Active Safety Member FAQs

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 obtain a recent account balance through mySFERS, Member-Only Portal.

Q: I am a member in the SFERS safety plan and I purchased non-safety service with SFERS for period(s) of service rendered prior to my membership in the SFERS safety plan. Will my non-safety service be added to my safety service to calculate my benefit?

A: The service you purchased as a non-safety member is credited to you under the miscellaneous plan.  When you retire from the safety plan, the miscellaneous service will entitle you to a separate benefit calculated according to the miscellaneous provisions, but using your safety compensation. If you are not entitled to receive a miscellaneous benefit, your contributions and interest will be refunded to you.

Q: I noticed that my Annual Member Statement does not show the service I am currently purchasing by payroll deductions. Why?

A: SFERS credits service to you as it is purchased. The service you are purchasing will be reflected on your Annual Member Statement once the purchase is complete.

Q: How is my retirement benefit affected when I am on Disability Pay (DP)?

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. If you are a DROP participant receiving DP, your DROP benefits will be suspended for the period during which you are receiving DP.  When you return to “paid” status and begin receiving a salary from the City, your DROP benefits will resume and the DROP enrollment period shall be extended; however, the DROP extension cannot exceed one-half of the permitted maximum participation period for your rank at your DROP entry date.

Q: What happens to my retirement benefits if I am suspended from work without pay?

A: While on suspension without pay, you do not receive service credit for retirement purposes. You may contact SFERS at the end of the suspension to inquire about the overall effect in service credit for the particular fiscal year(s).  You cannot “buyback” service for a suspension period.

Q: I was employed under another California public plan as a safety employee prior to entering safety employment with the City and County of San Francisco.  Can I transfer the prior safety service into my SFERS safety plan?

A: Only service rendered with the City and County of San Francisco as a member in the safety (police and fire) plans is credited to you as safety service with SFERS. You may choose to either 1) leave the prior safety service with the prior plan, or 2) if your contributions were refunded to you, you may elect   to purchase the service under the other plan as “public service” with SFERS. Once the purchase is complete, the service will be credited to you as service under the SFERS Miscellaneous Plan (provided you have other credited service under the miscellaneous plan with SFERS). Please note, if you took a refund, we recommend you inquire with the prior plan about opportunities for redeposit with that plan.

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 from the current plan, and within 6 months of your termination date, become a member of the new plan.  Concurrent membership (whether on paid or unpaid status from any of the reciprocal plans through your separation date) will disqualify you for reciprocity purposes.  Refer to “Reciprocity” on the SFERS web site for additional information about qualifying for reciprocity.

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 and upon meeting the qualifications for service retirement.  You may apply for ordinary disability retirement (non- job-related) regardless of age if you have at least 10 years of service credit. You may apply for industrial disability retirement (job-related) regardless of age or 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: For how long will I receive my pension?

A: Your pension will be paid to you throughout your lifetime.

Q: When do you make the monthly pension payments?

A: Pension payments are always issued on the last day of each month.  The allowance covers the period from the first day of the month to the last day of the month.

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 I 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.  See your Summary of Plan Provisions for details.

Q: I have a disabled child.  Will he/she be eligible to receive a monthly allowance when I die?

A: A disabled child may be eligible to receive a monthly allowance upon your death if the provisions of the Retirement Board Policy Regarding Qualification for Benefits for Dependent Adult Child or Dependent Parent Continuation Benefits are met. Contact SFERS for a copy of the policy.

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: Do you mail pension checks outside the US?

A: Yes, but members must allow for delays and SFERS cannot guarantee prompt delivery of your check.

Q: I plan to retire and move to another country.  Can you deposit my retirement check electronically into my bank account 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 US 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. Retiring on July 1 vs. July 2 may also impact the calculation of your lump-sum payouts from your department. You should inquire with your payroll department about this matter.

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 50 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.

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