Member Benefits


Your ACERA membership is a valuable component of the benefit package provided by your employer. Your plan is funded by contributions from you and your employer, and earnings from investments.

Defined Benefit Plan

As a defined benefit plan, ACERA provides vested members with a lifetime retirement benefit based on total years of retirement service credit, age at retirement, and highest average compensation.

Some of the key features of ACERA’s defined benefit plan include:

Financial security with a lifetime pension. Retired members receive a pension allowance payment every month for the rest of their lives with annual cost of living increases. Vested benefits are guaranteed by state law, and once earned, cannot be reduced or taken away.

Professional asset management. ACERA’s pension fund is managed by professional investment managers, not individual plan participants.

Healthcare and other benefits. Retired members who meet eligibility requirements can receive payments to offset the cost of healthcare. And retirees can take advantage of member-only healthcare plans. 

Death benefits. When an ACERA member dies, death benefits are available to beneficiaries, including lump-sum payments and lifetime continuances to eligible survivors.

Disability benefits. Members who have been permanently incapacitated from performing their regular job duties can apply for a disability retirement. If granted, the benefit is payable for life.

Eligibility for Membership

All permanent employees working full-time in a permanent position for one of ACERA’s participating employers are eligible for membership and automatically enrolled in the retirement plan. Membership is mandatory and is continuous for as long as you are employed in an ACERA-covered position (even if you switch to part time).

All other employees working under contract, in temporary or seasonal positions, or those who started in part time positions are not eligible for membership.

Membership Status

Active Members 
Are currently employed by an ACERA participating employer and are working (or have worked) in a full-time retirement-eligible position.

Deferred Members 
Have ended active employment and have left their retirement contributions on deposit with ACERA, but have not yet retired.

Retired Members 
Have retired from ACERA and are receiving a lifetime monthly pension allowance.

What Does Vesting Mean? What Are Vested Benefits?

Being vested means you have a non-forfeitable right to receive an ACERA retirement benefit upon meeting certain eligibility requirements. Basically, vested benefits are guaranteed benefits. The guaranteed comes from the California state laws that govern ACERA.

You are vested after accumulating 5 years of service credit in ACERA or 5 years combined among all reciprocal agencies you have service credit with, including ACERA.

Your Vested Benefits:

  • Lifetime retirement allowance (upon eligibility)
    • You have a vested right to apply for a service-connected disability retirement, if eligible, as soon as you join ACERA (see Disability section).
  • Annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to your retirement allowance
  • $1000 lump sum death benefit

Additionally, you are always 100% vested in your employee contributions. This means they are refundable to you (or your beneficiaries after your death) should you terminate your employment and membership with ACERA rather than retiring.