The MCERA staff is readily available to address any concerns or questions you may have. If you have a question(s) that is not included, please feel free to contact us at (415) 473-6147.
Our mailing address is:
Marin County Employees Retirement Association
One McInnis Parkway, Suite 100
San Rafael, CA 94903
What is the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association (MCERA)?
The Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association administers a defined benefit plan for employees of Marin County and nine other contracting districts. A defined benefit plan provides a level of benefits at retirement based on years of service, age and final compensation. A defined benefit plan guarantees that your retirement benefit will be paid to you for the remainder of your life, and in most instances, is eligible for an annual cost of living adjustment. The Retirement plan is governed by the County Employees' Retirement Law of 1937, a division of the California Government Code.
Who are the members of the Retirement Board?
The Marin County Retirement Association is managed by a Retirement Board comprised of nine members plus up to two alternates. With the exception of the County Treasurer, each member serves a three year term. The County Treasurer serves as an ex-officio member, four members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors, two members are elected by the miscellaneous membership, one member is elected by the safety membership and one member is elected by the retirees. The law provides for an alternate safety member and an alternate retiree member.
Who is eligible for membership in MCERA?
Employees of the County of Marin, City of San Rafael, Novato Fire Protection District, Southern Marin Fire Protection District, Marin City Community Services District, Tamalpais Community Services District, Marin/Sonoma Mosquito Abatement District, Marin Superior Courts, and LAFCO, who are in an allocated budgeted position that is at least three-quarter time automatically become members of MCERA. There are two types of members: miscellaneous and safety. Safety members are those employees whose principal duties consist of active law enforcement or active fire suppression and some probation officers. All other employees are designated as miscellaneous members.
When can I retire?
When you are 50 years old and have at least 10 years of credited service, unless you are a miscellaneous County employee whose date of membership in the Retirement Association is on or after July 1, 2008, or if you are a Court employee whose membership in the Retirement Association is on or after January 1, 2009. For those individuals you must be at least age 55 with 10 years of credited service.
Safety members may retire after 20 years of credited service regardless of age. Miscellaneous members credited with 30 years may retire regardless of age. Any member who has reached age 70 may retire regardless of service time.
How is my retirement allowance calculated?
Your retirement is determined by three factors: Final compensation, age and length of service. An increase in any one of these components will increase your retirement allowance.
What is final compensation?
It is defined as the one-year period prior to your date of retirement or any other one-year period elected by the member. Marin County and Court employees who are members of Tier II or Tier III, have a three-year final compensation.
After retirement, will I receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
The COLA is an integral part of your retirement allowance and provides inflation protection. With the exception of the City of San Rafael and Tier II and Tier III members from the County and the Courts, the cost of living adjustment can be as great as 4%. City of San Rafael members are limited to a 3% adjustment, while Tier II and Tier III members are limited to a 2% cost of living adjustment. The actual annual cost of living adjustment is tied to the change in the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area. As such, actual COLA adjustments may be less than the above referenced maximums.
How can I add service credit to my retirement account?
Service in the employ of your employer prior to your date of entrance into the Retirement Association is known as prior service and is eligible for purchase. Contact the Retirement office for specifics. Public Service, defined as service prior to entrance into the Retirement Association with a public agency in California or with the Federal Government, may be purchased if your date of membership was prior to May 1979. Please contact MCERA for more specific information.
What if I become disabled?
Your retirement plan provides two types of disability retirement, service connected and non-service connected.
Non-service connected disability retirement requires that you be credited with at least 5 years of service in order to apply. An application for non-service connected disability retirement is made to the Retirement Board. It is incumbent upon the applicant to submit documentation in support of the application to establish that they are disabled from a substantial portion of the duties of theirposition and that the disability is permanent.
An application for a service connected disability retirement is also made to the Retirement Board. There is no length of service requirement in order to make application for service connected disability retirement. In addition to proving that the applicant is disabled from a substantial portion of the duties of her position, and that the disability is permanent, one must also prove that there is substantial evidence of a real and measurable relationship between the disability and the employment.
The Disability Retirement Process Flowchart provides a more detailed overview of the process.
What happens when I die?
MCERA provides both in-service and post retirement death benefits. At the time of retirement, the employee may designate a beneficiary who, upon the demise of the retiree, will receive a lifetime continuation. The retiree may also select an option that provides a lump sum payment to the designated beneficiary. Regardless of which option is selected, the named beneficiary will receive a death benefit of at least $5,000.
If an individual dies in service, there are several options that may be available to the designated beneficiary. The number of options available are impacted by whether or not the beneficiary is a surviving spouse. Please contact MCERA for more specific information.
What are vesting and deferred retirement?
Vesting means that you are guaranteed to begin receiving a pension in the future when you would have been eligible to retire had you remained in full time employment. An employee who terminates employment with at least 5 years of credited service is automatically granted a deferred retirement. A deferred retirement means that your money remains on deposit, continues to earn interest, and at that point in time when you would have been eligible for retirement, you can commence receiving a monthly retirement allowance based on your years of credited service and the final compensation when you terminated employment. For persons who terminate with less than 5 years of service, the earliest they can begin receiving a retirement would be age 70. Under deferred retirement, you may elect to withdraw your funds at any time.
What medical benefits do I receive as a retiree?
Most County retirees receive major medical coverage, either Prudent Buyer Plus, Prudent Buyer Classic or Kaiser. Other employers may offer different plans. That portion of the premium paid for by the Retirement Association depends on who your employer is and your date of entry into the Association. County of Marin retirees also are eligible for dental coverage. Please contact MCERA or your employer for details.
What happens if I terminate employment prior to being eligible to retire?
You are automatically granted a deferred retirement.
Another option is reciprocity. If MCERA has a reciprocal relationship with another public pension plan in the State of California, you may establish reciprocity. The benefits of reciprocity are two-fold. If you become a member of a system which bases its contribution rate on age at time of entry, the age used in that calculation will not be your current age, but your age when you first became a member of MCERA. The second benefit is that when you retire (retirement must be simultaneous between systems), your retirement allowance will be based on the highest final compensation of either employer. Under reciprocity, you may not withdraw your funds while you are still a member of the other system.
Will my County pension affect my Social Security benefits?
Social Security will reduce benefits for those individuals who receive a pension from an employer who does not participate in Social Security. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. Please contact Social Security for more specific information.
Is it true that after 30 years of credited service, an employee no longer has to make contributions to the Retirement Association?
Yes. Included in the calculation of 30 years is any service you have purchased.
Can I increase my contributions to my retirement account?
No. Employee contributions are set by law. As this is a defined benefit plan and not a defined contribution plan, an increase in contributions does not result in an increase in retirement benefits.
How can I find out my current retirement account balance?
You can obtain your account balance by calling the Retirement office or by visiting the Retirement office and presenting picture identification. Due to confidentiality requirements imposed by law, we are precluded from advising you of your account balance over the telephone and will mail it to the address on file.
Can I borrow against my retirement account?
No. There are no provisions in the law which would allow MCERA to make loans against your account. The money in your account can only be accessed if you terminate employment.
Can my employer access the Retirement Association funds to use for other purposes?
No. All assets of the Retirement Association are trust funds and as such, are protected by the California Constitution. The contributions and investment earnings coming into the Retirement Association are considered to be placed in trust with the Board of Retirement. The Board has a fiduciary responsible to safeguard these assets in order to provide benefits.
What happens to my retirement account if I am divorced?
California is a community property state. As such, retirement plan benefits earned during marriage are community property and subject to division upon divorce. Please contact MCERA for details.
What happens if I take an unpaid leave of absence?
During an unpaid leave of absence, retirement contributions are not deducted since you have no earnings, and as such, you receive no credited service for the period of time you are on a leave of absence. The only exception to this is a medical leave of absence. You are permitted to purchase your medical leave time to restore service credit upon return to work.
Is there a best time to retire?
There is no best time to retire. Your retirement may become effective on any day of the week. However, factors such as your age and the commencement of medical coverage and annual COLA adjustments may impact your decision. Contact MCERA for more specific information.
How often will I be paid my retirement benefit?
Retirees are paid once a month at the end of each month.
How do I request additional information regarding retirement?
MCERA staff is readily available to assist you with any questions you may have regarding your retirement benefits. Our office is located at One McInnis Parkway, Suite 100, San Rafael. Our telephone number is (415) 473-6147.