What is OPERS? the importance of your OPERS membership (2022)

OPERS provides retirement income and benefits to Ohio public employees.

OPERS: Your Pension System

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System has been providing retirement benefits to Ohio's public employees since 1935.

OPERS serves more than 1 million past and present Ohio workers including state, local and municipal employees as well as state college and university employees.

What it Means to be a Member

  • You don't pay into
    Social Security

    As a member of OPERS you do not pay into Social Security. OPERS replaces Social Security for Ohio public employees.

  • Instead, you pay
    into OPERS

    You contribute a percentage of your salary to OPERS, and your employer contributes an amount equal to a percentage of your salary. OPERS invests this money for your retirement.

  • OPERS provides you with retirement income*

    Your member and employer contributions both go toward your future OPERS retirement income.

* Assuming you reach retirement eligibility and choose an annuitized monthly payment option

How much do I contribute to OPERS?

As a member, you contribute 10% of your salary toward your retirement.

Your employer contributes an amount equal to 14% of your salary.

That means an amount equal to 24% of your total salary is being invested by OPERS.

10% your contribution

14% your employer's contribution

24% of your salary being invested for your future

These numbers may vary based on your employment type. See the FAQ page for more details.

Accessing Your Money

You can access the funds you've paid OPERS two ways:

  1. Receiving an OPERS benefit when you retire

    When you are ready to retire the money you have invested with OPERS will be available to you.

    Your retirement payment options depend upon the retirement plan you choose. You can either annuitize your account and receive lifetime payments, or you can take a lump sum and annuitize the remaining portion (if any).

    • Are you ready to retire?
  2. Refunding your account

    If you leave public employment but are not yet eligible to retire, you have the option to refund your contributions. You'll receive 100 percent of your member contributions (the 10 percent of your salary you contributed to OPERS).

    You may also be eligible for an additional amount depending on your retirement plan and years of service.

    Your refund can either be sent to you directly (with taxes withheld), or rolled over into another retirement account (with no tax consequences).

    • Is a refund right for me?
    • How do I request a refund?

Your Contributions

As an OPERS members you will always be able to refund 100 percent of your member contributions once you leave public employment.

You Have a Choice to Make Selecting your OPERS retirement plan

New members, you have 180 days (from your start date) to select a retirement plan:

  • Learn more about selecting a plan

Frequently Asked QuestionsAnswers to all your OPERS questions

Do I have to contribute to OPERS?

Yes, members cannot opt out of making contributions to OPERS.

As a member of OPERS, you do not pay into Social Security. Instead, you contribute 10 percent of your salary to OPERS and your employer contributes the equivalent of 14 percent of your salary. OPERS invests these contributions in order to provide you with retirement benefits when you retire.

Social Security and OPERS both provide retirement, disability and survivor benefits, but OPERS was actually created before Social Security as a way to provide these benefits to Ohio's public workers.

You do have a choice when it comes to how your OPERS contributions are invested for your future. As a new OPERS member, you have 180 days from your start date to select one of three retirement plans. Your plan determines both how your contributions are invested, and also how your potential retirement benefit will be calculated.

  • How to Select Your Plan

Full-time employees at colleges and universities have the ability to select an Alternative Retirement Plan, or ARP.

How much do I contribute to OPERS?

OPERS members currently contribute the following percentage of their earnable salary according to their type of employment:

  • 10% for local and state government employees
  • 12% for public safety employees
  • 13% for law enforcement employees

An employee's contribution rate is the same regardless of which of the three OPERS retirement plans they choose.

Your member contributions help fund the pension fund. Your member contributions can only go into the pension trust fund; however, employer contributions can be split and used to fund both pensions and health care.

How much we allocate to each trust fund depends on how well-funded we are. We must use employer contributions to fund pensions up to the point at which we are able to pay off any unfunded liabilities within 30 years. If we have sufficient funding to reach the 30-year mark, we can then use a portion of the employer contributions to fund health care.

While each trust fund (pension and health care) earns investment income based on the trust balance, the assets in the pension trust fund can only be used to pay pension benefits and the assets in the health care trust fund can only be used to pay health care benefits.

Subject to Ohio law, the OPERS Board of Trustees has the authority to set the member and employer contribution rates, which are subject to change.

How much does my employer contribute to OPERS?

Employers are required to contribute to OPERS based on the percentage of a members' earnable salary.

Currently, employer contribution rates are:

  • 14% for state government employees
  • 14% for local government employees
  • 18.1% for law enforcement or public safety employees

An employer's contribution rate is the same regardless of which of the 3 OPERS retirement plans their employee chooses.

Member-Directed Plan

For members participating in the Member-Directed Plan, a portion of the employer contribution amount (currently 7.5% in 2019) will be deposited into the member's employer contribution account and invested as directed by the member.

A percentage of the remaining portion of the employer contribution amount (determined by the OPERS Board of Trustees, based on the OPERS actuary's recommendation) will be credited to a Retiree Medical Account, which is invested as directed by OPERS investment professionals.

Traditional Pension Plan & Combined Plan

For members participating in the Traditional Pension Plan and the Combined Plan, the employer contribution is used to fund the pension trust fund as well as the health care trust fund.

How much we allocate to each trust fund depends on how well-funded we are. We must use employer contributions to fund pensions up to the point at which we are able to pay off any unfunded liabilities within 30 years. If we have sufficient funding to reach the 30-year mark, we can then use a portion of the employer contributions to fund health care.

While each trust fund (pension and health care) earns investment income based on the trust balance, the assets in the pension trust fund can only be used to pay pension benefits and the assets in the health care trust fund can only be used to pay health care benefits.

Subject to Ohio law, the OPERS Board of Trustees has the authority to set the member and employer contribution rates, which are subject to change.

Can I borrow against my account?

No. While you are employed by an OPERS-covered employer, you cannot make any withdrawals or borrow against your account for any reason.

Can I change my plan?

Yes, OPERS members have the ability to change their plans. However, you only have one opportunity to change your retirement plan during your career.

This change is irrevocable, so it must be done with careful thought and consideration.

Is a plan change right for you?

If you are thinking about a plan change, you should schedule a plan change counseling session with an OPERS counselor.

A counselor can help you understand the consequences and benefits of a plan change so you can determine if it's right for you.

  • Schedule a counseling session from your online account

Making your plan change

To begin the plan change process, you must contact OPERS to request the appropriate form. You can also request this form during a plan change counseling session with an OPERS representative.

Once OPERS has received the properly completed form, your retirement plan change will be processed and will take effect on the first day of the month following the date it was received. For example, if your plan change form is received on July 15, your plan change will take effect Aug. 1.

More information

To learn more about plan changes for each of the three plans, review the following leaflets:

  • Changing your Retirement Plan: Traditional Pension Plan
  • Changing your Retirement Plan: Member-Directed Plan
  • Changing your Retirement Plan: Combined Plan

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