.
Initiating a redeposit is the same process as purchasing service described as above.
In a written response to your request, ACERA will inform you if you are eligible to redeposit withdrawn contributions and, if so, provide the cost for doing so.
Other Prior Public Service / Other Agency Service
If you worked for another public agency prior to becoming an ACERA member, you may be eligible to purchase that service. Some of the types of other agency or public service you may be eligible to purchase are listed below:
County employment within the State of California
Any public employer covered by a retirement plan under Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) (State of California) or reciprocal with PERS
East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD)
Port of Oakland
State of California
Any public school district in Alameda County
Federal government service or military service for employees hired on or before August 9, 1972
Purchasing previous public employer service credit would increase your retirement benefit allowance but would NOT count toward determining your retirement eligibility date or becoming vested in the retirement plan. However, it would count towards 30-year membership eligibility.
For purchase of prior public service, verification of the dates worked is required. In addition, you cannot be eligible for a pension from the other agency. Usually this means you either didn’t work for the other public employer for very long, or you took a refund of your contributions to that employer’s pension system, making you ineligible to collect a pension from that system. If you still have retirement contributions on deposit with that other agency, you must take a refund of them before you can purchase the time as ACERA service credit. Additionally, the service must have been earned before your ACERA entry date.
The cost of purchasing prior public service includes employee and employer contributions based on the contribution rates and salary at your ACERA entry date. Interest is also charged from your ACERA entry date to the date of purchase.
You can obtain a retirement estimate, account balance, or current service credit total from Web Member Services.
Service Purchase and Redeposit Payment Methods
Members may purchase service credit or redeposit prior membership by using one or more of the following payment methods:
Lump sum payment (post-tax) - You may make post-tax payment in full by paying with a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order made payable to ACERA. Cash and credit is not accepted.
Direct rollover or trustee-to-trustee transfer (pre-tax)
Direct rollover - This is a transfer of pre-tax funds from a qualified retirement account, usually earned from your former employment. ACERA will accept a direct rollover of pre-tax funds from these types of plans: 401(k) tax qualified plan; 457 deferred compensation plan maintained by a California public agency; 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity plan; pre-tax IRA (not Roth IRA). If you are eligible to purchase service through ACERA, you can ask your former employer’s plan administrator to disburse the funds directly to ACERA for service purchase. The plan administrator will determine and must certify that the distribution qualifies for a direct rollover. The check should be made payable to “ACERA For the Benefit Of [your name]”.
Trustee-to-Trustee Transfer - This is a transfer of pre-tax funds from a qualified retirement account, such as a 457 plan (deferred compensation plan), from your current employer to ACERA. When ready to purchase service, the funds may be disbursed from the plan administrator directly to ACERA for redeposit or service purchase. Any check from the plan administrator must be made payable to “ACERA For the Benefit Of [your name]”.
Payroll deduction payments (post-tax) - You may purchase service credit using post-tax payroll deductions. The payments are divided equally over the term of the contract. The specific contract term may vary depending on the type of service purchased. The amount is in addition to your normal employee retirement plan contributions. All purchases must be completed before retirement. To set up a payment plan for a service purchase, you must sign a contract and submit it to ACERA. If you subsequently decide during your payment contract period that you wish to complete the contract by making a lump sum payment, please send ACERA a letter stating your request to make a lump sum payment.
Combination – Any combination of the above methods.
To initiate a service purchase or redeposit request, visit Web Member Services and click on the Web Forms link or submit a Purchase Request Form or Redeposit Request Form to ACERA. Upon receipt and completion of your request, ACERA will calculate the required payment and provide information regarding payment options. Once you inform ACERA that you are interested in making this purchase and your choice of payment type (lump sum or payment plan), ACERA will issue a payment contract. Your service purchase or redeposit request itself is not an authorization to begin a redeposit or service credit purchase; you must return the signed contract in order for your redeposit/purchase payments to begin. For help with purchasing service credit or redeposits, contact us.
Documentation Needed For Some Purchases
You can upload your documents securely within your online account. Click Login at the top of the page.
Otherwise you can mail us copies of your documents or QIC code them over to us at 22901 if you’re a county employee.
Please don’t email us documents, as email is not a secure method of transmitting your personal documents which contain confidential information.
State Disability Insurance Leave Time
State Disability Insurance approval (if applicable)
FMLA approval (if applicable)
Workers compensation approval (if applicable)
Signed doctor’s authorization (if applicable)
Unpaid Medical Leave Time
FMLA approval (if applicable)
Child’s birth certificate (if you were away from work for the birth of your child)