Vesting means you have enough service to earn a future retirement benefit. This is different than being eligible to retire, which is when you meet both service and age criteria. You will only need to vest if you leave employment before you are eligible to retire.
How Vesting Works
When you vest, you don’t receive a retirement benefit right away. Vesting reserves your right to draw a benefit in the future – when you are eligible. The benefit at that time will be based upon the final average compensation and service credit you had accrued before termination.
Zoey, age 33, terminates with 9 years of service. If she elects a vested benefit, she may draw benefits at age 65.
George, age 57, terminates with 30 years of service. If he elects a vested benefit, he may draw full benefits at age 60. (60 + 30 = 90)
- Often, a retirement benefit over one’s lifetime has a greater value than the amount of the accumulated contributions.
- Choosing a vested benefit ensures you will receive an income from OPERS during your retirement years or provide a survivor benefit in the event of death.
- If you return to work for an OPERS participating employer, you will continue adding to your existing service credit.
- By vesting your retirement, you will receive annual statements, newsletters and a reminder when you are eligible to begin benefits. OPERS will mail you the forms to begin your retirement.
Applying for a Vested Benefit
To vest your benefit, contact your retirement coordinator to obtain the Application for Vested Benefits. You and your coordinator must complete the form before submitting to OPERS. If you have already left employment, you can complete the vesting application online.
OPERS staff will lock in your salary and service information as of your separation and will prepare a vesting statement for you. The statement will include your estimated benefit amount and the date you will be eligible to begin drawing your lifetime benefit.
Not Eligible to Vest
You may choose to leave your contributions in the OPERS system and retain your service. If you return to work with an OPERS participating employer, you will pick-up where you left off on earning service credit.
You may also choose to withdraw your accumulated contributions in a lump sum. If you are eligible to vest when OPERS receives your withdrawal application, we will provide you with a retirement benefit estimate and additional information. This will constitute an offer to elect a vested benefit.