Active Miscellaneous Member FAQ
Q: Can I borrow from my SFERS pension account?
A: The SFERS pension is a defined benefit plan and under the law that governs defined benefit plans, there are no loan or withdrawal provisions. If you participate in a defined contribution plan such as the City’s Deferred Compensation Plan (SFDCP), the Plan may include provisions for emergency and/or hardship withdrawals. Check with your plan provider for details.
Q: How can my mortgage company verify my retirement account balance?
A: You may request a verification of your account balance either in writing or by visiting our office (you will need to bring a picture ID). In order to protect the privacy of our members, we do not provide account information to third parties (such as a mortgage company or financial institution) and we do not accept requests by fax, e-mail or telephone. You may also obtain a recent account balance from mySFERS, Member-Only Portal.
Q: I worked for the City as a temporary employee prior to becoming a member of SFERS. My Social Security statements show no FICA earnings/contributions for that period. Why?
A: Most City employees who held a temporary position (not members of SFERS during the period of temporary appointment) prior to July 2, 1991, were not eligible for FICA coverage. Prior to July 2, 1991, most City employees became eligible for FICA upon becoming a member of SFERS. Since July 2, 1991, most City employees are covered under FICA regardless of whether or not they are SFERS members. You may contact the City’s Payroll and Personnel Services Department’s Tax Unit (with the Controller’s Office) to verify your FICA earnings/contributions for any period of City employment that does not appear on your Social Security Statement.
Q: I have a buyback agreement with SFERS to purchase time that I worked for the City prior to becoming a SFERS member. I notice that my Annual Member Statement does not show the service I am currently purchasing by payroll deductions and the membership date on my statement has not changed. Why?
A: SFERS credits service to you as it is purchased. The service you are purchasing, as well as your new membership date will be reflected on your Annual Member Statement once the purchase is complete. Purchasing prior City service does not give a member retroactive membership.
Q: How is my retirement benefit affected when I am receiving SDI (Disability), Workers’ Compensation benefits, or any other “leave” benefit while employed with the City?
A: SFERS does not calculate service credit for retirement purposes for any periods of employment during which you are on “unpaid leave” status and/or are not receiving a salary from the City.
Q: What happens to my retirement benefits if I am laid off and placed on Involuntary Leave status?
A: While on Involuntary Leave status you continue to be a member of SFERS. However, you are not eligible to request a refund of your contributions, nor make any other benefit election until your status changes to Involuntary or Voluntary Lay-Off status.
Q: I am considering employment with a California public plan that is reciprocal with PERS and SFERS. Do I automatically qualify for Reciprocity?
A: Under SFERS’ Reciprocity provisions you must terminate membership/employment with the current reciprocal plan, and within six months of your termination date, become a member of the new reciprocal plan. Concurrent membership (whether on paid or unpaid status from any of the reciprocal plans through your termination date) will disqualify you for reciprocity purposes. See “Reciprocity” on the SFERS web site for additional information about qualifying for reciprocity.
Q: How long will it take to receive the refund of my contributions?
A: Typically, you will receive your refund eight weeks from the latter of 1) your termination date, 2) the date of receipt of your last check, or 3) your refund request date.
Q: How do I calculate my retirement benefit?
A: You can find the formula to calculate an estimate of your retirement benefit in the Summary of Plan Provisions corresponding to the SFERS Plan to which you belong. Or, you may register for the SFERS Members-Only Portal, mySFERS, to utilize the benefits estimate calculator to calculate an estimate of your benefit.
Q: How do I request an estimate of my retirement benefit and how long will it take to receive the estimate
A: The most convenient way to get an estimate of your retirement benefit is to register for the SFERS Members-Only Portal, mySFERS, and utilize the benefits estimate calculator to calculate an estimate of your benefit…it takes just minutes to complete. However, if you are currently qualified for service retirement or, are otherwise eligible to retire for service within one year of the date of your request, you can request an estimate of your SFERS benefit by completing and returning to SFERS a Retirement Estimate Request Form (refer to your Summary of Plan Provisions for service retirement qualifications). Normally, you will receive the estimate within eight weeks of SFERS receipt of your request.
Q: When is the earliest I can retire?
A: The earliest you can retire voluntarily for service is on or after attaining age 50 (age 53 for some members) and upon meeting the qualifications for service retirement. You may apply for disability retirement regardless of age if you have at least 10 years of service credit. Refer to your Summary of Plan Provisions for detailed retirement qualifications.
Q: How do I apply for retirement?
A: In order to initiate the retirement application process, you are required to complete a counseling session with a SFERS Retirement Counselor. The session must take place at least three months prior to your desired retirement date. You may schedule a counseling appointment through our online Retirement Appointment Scheduler, by phone or in person at least six months prior to your desired appointment date. According to Retirement Board policy, your retirement date may be on or after the first day of the month in which you file your application with SFERS.
Q: How do I apply for a disability retirement and how long does it take for the application to be approved?
A: You can initiate a disability retirement by scheduling a counseling session with a SFERS Retirement Counselor. You may schedule a counseling appointment through our online Retirement Appointment Scheduler, by phone, or in person. The length of time it takes to approve your application depends on how quickly the supporting documents are received, the evidence and facts reviewed, and all issues pertaining to your disability are resolved.
Q: How soon will I receive my vacation pay or other lump sum payments after I retire?
A: SFERS does not pay your lump-sum entitlements. SFERS will notify your department once you have applied for retirement. Your department will process your lump-sum entitlements according to procedures regarding this matter.
Q: Am I eligible for health benefits when I retire?
A: For information about eligibility for health benefits during retirement, you must consult with the City’s Health Services System (HSS). HSS administers health and dental benefits for active and retired SFERS members.
Q: What type of documents does SFERS require to release community property benefits?
A: Since each case concerning community property is unique, you will need to contact SFERS at (415) 487-7065 to discuss your individual situation.
Q: How soon after I file my retirement application will I receive my first check?
A: Your first retirement check will be issued 30-45 days after the latter of 1) your application date, 2) your retirement date, or 3) the date of your last payroll check. SFERS must receive all earnings and contributions data though your last day of work to begin the calculation of your retirement benefit.
Q: If I am qualified for service retirement, can I receive my monthly pension if I am terminated for engaging in illegal activity on the job?
A: If you are a miscellaneous member who is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude committed in connection with your duties as an officer or employee of CCSF or member employer, you will forfeit your right to receive a monthly pension. Your contributions in the plan will be refunded to you.
Q: Who can be a beneficiary for my SFERS account?
A: You may designate any person or persons, your estate or a trust as your beneficiary. You can find additional information on beneficiaries in your Summary of Plan Provisions.
Q: How can I find out who is designated as beneficiary on my SFERS account?
A: If it has been some time since you designated a beneficiary on your SFERS account, and you are not sure who is currently designated as beneficiary, we recommend you designate a new beneficiary on your SFERS account. You may download the Designation of Beneficiary Form from our web site and mail the completed and notarized form to SFERS, or you can bring the completed form to our office in person.
Q: What is the difference between a “beneficiary” and a “qualified survivor”?
A: A “beneficiary” is a person or persons, trust or estate that you designate to receive a lump-sum death benefit that may be payable upon your death. A “qualified survivor” is a person that your SFERS plan provisions define as eligible to receive a monthly continuation allowance that may be payable upon your death. Refer to your Summary of Plan Provisions for more details.
Q: How do I change my address?
A: To change your address, you must contact the Human Resources or Payroll Officer in your department. The address information SFERS collects for member communications comes directly from each department’s payroll division.
Q: I plan to retire and move to another country. Can you deposit my retirement check into my bank account electronically in that country?
A: Your pension benefit can only be deposited electronically in a US financial institution. You will need to verify with the bank in the country where you plan to reside whether it has affiliation with a U.S. financial institution where your benefit can be deposited and accessed by you from the country in which you will reside.
Q: What is the difference between retiring on July 1st vs. July 2nd?
A: The difference between these two dates can have a big effect on your retirement benefits over time. Members who retire on July 1st are eligible for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to their pension, when payable, effective on July 1st. Members who retire on July 2nd are not eligible to receive the COLA that was effective on the preceding July 1st because they were not retired on July 1st. These members will have to wait until July 1st of the following year to receive any COLA that may be payable.
Q: Can I work after I retire?
A: Yes. Once you have retired from the City you can work for any employer other than the City with limited restrictions. If you return to work for the City, you are limited to working no more than 960 hours in any fiscal year without affecting your pension benefit. If you are under age 62 on your effective retirement date, you must wait a minimum of 60 days after your retirement date before you can begin employment with the City as a retired employee. Certain employment restrictions apply to disability retirees. For additional information about “work after retirement” provisions, refer to your Summary of Plan Provisions and the Normal Retirement Age and Bona-Fide Separation Retirement Board Policies.
Q: I want to purchase unpaid parental leave prior to July 1, 2003 but my department does not have a record of my leave. What can I do?
A: Your City personnel file follows you from department to department whenever you change jobs. Therefore, the department with which you are currently employed must certify the period of leave as unpaid parental leave. If your department does not have a record of your leave or cannot determine the nature of the leave, they can contact SFERS and make arrangements to access timerolls/timesheets for the period of interest.
Q: Am I eligible for vesting?
A: SFERS provides a monthly retirement allowance first payable on or after age 50 (age 53 for some members) for members 1) with five or more years of service credit (as of date of separation); 2) not qualified for service retirement; and 3) who elect vesting within 90 days of termination of City employment.