The Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System manages the pension benefits of approximately 239,000 employees and retirees for 102 public sector employers. In 2017, SERS paid about $3.3 billion in benefits and managed $29.7 billion in assets.
Pension Plan: Just the Facts
Pension Plan: Members, Contributions, and Benefits
Created in 1923 by the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement Code, SERS is a multiple-employer, cost-sharing defined benefit plan. The law requires that most state employees be SERS members and, typically, employers automatically enroll new hires.
While there are different classes of service, most employees contribute 6.25% of their salary to SERS. Then, for most employees, after working for five years, they become eligible for a lifetime pension based on a formula set forth in the law. (Employees hired on or after January 1, 2010 must work for 10 years to become eligible.
Generally, the annual benefit equals an employee's final average salary x years of service x class of service multiplier x 2%, adjusted for their age at retirement. The law does not provide automatic cost of living adjustments after retirement. When employees leave state service before becoming eligible for a lifetime pension, they can withdraw the amount they have contributed to SERS, plus 4% interest.
Pension Plan: Employer and Investment Contributions
Employers also contribute to SERS. To pay for the retirement benefits earned by most employees this year, employers would need to contribute about 5% of payroll. Investment returns also add to the pension fund. In fact, from 2002 - 2013, investment earnings provided about 75% of the money contributed to SERS.
Deferred Comp: Supplemental Savings Opportunity
Governance and Service Delivery
SERS' work is guided by the 11-member State Employees' Retirement Board, managed by an executive director and chief investment officer, and carried out by approximately 165 public employees. The law charges each SERS board member with a fiduciary responsibility to act solely in the best interests of SERS members. Approximately a quarter of SERS professionals provide member services through a network of counseling centers statewide.