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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are my contributions to the ORP the same as those required under the SERS?
  2. May I change plans after I make my original election?
  3. Do prior contributions to the State Retirement System continue earning a pension if I join the ORP?
  4. How do Years of Service affect my ORP retirement income? SERS retirement income?
  5. May I purchase Years of Service under the ORP? The SERS?
  6. How do Years of Service affect my vesting in the ORP? The SERS?
  7. How do Years of Service in each plan affect my eligibility for Retiree Insurance benefits?
  8. Does past military service enhance my ORP benefits? SERS benefits?
  9. May I make supplemental contributions to the plans to enhance my retirement income?
  10. Are ORP benefits portable? SERS benefits?
  11. Does participation in the ORP and the SERS affect my Social Security benefits?

  1. Are my contributions to the ORP the same as those required under the SERS?

    Yes. The required Employee Plan Contribution under both plans is exactly the same. The amount of contribution is set by law and can be found in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 32. Your contributions under both plans are tax-deferred for federal income tax purposes under the “Employer Pick-up,” which is described in Internal Revenue Code Section 414(h).

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  2. May I change plans after I make my original election?

    No; you cannot change plans at a later date. Your selection of retirement plans, either membership in the State Employees’ Retirement System or participation in the Optional Retirement Program is irrevocable. Consequently, it is very important that you use the 180-day Election Period to learn about the features and benefits of both plans, and how well they match your personal financial and professional plans.

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  3. Do prior contributions to the State Retirement System continue earning a pension if I join the ORP?

    No. If you have contributed to the SERS and then join the ORP, you forfeit your rights to a pension from the SERS.

    You may voluntarily transfer your old contributions from the SERS to the ORP, to be invested with current ORP contributions.

    If you leave your prior contributions in the SERS, they will not earn any future pension for you in that plan.

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  4. How do Years of Service affect my ORP retirement income? SERS retirement income?

    Years of Service do not affect your ORP retirement income. Benefits payable from the ORP reflect your account balance and payment method. The larger your account balance, the larger your retirement income may be.

    Years of Service directly affect retirement income paid by the SERS. The SERS formula used to determine the amount of your monthly pension incorporates your total Years of Creditable Service. Hence, the more Years you have accumulated, the larger your income will be.

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  5. May I purchase Years of Service under the ORP? The SERS?

    There are no Years of Service to be purchased under the ORP. As noted above, your retirement income (mostly) reflects the assets you have accumulated during your working years.

    The SERS allows for its participants to purchase eligible Years of Service to enhance their monthly pension.

    Note: You should contact the State Board of Retirement to learn about the eligibility and application of any past service you may have in either the military or other government plans.

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  6. How do Years of Service affect my vesting in the ORP? The SERS?

    Years of Service do not affect vesting under the ORP. All ORP participants are immediately vested in all benefits payable from their ORP accounts.

    Years of Service directly affect your vesting under SERS. SERS has ten-year delayed vesting. This means that you must have ten Years of Creditable Service before you are entitled to the “Employer Pension.”

    Note: You should contact the State Board of Retirement to learn about the eligibility and application of any past service you may have in either the military or other government plans.

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  7. How do Years of Service in each plan affect my eligibility for Retiree Insurance benefits?

    Employees who meet the state's age and service requirements are eligible for Retiree Insurance benefits (i.e., health care, dental, and life insurance).

    ORP Participant Service: The service requirements for Retiree Insurance benefits under the ORP are met through a combination of Years of Participation in the ORP and any Years of Creditable Service on file with the SERS.

    SERS Participant Service: The service requirements for Retiree Insurance benefits under the SERS are met only through Years of Creditable Service under the SERS.

    Note: You should contact the State Board of Retirement to learn about the eligibility and application of any past service you may have in either the military or other government plans.

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  8. Does past military service enhance my ORP benefits? SERS benefits?

    ORP: No. Past military service does not enhance your benefits under the ORP.

    SERS: Yes. Past military service can be purchased and counted towards accruing Years of Creditable Service under the SERS, which would increase your retirement income.

    Note: You should contact the State Board of Retirement to learn about the eligibility and application of any past service you may have in either the military or other government plans.

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  9. May I make supplemental Contributions to the plans to enhance my retirement income?

    No. The amount of Employee Plan Contribution to both plans is specified in state law. There are no provisions for additional contributions.

    Rollovers: The ORP accepts funds rolled over from other retirement accounts. This means that you may consolidate other retirement savings under the ORP, increasing your account balance and therefore your benefits under the Plan. Please note that funds you roll into the ORP are treated as plan assets and are subject to the Plan’s provisions.

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  10. Are ORP benefits portable? SERS benefits?

    “Portability” of pension benefits can mean many things. Most participants consider their retirement benefits to be “portable” if they can take their accrued benefit when they terminate employment; allowing them to grow in the future.

    ORP Portability: Defined contribution plans with immediate vesting like the ORP are highly portable between employers. You may take your ORP account with you after termination of employment, possibly consolidating it with a subsequent employer’s plan or your own Rollover IRA. The Program’s immediate vesting ensures that you do not forfeit any employer-funded benefits when you leave the Commonwealth. Your account remains invested under your direction, allowing opportunities for further growth.

    SERS Portability: Defined benefit plans like the SERS are generally not very portable. That is because the retirement benefit is based on your service and salary with a single employer. If you are vested and you leave that employer, the factors determining your benefits (i.e., salary and years of service) are frozen and therefore benefits cannot be enhanced. The delayed vesting under the SERS means that you forfeit your accrued employer pension if you terminate employment before becoming vested. However you may withdraw your contributions and roll them over to another employer's plan or a Rollover IRA, providing opportunities for those funds to grow in the future.

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  11. Does participation in the ORP and the SERS affect my Social Security benefits?

    Yes. While the Commonwealth does not participate in the Social Security Administration, many employees accrue Social Security retirement income under “covered” employment with other organizations, or are eligible for benefits through a spouse’s earnings record.

    The Social Security “Windfall Elimination Provision” and the “Government Pension Offset” are applied to both ORP and SERS participants. You can learn more about the offsets in the Social Security section of this website.

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