Many retirees choose to return to work in retirement. If work is part of your retirement plan, you should consider how that work may affect your retirement benefit. Returning to work outside the OPERS system will have no effect on your OPERS benefits. To begin the process of returning to work, you and your employer need to complete the Post Retirement Employment form (Form 515-117B). This informs OPERS of your beginning date of employment, original retirement date and whether you will receive your retirement benefits while working or waive them. If you return to work for an OPERS-participating employer, certain conditions apply:

Returning to work with the same employer

State law prohibits an OPERS retiree from returning to work with the same agency for a period of one year unless the member waives the receipt of their OPERS retirement benefit. See Waiving OPERS Benefits While Working below for more information.

Pre-arranged employment prohibited

IRS Code and IRS regulations require a true separation from employment for OPERS members to receive retirement benefits in good faith. Pre-arranged employment agreements between retiring members of OPERS and their previous employers are not considered a good-faith separation. This also applies to performing services under contract with the same employer (e.g. Galt temporary employment).

Returning to work with a different OPERS participating employer

You may return to work for a different OPERS-participating employer after the first month of retirement.

Contributions and Service Credit

Those returning to work for a participating employer must participate in OPERS by paying contributions no matter how many hours they work or the nature of the work (temporary, seasonal, permanent, etc.). Retirees continue to accrue service credit while they work for a participating employer, and the additional credit may increase their retirement benefits.

Independent contractors do not participate in OPERS, but before a participating employer hires an OPERS retiree as an independent contractor, they must submit a copy of that contract to OPERS for review. The determination of whether or not an employee is an independent contractor for the purpose of participation in OPERS will be made solely by OPERS.

Upon returning to work, the retiree must complete a form entitled Post-Retirement Employment and choose either to (1) continue receiving retirement benefits, or (2) waive the receipt of benefits while employed. The rules governing retirees returning to work are addressed below.

Receiving OPERS Benefits While Working

Earnings Limitations

OPERS retirees may return to work after they retire and continue to receive their retirement benefits. However, if a member returns to work for an OPERS participating employer, they may be subject to a federal earnings limitation depending upon their age.

The federal earnings limitation applies only to OPERS retirees who meet both of the following conditions:

  • The retiree returns to work for an OPERS participating employer; and,
  • The retiree is younger than full, normal retirement age set by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The 2021 earnings limitation is applied in the following manner:

  • If you will not reach the SSA normal retirement age in 2021, you can earn $18,960 with an OPERS participating employer.
  • If you will reach the SSA normal retirement age in 2021, you will be able to earn $50,520.
  • Once you reach the full SSA normal retirement age, there is no limit on earnings. The chart below provides your Social Security normal retirement age based on the year you were born.
Social Security – Normal Retirement Age 
Year of Birth Age
1937 and prior 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and after 67
Note: Persons born on January 1 of any year should refer to the normal retirement age of the previous year.

If you exceed your earnings limit during the calendar year, your benefit will stop for the remainder of that year. You may resume those benefits when the new calendar year begins, and you will have a new earnings limit. Be aware that wages will fall under the calendar year in which the paycheck is issued, regardless of when the wages were earned. For example:

  • If you work in December but are not issued a check for that work until January, those earnings would fall under your earnings for the new year.

By state law, the earnings limitations for retirees that have returned to work with an OPERS participating employer are linked to the amounts allowable as wages or earnings by the Social Security Administration in any calendar year. The information above is based upon the amounts established by the Social Security Administration. The full retirement age will increase over time.

Increase in Benefits

Each pay period a retiree works for a participating OPERS employer and contributes to OPERS, the retiree accrues post-retirement service credit. Benefits are increased in January of each year for those retirees who have accrued 12 months of service (2,076 hours) as of June 30th of the previous calendar year. Any hours which exceed 12 months will be retained in your record to be added to future post-retirement credit. Increased benefits are based upon the actual compensation earned and actual hours accrued with the participating employer during post-retirement employment.

Waiving OPERS Benefits While Working

A retiree can decide to stop receiving his or her retirement benefits completely while employed with a participating OPERS employer. In such a case, no earnings limitations apply, and the retiree may retire for a second time after accruing the equivalent of 36 consecutive months of full-time service credit (6,228 hours). All the retiree’s service credit (before and after retirement) and final average salary will be recalculated based upon the law governing this System at the time of the retiree’s second retirement. When the retiree retires the second time, he or she may also reselect a retirement option.

Retirees who return to work and waive their benefits but do not work the 36 months required to re-retire are entitled to have their benefits increased under the method used for retirees who received benefits while working.

IMPORTANT: Members selecting the Medicare Gap Benefit Option may not waive benefits and retire a second time.