Retirement Benefits

Members’ Most Common Questions Answered

Decorative image of a member getting her questions answered

Throughout the year, we offer several CalPERS Benefits Education Events both in-person and virtually. Our next in-person CBEE is in Bakersfield, Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24.

At these events, we provide information about retirement, health benefits, Social Security, and more.

Over the years, we’ve received a lot of the same questions from members. Here are the top five questions, answered with added resources you can find online.

Question: What can myCalPERS do for me?

Answer: Our myCalPERS website can help you do everything from applying for retirement, to managing your health benefits. myCalPERS is an essential tool for anyone interested in exploring their retirement and health benefit questions. You can download and submit forms, make a retirement estimate, and much more.

For a brief overview, watch our video, Your myCalPERS Account for Active and Inactive Members:

Question: How can I find out if I’m eligible to purchase service credit?

Answer: There are 25 types of service credit that eligible members may purchase. A few of the most common reasons to purchase are:

  • If you worked with a CalPERS-covered employer before you became a CalPERS member
  • If you served in active duty military prior to becoming a member with CalPERS and are currently employed with, or retired from, a CalPERS covered employer
  • If your employer authorized you to take a leave of absence during your normal work hours

If you’re curious about purchasing service credit, review our publication, Service Credit Purchase (PUB 12) (PDF) and also Could You Qualify for a Service Credit Purchase? (PDF).

Question: Does my survivor get paid for the rest of their life if I pass away?

Answer: For all state and school members, the answer is yes; but for public agency members, that depends on if it was specifically contracted for. To find out how beneficiaries and survivors qualify for a benefit, attend our class, Planning Your Retirement, or watch our helpful video, Your Retirement Estimate and Payment Options:

Question: What’s the difference between a beneficiary and survivor, and can they be the same person?

Answer: Benefits may be payable to your named beneficiary (or beneficiaries) and eligible survivor, should you pass away after you retire. A beneficiary is any person you choose to receive either a one-time, lump-sum payment or an ongoing monthly benefit upon your death. A survivor is defined by law. You cannot choose a survivor. Your survivor and beneficiary can be the same person, but they don’t have to be. Check out our publication, Planning Your Service Retirement (PUB 1) (PDF); page 11 has information about survivors and beneficiaries.

Question: Will I receive a COLA increase in retirement and how much will it be?

Answer: COLA is dependent on a few factors: Consumer Price Index; your employer contracted COLA percentage; and the year you retired. A COLA can only be issued beginning the second calendar year after you retired. The Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) page contains lots of helpful information related to COLA. You can read about the three factors used to determine a COLA.

Learn More

Our CBEEs aren’t the only way to get answers to your burning benefits questions. We hold additional training throughout the year, virtually and self-paced. Check out the Member Education page to see all our offerings.

If short videos are more your speed, visit our YouTube channel and watch CalPERS Quick Tips.