General Information

Service Retirement Application Process

Since most teachers retire in June, the timing guidelines below use a June retirement date. Retirement during other months will involve similar timing.

Getting Started

Before submitting an application, it’s important to plan for retirement. Attend a CalSTRS workshop and speak with a benefits counselor. A benefits counselor can provide you with a benefit estimate based on the various options available and help you fill out your retirement application.

Review the steps for Retirement Planning.

Submitting an Application

After meeting with a benefits counselor and verifying everything is in order, you are ready to move forward with your retirement application.

1.  Complete Your Service Retirement Application

You must submit the Service Retirement Application to CalSTRS before you will receive a CalSTRS retirement benefit. In addition, you may have to submit other forms.

Complete and submit your application online using your myCalSTRS account. It’s easy, fast and secure:

  • Step-by-step guidance helps you complete the application accurately.
  • Your member-specific information is auto-filled, saving you time.
  • Your application is processed automatically, for a faster turnaround.
  • You’ll receive an email confirmation when CalSTRS receives your application and after it’s processed.
  • You’ll receive your award letter sooner.
  • You’ll receive emails if we need additional information to process your application.

Activate your myCalSTRS account if you haven’t already done so. If you have a spouse or registered domestic partner, he or she also needs to register for myCalSTRS to sign your application electronically.

You can also submit the paper Service Retirement Application, available online or as a hard copy at your employer’s HR office.

Be sure to keep a copy of all forms for your records.

2.  Submit Your Application

Submit your Service Retirement Application and any other forms to CalSTRS as early as possible, but no earlier than six months before your retirement date.

If you were unable to submit your Service Retirement Application before your retirement date, you can backdate your service retirement benefit effective date to as early as the day following your last day of compensation. Your benefit effective date can be backdated no earlier than January 1, 2012, and must be after you complete any service credit purchase.

Do not submit your application to your employer. Your employer is not responsible for the timely submission of your retirement application to CalSTRS.

Deadlines for Service Retirement Application Changes

You have 30 days from the date your first benefit payment was issued to change or cancel your Service Retirement Application. This includes options elected at retirement and preretirement option elections.

CalSTRS must receive the Service Retirement Application Change Request form and any other required forms no later than 30 days from the date your first benefit payment was issued to make a change or cancellation.

Other Forms

Required:

  • Express Benefit Report: This form is used to certify your termination of employment, last day of paid employment and unused sick leave information. Accumulated unused sick leave is converted to additional service credit. CalSTRS will accept unused sick leave from each employer for whom you performed creditable service during your last year provided this leave was not transferred to another employer. There must be a separate form certified by each employer.

Recommended:

  • Direct Deposit Authorization: To send your retirement benefit directly to your financial institution.
  • Recipient Designation: To designate a living person or persons, or an estate, trust, charity or other entity to receive a one-time death benefit. Always keep your CalSTRS Recipient Designation form up-to-date, including any address changes, even after retirement.
  • Justification for Non-Signature of Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner: If your spouse’s or registered domestic partner’s signature is not on forms that require it.
  • Compound Option Election: To designate one or more option beneficiaries with an option choice for each and, if you choose, retain a portion of your benefit as a Member-Only Benefit.
  • Reduced Benefit Election: If you want to apply for retirement under the Reduced Benefit Election (you must be at least age 55, but less than age 60).

3.  Complete Health Insurance Premium Deduction Authorization

Contact your district for procedures to continue your health insurance.

4.  Verify Birth Dates and Marriages

If you elect an option, you must submit documentation verifying your option beneficiary’s date of birth unless your option beneficiary is a CalSTRS member. Under some circumstances, CalSTRS will request verification of your birthday.

CalSTRS must review the certified birth documents that were issued by the recording agency with custody of the original document. Acceptable documentation for birthday verification is listed in order of preference:

  • Photocopy of certified birth record (recorded at least seven years before application for CalSTRS benefits).
  • Photocopy of passport photo ID page.
  • Certain military IDs.

If you have changed your name from the name shown on the record of birth, a certified copy of the marriage certificate or court order documenting the change is required.

If you have the necessary birth and marriage certificates required for election of an option, include them with your application. However, do not postpone filing an application if you must obtain the required documents.

What if I cannot locate any of the acceptable documentation?

If the required document cannot be secured, forward the notice you receive from the official record keeper showing that no record is available. CalSTRS will help you secure other acceptable documentation.

After CalSTRS Receives Your Retirement Application

CalSTRS will:

1.  Acknowledge Receipt of Your Application

If you submit your application using myCalSTRS, you’ll receive immediate email confirmation.

If you submit a paper application, CalSTRS will mail you a letter acknowledging receipt of your application within three weeks of processing your application. It may take longer during peak times, typically spring and summer, when we receive a large number of applications.

2.  Provide a Retirement Benefit Calculation Letter

Within one month of your retirement date, CalSTRS will send a letter that includes:

  • How your monthly benefit was calculated.
  • The amount of your monthly benefit.
  • The total amount of your contributions and interest as of your effective date of retirement.

3.  Send Your First Benefit Payment

CalSTRS will issue your first monthly benefit payment within 45 days of your retirement effective date or the date your completed application is received (whichever is later).

4.  Send an Adjustment Letter

Your benefit payment generally is adjusted over several months as additional employment information is received from your employer. Reconciliation of underpayments or overpayments will be made during this period.

Save your most recent adjustment letter to determine tax liability. This letter is sent after your retirement date.

After You Receive Your Adjustment Letter

Direct Deposit

For faster processing, sign up for direct deposit using your myCalSTRS account. Or, complete the Direct Deposit Authorization form. Direct deposit gives you the quickest access to your retirement benefit payment. Direct deposit is fast, secure and environmentally responsible. 

With direct deposit, your money will be credited electronically to your bank account on the day your check is issued. You can access your current and past benefit payment statements through your myCalSTRS account. Funds may be deposited into a checking or savings account in any U.S. financial institution you choose.

Health Insurance

CalSTRS does not provide health insurance coverage. However, you may authorize CalSTRS to deduct group insurance premiums from your monthly retirement benefit. Complete instructions on this subject are included in the Your Retirement Guide publication.

Postretirement Employment

Are there any employment restrictions after I retire?

If you return to work after service retirement in a position with the California public school system, there are restrictions under state and federal law. You cannot:

  • Work in a classified position except, under certain circumstances, as a teacher’s aide.
  • Earn more than the annual postretirement earnings limit without affecting your CalSTRS retirement benefit.
  • Earn any pay without affecting your retirement benefit if you return to work before a 180 calendar day separation from service.
  • Keep the additional service credit you received under the CalSTRS Retirement Incentive Program, if you return to work within five years of retirement for the employer that offered the incentive.

You can continue to receive your full CalSTRS retirement benefit, with no earnings limitation, if you take a job outside of CalSTRS-covered employment, including work in:

  • Private industry
  • Private schools
  • Public schools outside of California
  • University of California or California State University system

Effective July 1, 2012, you are excluded from the postretirement employment requirements if the following conditions are met:

  • The third-party employer does not participate in a California public pension system;
  • The activities performed are not normally performed by employees
    of a CalSTRS employer; and
  • The activities are performed for a limited term.

Separation-From-Service Requirement

The California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 extended the separation-from service requirement, also known as the zero-dollar earnings limit, to all members who retire on or after June 1, 2013, regardless of age. Your retirement benefit will be reduced dollar for dollar by the amount that you earn in CalSTRS-covered employment during the first 180 calendar days following your most recent retirement effective date up to your benefit amount payable during that period.

There is a very narrow exemption if you are over normal retirement age, the governing body of your employer approves your appointment through a resolution at a public meeting, you did not receive any financial inducement to retire, and your termination of service was not the cause of the need to acquire your services.

Postretirement Earnings Limit

You can earn up to the annual postretirement earnings limit, without affecting your benefit, if you return to work in a CalSTRS-covered position as an employee of:

  • A public school system
  • An independent contractor
  • An employee of a third party.

The earnings limit for the 2012–13 fiscal year is $40,011. The Teachers’ Retirement Board adjusts the earnings limit annually.

All but one exemption to the postretirement earnings limit ended June 30, 2012. The remaining very narrow exemption was extended through June 30, 2014. 

Under the narrow exemption, you return to work as a trustee, fiscal expert, fiscal adviser, receiver or special trustee in a position appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, county superintendent of schools, State Board of Education or Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges to assist schools in financial or academic distress, you may be exempt from the postretirement earnings limit through June 30, 2014.

For more information on the earnings limit, see the Member Handbook.

Reinstatement to Active Member Status

If you are a CalSTRS member who has retired from service, you may be reinstated to member status upon receipt of a written request to terminate your retirement benefit.

The election to terminate your service retirement benefit must take place no earlier than:

  • Six months prior to the effective date of the termination.
  • The first day of the month that the election is received by CalSTRS.

Should you change your mind, an application to terminate a service retirement benefit may be canceled as long as the request is received by the last day of the month that the termination was to take effect.

CalSTRS strongly recommends you meet with a benefit counselor if you are planning to reinstate to active member status.

If you’re thinking about reinstatement, consider:

​Retirement Options and Beneficiaries

Effective July 17, 2012, you no longer have to wait 12 months after you reinstated to re-retire. You must, however, keep the same option and beneficiaries if you re-retire within one year of reinstatement.

Qualifying for Disability or Survivor Benefits

You must earn at least one year of service credit after the date of your reinstatement from service retirement before you qualify for disability benefits or survivor benefits.

Retirement Incentive

If you retired on or after January 1, 1985, and reinstate, you’ll lose any additional service credit you may have acquired by participating in the Retirement Incentive Program.

Preretirement Election of an Option

You are not eligible to file a preretirement election of an option until one year has elapsed after the date of reinstatement from service retirement. However, if you retired for service under an option, that option will automatically become a preretirement election when you reinstate.

Coverage A or B

For most members, if you retire and then reinstate, you will maintain the coverage you had prior to your retirement. Under certain circumstances, if you retired under Coverage A, your coverage may change to Coverage B for survivor and disability benefits. Contact CalSTRS for further information regarding your specific situation.

Zero-dollar earnings limit/separation-from-service requirement

When you re-retire, you will be subject to the zero-dollar earnings limit during the first 180 calendar days of your most recent retirement.

Discontinuing deductions for health insurance premiums

If CalSTRS is deducting health insurance premiums from your benefit and you decide to reinstate, you’ll need to make premium payment arrangements with your health insurance carrier.

Discontinuing payment or deduction of Medicare premiums

If CalSTRS is paying your Medicare Part A premiums or deducting your Medicare Part B premiums, you’ll have to pay these premiums yourself when you reinstate. To arrange payment, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213. When you retire again, you’ll need to reapply for the CalSTRS Medicare Premium Payment Program.

As of July 1, 2012, CalSTRS is not offering the program to members with an effective retirement date on or after July 1, 2012.

Benefit Calculation

If you reinstated on or after September 30, 1992, when you retire for service a second time, your new service retirement benefit will be equal to the sum of both the following:

    1. An amount equal to the last Member-Only benefit received immediately before reinstatement, increased by the 2 percent Annual Benefit Adjustment that would have been applied to the benefit if you had not reinstated, plus,
    2. An amount based on service earned since your last reinstatement, your age at the subsequent retirement and final compensation. (You will not be eligible for the career bonus on service earned since your last reinstatement.)

Discontinuing Withholding of Health Insurance Premiums

If CalSTRS is withholding health insurance premiums from your benefit and you decide to reinstate, you will need to make premium payment arrangements with your health insurance carrier.

Beneficiary Designation

Throughout your career, it is important to keep a valid and current Recipient Designation form on file at CalSTRS.

A lump-sum death payment will be payable to your designated beneficiary if you should die. If no beneficiary designation is in effect on the date of death, the lump-sum death payment will be paid to your estate.

A valid beneficiary designation, with the beneficiary’s current address, will eliminate the need for a lengthy search for potential beneficiaries and reduce the amount of time necessary to process and distribute funds payable.

A beneficiary designation received by CalSTRS after January 1, 1987, remains valid until revoked by the member. Marriage, dissolution or annulment after that date does not automatically invalidate a beneficiary designation, however it may invalidate the former spouse or partner as a recipient unless you file a new designation form after the dissolution or termination date naming your former spouse or partner.

If, however, your most recent beneficiary designation was received before January 1, 1987, and a marriage, dissolution or annulment occurred after the designation was received by CalSTRS and before January 1, 1987, the designation is invalid.

Your CalSTRS Retirement Progress Report identifies your designated beneficiaries. You can designate one or more beneficiaries, and there is no restriction on who you may name.

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