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Retirement Benefit Options

When you retire, you will choose one of five benefit options, which ultimately will determine the amount of your retirement benefit, and who you may designate as your beneficiary. Each option is outlined carefully below; for more detailed information, click to watch the benefit options video tutorial.

Unmodified Benefit Option 1
Cash Refund Annuity
Option 2
100% Joint and Survivor
Option 3
50% Joint and Survivor
Option 4
Multiple Beneficiaries
Lump-Sum Death Benefit

Unmodified Benefit
Retirement benefit paid to member
  • Highest monthly retirement benefit
Survivor benefit paid to beneficiary (upon death of retired member)
  • Upon your death, an eligible spouse/registered domestic partner will receive a lifetime 60% continuance (60% of the Unmodified Benefit) each month.
  • If there is no eligible spouse/partner, the 60% continuance is paid to eligible minor child/children. 
  • If there is no surviving spouse/partner or eligible minor child/children, the designated beneficiary will receive a refund of any remaining SDCERA member contributions, plus interest.
Beneficiary eligibility requirements
  • To be eligible for the monthly continuance, the beneficiary must be an eligible spouse, registered domestic partner or minor child. Other beneficiaries may be named, but they will only receive a refund of any remaining member contributions.
  • An eligible spouse/ registered domestic partner must have been married or registered to you for at least:
    –one year prior to your date of retirement OR
    –two years prior to your death and be at least age 55 when you die.
  • An eligible minor child is any child unmarried and under the age of 18, or unmarried and under the age of 22 if enrolled full time in an accredited college.

Option 1: Cash Refund Annuity
Retirement benefit paid to member
  • Reduced monthly retirement benefit.
Survivor benefit paid to beneficiary (upon death of retired member)
  • Upon your death, any remaining member contributions and interest are paid in a lump sum to your estate or to a beneficiary of your choice.
  • With Option 1, there is no monthly survivor continuance available.
Beneficiary eligibility requirements
  • Beneficiary must have an insurable interest* in your life.
  • Beneficiary can be changed at any time.

Option 2: 100% Joint and Survivor
Retirement benefit paid to member
  • Reduced monthly retirement benefit.
  • Amount of reduction is based on age difference between you and the person you name as your beneficiary.
Survivor benefit paid to beneficiary (upon death of retired member)
  • Upon your death, 100% of your reduced benefit is paid monthly to the beneficiary you name.
  • If you name a beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than you and who is not your spouse, the Internal Revenue Code requires further reductions to the survivor's continuance.
Beneficiary eligibility requirements
  • Beneficiary must have an insurable interest* in your life.
  • Beneficiary cannot be changed after your retirement date.

Option 3: 50% Joint and Survivor
Retirement benefit paid to member
  • Reduced monthly retirement benefit.
  • Amount of reduction is based on age difference between you and the person you name as your beneficiary.
Survivor benefit paid to beneficiary (upon death of retired member)
  • Upon your death, 50% of your reduced benefit is paid monthly to the beneficiary you name.
Beneficiary eligibility requirements
  • Beneficiary must have an insurable interest* in your life.
  • Beneficiary cannot be changed after your retirement date.

Option 4: Multiple Beneficiaries
Retirement benefit paid to member
  • Reduced monthly retirement benefit.
  • Amount of reduction is based on the ages of beneficiaries.
Survivor benefit paid to beneficiary (upon death of retired member)
  • Reduced monthly retirement benefit.
  • This option is sometimes used in the case of divorce, when both a former and current spouse are eligible for a portion of the benefit.
Beneficiary eligibility requirements
  • Beneficiaries must have an insurable interest* in your life.
  • Beneficiaries cannot be changed after your retirement date.

Lump-Sum Death Benefit
Retirement benefit paid to member
  • N/A
Survivor benefit paid to beneficiary (upon death of retired member)
  • A one-time, lump-sum death benefit in the amount of $3,500 is payable to the beneficiary you name. This benefit is available if your last active service was with the County of San Diego.
Beneficiary eligibility requirements
  • Beneficiary can be changed at any time.

* Insurable Interest
An insurable interest is defined in California Insurance Code Section 10110.1(a) as follows: An insurable interest, with reference to life and disability insurance, is an interest based upon a reasonable expectation of pecuniary advantage through the continued life, health, or bodily safety of another person and consequent loss by reason of that personís death or disability or a substantial interest engendered by love and affection in the case of individuals closely related by blood or law.