QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE PROCESS OF APPLYING FOR RETIREMENT BENEFITS
When should a participant contact the Pension Fund when planning on retirement?
Participants may contact the Fund at any time concerning their benefits. Participants may want to request a written estimate of benefits prior to retirement. Detailed estimates of retirement benefits, based on a specific anticipated date of retirement, will be prepared for participants upon request. Because of the many variables that impact upon a member’s final retirement annuity, detailed estimates are not prepared for periods beyond two years of estimated retirement. Estimates are not given the level of priority that actual benefit calculations receive and may take longer to complete. Participants should consider this when planning their eventual retirement. Any estimates provided are merely “estimates” and are not binding on the Fund and should not be conclusively relied upon. All benefits must be actually granted only in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
What is the procedure that participants should follow to formally retire?
After having received an estimate of your retirement benefits based upon a fixed date of retirement, participants should contact The Chicago Fire Department Personnel division 1338 S. Clinton at 312-746-6964 to make an appointment to complete all necessary paperwork, including a formal resignation from the Chicago Fire Department.
Upon receiving an appointment with CFD Personnel Dept., contact the Fund office at 312-726-5823 for an appointment to complete a formal application for retirement benefits. The appointment with the Fund must be after an employee’s appointment with CFD Personnel as documentation completed at the CFD exit interview is necessary for retirement with the Fund.
Should participants bring any information to their retirement appointment?
Participants retiring from active employment must bring a copy of the City of Chicago, “End of Employment Form” that is provided by the Chicago Fire Department Personnel Department at the time of resignation.
When can a participant expect to receive the first payment of their retirement annuity?
Normally, a participant receives their first annuity check at the end of the month immediately succeeding the month the participant actually left employment with the Chicago Fire Department. However, the Fund cannot calculate a final benefit amount until final payroll data is received from the City of Chicago. Upon receipt of final payroll data, staff completes final calculations based on this information and presents this information to the Board to grant the benefit application. The Board reviews and approves applications once a month at its regularly scheduled board meeting, generally the third Wednesday of every month.
Retirement Benefits are always paid on the last business day of each month.
QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE CALCULATION OF RETIREMENT BENEFITS
Can participants purchase time lost during their careers with the Fire Department that affects pension contributions and service credit?
Under certain circumstances, time loss is eligible for purchase under applicable governing pension statutes. Upon request, Fund staff will advise participants of the amounts of eligible service available that may be purchased. Calculations of the required contributions and applicable interest will be included. Service Credit generally eligible for purchase include military service, the 23 days in 1980 which reflects strike time, periods of employment as a sworn Chicago Police Officer, periods of suspension from duty not to exceed a total of one year during the total period of service and previously unpaid refunds of contributions within certain timeframes.
QUESTIONS CONCERNING CONTRIBUTIONS MADE TO THE FUND
Are pension deductions taken on all wages paid to participants?
Pension deductions are taken only on the annual salary attached to the permanent career service rank held by the participant including payments for Duty Availability, or the salary attached to the exempt rank position held by the participant.
As an active participant are my pension contributions earning interest?
During years of active service, participant contributions are improved with 3% interest.
Does the City match participant contributions?
Through the annual tax levy, the City is required to contribute 2.26 times the amount contributed by active participants to the Fund each year. Because the Fund is a Defined Benefit Plan, the City contribution is not a pure matching contribution as referred to in a 401(k) type retirement plan.
Can participants take a loan out against their contributions?
State statutes that govern the benefit provisions of the plan do not permit participant loans or partial withdrawals.
Are Employer contributions posted to a participant’s credit refundable to the participant?
Only the amount participants contribute while active and statutory 3% interest on the retirement and spousal annuity portion are refundable to the participant. The 1/8th of 1% that participants contribute for ordinary disability benefits is not refundable to them.
What if the spouse of a participant dies or is divorced after retirement, can participants receive a refund of the contributions made for spousal annuity?
If the spouse pre-deceases a participant or should the participant and spouse divorce after retirement, the contributions made on the spouse’s behalf are not refundable to the participant.
What if a participant dies before collecting retirement benefits that exceed the contributions made by the participant? What happens to the contributions?
Generally, the benefits paid to retired participants will exceed the total amount of their contributions within two years of retirement. Upon the death of a participant, the balance of accumulated contributions that were not paid out, in either the form of an annuity for a participant, spouse or children, are refunded to the participant’s estate as named either in a Will, Small Estate Affidavit or Letters of Office. Participants should consult with their personal attorney to discuss this issue.
What is the difference of a Small Estate Affidavit and Letters of Office (Administration)?
When the total value of an Illinois decedent’s estate is less than $100,000.00 AND the estate does not own any real estate, a small estate affidavit may be able to be used. If the estate is $100,000.00 and greater the executor will have to go to Court and get Letters of Office (Administration) naming an administrator of the estate.
If a participant applied for and was paid a refund of contributions, can that participant use accumulated funds in a deferred compensation account to pay back the refund upon reentry into service?
Current federal law allows the transfer or rollover of 457 deferred compensation plan assets to this Fund in order to pay back a refund taken by a participant within the prescribed time frame.
Can a participant use deferred compensation funds to purchase prior service credits from the Chicago Police Pension Fund?
Current federal law allows the fund to fund transfer or rollover of 457 deferred compensation plan assets to this Fund to purchase these service credits.
If a participant is divorced, is the ex-spouse entitled to any benefits?
The Fund does not provide legal advice about proper division of marital and retirement assets. However, this Fund is subject to Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Orders (QILDRO's). A QILDRO may require this Fund to pay all or a portion of a participant’s retirement benefits to an “alternate payee”. An alternate payee is usually a participant’s former spouse, but may also be a current spouse, child or other dependent of the participant.
Any participant that has questions about a QILDRO should discuss it with their attorney. This Fund has an information booklet and required forms available upon request.
QUESTIONS CONCERNING REQUIRED LEGAL DOCUMENTATION
Does the Fund require any personal documentation identifying spouses and children?
For the protection of a participant’s family, it is very important for participants to submit the following documents. Upon request, this Fund will make copies and return the originals to you.
- A certified copy of their birth certificate
- Name and birthdate of spouse (or civil union partner) and a certified copy of the spouse's (or civil union partner's) birth certificate
- Certified copy of marriage certificate or certificate representing a valid Illinois civil union
- Names and birthdates of all children and a certified copy of the children's birth certificates and formal notices of legal adoption (if applicable)
- Certified copies of divorce decrees from any previous marriages of the participant and spouse
- Documentation attesting to the disability of any permanently disabled child
If you need to obtain copies of these certificates, the following agencies can assist you:
To obtain a birth, death, or marriage certificate on file in Cook County:
Contact the Cook County Clerk’s Office
Birth and death certificates may also be obtained, for an additional fee, at most local currency exchanges.
To obtain a copy of a divorce decree, contact:
Contact the Cook County Clerk of the Court