The Retirement Process for Public Employees

Public employees who are members of a Massachusetts public retirement system can qualify for a retirement benefit once they meet certain requirements. Keep reading to learn more about the steps you need to take to apply for your retirement benefits.

Table of Contents


Mandatory for nearly all full-time public employees
  • Membership in a contributory retirement system is mandatory for nearly all Massachusetts public employees who are regularly employed on a full-time basis.
  • Membership for part-time and other employees is determined by your local retirement board. 
  • As a member, you must contribute to your annuity savings fund. 
  • Contributions are mandatory and automatically deducted.
  • You earn creditable service for your time worked. For example, if you work one year full-time, you earn one year of creditable service. 
    • Part-time service is prorated. For example, a half-time employee who works one year will earn 6 months of creditable service. 

Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

10 years Full-time creditable service needed to vest

To qualify for a retirement benefit you must be vested in your retirement system. 

Vesting means you have met the minimum service requirements to qualify for a benefit. For most members, that means you have a minimum of 10 years of full-time creditable service. You would still have to meet the minimum age requirements. 

The basic formula for a benefit is made up of:

  • Your benefit rate (age at retirement and your group classification)
  • your years of creditable service 
  • your salary average

To get more information on these factors, we recommend you read our Public Employee Retirement Guides:

You can do a quick calculation on the State Retirement Board's calculator to get an idea of what your benefit might be. 

Key Actions for Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

Choosing a Retirement Option

Select an option before retirement or Option B will be selected for you

Option A

  • Provides the highest benefit for the member
  • There is no survivor benefit

Option B

  • Provides a slightly lower benefit for the member
  • Member can select any beneficiary to receive the balance of their annuity savings fund upon their death
  • Beneficiary can be any individual or entity, such as a charity

Option C

  • Member's benefit is determined by a calculation of the member's age and the beneficiary's age
  • You can only name ONE beneficiary
  • To qualify, your beneficiary must be your:
    • Spouse
    • Unmarried former spouse
    • Child
    • Sister or brother
    • Mother or father
  • The beneficiary will receive two-thirds of your monthly retirement allowance for the rest of their life upon your death
  • If the beneficiary dies before you then your allowance will "pop up" to the higher Option A amount.
  • You cannot name a new Option C beneficiary.

Applying to Retire

Your retirement board has 30 days to provide an estimate of benefits to you once you submit a written request

"Superannuation" is the term that is used to describe the process of being retired upon reaching a certain age and meeting other requirements, including the length of creditable service.

Required documents

Among the documents your retirement board may require to process your application are:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your veteran's discharge papers (if applicable or not already on file)
  • Your beneficiary's birth certificate, if choosing Option C
  • Your marriage certificate, if your Option C beneficiary is your spouse
  • Proof of age for any dependent children, if applicable
  • Verification of student status for any dependent children, if applicable

Your retirement application and relevant forms must be submitted to your retirement system for processing. 

Complete your buyback payments

Notify your employer

  • If you are currently working, make sure to notify your employer of your retirement date

Other things to consider

Health Insurance


  • State Taxes - your pension is not subject to Massachusetts state tax
  • Federal Taxes - your pension is federally taxable for contributions made after 1/12/1988
    • You will complete a W-4P form upon retirement for your federal tax withholding
    • You can update your W-4P at any time
    • Consult a tax professional for guidance
  • Instead of receiving a W2 from your employer, you will receive a 1099-R from your retirement system for tax filing purposes

Pension Payments

  • Once your application is processed and approved, you will receive your check on the last day of the month 

Social Security

Working After Retirement

  • See our guide for restrictions on post-retirement employment for public retirees

Leaving public service before vesting

  • Once you leave public service you are entitled to request a refund of your contributions
  • You can also leave your funds on account with your retirement system to preserve your membership rights
  • If you have the minimum years of service but are not old enough to retire, you can apply to retire at a later date, once you reach the required minimum age even if you are not currently employed, provided you have not taken a refund

Key Actions for Other things to consider


Image credits:  natacha dunker