If you leave your job and terminate employment with a participating employer but are vested in the system (currently 5 years of contributing service), you may begin collecting your pension benefit when you meet your retirement eligibility criteria — as long as you do not withdraw your contributions.
In some cases, your eligibility date may be adjusted if you leave employment prior to reaching your retirement date. However, your benefit will be the same as it was the day you terminated employment. There are options to receive your benefit prior to reaching your full eligibility date but if you elect to retire early those options require a reduction of your benefit.
It is important to know that once you leave active employment, ERSRI will not automatically begin sending your pension benefit once you are eligible to collect your benefit. It is your responsibility to notify ERSRI of your eligibility and to fill out a retirement application approximately three to six months before you are eligible to begin collecting your benefit.
If you do not apply for your pension benefit when you first become eligible, you will not receive retroactive benefits to the date when you were initially eligible. Deferred benefits are payable beginning on your eligibility date or on the first of the month in which your completed application is received by ERSRI, whichever is later.
If you are not vested in the system (less than 5 years of contributing service) you can take a refund of your pension contributions without interest. You can roll this money over into a qualified retirement account or take the refund as cash. If taken as cash, there are important tax implications to consider, including penalties for early withdrawal.