Retirement Planning

Whether you’re nearing the end of your career or just getting started, it’s never too early to start thinking about retirement planning. If possible, start planning five years ahead of your retirement date. This may seem like a long time, but preliminary planning gives you the opportunity to purchase or convert any eligible service time, consider your estimated benefit amounts at possible ages, and decide at which age retirement will be most advantageous.

Below are some things you should consider when planning your retirement.

Review MCERA's Educational Publications

Handbooks, booklets, brochures and fact sheets are available to help you understand your retirement benefits. MCERA's publications cover a variety of topics including a description of plan benefits, retirement planning, disability retirement and retiree medical information.

Retirement Planning Checklist

Use the Retirement Planning Checklist as a guide throughout your career to be sure you are taking all of the recommended steps prior to your retirement.

Attend a Workshop

If you plan on working at least 3 or more years, attend an Early Career workshop to get the basics of how MCERA's defined benefit plan works. If you plan on retiring within the next 3 years, attend a Late Career workshop to help you through the final stages of retirement planning. Consider attending a Social Security workshop if you will be eligible for a Social Security benefit in the future.

Visit the Workshops page to view the schedule and read about the topics covered in each.

Consider Other Sources of Income

While you will receive a lifetime benefit from MCERA, it's important to consider the other sources of income you might have in retirement when looking at your financial future. Common sources of income could include Social Security, a defined contribution plan such as a 457(b) or 401(k), or personal savings. Your MCERA benefit won't impact income from most other sources, but it could impact your Social Security benefits.

Social Security

Social Security has two special provisions which may affect MCERA members. These provisions apply to people who receive a pension earned in a job where they did not pay Social Security taxes, and also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a Social Security benefit. It's important to understand how these provisions may impact your Social Security benefit when you're looking at your overall income in retirement.

Prepare Quick Estimates

Online Retirement Benefit Estimator

Use our Retirement Benefit Estimator to get an estimate of your future retirement benefit. Simply enter your employer and tier, age at retirement, projected service credit and highest average compensation, and click "Calculate." The results are instantaneous and, assuming the variables you have entered are accurate, will yield an estimate that is very close to your actual future benefit if you chose the unmodified payment option. You can also personalize your estimate to reflect anticipated increases in compensation or additional service credit from conversion of your accrued sick leave hours.

Benefits as a Percentage of Compensation

It may be helpful to estimate your benefit as a percentage of your highest compensation. You can use the tables in the Estimate Your Benefit as a Percentage of Compensation booklet to estimate the amount of compensation you will receive if you retire at a certain age with a certain amount of service credit. 

Select a Retirement Date

Be sure to consider the following topics before you deciding which retirement date is right for you.

Age Factors

Your age at retirement, measured to the completed quarter year, is converted to a factor used to calculate your retirement benefit. The factor determines what percentage of your highest average compensation we will use in the calculation. The age factor increases incrementally every quarter-year until you reach the maximum age for your tier's formula. For this reason, you may want to consider selecting a date that is on or after one of these incremental increases.


If you have established reciprocity with another California public pension system, you must submit a separate retirement application to each system using the same effective date of retirement. This is important because if your retirement dates from each system are not the same you will break reciprocity and your service credit and highest average compensation will no longer be linked.


Members who are retired on or before March 31 of each year may receive a cost of living adjustment (COLA) with the retirement benefit paid at the end of April.

Continuous Health Insurance Coverage

Most employers require you to have continuous health coverage to be eligible for retiree health insurance and subsidies, and your effective date of retirement may create a gap in your coverage. Retiree medical benefits are effective on the first of the month following your retirement date. If your active employee coverage ends prior to the effective date of your retiree coverage you may need to apply for COBRA insurance to fill the gap. Please contact MCERA or your employer's Human Resources department for more information about continuous medical coverage and COBRA.

Deciding to Retire

See the How to Retire page for information on the retirement application process once you've decided you're ready to retire.