Leaving Before Retirement


If you leave employment from a MercedCERA employer before you are eligible to retire, you will be asked to make a decision about your contributions and accrued interest in your MercedCERA account. The choices you have may vary, depending on your Tier and whether you are vested. Members are vested upon the completion of five years of service (including earned and purchased service for a MercedCERA employer and reciprocal service. Purchased prior public service is not included).

If you leave employment, but cannot retire, please complete the Distribution of Contributions Election Form to select one of the following options and submit it to MercedCERA.

Establish Reciprocity

You may establish reciprocity by leaving your retirement contributions on deposit with MercedCERA and establishing membership in another reciprocal retirement system within six months. Reciprocity is an election you make with both retirement systems, exiting system and entering system. It is not established automatically.

Become A Deferred Member

In order to be a vested member, you must have at least five years of retirement service credit. Non-vested members have less than five years of service credit. You may elect to become a deferred member of MercedCERA by leaving your accumulated contributions and interest on deposit.  Your contributions will continue to earn interest, until you either take a refund or begin receiving a monthly retirement benefit.

Vested Member

Vested members retain their rights after terminating employment, if they leave their contributions with MercedCERA. They can begin receiving a monthly retirement benefit at their earliest retirement age which is based on eligibility of the member’s tier. 

Non-Vested Member

Non-vested members are not eligible to retire until they met the requirement of age. Tier 1 through 4 members may retire at age 70 regardless of how many years of service you have. As a Safety member you may retire at 65 if you were a member prior to December 31, 1978. If the member has not opted to receive a monthly retirement benefit by age 70, they must elect to either take a lump sum of total contributions or apply for a monthly retirement benefit no later than April 1 following the year in which the member turns 72 years old. This is an IRS minimum distribution rule.

Refunding Your Contributions

If you terminate employment, you have the option of taking a refund of your contributions and interest, payable directly to you or rolled into another qualified retirement account. If the refund is payable directly to you, all pre-tax contributions plus interest will be subject to tax withholding. Please refer to the “Special Tax Notice Regarding Plan Payments and Federal Income Tax” section of the Distribution of Retirement Contributions Election form. The refund process may take up to six to eight weeks.

Returning to MercedCERA

Upon returning to MercedCERA membership, if your funds are still left on deposit with MercedCERA and you return to employment with a MercedCERA employer and your earlier service credit is intact, you will resume earning service credit.  If you withdrew your funds, you may redeposit your previously withdrawn contributions, plus the interest.  A redeposit would restore the service credit that was forfeited by the withdrawal. Not withdrawing funds or restoring funds may provide some advantages in regard to Tier placement, as well as your entry age. For more information on a redeposit, please refer to the section on Purchasing Service Credit.