Retirement Benefits

PEPRA vs. Classic Membership: What’s the Difference?

Senior women friends looking at camera outdoors in nature, caravan trip holiday.

If you were hired on or after January 1, 2013, it’s likely that the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) applies to you.

The law changed the way CalPERS retirement benefits are applied and when members are eligible to retire.

You’re a PEPRA member if you:

  • Joined CalPERS prior to January 1, 2013, but are hired by a different CalPERS employer following a break in service of more than six months on or after January 1, 2013.
  • Joined CalPERS for the first time on or after January 1, 2013, and do not have prior membership in another California public retirement system.
  • Joined CalPERS for the first time on or after January 1, 2013, and were a member of another California public retirement system prior to that date, but are not subject to reciprocity upon joining CalPERS.

If none of the above definitions apply, you’re considered a classic member. The existing benefit enrollment levels for future service with the same employer apply to you.

Contributions and Compensation Limits

PEPRA members are required to contribute at least 50% of the total annual normal cost of their pension benefit. However, state employees are excluded from this requirement except for employees of the Legislature, California State University (CSU), and the judicial branch.

Additionally, for PEPRA members pensionable compensation was capped. For the 2022 calendar year, the PEPRA cap is $134,974 for members who participate in Social Security and $161,969 for members who don’t. Both limits are subject to increases in the Consumer Price Index. Classic members’ 2022 cap is $305,000. The compensation limits for both classic and PEPRA members do not limit the salary an employer can pay, but rather the amount of compensation considered under the defined benefit plan.

Service Retirement Eligibility

Service retirement eligibility still requires a minimum of five years of CalPERS-credited service, but the minimum retirement age is 52 for PEPRA members compared to age 50 for classic members. If you have a combination of classic and PEPRA service, you may be eligible to retire at age 50, and there are some exceptions to the five-year requirement, which can be found in our publication Planning Your Service Retirement (PUB 1) (PDF).

Working After Retirement

If you’re a retiree interested in working for a public employer in the same retirement system from which you retired (without reinstatement from retirement), whether you’re a PEPRA or classic member, you must follow these requirements:

  • A 180-day waiting period, beginning on the date of retirement, before you can return to work within the same retirement system unless a specified exception applies.
  • A limit of 960 work hours per fiscal year.

There are other requirements you must follow that you can find in our publication Employment After Retirement (PUB 33) (PDF).

This is an abbreviated list of the most significant differences between classic and PEPRA memberships. For more comprehensive information, visit the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act page on our website.