This article goes through some of the nation’s best private sector pension plans. Then it goes through the government sector where plans get even more generous. Finally, it gets to government sector pensions in California which it labels “A Special Case.” The California Public Employees’ Retirement System uses a multiplier of 2% for most workers, who also participate in Social Security, said spokesman Brad Pacheco. As a result, employees with 30 years’ service can retire at 55 with pensions equal to 60% of their pay, although their benefit is reduced by whatever they get from Social Security. (These workers contribute 5% of their pay to the CalPERS system in addition to paying Social Security taxes.) One in three workers, though, really hit the jackpot. Prison guards and highway patrol officers get a 3% multiplier (the cops get it at age 50, the guards at 55). That means they can retire early with 90% of pay after 30 years’ service. The state also has gradually increased the categories of workers considered “public safety” employees who qualify for a 2.5% multiplier. As a result, this group — which for a long time consisted mostly of prison cooks, plumbers and others with at least some inmate contact — now includes a much wider variety of non-prison jobs, including Department of Motor Vehicle driving examiners and public-health inspectors. These folks can retire at 55 with 75% of their pay. Another thing to mull over: 34% of California’s 215,000 state government workers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.