Refunds & Reciprocity
Leaving Employment (Refunds)
If you leave CalPERS-covered employment, you can either leave or take a refund of your contributions.
Leave Your Contributions
If you leave your contributions, you may apply for a retirement benefit as soon as you meet the minimum retirement eligibility requirements. You may leave your contributions on deposit until the year you reach age 70 ½ — when you must receive a refund or a retirement benefit under federal required minimum distribution regulations, unless you're working with a reciprocal agency. Every October, CalPERS sends letters and election forms to all members approaching age 70 ½ notifying them that they must either refund or retire when they attain age 70 ½ or, if they are age 70 ½ this year and not currently working for a reciprocal agency, to contact us to request a Required Minimum Distribution packet.
Take a Refund
A refund will include your contributions plus interest. Employer contributions are not refundable. Taking a refund ends your CalPERS membership. This means you lose the right to receive a service or disability retirement benefit. Since this can impact your future retirement income, carefully consider your decision to refund.
When your employer notifies us of your separation from employment, we'll mail you a Refund Election Package (PDF). Once we receive the separation form from your employer and your completed refund election form, we'll process your refund.
Reciprocity (Changing Retirement Systems)
Reciprocity allows you to move from one retirement system to another without losing your benefits. CalPERS' reciprocal agreement with other California public retirement systems can allow you to coordinate your benefits between the two systems when you retire.
When you change retirement systems:
- At retirement, you must apply to retire from both systems using the same retirement date, unless you meet retirement eligibility requirements in the other system before meeting our age requirement.
- The highest final compensation from either system can be used to calculate your retirement benefit, but you'll receive separate retirement payments benefits from each system.
- There's no transfer of your retirement contributions or service credit between retirement systems.
- You would be a member of both systems and are subject to the membership, benefits, and rights of each system.
As a result of the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), CalPERS will consider reciprocity when we determine your benefit formula. Refer to your member benefit publication for new formulas in effect due to PEPRA.
For more information, including a list of reciprocal retirement systems that have agreements with CalPERS, read When You Change Retirement Systems (PUB 16) (PDF).
Forms & Publications
- Local Miscellaneous Member Benefits (PUB 8) (PDF)
- Refund Election Package (PDF)
- School Member Benefits (PUB 2) (PDF, 1.49 MB)
- State Safety Member Benefits (PUB 7) (PDF)
- When You Change Retirement Systems (PUB 16) (PDF)
Frequently Asked Questions
- How will my service with a reciprocal retirement system be used toward qualifying for retirement?
Service with a reciprocal retirement system, CalSTRS, JRS, JRSII, or LRS can be used toward qualifying for CalPERS retirement. However, each retirement system will calculate your retirement benefits separately and base the calculation upon only the years of service credited in each system. Your salaries and wages earned with another system cannot be used to compute your retirement benefits with the California National Guard. For additional information on reciprocity and reciprocal retirement systems, refer to When You Change Retirement Systems (PUB 16) (PDF).
- What is reciprocity and am I eligible?
As a member of CalPERS, you may be eligible for the benefits of reciprocity. Reciprocity is an agreement among public retirement systems to allow members to move from one public employer to another public employer within a specific time limit without losing some valuable retirement and related benefit rights. Refer to When You Change Retirement Systems (PUB 16) (PDF) for more information.