What is Vesting?

Vesting means you have met the minimum service requirement to earn a future retirement benefit. This is different than being eligible to retire, which is when you meet both service and age requirements. You will only need to make the decision to vest (leave funds in the system) or withdraw if you separate employment before you are eligible to retire.

Am I Eligible to Vest My Retirement?

To be eligible to vest, you must have at least eight years of credited service with six of those year being full-time equivalent employment with a participating OPERS employer. If you terminate employment and have accrued enough service to vest, you can elect a vested benefit and receive a future retirement benefit once you reach the age requirement for retirement.

How Do I Vest My Retirement?

To elect a vested benefit, contact your retirement coordinator to obtain the Application for Vested Benefits. You and your coordinator must complete the form before submitting to OPERS.

OPERS staff will lock in your salary and service information as of your separation and will prepare a vested estimate for you. The estimate will include your estimated benefit amount and the date you will be eligible to begin drawing your lifetime benefit.

When Can I Start Drawing a Vested Benefit?

When you elect a vested benefit you don’t receive a retirement benefit immediately. 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.

Example 1:

Zoey, age 33, terminates with 9 years of service. If she elects a vested benefit, she may draw benefits at age 62.

Example 2:

George, age 52, terminates with 25 years of service. If he elects a vested benefit, he may draw full benefits at age 55. (55 + 25 = 80)

What Else Should I Consider?

  • Often times, a retirement benefit over one’s lifetime has a greater monetary value than the amount of the accumulated contributions.
  • Electing 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 participation employer, you will have retained your previous service and continue to accumulate 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.

What If I’m Not Eligible to Vest?

You may choose to leave your contributions in the OPERS system and retain your service. If you come back to employment with an OPERS participating employer, you will begin accruing service.

You may also choose to withdraw your accumulated contribution in a lump sum by completing the Application for Withdrawal along with your retirement coordinator. 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.