Your Reciprocal Service

for Active IMRF Members

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Combining service credit under the Reciprocal Act

IMRF is one of the public pension systems covered under the Illinois Retirement Systems Reciprocal Act. If you participated in more than one of the pension systems covered under the Reciprocal Act, you can choose to combine your service credit to calculate a pension from each system. This is called a reciprocal retirement.

Why consider a reciprocal retirement?

Retiring under the Reciprocal Act is optional, but it most likely will give you a larger pension.

With a reciprocal retirement:

In most cases, you will receive a higher combined benefit by retiring under the Reciprocal Act.

Note for ECO members: Under the original ECO plan, earnings from another system cannot be used to calculate an ECO pension.

Do you qualify for a reciprocal retirement?

To retire under the Reciprocal Act:

You may not use the following service credit to retire under the Reciprocal Act:

ALWAYS request a pension estimate

If you are thinking about retiring reciprocally, you should ALWAYS request a reciprocal pension estimate from the most recent public pension system you worked for.

Reciprocal pension estimates take longer to process than an estimate from a single system

Reciprocal estimates take longer to process (up to 6 months).

Request your reciprocal pension estimate from the last system you participated in

IMRF cannot create a reciprocal pension estimates for you if your most recent service credit is with another retirement system.

Request an estimate no more than 5 years into the future. For Tier 1, request it no earlier than age 50. For Tier 2, request your estimate no earlier than age 60.

If IMRF is your most recent system

If IMRF was the last system you participated in, request a pension estimate from us. You can:

You cannot calculate a reciprocal estimate in Member Access

You cannot calculate an accurate reciprocal pension estimate through the Member Access Pension Estimator, even if IMRF is your most recent retirement system.

If you are fully vested in each system separately, request reciprocal and independent estimates from each system

Although in most cases a reciprocal pension results in the higher pension amount, it is possible that your pension could be higher if you receive a separate, non-reciprocal pension from each system.

If you have enough service credit to be vested in each system separately, compare the pension you would receive from a reciprocal pension (combining all your service) to the pensions you would receive from each system separately (without combining your service credit). If this is your situation:


Note: In some cases, Social Security offsets can make obtaining a refund from one system and a pension from another system make the best financial sense. Find more information on the Social Security website.

Concurrent service and reciprocal pensions

Under the Reciprocal Act, concurrent service occurs when you earn service in more than one retirement system for the same month: for example, IMRF and State Employees’. By law you can only receive one month of service credit for each calendar month, even if you have participated in more than one retirement system in that month.

If you retire under the Reciprocal Act, concurrent service will reduce your pension based on one of the following rules:

Important! Be aware of the following:

Buying back refunded service credit

In some cases buying back refunded service credit may increase the amount of your pension. Contact the system that paid the refund to determine:

Be careful about purchasing concurrent service

If the service you are reinstating is concurrent (overlaps) with existing reciprocal service, it may not benefit you to reinstate that service credit.

Age requirements and pension start dates

Each system has its own minimum age requirement for a pension. In most cases, you must reach each system's minimum age requirement before you can begin receiving that system's portion of your pension.

For example, if you were retiring under IMRF Regular Tier 1 (which has a minimum retirement age of 55) and another system with a minimum retirement age of 60, you could receive the IMRF portion of your reciprocal pension at age 55, and the portion of your pension earned under the other plan when you reached age 60.

Regardless of your decision, apply with all pension systems at the same time.

Note: If you retire under a system’s Early Retirement Incentive (ERI) using reciprocal service credit, different age eligibility rules may apply. Contact the system that is offering the ERI and ask them about the specific age eligibility rules.

Applying for a reciprocal retirement

You may apply online only if you are independently vested in IMRF. Otherwise, apply for your pension using a paper form.

You must request and complete a separate retirement application from each system you have service credit with. If you are independently vested with IMRF, submit your applications to all reciprocal systems 30 days before your planned retirement date, but no more than three months in advance. Be sure to:

Processing for a reciprocal pension may take longer than applying for a pension with a single system. This is because your reciprocal systems must exchange information and then calculate your pension based on the combined data.

If you are eligible to retire from IMRF under the Reciprocal Act, the effective date of your IMRF pension cannot be more than 12 months before the date IMRF receives your application. IMRF cannot "back date" a pension more than 12 months.

To retire under the Reciprocal Act, you must retire under all systems at the same time.

Service credit and pension payments

Service credit remains with each system

Service credit earned under any one of the reciprocal systems remains on file with that system—you do not “transfer” any service. Although each system exchanges information about your service credit and earnings, your service credit and contributions remain with the original system.

Separate Pension Payments

When you retire under the Reciprocal Act, each system pays you a separate benefit. You will receive monthly benefit payments from each system, and each uses its own benefit formula to calculate your pension.

Starting Your Pension from Each System

If you have not received your first benefit payment within 90 days of your retirement date, contact the retirement system immediately.

When a member retires from IMRF alone, we generally pay an “estimated” pension until we receive the final wage information. However, if you retire with IMRF and a reciprocal system, in most cases IMRF cannot pay an estimated pension. We must wait for your reciprocal system(s) to forward us your final wage and service data, and this process can take several months to complete.

One exception exists: if you are fully vested with IMRF, you have the option to receive an estimated pension based upon your IMRF credit only. Please note this on your application, or when you call IMRF, or send a secure message or letter.

Then, when IMRF receives your final wage and service information from your reciprocal system(s), we calculate your final pension amount and adjust your benefit payments retroactively. This may take up to six months.

Returning to work

Violating return to work rules for public pensions can cause you significant financial harm. You must contact each system you retire from before you consider a return to work at public pension system, to make sure you understand how this could affect you financially.

Systems covered under the Reciprocal Act