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When you apply for retirement with SERS, you will have to choose a payment plan. Depending on your circumstances, one payment plan may be a better choice than another. The decision must be based on personal factors such as health, finances, marital status, and other sources of income. The SERS staff will supply the necessary estimate(s) to help in your decision. We are available to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each plan, but the final decision is up to you.

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It is important that you understand each plan. If you change your mind within 30 days of your first pension deposit, please contact SERS immediately. After 30 days, you can only change your payment plan under these limited circumstances:

  • marriage
  • remarriage
  • divorce
  • dissolution
  • annulment
  • death of your designated beneficiary

The payment plan you choose is largely determined by whether or not you wish to provide for someone after your death. If so, your pension will be reduced. The amount of the reduction depends upon the payment plan you choose and the ages of those involved.

No matter which plan you choose, your pension is for your lifetime. You are always assured the return of your contributions, regardless of the plan you choose. Any employee contributions remaining in the account must be paid to your estate if both you and your beneficiary die before your total contributions have been collected in benefits.

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There are positives and negatives to every plan selection. The highest pension possible, a Plan B “Single Life” plan, provides only for you, the retiree. By choosing a “Joint Life” plan, you can make sure that a benefit will continue to your beneficiary after your death.

Please see the following chart for a complete description of each plan. If you have questions, please contact SERS toll-free at 866-280-7377.

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Payment Plans Available

Plan A – Joint Life – One-Half to Spouse

Half the retiree’s gross monthly pension will be paid to the spouse upon the retiree’s death.

Once the spouse becomes the recipient, payment to the spouse is for his or her lifetime.

Plan B – Single Life – Allowance No Monthly Payment to Beneficiary

This plan pays the highest amount to the retiree, but ceases with the retiree’s death. If all member contributions have not been recovered in the form of monthly benefits, the remainder is paid in a lump sum to the designated beneficiary. If you designate multiple beneficiaries, any amount will be distributed equally among them.

Plan C – Joint Life – Designated Amount to Beneficiary
The retiree can designate a set percentage or amount for the beneficiary for the beneficiary’s life. This cannot exceed whatever the retiree received; but, if an amount is designated, the minimum must be $100 a month. Federal tax law may require a different
minimum amount; in this case the benefit estimate will show the correct minimum amount allowable.

Plan D – Joint Life – Same Amount to Beneficiary

Plan D provides the same gross monthly amount to the beneficiary that the retiree was drawing at the time of death. Due to federal tax law, if there is too great a difference in the ages between the retiree and a beneficiary other than a spouse, this plan may not be available.

Plan E – Guaranteed Allowance

Retirees may guarantee beneficiary protection for a limited period of time under Plan E.

Several options are available as to the period of time - 5 years, 10 years, 15 years and other periods are available upon request. The gross monthly amount to the beneficiary is the same as the retiree was receiving at the time of death. Beneficiary protection is guaranteed, however, only for the period of time chosen, and begins with the retiree’s effective date of retirement. If you designate multiple beneficiaries, the amount payable is the remaining annuity discounted to its present value and will be paid in a one-time lump sum equally among them. If you select this plan you will be sent a separate form for designation of beneficiaries. This form must be received by SERS before benefits are paid. This plan cannot be changed under any circumstances.

If you are considering Plan E, please remember these important facts: 

  • The pension will be paid to you for life.
  • The guaranteed period (5, 10, or 15 years or other years as requested) begins with the effective retirement date, not your death. Beneficiary payments will stop at the end of the guaranteed period.
  • A separate form is required for a selection of Plan E and the designation of all beneficiaries for this plan. If you wish your spouse to be first, he or she must be renamed on this separate form. Failure to complete this form properly will delay or
    even possibly void the selection of this plan. If you choose Plan E on your Retirement Application, this form will be sent to you automatically. Your retirement cannot be processed until SERS receives your beneficiary form.
  • You can name more than one beneficiary on Plan E. If there are still years remaining on the guaranteed period at the time of your death, the lump sum present value will be split among your beneficiaries. No monthly benefit is available to multiple beneficiaries.

Plan F – Joint Life – Multiple Beneficiaries

You may name up to four persons to receive monthly benefits upon your death. Each additional beneficiary named will reduce your own pension. You must designate a percentage of your monthly pension OR a flat dollar amount for each beneficiary. The
amount designated cannot be less than 10% unless required by a court order, and the amount for all beneficiaries cannot exceed 100%. If you are required by a court order to provide a benefit for an ex-spouse, include a copy of the court order. If you select this plan, you will be sent a separate form for designation of beneficiaries. This form must be received by SERS before benefits are paid.

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Aside from providing income for a beneficiary, another distinct advantage of choosing Plan A, C, D, or F is the current ability to continue the beneficiary’s health care coverage. While you are living, a deduction from your monthly pension check is necessary to extend the coverage to your beneficiaries. Upon your death, your monthly payment converts to your beneficiary. As long as you qualify for health care coverage, your beneficiaries can continue with that coverage if they pay the premiums.

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A named beneficiary other than a spouse or financially dependent child will receive the monthly benefits, but not health care coverage. For details on who may qualify as a dependent child, please contact SERS before completing your Retirement Application.

SERS reserves the right to change or discontinue any health plan or program, including eligibility. Please see the Member Health Care Guide for additional information.

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In addition to selecting a payment plan, you may take part of your pension in a one-time Partial Lump Sum Option Payment (PLOP) which will permanently reduce your lifetime monthly pension. 

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The PLOP amount:

  • May be from 6 to 36 months of your unreduced pension, but it cannot reduce your original pension more than 50%.
  • Must be taken at retirement.

SERS can provide you with estimates of your pension with and without a PLOP amount.

You should consider this option carefully to decide whether a partial lump sum amount is worth a permanent reduction in the regular monthly pension.

The PLOP is subject to 20% federal income taxes and is withheld automatically. Taxes may be avoided if the PLOP is rolled over to a qualified plan. If you select a PLOP, you will receive detailed information about federal taxes and the rollover option. If you wish to have Ohio state taxes withheld, please contact SERS for the necessary form.

Retirees under the age of 59½ may also be subject to an additional 10% federal tax penalty unless the PLOP is rolled over.

If you are subject to the Social Security Government Pension Offset or Windfall Elimination Provision, the Social Security Administration will calculate your reduction based on the unreduced pension amount, which is the amount of your SERS pension if you did not choose a PLOP option. For more information, review the Social Security page.

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If you are married and choose a plan of payment other than Plan A, written consent from your spouse is required. This must be done on the Service Retirement Application and must be signed in the presence of a notary public or a SERS employee.

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If your spouse will not consent to the plan choice, SERS will pay you according to the Plan A monthly amount. You must advise us in writing if your spouse will not sign the consent.

The spousal consent requirement may be waived if your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown, if he or she is medically unable to give consent, or if a guardianship has been established for your spouse. Please contact SERS for documentation requirements.

Your retirement cannot be processed until SERS receives the signed spousal consent, you have notified us that your spouse will not give consent, or until the appropriate affidavits have been filed.

Regardless of the plan of payment chosen, if you are selecting a PLOP, a spousal consent is required.

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If you choose Plan A, C, or D for a beneficiary, and your beneficiary dies before you do, your pension will be adjusted to the Single Life amount. If you choose Plan F for multiple beneficiaries, your pension will be adjusted if one or more of the beneficiaries dies before you do.

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This can be done only under a Plan A, C, D, or F option. There is no “Pop-Up” application to a Plan E payment, where time limits apply on benefits.

If you selected Plan A, C, D, or F for your spouse, and you later divorce, your marriage is annulled, or your marriage is dissolved, your plan may be adjusted only with the consent of your ex-spouse or by an order of the court.

If you marry or re-marry after retirement, you can re-select a joint survivor plan for your new spouse. This is called a “Pop-Down.” You have only one year from the date of your marriage to Pop-Down.

If you are married, you should discuss your payment plan choice with your spouse. Upon your death, benefits stop unless you selected a Joint Survivor Allowance?Plans A, C, D, or F. Plan E benefits continue only for the duration of the guaranteed period.

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