Defined Benefit Plans

The Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) administers retirement plans for several different types of Oklahoma state and local government employees. The primary plan is a defined benefit retirement plan. A defined benefit plan promises its members a lifetime retirement benefit when the member meets certain eligibility requirements. OPERS administers two defined benefit plans, one includes:
  • Oklahoma state* and local government employees,
  • Oklahoma state* and county elected officials,
  • Hazardous Duty employees, which includes Correctional Officers, Probation and Parole Officers and Fugitive Apprehension Agents of the Department of Corrections; as well as Oklahoma Military Department Firefighters, Grand River Dam Authority Lake Patrol Officers and County Deputy Sheriffs and Jailers.
The second defined benefit plan, called the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges, administers retirement benefits for the Judges and Justices who serve on the
  • Oklahoma Supreme Court,
  • Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals,
  • Court of Civil Appeals,
  • Worker’s Compensation Court, and the
  • Oklahoma District Courts.
In each of these defined benefit plans, membership is mandatory for most employees. All members participate in these plans by contributing a certain portion of their salary to the plan each month. Likewise, the organization the member works for also contributes on behalf of the member. These member and employer-paid contributions have no direct relationship to the benefit that the Plan promises the member. In fact, the benefit the member will receive is not based upon the amount of contributions the member and his or her employer paid but upon a formula which involves the member’s compensation and the number of years of credited service the member has accrued throughout his or her career. The member and employer paid contributions are invested by the Plan, under the direction of the Board of Trustees, to make the benefit promise a reality for all present and future members.
*State employees who first become employed by a participating employer on or after November 1, 2015, and have no prior participation in OPERS will not participate in the defined benefit plan but a mandatory defined contribution plan called Pathfinder, see below.

Defined Contribution Plans

Another type of retirement plan administered by OPERS is known as a defined contribution retirement plan. In a defined contribution plan, no specific benefit is promised to a plan participant. The participant is primarily responsible for making contributions to the plan and managing those assets in order to produce a source of funds available during their retirement years. OPERS administers two defined contribution plans:
  • Pathfinder is the mandatory defined contribution plan for state employee who first become employed by a participating employer on or after November 1, 2015, and have no prior participation in the OPERS defined benefit plan. Click here for more information about Pathfinder.
  • OPERS also administers the voluntary SoonerSave defined contribution plan in which certain Oklahoma state employees are eligible to participate. SoonerSave is comprised of two parts: the Oklahoma State Employees Deferred Compensation Plan (457 Plan) and the Oklahoma State Employees Deferred Savings Incentive Plan (401(a) Plan). Click here for more information about SoonerSave.
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