Frequently Asked Questions

These are our most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).   A PDF version is available here.   If you need more information, please contact us at 206-386-1293 or retirecity@seattle.gov.

Membership Basics

A defined benefit plan, funded by the employer, promises you a specific monthly benefit at retirement. Retirees do not bear the risk of outliving their retirement benefits or that investment performance will reduce their income.

The promised benefit may be based on an exact dollar amount, such as $100 per month starting at retirement. Or, more often, it may calculate your benefit through a formula that includes factors such as your salary, your age, and the number of years you worked at the company. For example, your pension benefit might be equal to 2 percent of your average salary for the last 5 years of employment times your total years of service.

The City of Seattle has a voluntary deferred compensation plan through Nationwide. This is separate from your SCERS pension.


Unlike traditional savings accounts, DCP is tax-deferred which lowers your taxable income while you are working and delays payments of income on your investments until you withdraw your funds.
For more information and to enroll, check the City's DCP website at www.seattledcp.com.

SCERS is in downtown Seattle on the 9th floor of the Pacific Building which is on the corner of 3rd Avenue and Columbia Street.

Our address is 720 3rd Avenue, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98104.

Membership in the plan is mandatory for employees hired into permanent, non-exempt positions.

Employees in exempt positions have the option to join the SCERS Plan at any time during their employment. However, once they become members, they cannot change their minds.

Temporary employees may join the plan within six calendar months of completing 1,044 hours of continuous straight-time service. If they do not join at this time, there is one more opportunity within six months of completing 10,440 hours (approximately five years full-time) of continuous straight time temporary service.

Please complete and submit a Membership Application for Exempt Employees form which can be found on our website.


You may elect membership at any time during your employment with the City. The election is irrevocable, and you cannot reverse that decision in the future.

Generally, regular employees hired prior to January 1, 2017 are in SCERS Plan 1.  Those hired on or after January 1, 2017 are in SCERS Plan 2.

Employee contributions, which are automatically deducted on a pre-tax basis from your paycheck, are 10.03% of your salary for SCERS Plan 1 members and 7.0% for SCERS Plan 2 members.

Contributions made on or before December 31, 2011 earn interest at an annual rate of 5.75%. 

The interest rate after December 31, 2011 varies each year and is set by the SCERS Board of Administration each summer for implementation the following January.  This variable interest rate is based upon the average yield on 30-year U.S. Treasury Bonds during the previous June 1st to May 31st period.

 

No, only your straight-time hours are used when computing retirement to a maximum of 80 hours per pay period.

Yes, both out-of-class pay and shift differential pay are factored into your final retirement calculation.

Vesting means you have established enough service credit to receive a lifetime benefit once you reach eligibility. 

You are considered vested if you have at least five years of creditable service and do not withdraw your accumulated contributions if you terminate City Employment.  If you have prior service credit with another eligible retirement system (i.e., DRS, City of Tacoma, etc.) that service may count towards the five years of service credit needed for vesting.

If you have ever worked for the State of Washington, other municipalities or agencies in Washington State, or the city of Spokane or Tacoma, you might be able to claim portability.

Portability allows you to combine certain pension benefits between SCERS and other eligible plans.  Portability does not mean that your contributions in the other pension plans are transferred to SCERS.   

With portability you are entitled to a pension from each respective system based on the number of years worked in each system.  However, you may combine the years worked for both systems to determine vesting rights, retirement eligibility, and the factor that we will use in determining your pension benefit.  Also, your highest salary between the two systems will be used to calculate your benefits.

No, there is no provision for borrowing.

If you participate in the City's voluntary deferred compensation plan, provisions for loans, emergency, and/or hardship withdrawals may be included.

To buyback service credit, please submit a completed Service Credit Purchase Request form which is available on our website.

Once your time loss has been researched, you will receive a buyback notification letter with the number of hours you may purchase and the cost calculation.   

However, you have six months from your membership eligibility date to initiate a buyback arrangement. 

If you do not initiate a buyback arrangement within six months of your membership eligibility, no service credit can be purchased until your retirement or resignation.  At that point, you will have to pay the actuarial cost, which is significantly more expensive.  

Buybacks may be made in one lump sum payment, through payroll deduction or by rollover from deferred compensation or other eligible IRA.  If you choose payroll deduction, interest will be charged and you will have up to 10 years to purchase back your service time.  Buybacks must be completed with the funds received by SCERS while you are actively employed with the City.  Once you have separated or retired from the City, SCERS will not accept additional buyback funds or requests.  Buybacks must be completed before your last day in City service.

More information on buy backs can be found on our website.

Member statements of account are mailed to each member's home address at the end of March each year.  Please be sure that your address is up to date.

You are eligible to retire with a full benefit under the following:

Retirement Eligibility - SCERS Plan 1

   Age   At least 62   At least 57   At least 52   Any Age  
   Service Credit Years   5 to 9   10 to 19   20 to 29   30  

 

Retirement Eligibility - SCERS Plan 2 (generally employees hired on or after January 1, 2017)

   Age   At least 60   At least 57   At least 55  
   Service Credit Years   5 to 9   10 to 19   20 to 29  

  1. When you are ready to begin your retirement process, make sure that you have a Retirement Benefit Estimate that was completed within the last year.  If not, please fill out the Benefit Estimate Request form.  Please do not wait until the last minute to request your Retirement Benefit Estimate.
  2. You will need to schedule a retirement appointment with one of our retirement specialists.  The appointment must be at least thirty (30) days prior to your planned retirement date.  At this appointment, you will file your retirement application.  You can schedule a retirement appointment by emailing our offices at retirecity@seattle.gov or calling 206-386-1283.
  3. Notify your home department of your plans to retire at least two weeks before your retirement date.

More information is available on our website at "How to Retire".

You can request an estimate of your SCERS benefit by completing and returning to SCERS a Benefit Estimate Request form which is available on our website.

Life Events

Please complete the Member Application for Withdrawal of Contributions form which is available on our website.  Withdrawal forms must be notarized.  SCERS offers onsite notary services.

Withdrawing contributions has income tax implications.  For further information, see the IRS Special Tax Notice Regarding Plan Payments (IRS Safe Harbor Notice).

You will be able to withdraw your accumulated contributions with interest (ACWI).  Before we can release your funds, we must receive proper documentation, your employment status with the City must be "terminated" and your final paycheck issued.

If you leave your City job, you have several choices when it comes to your account.

Option 1:         You can discontinue your membership in the fund and request a refund of your contributions.  You may receive your refund as a lump-sum payment or roll over all or a portion of your account.  

Option 2:         If you are vested in the fund, you can keep your contributions in SCERS until you are eligible to retire.  You will need to notify SCERS upon your retirement.

Your Beneficiary Designation Form tells us who you wish to receive your pension benefits upon your death.  If you do not complete and submit the form, any benefits due will be paid out according to Washington state law.

If you wish to change your beneficiary, please download and complete a "Change of Beneficiary" form from the SCERS's website.  The form must be notarized.  SCERS offers on-site notary services.

If you are already retired, please note that if you selected option D or E at the time of retirement, your spouse or registered domestic partner must be your beneficiary.  If you are married at the time of retirement and you select Retirement Option A, B, or C, you may only designate someone other than your spouse or if your spouse consents on your Retirement Application.

In the state of Washington, a public employee's retirement benefit constitutes marital property that must be considered when property is divided in the event of a martial dissolution. 

If you become divorced or legally separated, a court can divide your retirement account between you and your ex-spouse through a property division order (Qualified Domestic Relations Orders or QDRO).

If you have specific questions relating to QDROs, you can review the QDRO FAQs on SCERS's website or call Member Services at 206-386-1293.

If you become disabled in a manner that is likely to be permanent and prevents you from performing any City service, you may be eligible for a SCERS disability retirement benefit. 

If you are a member, you may qualify for disability retirement if you meet on of the following conditions:

  • If you are permanently and totally disabled due to an on-the-job-injury, regardless of your length of service with the City; or
  • If you are permanently and totally disabled due to an illness or injury, you must have at least 10 years of service with the City, and a minimum of 10 years of retirement service credit must have been earned during the 15 years prior to becoming disabled.

If you believe you may qualify for disability retirement, please see the disability information on our website at www.seattle.gov/retirement/active-members/change-status

If you have less than 10 years of creditable service (including portable service), your beneficiary or spouse/registered domestic partner will receive a lump sum payment of your contributions plus interest as well as the $2,000 death benefit.  If you are not married when you die and do not have a beneficiary on file, the lump sum payment and death benefit will be paid out according to Washington state law.

If you have 10 or more years of creditable service (including portable service), your spouse or registered domestic partner is eligible to receive a monthly benefit for the rest of his//her life, receive the death benefit, and has the option of electing to purchase medical coverage under the City's plans.   Please be sure that your beneficiary is aware that your death needs to be reported immediately to SCERS. 

Retirement Basics

When you retire, you may continue self-paid medical coverage through the Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) Benefits Unit by electing COBRA or one of the retiree health plans.  If you elect to purchase insurance from the City, the cost will be deducted from your monthly retirement benefit payment.

Questions?  Contact SDHR Benefits Unit at:

Phone:     206-615-1340

Email:      benefits.unit@seattle.gov

We cannot process your first check until you are separated from payroll in your home department (you have received your last paycheck and any vacation/sick leave cash out).  Once you are officially separated, then we can add you to the SCERS payroll system and process your first retirement check.

A calendar for pension paydays is available on our website at www.seattle.gov/retirement/active-members/how-to-retire

Normally, retirement checks are payable on the last business day of each month.  This could vary slightly if the last day falls on a weekend or a holiday.

Your pension benefit can only be deposited electronically in a U.S. 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 intuition where your benefit can be deposited and accessed by you from the country in which you will reside.

To make any changes to your direct deposit, please complete the form that is available on our website and mail it to us with a voided check.  Direct deposit forms must be notarized.  SCERS offers onsite notary services.


If you wish to change your beneficiary, please download and complete a "Change of Beneficiary" form from the SCERS's website.  The form must be notarized.  SCERS offers onsite notary services.

If you are already retired, please note that if you selected options D or E at the time of retirement, your spouse or registered domestic partner must be your beneficiary.  If you are married at the time of retirement and you select Retirement Option A, B, or C, your spouse must be your only primary beneficiary, unless your spouse has signed a retirement application designing a different beneficiary or a waiver of the right to the benefit.

If you return as a temporary employee, there will be no impact on your pension and annuity retirement benefit as long as you do not exceed 1,040 hours of work in any calendar year.  The first pay period of the City's calendar year is typically the last pay period in December of the previous year.

If you exceed this threshold or if you are appointed to a regular full-time or part-time position, your benefits will be impacted. You will only receive the annuity portion (based on your contributions and interest) of your retirement benefit; the pension portion of your benefit will be frozen until your City service ends.

Call SCERS at 206-386-1293 or email retirecity@seattle.gov to request a pension award letter.  The letter will state the amount of your pension and that it is a life time benefit, if applicable.

Each November, your monthly retirement benefit will be increased to provide the highest benefit calculated under one of the following cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs):

·         A 1.5% annual compounding COLA

·         A COLA which would provide 65% of the purchasing power which the member's original retirement allowance could purchase.