Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) - Human Resources at Ohio State

Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) was established to provide a secure retirement for Ohio’s public employees and their families. Even with state-mandated retirement plans, it is important to consider the options in making decisions that are right for you. The Office of Human Resources is pleased to provide this overview, and you are encouraged to learn more at opers.org.

Upon hire, you have two options for selecting a retirement plan:

If you select the ARP, an election form for the ARP must be received by the Office of Human Resources no later than 120 days from, and including, the effective date of your eligible appointment. If an ARP election form is not received, you will automatically be placed into OPERS.

If you remain in OPERS, you have 180 days from your hire date to select a plan within OPERS.

Both you and the university contribute to your retirement account. Your contributions are made on a pre-tax basis; federal and state taxes are deferred until benefits are paid. Benefits are exempt from local and municipal taxes within Ohio, except school district income tax. Any investment return on your account is also tax-deferred.

OPERS offers three plans:

  • Traditional Plan – Defined Benefit (DB)
  • Member Directed- Defined Contribution (DC)
  • Combined

To view a side-by-side comparison of the three plan choices within OPERS, see Comparison of Retirement Plan Options for Staff.

Employees of Ohio public colleges and universities do not participate in the federal Social Security system, other than contributions to Medicare. If you are eligible for a Social Security benefit from other employment in addition to your OPERS benefit, there may be a reduction in your Social Security benefit. Learn more about the Windfall Provision.

Note: The following is a summary and subject to change at any time. For the most current and detailed information, please visit the OPERS website or call OPERS at (800) 222-7377.

Plan Options

The OPERS Traditional Pension Plan is a defined benefit plan.

The benefit is determined by a formula that uses your age, years of service, and eligible final average salary1 at the time of your retirement. You and Ohio State make contributions to this plan to fund retirement benefits. The investment of contributions in this plan type are managed by OPERS; therefore, you do not bear any investment risk. Your benefits grow with your years of service and final average salary.

Vesting
The employee contributions are vested immediately. A portion of the university contributions are vested after 5 and 10 years. In addition, after 1.5 years of service credit, you are vested for survivor benefits. After 5 years of service credit, you may be vested for disability benefits and an age and service retirement benefit.2

How Your Benefit Grows
Your benefit amount grows by adding years of service credit (earned or purchased) and with increases to your eligible compensation.

Access to Funds at Termination or Retirement
You may choose from a number of options:

  • Receive a retirement pension benefit based on the plan formula
  • Leave your account on deposit for future benefits
  • Roll your vested account funds into another qualified plan or IRA
  • Receive a lump sum refund of your contributions; you also may be eligible for a portion of the employer contributions plus interest

Additional Benefits
When enrolled in the OPERS Traditional Plan, you may be eligible for access to health care coverage and disability and survivor benefits. Specific eligibility criteria must be met.


1 Subject to terms and conditions of the plan and applicable law.
2 Subject to terms and conditions of the plan and applicable law.

The OPERS Member-Directed Plan is a defined contribution plan. This is a 401(a) account. The member directs how contributions are invested (within certain limitations) and bears sole responsibility for the investment risk. Retirement benefits are based on the amount contributed and also affected by expenses and account gains and losses in the OPERS investment options the member selects, as well as annuity factors, such as retirement age.

A portion of the university’s contribution is credited to a Retiree Medical Account (RMA). You can use the RMA for the payment of qualified health care expenses after separation from service.

When participating in a defined contribution plan, Ohio law requires that a portion of the employer contribution be reduced and applied towards the defined benefit plan’s unfunded liability, known as the mitigating rate. This amount may be adjusted up or down on a periodic basis. For information on the current mitigating rate, visit opers.org.

Vesting
The employee contributions are vested immediately. The university contributions are vested based on years of participation. See the OPERS vesting schedule for the Retiree Medical Account.

How Your Benefit Grows
Your account consists of contributions made by you and the university, as well as with any investment gains or losses you may have on those contributions.

Access to Funds at Termination or Retirement
You may choose from a number of options:

  • Leave your account on deposit for future benefits
  • Roll the vested portion of your account into another qualified plan or IRA
  • Receive a lump sum refund of your contributions; you also may be eligible for a portion of the employer contributions plus interest
  • Receive fixed-period payments over a set number of years
  • Receive systematic withdrawals
  • Receive single or joint life monthly annuity from the vested portion of your account with continuing survivor protection

Additional Benefits
You will have access to your RMA if disabled while employed.

The OPERS Combined Plan is a combination of the other two OPERS plans – the Traditional Pension Plan (Defined Benefit) and the Member-Directed Plan (Defined Contribution)

  • Under the defined benefit portion of the Combined Plan, the university’s contributions fund the Traditional Pension Plan portion, and your retirement benefit is determined by a reduced formula (similar to the formula for the Traditional Pension Plan). OPERS investment professionals manage these funds.
  • The member’s contributions are deposited into the member’s individual account within the plan and invested as directed by the member into one or more of the OPERS investment options. The member’s retirement benefit under this portion of the Combined Plan is based on the amount contributed, expenses and account gains and losses in the OPERS investment options selected, as well as annuity factors, such as age of retirement.

Vesting
The employee contributions are vested immediately. A portion of the university’s contributions are vested after 5 and 10 years. In addition, after 1.5 years of service credit, you are vested for survivor benefits.  After 5 years of service credit, you may be vested for disability benefits and an age and service retirement benefit.

How Your Benefit Grows
The defined contribution account consists of your contributions, as well as with any investment gains or losses you may have on those contributions. The benefit amount from the defined benefit portion grows by adding years of service credit (earned or purchased) and with increases to your eligible compensation.

Access to Funds at Termination/Retirement
For the defined contribution portion, choose from a number of options:

  • Leave your account on deposit for future benefits.
  • Roll the vested portion of your account balance into another qualified plan or IRA.
  • Receive a lump sum refund of your contributions; you also may be eligible for a portion of the employer contributions plus interest.
  • Receive fixed-period payments from the vested portion of your account balance over a set number of years.
  • Receive systematic withdrawals.
  • Receive single or joint life monthly annuity with continuing survivor protection.

For the defined benefit portion, choose from a number of options:

  • Leave your account on deposit for future benefits.
  • Roll your vested account funds into another qualified plan or IRA.
  • Receive a lump sum refund of your contribution; you may be eligible for a portion of the employer contributions plus interest.
  • Receive a retirement pension benefit based on the plan formula.

Additional Benefits
You may be eligible for access to health care coverage, disability and survivor benefits. (See Benefit information)

Plan Information

You have 120 days from, and including, the effective date of your eligible appointment to decide

Default enrollment
As a newly hired staff employee, you are automatically enrolled in OPERS. If you are eligible for ARP, you have 120 days from, and including, the effective date of the eligible appointment to choose between OPERS and ARP. If no election is received, you remain in OPERS.

Making your election
In order to elect OPERS or ARP, please use the Retirement Program Election Form. The Office of Human Resources MUST receive your completed form by close of business on the 120th day. If the 120th day falls on a weekend or holiday, you must submit the form by the end of business on the last business day prior to the 120th day.

Selecting an OPERS plan
You have a total of 180 days from your appointment date to select an OPERS retirement plan (Traditional, Member-Directed or Combined). Please review the Selecting Your Plan section of OPERS website or call OPERS at (800) 222-7377 for assistance in selecting your plan.

Who selects the investments for your chosen plan?

  • Defined Benefit: OPERS
  • Defined Contribution: Employee selects from OPERS investment offerings
  • Combined: OPERS plus Employee selects from OPERS investment offerings

The following contribution amounts are in effect as of January 1, 2016.  Amounts are subject to change.

Employee and Employer OPERS Contribution Rates
OPERS Plan Employee Contribution1 Employer Contribution1
Traditional Plan 10% 14%
Member Directed 10% 14%

  • 8% to individual account at OPERS
  • 4% to your Retiree Medical Account
  • 1.5% to OPERS Traditional Plan to fund past service liabilities, as required by law
  • 0.50% administrative fee
Combined 10% 14%

  • 12.5% to individual account at OPERS
  • 1.5% to OPERS Traditional Plan to fund past service liabilities, as required by law
1 Subject to change based on amounts required by law.

Once you have enrolled in OPERS, you can use the system’s website for managing your account. For example, you can check your account value, service credit and employment history. You can also designate beneficiaries and estimate your future benefits. Go to opers.org, select Member Login and follow the prompts.

Depending on the plan elected, you may change your plan within OPERS one time during your career. Please contact OPERS at (800) 222-7377 for information on changing plans.