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How the Boston retirement system works

How the Boston retirement system works

Learn more about public service retirement benefits, and who can get them.

Still have questions? Contact:
1 City Hall Square
Room 816
Boston, MA 02201-2038
United States

Membership and retirement contributions

You must become a member of the Boston Retirement System upon getting hired at the:

  • City of Boston
  • Boston Redevelopment Authority
  • Boston Housing Authority
  • Boston Public Health Commission, or Boston Water and Sewer Commission.  

The amount you give each year depends on when you joined the system.

Date Contribution each year
Before January 1, 1975 5%
January 1, 1975 - December 31, 1978 7%
January 1, 1979 - December 31, 1983 7% (plus an additional 2% of your salary over $30,000)
January 1, 1984 - June 30, 1996 8% (plus an additional 2% of your salary over $30,000)
After June 30, 1996 9% (plus an additional 2% of your salary over $30,000)
Teachers Alternate Retirement Program (“TARP”) 11%


When you become a member, we create an Annuity Savings Account for you. Your employer takes money out of each paycheck and sends it to us. We add your contributions, plus any interest, to your account.

You'll become vested after you’ve worked in your public service job for 10 years. That entitles you to your benefits when you retire. You may not refund money you have contributed unless you terminate service before retirement.

Pension payments

You can retire at 55 or older, but you need at least 10 years of service at your job. If you have 20 years of service, you can retire at any time. The amount you get depends on:

  • your age when you retire
  • the amount of time you worked
  • your group classification, and
  • the average of three consecutive years of your highest annual salary.

The maximum payable is 80 percent of your final average salary. Learn more about your retirement options.

If you’re a veteran, you can get a veteran’s credit of $15 for each year of creditable service. The most credit you can get is 20 years or $300.

Picking a beneficiary before you retire

You can choose a beneficiary to collect your pension in the event of your death. By filling out an Option D form, you may choose one person as a beneficiary who would receive a lifetime pension upon your pre-retirement death.  If you don’t use Option D and your spouse decides not to take a lifetime allowance, we will give the amount left in your account in one lump sum to your surviving beneficiaries.

You can only make certain family members beneficiaries, including your spouse, child, parent, or sibling. You can name a former spouse as long as they haven’t remarried before you pick them as a beneficiary. You can only name one beneficiary, but you can cancel or change your beneficiary before you retire by sending us a written notice.

If the amount in your account doesn’t reflect all of your years of service, your Option D beneficiary can add “make-up payments” to your account. They must respond within 90 days of getting a notice from us about their right to act.

Learn more about option D

Option D is a legal document. The only way it changes is if:

  • you cancel it or you retire
  • your beneficiary dies before you do
  • your beneficiaries are eligible to get an accidental death benefit, or
  • your surviving spouse decides to take the benefit, even if they're not listed as your Option D beneficiary.

Even if you didn’t name your spouse your Option D beneficiary, they can still choose to take Option D payments. They can only do this if you've been married for at least one year, and you die while working for the City with at least two years of service. You also need to have been living together at the time of your death, or have a justifiable reason for the two of you living apart.

If you die before the age of 55 and you weren’t retired, your beneficiary can take the Option C allowance. The allowance is based on what you would have received if you had reached the age of 55 and retired on the same day that you died. We also include your years of service and any make-up payments from your beneficiary to calculate the amount.

If you choose another option

If you die within 30 days of retiring, your spouse can decide to take Option D benefits. This is true even if you decided to pick Option A or B when you retired.

We'll notify your surviving spouse if they have the right to collect your benefits under Option D. They have to respond within 90 days using the form we send them.

If your spouse doesn't decide to take the benefit, we'll pay your beneficiary and they’ll get a lifetime allowance. If you don't have a surviving beneficiary, we’ll give your spouse a lump sum from your account.

Tips after you retire

You should send us notice right away if you want to change your direct deposit account. You'll need to get in touch with us, and then send us a voided check from your new account.

Let us know if you’re going on vacation for the winter. We can forward your notices, or hold them until you're back.

Always update your info with us if you need to make changes. You have to give us an address change in writing so we can verify your signature. 

Working after you retire

There is no limit to how much you can work and earn as a retiree in the pension system. But, there are limitations if you go back to work and:

If you work after retiring with a disability:

  • your earnings plus your pension payment during the calendar year can’t be more than what your salary was before you retired plus $15,000, and
  • you need to file a statement with the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission each year. Learn more about the commission's rules.

If you work another public service job in the state after you retire:

  • your earnings during the calendar year plus your pension payment can't be more than what your salary was before you retired, and
  • you can’t work more than 960 hours during the calendar year. Learn more about post-retirement earnings.