The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) manages service and health retirement benefits for California’s public-sector employees. That includes members of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). For this reason, it also happens to be the official CHP retirement plan. However, the benefits of each CHP retiree will vary depending on various factors, including the length of service, contributions to the pension system and the retirement age.
What Is the CHP Retirement Age?
Service retirement benefits are lifetime benefits accessible for eligible CalPERS members. But to access these benefits, you need to have reached the minimum CHP retirement age of 50. However, you must have at least five years’ worth of CalPERS-credited service to access them. But if you earned your service on January 1, 2013, or after, you must be at least 52 years to retire.
If you become disabled and can no longer do the job required of you, you can retire at any time. However, to be eligible for disability retirement benefits, you must also have five years of credited service. Alternatively, you should have worked part-time for five years or more. Then you can inquire to determine if you meet the exception criteria.
You could also apply for industrial disability retirement if you become disabled or ill due to the CHP job you perform. The minimum age requirement does not apply here.
How Does the CHP Retirement Plan Work?
You need to understand how to calculate CalPERS service credits because they affect your eligibility for CHP retirement benefits.
Typically, it takes 10 months of full employment to earn one year of service credit within a fiscal year. And you cannot earn more than one service credit in any given fiscal year. For that reason, if you work part-time and less than eight hours per day, it may take you much longer to be eligible for CHP retirement benefits.
However, other types of service credits can help boost your retirement income. These include unused sick leave by retirement time and military service.
Once you are eligible for retirement, you can begin estimating what you will get. The general rule of thumb is that you cannot get more than 90 percent final compensation. And this compensation is pegged on the highest average yearly payment you earned for 12 or 36 consecutive months, depending on membership date and contract.
What Benefits Do CHP Officers Get?
Typically, CHP officers earn a decent salary and benefits, influencing their retirement benefit amounts. However, their earnings will also depend on the different skills they acquire, the shift they work, years of service and the extra hours they put in.
Below are examples of working benefits that CHP officers can access:
- While in CHP academy, cadets typically earn $4,679 to $5,997 while enjoying free room and board.
- After graduation, cadets can make a base pay of anywhere from $78,672 to $97,572 as they gain more working experience.
- Certified bilingual speakers get an additional $100, while canine handlers earn an additional $156 monthly.
- CHP officers can also access comprehensive dental, medical and vision health care plans for themselves and their dependents.
If you earn more while working as a CHP officer, you will likely get more in retirement. However, you need to contribute toward your retirement benefits instead of relying only on employer contributions. And currently, you need to contribute at least 50 percent of your pension benefit’s total annual normal cost.
A typical CHP retiree, who once worked for a public agency, will earn an average monthly service retirement allowance of $4,044. That applies for a retiree who worked for an average of 21 years until the age of 59. But some will earn more or less than that.
It’s also worth noting that CHP officers can access full dental and health coverage after retirement if they are eligible for it. But you need to enroll with Medicare before turning 65 so you can keep your CalPERS health coverage.
However, every year, you can take advantage of the open enrollment period to enroll in a health plan or change information, such as adding or removing dependents. You can also cancel your coverage if you no longer desire it.
It is pretty unlikely that your retirement benefits will be similar to those of another CHP officer. That is because these benefits have too many variables. However, if you have an idea of how they are calculated, you may estimate how much you will receive in retirement. But since your pension is unlikely to be enough, it would be wise for you to save for your retirement in other ways, such as through IRAs.
- CalPERS.CA.GOV: Service & Disability Retirement
- CalPERS. CA. GOV: What You Need to Know About Your CalPERS State Safety Benefit
- CBSLocal: California Highway Patrol Officer
- CalPERS.CA.GOV: Actuarial Circular Letter
- CalPERS.CA.GOV: Facts at a Glance for Fiscal Year 2019–20
- CalPERS.CA.GOV: State Health Benefits Guide
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