Tier 1 Alternative Retirement Formula
This information applies to all active state employees. If you terminate employment with the State, your benefits will be determined by the law in effect on your last day of employment. This information is intended to serve as a supplement to the Benefit Statement, which includes personal benefit information about you.
The Alternative Formula applies to members in certain positions with 20 years of alternative service. Members eligible for the alternative formula may retire at age 50 with 25 years of service, or at age 55 with 20 years of service.
In order to receive any benefit, you must apply for it and provide proof of age. All benefit claims should be made to the Claims Division. Your agency’s Retirement Coordinator can assist you in filing a benefit claim. After you begin receiving benefits, you should notify SERS if you change your name, address, or if you wish to change your beneficiary(ies) for the lump sum death benefit. All SERS records are maintained according to your Social Security number. Make sure your Social Security number is correct when filing a claim.
All benefit claims and appeals are reviewed by the SERS Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. If your claim is denied, or you question the payment of any benefit, you or your representative may file a written appeal or request a hearing before the Executive Committee.
Final Average Compensation
For an alternative formula employee, final average compensation is figured one of three ways:
- The average of the highest 48 consecutive months over the last 120 months of service (for members in service prior to January 1, 1998).
- Average of last 48 months of service.
- Final rate of pay: Cannot exceed the average of the last 24 months of pay by 115%.
Calculating the Alternative Retirement Formula
Coordinated: 2.5% for each year of service.
Non-Coordinated: 3.0% for each year of service
Alternative Formula Example #1: The employee is not coordinated with Social Security, is 50 years old, has 26 years, 8 months (320 months) of service credit, and a final average compensation of $5,000 per month.
26 Years, 8 months (320 months) x 3% = 80%
80% x $5,000 = $4,000 per month, or $48,000 annually
Example #2: The employee is coordinated with Social Security, is 50 years old, has 32 years (384 months) of credited service, and a final average compensation of $4,000 per month.
32 Years x 2.5% = 80%
80% x $4,000 = $3,200 per month, or $38,400 annually
Annual Pension Increases
Alternative formula retirees receive their first 3% pension increase on January 1 following the first full year of retirement after age 55. These increases are not limited by the 80% maximum.
Unused Sick Leave
Unused and unpaid sick leave can be used to meet service eligibility requirements and increase your retirement benefit. This additional service credit does not affect final average compensation. 21 days of sick & vacation leave equals one month of service credit. Unused sick leave chart
Paid Sick & Vacation Time
If you receive a lump-sum payment for sick leave, vacation, or personal days when you retire, you may establish credit for this time to meet service eligibility requirements and increase your retirement benefit by making the required contributions on a pre or post-tax basis. 21 days of sick, vacation and personal leave equals one month of service credit. Unused sick leave chart
Positions Eligible for Benefits Under the Alternative Formula
- State Policeman
- Fire Fighter
- Air Pilot
- Special Agent
- Secretary of State Investigator
- Conservation Police Officer
- Revenue or Gaming Board Investigator
- Department of Human Services Security Employee (includes Mental Health police)
- Central Management Services Police Officer
- Department of Corrections' Security Employee (includes Prisoner Review Board)
- Dangerous Drug Investigator
- State Police Investigator
- Attorney General Investigator
- Controlled Substance Inspector
- State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Investigator
- Commerce Commission Police Officer
- State Fire Marshal Arson Investigator
- State Highway Maintenance Worker
Security Employees Who May be Eligible for the Alternative Retirement Formula
A security employee with either the Department of Corrections or the Department of Human Services may be eligible for the alternative formula even if they do not have 20 years of service in the previously mentioned positions.
These security employees would be eligible for the alternative formula for the time they served in a security position, if they have at least 20 years of service. This may include regular formula service and reciprocal service. The maximum benefit is 75% of FAC. Final average compensation is based on the highest consecutive months of service within the last 48 months of service.
The age and service requirements for these employees are:
- Any age, when your age (years & months) and years of service credit (years and months) equal 85 years (1020 months) (Rule of 85).
- Age 60 with 20 years of credited service.
- Between ages 55-60 with 25-30 years of credited service (reduced 1/2 of 1% for each month under age 60).
Normal Form of Payment
Your retirement benefit is paid monthly for your lifetime, but you can choose one of two optional forms of payment.
Optional Forms of Payment
Level Income: This option allows members who have paid into SERS and Social Security to receive their benefits at a level amount throughout their retirement years by combining their Social Security and SERS benefits. The Level Income option can be helpful when a member retires years before the age when (s)he qualifies for a Social Security benefit.
Under the Level Income Option
A member retires at age 60 with a monthly pension of $1,800 from SERS. The member is also eligible for a monthly Social Security benefit of $1,000 at age 66.
At Age 60: The member’s $1,000 monthly Social Security benefit is discounted to $523.50. Therefore, the SERS benefit would be $2,323.50, increasing 3% each year to $2,774.38 per month by age 66.
At Age 66: The member’s monthly SERS benefit would be reduced to $1,774.38, because the Social Security benefit of $1,000 per month would begin. The member’s combined monthly benefit would still total $2,774.38.
Under Level Income, SERS pays an amount (based on your estimated Social Security benefit) in addition to your regular retirement benefit until you qualify for Social Security benefits. At this time, your pension is reduced regardless of when you actually begin receiving Social Security and regardless of how much this benefit actually is. This reduced amount will be paid for your lifetime. If you choose Level Income, it is your responsibility to apply for Social Security benefits.
Reversionary Annuity: This option reduces your monthly retirement benefit to provide a lifetime income for your designated dependent after your death. The monthly amount paid to your dependent after your death may not be less than $10, and may not exceed the amount of your reduced benefit. This benefit is in addition to the survivors’ benefit. The reversionary annuity is useful for providing income to a surviving spouse or other dependent who doesn’t work, or worked very little, and won’t receive much retirement or Social Security income. If you choose the reversionary annuity, it cannot be rescinded. If the designated dependent dies before you, the reversionary annuity is void and your retirement benefit is not recalculated. The reversionary annuity does not have an annual cost of living increase.
Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Order (QILDRO) (QILDRO forms)
A QILDRO allows for the division of a retirement benefit or a refund of contributions due to divorce. It does not establish a new benefit, nor does it create a new member or beneficiary. Generally, the QILDRO orders the payment of a benefit to the spouse as the alternate payee. It may also be payable to a child or other dependent as the alternate payee. The QILDRO does not apply to survivor annuities, or disability benefits.
Returning to Employment After Retiring
If you return to state employment on a contractual basis or for the private sector, your SERS benefit will not be affected. The 2002 Early Retirement Incentive participants may not return on a contractual basis. If you return to state employment after retirement, you should notify the SERS Claims Division immediately.
If your employment with the state will last less than 75 working days during a calendar year (any part of a day is counted as a full day), you will continue to receive your pension payment. During your employment, you make no contributions to SERS, but you must contribute to Social Security. If you work more than 75 working days, your pension benefit will end on the 76th day, and you will resume contributing to SERS.
If you are reemployed by the state on a permanent basis, you will not be eligible for pension benefits while working. You will make contributions to both SERS and Social Security during your employment, and earn additional credited service. After you again retire from state employment, you must reapply for a pension. Your new pension amount will be the total amount before reemployment, plus the amount earned during your reemployment.
If you re-enter state service within three years after the date you retired, you may qualify to have your new retirement benefit computed as though you never retired. To qualify, you must repay all of the money you received, plus interest. This repayment may be made in a lump sum, by installments paid within five years after your reemployment, or before your next retirement date, whichever is first. If you choose not to complete installment payments before retirement or the end of the five-year period, your installment payments will be refunded and your pension will not be recomputed.