Retiring Before vs. After the Beginning of a New Fiscal Year

Date: Feb 29, 2024


When it comes to retirement or entering DROP, timing is everything. One consideration when choosing your date is the effect of retiring or entering DROP before versus on June 30th (or earlier) compared to July 1st (or later) of any given year.
The main benefit of retiring or entering DROP towards the end of a fiscal year is that you will receive the next fiscal year’s cost of living adjustment (“COLA”) much sooner than if you wait to retire or enter DROP until the beginning of the next fiscal year. Everyone who retires or enters DROP before July 1st in any given year is eligible to receive that year’s COLA on their July pension payment, which usually increases your base pension benefit by 1-2% (maximum of 2% per year). However, if you retire or enter DROP on or after July 1st, you won’t receive a COLA until the July of the following year, when the next fiscal year begins. For example, let’s say your base pension benefit is $3,000 per month. If you retire on June 30, 2024 and the COLA effective July 1, 2024 is 2%, you’ll receive an additional $60 on each month’s pension check from July 2024 through June 2025, which comes to an additional $720 for the year. That’s $720 you’d miss out on if you chose to retire on or after July 1, 2024. (Note: The fiscal year 2025 COLA, effective July 2024, will be decided at the May 10, 2024 Board meeting – you can check SDCERS’ website the following week, which will have an article on the front page announcing what the July 2024 COLA will be.)
On the flip side, it’s possible you could increase your base pension benefit by waiting until after a new fiscal year has begun to retire or enter DROP. The logic behind this conclusion lies in your pension benefit formula: Retirement Factor x Final Compensation x Service Credit. First, retiring at an older age may grant you a higher retirement factor – remember that retirement factors are prorated in quarterly increments, so if your plan tier’s factor increases between age 62 and 63, for example, it will be slightly higher if you retire at age 62 ¼ compared to age 62. Second, the longer you continue to work before you retire, the more service credit you will accrue. In general, more service credit means a higher pension benefit. Lastly, if you recently received a salary increase, working longer while receiving that higher salary can increase your final compensation. Looking at the pension benefit formula, you can see that an increased final compensation will result in a greater pension benefit.
However, the thing to remember about your final compensation is that you must receive the higher salary for at least several months in order for it to have a noticeable effect on your pension benefit amount. The “Final Compensation” used in your pension benefit calculation is your highest pensionable salary averaged over either one or three years, depending on your plan tier. Therefore, if you only began receiving your increased salary in the beginning of the calendar year, you may want to keep working for at least several months into the new fiscal year in order to see a significant difference in your benefit amount. In order for your higher salary to be used in full when calculating your benefit, you’d have to continue working for one or three years from the date of your salary increase, again depending on your plan tier.
One more possible benefit of retiring or entering DROP after the start of a new fiscal year has to do with your cost of living (“COL”) annuity and interest applied to member contributions.* Your member contributions receive annual interest, currently at a rate of 6.5%, applied every June 30th. However, your contribution account do not receive that year’s interest if you are retired or participating in DROP before July 1st. Depending on your specific circumstances and the COLA for that year, waiting to retire or enter DROP until after the interest has been applied to your contributions may increase your COL annuity to such an extent that the higher COL annuity, combined with any other applicable benefits of waiting as discussed above, could be more financially beneficial to you than the COLA would be. If this is true in your case, it could make more sense to retire or enter DROP on or after July 1st. (Note: The same logic applies to your Surviving Spouse Annuity, if you select the Maximum Benefit (Single) retirement benefit option – see the Retirement Benefit Options Fact Sheet for more information.)
*Police officers hired on or after August 1, 2012 and Port General 2024 Members do not receive the COL annuity.
To be clear, the financial pros and cons of retiring or entering DROP before vs. after the start of a new fiscal year depend on multiple factors and your individual circumstances. There is no one size fits all regarding retirement/DROP entry date – it is a very personal decision and should be made after careful consideration of all relevant factors. This article is intended to inform you of some possible benefits of retiring before or after July 1st of a given year. Also, if you are considering entering DROP, please be reminded that your DROP entry date must be on the first day of a pay period – the last day to enter DROP before the beginning of Fiscal Year 2025 will be June 22, 2024 for City members and June 28, 2024 for Port and Airport members. Please submit your service retirement or DROP entry application via your Member Portal account soon if you are thinking about retiring or entering DROP before July 1st, so you can schedule a counseling appointment in May or early June – don’t procrastinate!

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