Becoming a Member

Overview

Becoming a Member

Whether you are beginning your career or have extensive public service, CCCERA membership can be an important component of your own individual retirement plan. 

CCCERA is a defined benefit retirement plan which provides a fixed, pre-established benefit for employees at retirement. The amount of your benefit is calculated by factors such as salary and a member’s length of service.

Defined benefit pensions are based on a formula set by law, in this case the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (CERL or 1937 Act), and the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA). PEPRA became effective on January 1, 2013. This law made substantial changes in public employee benefits, both for new and for existing retirement system members. These changes include new benefit tiers for members entering public retirement systems on or after January 1, 2013. These tiers are designated as PEPRA General Tiers 4 and 5, and PEPRA Safety Tiers D and E.

Defined Benefit Plan

As a defined benefit plan, CCCERA provides its members with a lifetime retirement benefit (i.e., pension) based on their total years of retirement service credit, age at retirement and final average compensation. Generally, increasing any of these factors will increase your pension. A fourth calculation factor is benefit tier, which is assigned when you enter CCCERA.

Some of the unique advantages of CCCERA’s defined benefit plan include:

  • Financial Security: Retired members receive a pension payment every month for the rest of their lives, and this amount may increase with time. When the retiree dies, an eligible beneficiary (e.g., spouse) can receive a lifetime continuance.
  • Inflation Protection: An annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is calculated based on the change in the Bay Area’s consumer price index and applied to retirement benefits each April. CCCERA’s Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), which varies depending on tier, helps protect retirees from rising inflation.
  • Professional Management: CCCERA’s pension funds are managed by professional investment managers, not individual plan participants.
  • Survivorship Benefits: When a CCCERA retiree dies, there are survivorship benefits available to eligible beneficiaries, including lifetime continuances and lump-sum payments.
  • Disability Benefits: Members who have been permanently incapacitated can apply for a disability retirement. If granted, the benefit is payable for life and subject to annual COLAs. The meaning of “permanently incapacitated” depends on your tier.

Membership Date

You become a CCCERA member on the first day of the month following your employment in an eligible position. Retirement benefit contributions begin with the first paycheck after membership. All active, eligible employees contribute to the retirement system. Membership is mandatory for most employees in permanent positions, working half-time or more; the exceptions are elected officials, who may choose membership by declaration, and employees who begin working after the age of 60 who may waive membership in the system.

Membership Type

CCCERA members can be active, deferred or retired:

  • Active members currently work for one of CCCERA’s plan sponsors.
  • Deferred members have terminated employment and left their retirement contributions on deposit in CCCERA.
  • Retired members have retired for service or disability.
Overview

Retirement Tier Structure

Currently, your retirement system has fourteen benefit tiers, mandated by amendments to CERL, and adopted by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

There are two broad categories of active membership: general and safety. Safety members are employed in active law enforcement, active fire suppression, or certain other high risk classifications as defined in sections of CERL. All other eligible employees are considered general members.

Overview

Beneficiaries

Choosing Your Beneficiary

When you are first employed in an eligible position, you complete a Beneficiary Designation Form (Form 102). This form includes your choice of beneficiary. Unless you are married or in a registered domestic partnership, you can name anyone, or any appropriate financial planning vehicle (such as a trust) as your beneficiary.

Overview

Reciprocity

As a member of CCCERA, 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 privileges related to your retirement benefits. There is no transfer of funds or service credit between retirement systems when you establish reciprocity.

Commands