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Choosing a Retirement Plan

New benefited faculty members and librarians (any faculty members in the bargaining unit who are half-time or greater) have 180 days to make a choice between the Massachusetts State Employee Retirement System (MSERS) and the Optional Retirement Program (ORP).  

This is a very important decision with long-term consequences.  The FSU strongly encourages you to meet with a financial planner concerning issues related to your retirement. The MTA does not provide financial planning or advising but it does provide free retirement consultation for members. See here for more information. You can also email
The MTA is holding retirement counseling sessions in April 2024. Please see here for more information.
The basic difference between MSERS and ORP is (thanks to Donnie McGee, Vice President of the Massachusetts Community College Council, for providing the information in this section):
•    MSERS is a defined benefit plan.
This means that upon retirement you will receive a pension determined by a combination of age, years of creditable service, retirement group classification, and salary.  The Department of Higher Education points out that in a defined benefit plan, the employer bears the investment risk. It requires 10 full-time equivalent years of creditable service to be vested. For more information and to see the list of benefits that are offered with this program go to the MA state Treasurer’s website (be sure to look for the Benefit Guide under Publications).   
•    ORP (which offers you several vendors) is a defined contribution plan.
This means that you invest your and your employer’s contributions into an annuity (your future payout may be retrieved in a lump sum or stretched out over time in consultation with your provider).  For more info go to the Department of Higher Education’s ORP website. 
•    The ORP is more portable than the SERS. 
ORP funds may be reinvested by you regardless of when you leave employment. SERS funds are portable should you leave before reaching 10 years of state service. However, should your employment end after 10 years of service, SERS funds and benefits will be frozen, but you can access them upon retirement.  
•    Early Retirement laws have not applied to members of the ORP
From time to time the Massachusetts Legislature has enacted early retirement legislation that awards state employees 5 additional years of age or creditable service in the event they retire by a certain date.  These early retirement benefits only apply to members of the SERS.
•    Retiree Health Insurance
For more information on criteria for eligibility for retiree health insurance contact the following: (MSERS members see hereORP members see here NOTE: After 10 calendar years at any percentage of time as an ORP plan member, ORP members will be eligible to vest in the Group Insurance Commission retiree benefit plan even if they will not receive a pension per MSERS (the GIC is the state body that insures state employees). For more information go to the Department of Higher Education’s ORP website:
•    By default, new faculty are automatically enrolled in MSERS.
•    New faculty have 180 days from the start of employment to decide to switch into ORP. 
•    If you sign up for ORP, you can never switch to MSERS and vice versa. 
For more information, go to the HR website or contact Stephanie Deronette, Benefits Manager at Human Resources (617-287-5158) to arrange an individual retirement and benefits tutorial.