Answers to frequently asked questions about retirement

Do you want to know when you are eligible to retire? Are you wondering what formula is used to calculate your retirement benefit? These are among the most common questions classified employees ask. Here are some answers:

Generally, CalPERS members are eligible to retire at age 50 or 52, depending on date of membership in CalPERS, with a minimum service credit of five years. Part-time employees may be eligible with less than five years total service credit if they have contributed for five years or more.

For classified employees, there are three factors used to calculate retirement: age at retirement, years of service credit and final compensation. Final compensation is the full-time pay rate averaged over 12 or 36 consecutive months, depending on the initial date of membership in CalPERS.

If you worked as a substitute employee or in a part-time position (less than four hours a day) before you began contributing to CalPERS, you can purchase service credit for that time. You can also redeposit any funds you may have withdrawn upon leaving a previous CalPERS position. You may also add service credit for qualifying military time served prior to your school employment, and for any unpaid maternity/paternity leave. Arrangements for purchasing service credit must be made prior to retirement and payment must be completed before you retire. The earlier in your career you purchase the service credit, the less expensive it will be.

If you work 1,720 hours in a fiscal year (July 1 through June 30), you will earn one year of service credit. If you work less than 1,720 hours, you will receive a reduced amount of service credit. Be sure to check your CalPERS account online each year to check that your service credit is accurate. You can create an online CalPERS account at

Yes, call CSEA Member Benefits at (866) 487-2732 to schedule a phone appointment with our CSEA Member Benefits Coordinator, who specializes in CalPERS information for school employees. Or book an appointment with CalPERS staff from inside your online account.

Log in to your online CalPERS account at and update the beneficiary form to protect where your money goes if something happens to you. Once you log in to your MyCalPERS account online, you are able to perform various functions related to your account.

CalPERS has developed a simple online process they want members to use in calculating an estimate and obtaining the application for retirement. If you have not already created an account on the CalPERS website, be sure to do so right away to track your retirement information; it will be helpful to you in planning and monitoring your account. Create an account today at

Logging in to and creating an account will connect your payroll to your account. From here, you can see your beneficiary form, CalPERS Special Power of Attorney form to protect your pension if something happens to you, and you can view your service credit. By logging in, you can automatically see how much the pension will pay monthly in the unmodified payment structure at the time of retirement.

Once you have selected a retirement date, you must also choose a payment option. Be sure you understand the options because you cannot generally change options after retirement. Send your application to CalPERS no less than 90 days before your retirement date.

If you are retiring from CalPERS within 120 days of separating from your employer, any unused sick leave you have at the time of your retirement will be converted to additional retirement service credit. Your employer is required to report the unused sick leave and an adjustment will later be made to increase your monthly retirement.

CalPERS retirement is a guaranteed lifetime income regardless of how many years you live. Generally, you will receive an amount equal to what you contributed plus interest in the first three to five years after retirement, but the checks never stop.

There is a “survivor continuance” feature of CalPERS paid for by the employer. This guarantees a spouse a continuing lifetime income of at least one-fourth of a retiree’s monthly income. There are several other options that allow a retiree to provide a larger continuing income to a spouse or other designated beneficiary.

Contact your CSEA field office and ask for your labor relations representative or refer to your employee contract to learn if your contract offers health benefits after retirement. You are not eligible to participate in the CalPERS health benefit program unless your district insures active employees with CalPERS-provided healthcare.

The law requires all members who retired after January 1, 2013, to wait six months (180 days) before returning to work in a CalPERS covered agency. Once you have waited the six months you may only work as a substitute or limited term employee up to a maximum of 960 hours in a fiscal year. You may not accept a permanent part-time position with a CalPERS employer while receiving CalPERS retirement. There is no limit to how much you work or how much you earn if working outside a CalPERS agency.

In October 2021, Governor Newsom worked with CSEA to sign a temporary change to the working after retirement law, Executive Order N-25-20. Members can return to a temporary position at a CalPERS covered agency (school job, city, county, state) as a temporary employee 60 days after retirement rather than waiting six months. This is a temporary change but may give relief to schools that are experiencing staffing shortages.

Executive Order N-25-20 also suspends the 960-hour limit for retired annuitants as long as the employer notifies CalPERS at Meaning a member can exceed the substitute/temporary work limit of 960 hours if the employer provides the details to CalPERS prior to the member exceeding the 960 hours.

The employer must register all retirees working at CalPERS covered agency as “retired annuitants” for any work performed at a CalPERS covered agency while collecting a CalPERS pension.

Other notes:

  • Members can only earn base pay – no stipends, longevity, paid holidays, sick leave, etc.
  • The work must be substitute or temporary work
  • Temporary work can be while the employer is recruiting to fill a vacant job
  • This rule does not apply if the retiree works in the private sector while collecting a CalPERS pension

Yes. If you have always contributed to both CalPERS and Social Security, you will receive both. There will be no reduction in your Social Security benefits because you receive CalPERS retirement. If you worked in a part-time position or as a substitute and did not contribute to Social Security at that time, you will possibly become subject to a reduction in your Social Security due to a law known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). If you have 30 years of contributions to Social Security on significant earnings during your lifetime, you are exempt from this provision. You should contact CalPERS to obtain a “First Eligible Letter” to show the coordination between Social Security and CalPERS.

You may begin to draw Social Security as early as age 62. Full retirement age for Social Security depends on your birth date if born in 1938 or later. If you draw Social Security before your full retirement age, you will receive a reduced amount.

If you are under “full Social Security age”, Social Security will notify you each year of how much you can earn without a penalty. Earning more than the limit can still be to your advantage in the future. Once your reach full Social Security age, there is no limit as to how much you can earn and still collect your Social Security. For more information about Social Security and to create an online account, visit the Social Security website at

Yes. There is a limit to how much you can earn if you are drawing Social Security before you reach full retirement age. There is no limit to how much you can earn once you have reached full retirement age.

Go to the CalPERS website at, where you can create an online account, download forms or request forms or information about service credit, retirement, death benefits, and more. You can also reach CalPERS by phone at (888) 225-7377 (Cal-PERS).


A CalPERS Special Power of Attorney form allows you to designate someone you trust to make decisions about your retirement in the event something occurs where you are still living but unable to make decisions for yourself such as completing a retirement application or changing information about yourself with CalPERS. If you have a Power of Attorney for other purposes, CalPERS will be happy to review it to see if it will also allow that person to manage your CalPERS affairs. Without an appropriate Power of Attorney that will qualify for CalPERS matters, someone would have to go to court to get a conservatorship to handle your affairs for you for something as simple as changing your address.

Don’t overlook the importance of filling out the CalPERS Special Power of Attorney form and making sure it is on file with CalPERS now. Please address any questions about the CalPERS Special Power of Attorney form with a knowledgeable CalPERS representative.

Learn more and download the form here:  

If you have questions about any of the above information, attend a CSEA Pre-Retirement Seminar or call CSEA Member Benefits at (866) 487-2732 to schedule an appointment with a CSEA staff member who works closely with CalPERS to ensure that classified employees are informed about their pension benefits.