3. Establishing Reciprocity With Another Retirement System
Reciprocity is the joining or linking of similarly administered California public retirement systems. Under very specific rules, establishing reciprocity allows employees who move between certain California retirement systems to preserve and enhance their total retirement benefits.
All 1937 Act County Employee Retirement Systems and all Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) agencies have reciprocal agreements. As a result, ACERA has reciprocal agreements with most California counties, the State of California, and many of California’s cities and public agencies.
Benefits of Establishing Reciprocity
There are several benefits to establishing reciprocity if joining ACERA from a reciprocal agency (or leaving ACERA for another reciprocal public employer):
- If you are in tier 1, 2, or 3, your employee contribution rate with ACERA is determined using your age of entry in the previous system (if applicable). Since contribution rates are based on a member’s age, this results in a lower employee contribution rate requirement, because you were younger when you joined the previous system (see Tier page for specifics);
- Service credit earned in a reciprocal agency is combined with your ACERA service when establishing your vesting rights and eligibility to retire. This means you do not need to “start over” when moving to a reciprocal public employer; and
- The highest compensation attained under any reciprocal agency is used by all reciprocal systems to calculate your final average salary and determine your retirement benefit.
Qualifications for Reciprocity
To qualify for reciprocity, you must do all of the following:
- Elect to leave your contributions on deposit and defer retirement with your previous employer’s retirement system.
- Begin membership in the next system within six months after termination of covered employment in the first system. (Remember that your ACERA membership doesn’t begin until the 1st day of your 2nd biweekly pay period, so it typically does not start on your date of hire.)
- Avoid any overlapping service as this may disqualify your eligibility. (See More About Overlapping Service below.)
- Retire from each reciprocal retirement system on the same day.
When you complete your ACERA member Enrollment Questionnaire as a new member, you will be asked about your previous experience with public agencies. If you answer that you have left funds on deposit with your previous employer(s), ACERA will send you an election letter explaining the benefits and requirements of establishing a reciprocal agreement with your previous employer’s retirement plan. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may elect to establish reciprocity by indicating so on the letter and returning it to ACERA. ACERA will mail the letter to you within 30 days of receipt of your ACERA member Enrollment Questionnaire.
Once you establish reciprocity, your election is irrevocable. Thereafter, you cannot withdraw contributions from the previous retirement system unless you terminate ACERA membership with the second system and withdraw your ACERA contributions. In addition, when you get ready to retire, you must file separate retirement applications with each reciprocal system and retire from each system on the same day. You will receive a separate retirement check from each system based on the service earned in that system.
More About Overlapping Service
If there is overlapping service credit between ACERA and a reciprocal system, reciprocity cannot be established. (For example, if a member is on vacation leave at the end of a previous job during the same time that the member begins a new job in an ACERA-covered position and enters ACERA, this would be overlapping service because the member is on payroll for two different employers at the same time.)
However, for members leaving active membership in another retirement system and entering ACERA, ACERA may adjust the date a person becomes an ACERA member to as much as 12 weeks after entrance into service in an ACERA-covered position (with appropriate adjustments to service credit and contributions) in order to prevent overlapping service credit and allow the member to establish reciprocity.
Likewise, for members leaving active membership in ACERA and entering another retirement system, ACERA may adjust the date a member terminates service to as much as 12 weeks prior to the member’s termination from an ACERA-covered position (with appropriate adjustments to service credit and contributions) in order to prevent overlapping service credit and allow the member to establish reciprocity.
We recommend you contact ACERA for further information before getting in an overlapping service situation since exceptions may apply before terminating employment or accepting other employment with a different agency.
Reciprocity for Certain Safety Members (Law Enforcement or Fire Fighting Only)
If you were a safety member (law enforcement and fire fighting only) in a reciprocal agency and you withdrew funds upon termination, you may redeposit funds for either partial or full reciprocal benefits.
Full reciprocity applies if the time lapse between system memberships is six months or less. If you redeposit the prior membership, that system will use the highest compensation earned in either system to compute your benefit calculation. The current system may adjust your contribution level to be based on the age of entry in the previous system if required.
Partial reciprocity applies if the time lapse between system memberships is more than six months. The system in which you redeposited membership will pay an allowance based on final compensation earned in that system. The current system will not make an adjustment to your age of entry.
Reciprocity and Disability Retirement
If you apply for and are granted a disability retirement and you have a reciprocal agreement with one or more retirement systems, the total amount from all systems cannot equal more than what one system alone would have paid if all service had been earned in that system. Therefore, the disability benefit is generally pro-rated based on service. However, benefit amounts may be adjusted further depending on how much each system is paying.
Agencies That Have Reciprocal Agreements With ACERA
ACERA has reciprocal agreements with most counties in California, with the State of California (CalPERS), and with many of California’s cities. ACERA is also reciprocal with some independent public agencies in California that have full reciprocity agreements with CalPERS. Below is a list of the counties, cities, and agencies that ACERA is reciprocal with.
County Systems (Retirement Law of 1937)
- Contra Costa
- Los Angeles
- San Bernadino
- San Diego
- San Joaquin
- San Mateo
- Santa Barbara
- California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS)
- California State Teachers’ Retirement System (STERS)**
- Judge’s Retirement System I & II**
**ACERA has limited reciprocity
Other Systems/Independent public agencies in California:
- Concord City Employees’ Pension Plan
- Fresno City Employees’ Retirement System
- Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS)
- Sacramento City Employees’ Retirement System
- San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System
- San Francisco City and County Employees’ Retirement System
- City of San Jose Retirement System
- Contra Costa Water District
- East Bay Municipal Utility District
- San Luis Obispo County Employees’ Pension Trust
No Reciprocity With University of California Retirement System (UCRS)
ACERA does not have a reciprocity agreement with the University of California Retirement System (UCRS), so previous employment with UCRS does not qualify you for reciprocity (or service purchase).
If you have questions about other agencies’ reciprocity with ACERA, please contact us.