FAQ: Retirement > SERS

Retirement > SERS > Pension

19. What is the difference between a “contingent annuitant/optionee” and a “beneficiary”?

  1. At the time you retire, you may select a payment option under which all or a portion of your monthly retirement benefit will continue to be paid to another person after your death. The person or persons whom you designate to receive that continued benefit is known as your “contingent annuitant” or your “optionee.”  You might choose, for example, to have your contingent annuitant receive a lifetime benefit after your death that is equal to 50% of the amount of your benefit.  You must choose the type of option you wish and identify your contingent annuitant before you retire; under most options, you may not change your annuitant at any time thereafter.  For details about survivor options, please consult the Summary Plan Description for your retirement plan.
  2. You may also name one or more persons to be your “beneficiary” or “beneficiaries.” A beneficiary is not eligible to receive a lifetime retirement benefit, unless he or she has also been named as a contingent annuitant.  If an active member dies without having vested for a retirement benefit, and/or if no retirement benefit is due to the member’s spouse or other contingent annuitant, then the full amount of the member’s contributions to SERS, plus interest will be paid in a lump sum to the member’s beneficiary or beneficiaries.  In the event (a) that a retired member dies; (b) there are no additional payments due to any contingent annuitant; and (c) the total amount that has been paid to the retired member and his or her annuitants is less than the total of the member’s contributions to SERS, plus interest; then, in that case, the remaining amount of the member’s contributions and interest will be paid in a lump sum to the member’s beneficiary.  Unlike a contingent annuitant, a beneficiary may be changed at any time, even after you retire.