OPERS announces 2021 cost-of-living adjustment

Based on Consumer Price Index, some retirees will see a 0.50% increase

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Sept. 4, 2020 – OPERS has announced the cost-of-living adjustments that will be available for retirees in 2021.

Those whose retirement effective date is prior to Jan. 7, 2013, will continue to receive a 3 percent adjustment.

Retirees whose effective date of retirement is on or after Jan. 7, 2013, are scheduled to have next year’s COLA based on the CPI-W, the government’s inflation index for urban wage earners and clerical workers. According to state law, the annual COLA for these retirees is to be based on the change in the CPI-W index from the end of June 2019 to the end of June this year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the CPI-W index increased 0.50 percent over that period. (For reference, click on “CPI-W, June 2020” on this page of the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and refer to cell AD-7 in the spreadsheet.) Thus, the COLA issued in 2021 to retirees with an effective retirement date on or after Jan. 7, 2013, will be 0.50 percent.

OPERS’ inflation-based COLA uses the same index as Social Security. But the time period measured is different, so the adjustments might not always match up.


Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

  • Would those who retired in 2020 see the this .50% COLA in their benefit in 2021?
    I thought there is a 2 year freeze for COLA for those who retired in 2020?

  • What is the status of OPERS proposed freezing of the 2022 and 2023 cost of living increases and additional changes to the current COLA rules? Is OPERS’ COLA changes proposal still stuck in a legislative committee? If so, does OPERS expect its proposal to be enacted into law by the Ohio General Assembly, or does it expect the Ohio General Assembly not to act on it, like it did not act on OPERS’ previous attempt to change its COLA rules?

    • Arnold,

      The OPERS Board of Trustees approved a proposal last year to suspend the COLA for 2022 and 2023, then return the adjustment to current levels. The proposal requires passage by the Ohio General Assembly. As of this date, no related bill has been introduced in the legislature.

    • Stacy,

      The Social Security Administration uses the CPI-W to determine raises for Social Security retirement recipients, so it’s got a track record of usage for retiree benefits.

      The CPI-E is an index that tracks households whose reference person or spouse is 62 or older. But it’s an experimental index that’s not widely used for policymaking. Also, the average age at which OPERS members retire is 57, so the index wouldn’t represent their experience.

      Further, it doesn’t always yield a bigger percentage increase. For instance, when OPERS re-issued its first inflation-based COLA for 2019, the CPI-W came in at 3.09 percent, the CPI-E was 2.79 percent, and the CPI-U, another common inflation measure, was 2.87 percent.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Mr Pramik, I count my blessings every day that I have the great retirement package that I do. My heart goes out to people that are not as blessed as I am.
    I realize I was fortunate to have had the job I had and made all the right decisions during my tenure working. I started out as secretary and worked my way up through the ranks, learning every job I could, and stepping in when needed. When I retired 20 years ago, I was a supervisor over 10 women. I truly loved my job.
    Thx for keeping OPERS afloat.

  • What is the status, going forward and beyond 2021 of changing the pre Jan. 7 2013 cola? In other words will those categories of retirees continue to receive 3% or is OPERS still trying to change the COLA in those cases. And, will those pre Jan. 7 2013 retirees that did NOT opt for the 3% (vs. the traditional COLA) receive 3%. As I recall, those of us who retired prior to the Jan. 7 cutoff could choose between the a continuing 3% COLA or standard COLA. If OPERS is not persuing a change for the 3% whey did they switch positions?

    • Thomas,

      As of today, those retirees with an effective retirement date of Jan. 7, 2013, or later have their COLAs based on the CPI-W. Everyone else receives a 3 percent COLA.

      • This is robbery! 2021 .5% for some and 3% for the majority! Nothing for 2 years after and back to 3% except the minority! I don’t want to hear any of you who retired before 2013 complain about anything! I used to think millennials were the entitled generation!

        • Totally agree with Jack D. A COLA increase of .50 versus a COLA increase of 3% — that surely does not seem fair and just!

          • it is a declining Cola. After 10 years, the 3% becomes 2.3% and after 20 years the annual increase is 1.9% They get you either way. Every year the cola goes down. That is better than ,5% of course

    • Why are you thanking OPERS?
      OPERS is trying to get the Ohio Legislature to approve a two year COLA freeze for years 2022 & 2023, and then all retirees will get a o% COLA for two straight years.
      I am not thanking OPERS because in 2021 we all are getting the COLA we are entitled to based on the retirement system in place on the date we retired. For those who retired prior to 01/07/2013 it is 3.0%. For those who retired after 01/07/2013 it is based on the CPI.

    • Linda,

      That’s not the case. Those with a retirement effective date of Jan. 7, 2013, or later will receive a 0.50 percent COLA. All others will receive a 3 percent adjustment.

  • I am a surviving spouse of a 30 year ODOT retiree….so very thankful for OPERS and their management of the pension fund!

    • Jim,

      The time frame that is written into Ohio law for the OPERS COLA gives us enough time to implement the following year’s adjustment. We cannot comment on the Social Security Administration’s procedures.

        • Jim,

          It’s true that our inflation-based COLA might not match that of Social Security, even though we both use the same index. What if the Social Security COLA is less than ours? We made this decision years in advance and made it public, and it’s now in Ohio law.

  • I retired after 2013 and I find this incredibly unfair. I understand that those who retired before 1/07/2013 were promised 3% increases, but I don’t feel that people who worked after that and put more money into the fund should be penalized. The ones who are getting the most (the 3%) are for the most part the ones who contributed less than those who are only getting .5%.

    What a joke a whole one half of ONE percent. Why not just do what you really want to do and freeze everyone who retired after 2012? This is an insult.

    • There is give and take in all situations in order to extend or save the Pension fund for all employees currently working or retired. I feel OPERS does a decent job in managing the Pension Fund.

      • Let me guess — you retired before1/07/2013, right? Give and take should be equal — one group shouldn’t get more benefit than another if the point is saving the pension fund for “all employees currently working or retired”. Either give everybody 3% or give everybody .50 %. Promises or not it is unfair to give more to some and less to others.

        • Totally agree with Ms. Jackson. Either give everyone 3% or give everyone .50%. Just think of the money OPERS could if everyone would get .50% COLA — perhaps the funds deposited to our HRA wouldn’t continue to decrease!!

    • Hi. Many of us who retired in 2012 did so to ensure the 3 percent COLA. Had that not been what OPERS was saying, many of us wouldn’t have retired at that point but would have continued working, increasing both final salary and years of service. It doesn’t feel right to change the rules after so many made a decision based on what OPERS was saying.

    • Those of us who receive the 3% cola were not “given” this; we chose it given a choice between 3% and an indexed cola. This option was made available to all employees at the time. Further, as noted in another comment the 3% is not compounded. It will forever be only on our base retirement. In fact, in coming years that 3% could well be less in dollar amounts than the amount we would receive if we had opted instead for a standard variable COLA. OPERS needs to do a better job of explaining this for those who think we “3 percenters were just given 3% and did not choose it and assume the risk of making a bad choice.

      • I would like to add that the post-2012 retirees were given years of advanced notice to the COLA changes. This allowed them to add more to an additional annuity, deferred compensation or extend their employment years. The pre-2012 retirees cannot go back and do any of those things. Nor can we get back the jobs we retired from, earn the same salary and add service credits. To change the rules for the pre-2012 retirees after it is too late is unconscionable.

  • I would like to remind everyone that the pre-2012 retirees only got a 3% COLA the first year after retirement. It is not compounded. The actual percentage rate goes down every year. Nobody is receiving an actual 3% anymore.

    • You are so right! That 3% is now 1.5 %. So, I wish retirees who don’t know the 3% is given only the first year would understand that in a couple more years, that 3% will be below 1%!

  • All retirees are in the same boat there should be no difference as to who gets what percentage of a raise it should be uniform across the board we should all get 3%… We have worked a lifetime under OPERS and we all deserve it do not distinguish between us united we stand

  • If the COLA freeze proposal is enacted those who retired from 2013 to the present will receive a .5% increase in 2021 and then no increase until 2024.

  • I feel very lucky to have OPERS Pension and receive the 3% (1.5%) COLA. I have been retired almost 19 years. Almost all plans in the private sector are 401K’s with a little income from S.S. You folks manage the funds very well. Keep up the good work !

    • Marj,

      We haven’t heard that there’s been any movement on either of the current bills regarding WEP. Since the government’s fiscal year ends at the end of this month, we would then need actual appropriations or a continuing resolution. We’ll try to update the situation in a blog later this year.

    • With all this talk of COLA’s, I’m glad you brought up the WEP and also let’s not forget the GPO. I personally am losing over $300.00 a month after working hard in factories. That’s way too much to lose, especially after I paid full taxes out of every paycheck. This is why we have to guard every cent of our retirement, we lose more than any other retiree in the country.

      • Since the President is giving a payroll tax holiday to everyone. This will weaken the SS trust fund. If that’s the case I don’t believe congress will vote to add more strain to the SS system.

    • We offer information about the dental and vision plans offered through OPERS on our website under the Retired Members tab select Health Care then select Plan Options.

    • Please forward your request through the online message center that is available through your online account so we can provide the appropriate fax number.

  • Imo, people shouldn’t be getting mad at other people because of the rules OPERS is making. People that retired before 2013 were pressured into it. I worked 37 years and I would have worked till 40 but OPERS said in order to keep my 3% COLA I HAD to retire earlier. In fact they said we had to retire before 2012. They were getting ready to change everything-years needed to retire, the formula used for your retirement, the COLA, years needed for health care, etc. This was not our choice for OPERS to start separating people into these groups. We just did what they said we had to do in order to get what we deserved for having worked as long as we had.

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