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What is the CalPERS retirement system?

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Quick Answer

The California Public Employees' Retirement System operates a pension fund serving more than 1.7 million members and also administers health benefits to over 1.4 million members and their families, according to the system's website. CalPERS is the largest pension fund in the United States, with total assets of $286.1 billion as of Oct. 1, 2015. The system administers defined benefit pension plans for the state of California, 1,513 school districts and 1,580 public agencies.

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Full Answer

In addition to providing pension benefits, CalPERS provides health, dental, vision and life insurance to retired employees through the California Employers' Benefit Trust. The organization also provides benefits to the survivors or beneficiaries of public employees and retirees after their deaths, CalPERS explains.

Other CalPERS services include long-term care coverage, deferred compensation plans and disability benefits. The system provides disability benefits to public employees who suffer both job-related and unrelated disabilities, notes CalPERS.

CalPERS began in 1932 as a program only for state employees. As of 2014, the system paid an average benefit of $2,737 a month to retired state employees, $1,615 a month to retired school district employees and $3,006 to retired public agency employees, according to CalPERS. Payments are fixed based on job classifications and the number of years worked, so benefits do not vary based on the fund's investment performance.

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