OPERS rolls out anti-spiking calculator

The practice of a small number of members who are able to achieve high salaries to increase their final pension benefits has been a concern to the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System for many years. That’s because the lifetime contributions of those few members who are able to “spike” their salaries are not sufficient to support their higher pension benefits.

OPERS has proposed a unique method to cap the benefits of members whose salaries spike far higher than their career contributions. The Contribution Based Benefit Cap formula was included in Senate Bill 343, and we hope to secure its passage into law this year.

When we told you about the cap in March, many of you had questions about how it would work and whether it would affect your pension benefit. Therefore, we have created a benefit cap calculator. It is not designed to provide exact pension benefit amounts. Rather, it is best used to help you test whether the cap might apply to you. Members may request individualized benefit estimates from OPERS after our systems are updated to include the cap, which would happen after the bill’s effective date.

You can access the calculator from the Special Coverage area of our website by clicking on this link.

The proposed cap is not designed to impact members who receive typical salary increases and promotions throughout their careers. It’s a new approach to address spiking because it focuses not on final average salary but on accumulated contributions by the member. It is meant to cap the pension benefits of only those members who have a formula benefit out of proportion with their contributions.

It also is important to note that OPERS’ recommended anti-spiking measure as currently proposed would not be applied retroactively. It would apply only to members who retire after pension legislation becomes law.

For more information, you may refer to two previous blogs we have written about the cap. Click on the links below to read them:

Proposed spiking measure focuses on contributions

Member examples help explain spiking proposals

This entry was posted in Benefits, Pension Reform, Pensions, Senate Bill 343, Spiking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to OPERS rolls out anti-spiking calculator

  1. d. e. bailey says:

    Spiking is unfair. It should never have been allowed, it is just another example where current benefits are excessive for those who can work the system.

    • cspisula says:

      Why is it you here ( for those who can work the system.), I have been told that several times,and I feel that is one of those statements from someone who doesn’t really want to work and has tried using the system and failed because there Illness doesn’t Hinder their abilities enough to be off work. I have real illness and so does everyone else who is on disability retirement. you don’t walk in their shoes and not all illnesses are seen by the human eye such as cancer, and many others that doesn’t mean there not there. It only means you can’t see them. Sometimes It is hard for some to just get out of bed,But never the less we do it, and work through the pain and suffering and most put a smile on their face.

  2. Linda says:

    Is overtime considered spiking?

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Linda,

      Overtime does not necessarily equate to spiking.

      –Ohio PERS

      • S says:

        You said that over time does not necessarily equate to spiking. What instances would it equate to spiking and how can that be determined?

        • Michael Pramik says:

          Use your historial wages and estimated future wages and plug them into the calculator. Remember that the calculator is designed to provide an estimation of spiking, not an exact indication of your benefit. And, again, our proposed benefit cap is designed to affect extreme increases in wages when the age-and-service benefit greatly outpaces lifetime contributions.

          –Ohio PERS

    • david dee says:

      overtime worked is not spiking.

  3. S says:

    Anyone who has already spiked their pensions should have the appropriate adjustments made.

  4. Arnold Frye says:

    OPERS, the Ohio General Assembly, or any reasonable person should not be surprised that prudent OPERS members will try to do whatever they can to increase their future OPERS benefits– whether it be by increasing their final average salaries (by obtaining a higher-paying job, working as much overtime as they can, or working a second OPERS-covered public job, like a part-time job at a community college); purchasing military service credit; and/or working beyond the minimum retirement age and service eligibility requirements. What surprises me is not that there are OPERS members trying to earn as large of an OPERS pension as they can within the rules, but rather OPERS and the Ohio General Assembly didn’t seem to anticipate when they crafted the existing pension plans that there would be OPERS members trying to do so.

  5. Jack says:

    Thanks to the folks at OPERS for providing this calculator. I was concerned that there might be other unintended affects of this legislation on my retirement other than spiking. After using the calculator, I see that my concerns were not true.

    I now will support the legislation. Thanks again.

  6. Lou says:

    Is there a way to use the spikiing calculator or make some estimate given the fact that I purchased 1.5 years of service credit? Also, does spiking apply to me and others like me who moved from a part-time position to a full-time position mid-career but paid into PERS the whole time, in my case since 1987? I hope to retire with 30 years in 2016.

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Lou,

      As we state on the calculator page, the calculator makes certain assumptions including no purchased service time. You can get a ballpark estimate using the calculator without considering the 1.5 years. However, moving from a part-time position a fulltime position could have an affect.

      –Ohio PERS

  7. BB says:

    Well I guess the people in L.E. can not use the Anti-spiking calculator…I believe it affects us too!!!

  8. WFS says:

    At first I thought this practice was going to be unfair, but as I have investigated and applied my real life future goal’s scenario to it, I have found that it only protects against the most extreme cases of spiking. I am a OPERS member just starting my 18th year of service. I am a professional in a professional career path. Early on I worked, struggled, and put myself through college and earned my degree. I continued to work and struggle while aspiring to acquire my registration as a professional. Now that I have achieved the professional status, I am in a position to start climbing a “steeper” career ladder. I didn’t like the idea of OPERS punishing my future merits because of my sluggish, meek beginnings.

    After using the CBBC Calculator, I have found that even if I continue on my current steady pace with a modest 2% raise each year until five years before retirement, I could then get a lofty 50% bump due to reaching a leadership position and subsequent generous 4% raises the next four years and still not be impacted by the benefit cap.

    In closing the cynical skeptic in me can honestly say that the Contribution-Based Benefit Cap (CBBC) will only affect those members that are truly unfairly manipulating the system to their benefit.

    • V. says:

      But you didn’t stop to think about people who take new jobs to better themselves. I almost doubled my salary taking a new job and, according to the calculator, 10+ years later it is still considered a spike and I will lose a portion of my pension.

  9. S says:

    If I am in Group A, I can “assume” I would be grandfathered in for the 3 year FAS calculation. However, it appears that the anti-spiking calculator shows I would be penalized $5,000 per year and receive a lesser monthly benefit. That benefit would unbelievably be less than if I was not grandfathered in and used the 5 year FAS calculation. These years of slightly higher wages were 4+ years ago and I’ve earned slightly less the last couple years. Can this be correct – that I might indeed be penalized for earning previously higher wages not occurring in the last few years?

    • Michael Pramik says:

      S,

      It’s impossible to give you a precise answer because there are too many variables left unanswered (your age, service time, number of years remaining to work, etc.) But we can say that the cap can be triggered at any point in your career, in part because final average salary is based on your three highest-earning years. The impact likely would be lessened if the higher salary occurred early in your career — it would have longer to grow to increase your accumulated contribution.

      –Ohio PERS

  10. S says:

    Is there a problem with this blog topic? I posted and subscribed to it on June 1st. My post was there and now it is gone. I was really hoping for a response/explanation to my June 1st post. Thank you.

    • Michael Pramik says:

      S,

      We have been having technical issues with the blog software. Please post your question again.

      –Ohio PERS

  11. Don Kaiser says:

    Why can a legislator buy 28 years after serving in office two years? why not adjust stuff like that too. I know their discount for the remainig years are cut out but talk about stacking their retirement.

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Don,

      Elected officials may purchase 35 percent extra time in addition to their contributed service. A legislator who serves two years (assuming they are full-time) may purchase only .70 (.35 x 2) years of the 35 percent additional service credit. If the legislator began a erm after 2001, then the legislator must have five years of contributing service before being eligible to purchase any of the 35 percent additional credit.

      –Ohio PERS

  12. Wendy Jo says:

    I am on disability with OPERS since 2004. I am not eligible for Medicare. If you discontinue my medical insurance benefits how do you propose I aquire different insurance since I have pre-existing conditions? Any thoughts of grandfathering current disability recipients?

  13. Dave says:

    Does the anti-spiking calculator provided utilize the actual CBBC that will be applied, or is it just a temporary one until that can be determined? Could potentially make a large difference. Thanks
    By the way, you do a great job on answering all of these questions. It is very helpful and appreciated!

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Dave,

      The calculator uses current actuarial factors, but it is designed to be for the simple illustration of the benefit cap and does not take into account purchased service. We update these factors about every five years, and it’s likely that the current factors will be in place when the bill becomes effective in January.

      When we begin implementing the CBBC, purchased service credit will be included in the member contribution component of the cap. The formula benefit, which of course includes credit for both contributing and purchased service, will then be compared to the CBBC to determine if a cap needs to be applied.

      –Ohio PERS

  14. im in the process of filing a disablity retirement claim. will my wife be covered with any medical coverage. if so what limits on her coverage if any .

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Michael,

      You may cover your spouse in the health care program if your disability claim is approved. If your spouse is under 55, you will be responsible for the full health care premium. The month your spouse reaches age 55, OPERS will again subsidize a portion of the premium.

      However, be aware that spousal health care coverage is changing. Read the Comprehensive Guide that’s being mailed to you this week to see how, or look for the guide at http://www.opers.org. You can also find leaflets that further explain both the OPERS disability program and the OPERS health care program there. (Click on “Publications” under the Members section.)

      –Ohio PERS

  15. Nora Lindheim says:

    I’m having trouble opening the CBBC calculator; I purchased Microsoft Office 2010 just to do this; any suggestions? thanks

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Nora,

      Try clicking “Open” when given that choice. The calculator should work, and we haven’t been hearing of problems with it.

      –Ohio PERS

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