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The New Defined Contribution System
Understanding the Basics

A new defined contribution (DC) retirement system will become effective for those eligible members who join OPERS on or after November 1, 2015. The DC system is composed of two defined contribution plans pursuant to Sections 401(a) and 457(b) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The creation of the DC system does not affect employees who were members of OPERS before November 1, 2015. Those members will continue to participate in the longstanding OPERS defined benefit plan. Employees who were OPERS members prior to November 1, 2015, and have left state service will also remain members of the OPERS defined benefit plan if they return to work for an eligible employer.

OPERS and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services are working to make enrollment in the new DC system part of the initial processing of new employees into PeopleSoft’s HCM system. More information about the enrollment process will be provided at the fall Retirement Coordinator training.

OPERS will provide more detailed information on the creation of this new retirement system in the coming weeks and months. The following serves as an initial overview of plan provisions governing the DC plan.

Eligible Participation

WHO'S IN

  • All state employees who first become employed by a participating employer in the OPERS DC plan on or after November 1, 2015. Only those employees who are employed on more than a half-time basis are eligible to participate in the new DC plan. Eligibility is tied to the receipt of benefits, which only those employees who work more than half-time are eligible to receive.
  • Any person first licensed by the Department of Rehabilitation Services as a vending operator or managing operator on or after November 1, 2015, will be eligible for participation in the DC plan.
  • Legislative session employees first employed on or after November 1, 2015, will have the option to participate in the DC plan. The election to participate is irrevocable.

WHO’S OUT (Employees described below will participate in the current OPERS defined benefit plan.)

  • Members classified as hazardous duty members, district attorneys, assistant district attorneys or other employees of the district attorney’s office may not participate in the DC plan.
  • Employees of a county, county elected officials, county hospital, city or town, conservation district, circuit engineering district, and any public or private trust in which a county, city or town participates and is the primary beneficiary may not participate in the DC plan.

NOTE: A member who first begins employment on or after November 1, 2015, with an employer who is excluded from the DC plan and then later goes to work for a DC employer will join the DC plan upon employment with the DC employer. The exclusion does not follow the employee.

Contributions and Matching

Employees will contribute a minimum of 4.5% of their salary and the employer will contribute a 6% match. An employee will receive a 7% employer match if he or she increases their employee contribution to 7%. Employees may contribute above 7%, but the employer match will not increase.

The initial 4.5% employee contribution is mandatory and will be placed in the 401(a) plan. Any contributions in excess of the mandatory 4.5% will be voluntary deferrals and placed in the 457(b) plan. Participants will elect their initial rate at enrollment and may only change the rate once per calendar year during an option period determined by the OPERS Board. All employee contributions shall be made by salary reduction.

All employee contributions to the defined contribution system are tax deferred. The mandatory 4.5% employee contributions into the 401(a) are treated by the IRS as “picked up” by the employer. Voluntary deferral amounts in excess of the 4.5% go into the 457(b) plan and are not taxed at the time of contribution.

The employer shall remit to the defined benefit plan the difference between the required matching contribution to the new DC plan and the current required employer contribution rate of the defined benefit plan.

Each employer will be required to pay to OPERS an amount to reimburse the cost of administration of the DC plan, as determined by the OPERS Board. Each year, the OPERS Board shall certify to OMES the determined amount of administrative costs of the defined contribution system, which will be required to be paid for by each participant.

Vesting

Participants will always be 100% vested in their employee contributions and voluntary deferrals, as well as the gains or losses on those amounts. Employees are vested with respect to employer contributions at 20% per year until becoming 100% vested after five full years of participation.

If the employee leaves the DC plan, but then returns to employment, he or she will receive credit for previous service and be vested at the same percentage as when they left employment. All non-vested employer contributions will remain in the plan to offset administrative costs if the employee terminates service.

Investment Options

The OPERS Board will contract with one or more business entities to create a range of investment choices for participants. Participants will have investment discretion over all employee contributions, voluntary deferrals, employer matching funds, and the gains or losses on those amounts within the available investment options offered. These options will be substantially similar to those offered in the SoonerSave plan.

Additional Notes

Employees participating in the defined contribution system will not be permitted to participate in the Oklahoma State Employees Deferred Compensation and Savings Incentive Plans commonly referred to as “SoonerSave” and accordingly will not qualify for the $25 match in SoonerSave.

Participants in the DC plan are excluded from receiving the $105.00 monthly health insurance subsidy paid by OPERS.

 

Last Revised - July 15, 2015

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