Retirement Benefits Health Benefits Investments

CalPERS 101: A Member’s Guide to Understanding the California Public Employees’ Retirement System

Scenic image of CalPERS building for Member's Guide article

The California Public Employee’s Retirement System, more commonly referred to as CalPERS, is the largest public pension fund in the U.S. For more than nine decades, we’ve built retirement and health security for California’s public servants. We serve more than 2 million members in the retirement system and more than 1.5 million members in the health program.

Retirement Benefits

We know that retirement from your working career is one of the most important decisions in your life. Before you retire, you should understand that your benefits are calculated using a specific benefit factor.

You should also understand that your benefit plan is mostly funded by employee and employer contributions and earnings made on CalPERS investments. Most employees contribute a percentage of their salary, which accrues interest under their individual CalPERS account.

Learn more about your retirement plan and how to maximize your benefits by using any of our retirement planning resources:


The goal of our investment programs is to generate total returns on a long-term basis, while managing an appropriate level of risk to provide members and beneficiaries with benefits. No investment portfolio can achieve returns without a certain level of risk.

At CalPERS, we measure risk across our entire investment portfolio to achieve the sustainable returns needed to pay pensions for generations. One example is the risks our investments face from catastrophic climate events that could negatively affect our real estate holdings.

We’ve also made important strategic changes to our asset allocation. We increased our allocations to private markets, which are projected to outperform public markets over the long term. Find more information about our investment policies and strategies:

Health Benefits

We’re not just the largest public pension fund in the nation, we’re also the largest purchaser of public employee health benefits in California, and the second largest public purchaser in the nation after the federal government.

Our health program provides active members and retirees and their families with a choice of comprehensive, high-quality health plans. Whether you’re working or retired, your employer or former employer makes monthly contributions toward your health premiums.

You’ll want to compare health plans to choose the one that works best for you. Use our many resources to learn more:

We’re dedicated to helping our members and employers build bright futures and healthy lives. Find more resources and helpful information to make the best decisions for you and your family at, myCalPERS, at any of our regional offices, or call us at 888 CalPERS (or 888-225-7377).