What is Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)?
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is a permanent annual increase to your retirement benefit that is based on the cost-of-living index. Included in your monthly benefit (when you become eligible), it’s designed to address inflation as it occurs.
The law requires that COLA payments be calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the State fiscal year (March 31). The annual COLA will be at least 1 percent, but no more than 3 percent, of your benefit. This percentage is then applied up to the first $18,000 of your Single Life Allowance (or the actual amount of your benefit, if less), even if you selected a different option at retirement. Once COLA payments begin, they continue automatically and you will receive a new COLA increase to your monthly benefit each September.
The September 2019 COLA equals 1.0 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes. You will receive notification of the net change in your monthly pension amount in September if you are eligible to receive this COLA increase.
Sample Net Change Letter
To begin receiving COLA payments, you must be:
- Age 62 or older and retired for five or more years; or
- Age 55 or older and retired for ten or more years (uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters and correction officers covered by a special plan that allows for retirement, regardless of age, after a specific number of years); or
- A disability retiree for five years; or
- The spouse of a deceased retiree receiving a lifetime benefit under an option elected by the retiree at retirement. An eligible spouse is entitled to one-half the COLA amount that would have been paid to the retiree when the retiree would have met the eligibility criteria; or
- A beneficiary receiving the accidental death benefit for five or more years on behalf of a deceased Retirement System member.
You will receive your first COLA increase in the month following the month you become eligible. This payment includes the prorated portion due for the month in which you became eligible plus the COLA for the month you receive the payment.
Once you are eligible, you will receive an annual COLA increase each September. If you have direct deposit, we send you a notice each time your net pension amount changes. This notice of change in your benefit shows breakdowns of your previous payment and your current payment so you can see what changed. You can also sign in to your Retirement Online account any time to see a breakdown of your most recent pension payment.