Your Questions Answered
The following are answers to questions commonly asked by members like you, who are no longer working for a Colorado PERA employer but have chosen to leave their account at PERA.
What is a PERA benefit?
If you have a PERA account, you have worked for a PERA-affiliated employer and were earning service toward a lifetime monthly retirement benefit, sometimes called a pension. During the time you worked for the State, a local government affiliate, school district, or judicial employer, you contributed a percentage of your salary to PERA, which will become your future benefit. When you reach the age of retirement eligibility, you can apply to receive a monthly benefit.
Where can I find my PERA account?
You can access your PERA-related information online by visiting www.copera.org. Click on the blue “Member/Retiree Login” button at the top of the homepage to log into your account or select “Register as a New User” to set up your account. From your secured account access page, you can view the tax-deferred and tax-paid amounts in your DB Plan account(s).
When can I retire?
The date you’re eligible to retire depends on, among other things, how long you worked for a PERA employer. In general, the more service you have, the earlier you can retire. You can also choose to retire earlier and receive a reduced benefit. Regardless of your work history, you are eligible for a monthly retirement benefit at age 65. (The only exception is for members of the Denver Public Schools benefit structure who have less than five years of service and are not eligible for an ongoing retirement benefit.)
I’m keeping my account at PERA because I may go back to PERA-covered employment someday. What happens when I do?
If you return to PERA employment, you will begin making contributions to your account and earning service toward a retirement benefit. You will be subject to the benefit provisions, like retirement eligibility, based on your previous hire date. In the meantime, your account is earning interest, currently set at 3%.
What if I refund my account but then go back to work covered by PERA?
Once you refund, you will never be entitled to the benefit provisions associated with your previous hire date. That will likely mean that you will have to wait longer before reaching retirement eligibility and have more money subject to PERA contributions, among other changes. You can purchase back the service you earned during your previous employment period. However, purchasing service credit will not:
- Increase your earned service, which could affect when you retire.
- Be used in determining your HAS, which could affect the amount of your monthly retirement benefit.
- Count toward eligibility for the PERA disability program.
How long can I leave my DB account with PERA?
You will be required to take a distribution from your PERA DB account upon reaching the appropriate Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) age set for you by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A distribution can be a refund/rollover of the entire balance or initiation of your benefit payments. You can find more information about this requirement at www.IRS.gov.
Are there tax consequences if I refund my account?
Unless you do a direct rollover to another tax-deferred plan, you will pay state and federal taxes on your refund. Additionally, if you are under age 59½, you may pay a 10% penalty to the IRS for early distribution for refunding. See the Tax Considerations for Refunds and Rollovers fact sheet for more information. If you are considering refunding your account, The Value of Your PERA Defined Benefit Account fact sheet is a helpful resource.
Could my Social Security benefit be reduced because of an employer match?
Any refund that includes an employer match subjects your Social Security benefits to reductions under the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). If you do not receive a match with your refund, you will not be subject to the WEP or GPO.