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South Carolina Retirement System

South Carolina has six different iterations of its base retirement system for different types of local and state employees. It even has a National Guard-centric plan, which not many states offer. The state also recently signed into law new stipulations that guide the structure of the pension fund. And so far things are progressing rapidly. Should feel as though you want some professional help navigating these systems, SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three financial advisors near you.

Types of Retirement Systems in South Carolina

The retirement systems that South Carolina employs are very segmented, which one might think could adversely affect the long-term strength of the system. However, this allows the government to select benefits that apply to very select groups of employees, rather than taking a more generalized approach.

South Carolina Retirement Systems
Plan Title Eligible Employees
South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS) – Employees of state agencies, public and charter school districts and public higher education institutions
– Employees of participating local subdivisions
Police Officers Retirement System (PORS) – Members of the police of participating local subdivisions
– Firefighters, peace officers, probate judges, magistrates and coroners
Judges and Solicitors Retirement System (JSRS) – Members of the South Carolina Supreme Court
– Judges in the circuit courts, court of appeals, family court and administrative law
– Solicitors and public defenders
General Assembly Retirement System (GARS) – Members of the general assembly elected before November 2012
South Carolina National Guard Plan (SCNG) – National Guard members who served at least 15 of their 20 years in South Carolina, including the last 10
– Must be at least 60 years old, be discharged honorably and have no less than 20 years total service
State Optional Retirement Program (ORP) – Those who are eligible for the SCRS and work for a participating employer

Overview of South Carolina’s Retirement Systems

South Carolina Retirement System

South Carolina Retirement System – This defined benefit plan spans the largest group of South Carolina public employees. Participants contribute 9% of each paycheck to the system, with 4% interest applied to your balance. You can decide between three different payment types, depending on whether you need a beneficiary or not, and if so, how much you want them to receive.

Police Officers Retirement System – At 9.75%, employees contribute slightly more in PORS. It offers accidental death protection, disability protection, annual benefit adjustments, early departure benefits and more. This defined benefit plan does require members to make at least $2,000 and work no less than 1,600 hours to remain eligible.

Judges and Solicitors Retirement System – JSRS is not an optional program. If you are eligible to join, you must contribute a tax-deferred 10% of your pay. Because this system involves positions that don’t involve danger, it only includes incidental death benefits. Beyond that, though, you will earn free disability benefits, service purchase options and possible benefit adjustments.

General Assembly Retirement System – No retirement system offered by South Carolina calls for a larger percentage of your pay to be contributed than GARS, which requires 11%. The system comes with standard disability and in-service death benefits, as well as a formula-based monthly distribution calculation.

South Carolina National Guard Plan – This unique plan is not meant to carry you through to retirement, but rather to augment the existing plan you receive from the federal government. The benefit you’re entitled to will range anywhere from $50 to $100.

State Optional Retirement Program – The ORP stands out from the rest of this list in that it is a defined contribution plan. This allows the plan participant to heavily customize their retirement plan. In fact, not only can you decide how much you want to contribute each paycheck, you can also invest your money as you please.

Retirement Taxes in South Carolina

Federal

When you stop receiving traditional income from your career, you may think you’ll avoid the federal income tax. However, once you begin receiving distributions from your public retirement account, you’ll face a typical income tax rate. When you physically transfer your funds to your pension fund, though, a federal tax will not come into play. That’s because this money is tax-deferred.

As soon as it’s time for federal income to come out of your retirement distributions, you can handle this via either monthly withholdings or estimated tax payments. The downside to withholdings are that you may have more money taken then necessary. Of course, a refund will take care of that. If you’d like to try and avoid this, you could instead make estimated tax payments.

Maybe you find you don’t yet need the distributions from your state retirement account. If so, you can rolled them over into one of your other accounts. But this only shields them from taxes for a short period of time. That’s because any distributions you take down the road will be privy to the federal income tax.

For those with a Roth IRA, you will have to pay your taxes at the time of your rollover. So what’s the benefit? When you begin taking distributions from the account, your taxes will be all be in order.

State

For South Carolina residents younger than 65 years old, the state income tax will apply to any pension/retirement system distributions with a sizable $3,000 deduction. But seniors (anyone 65 and older) receive a massive $15,000 deduction.

Current Financial Health of the South Carolina Retirement System

South Carolina Retirement System

South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster signed the Retirement Funding and Administration Act of 2017 into law last year. Its improvements have begun to show. These include raising how much employers and employees contribute to the fund. In addition, there’s a cap for how much employees must contribute.

The investments the department that runs South Carolina’s public retirement system has made under this law have performed extremely well in recent years. The most recent report shows that the fund has grown to $30.2 billion over the last year. That’s a $2.15 billion jump from the year before.

Tips For Developing a Retirement Plan

  • Even if you have a pension coming to you in retirement, you’re better off having extra savings to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself and anyone else you’re responsible for. The best way to do this is to combine your own retirement account with Social Security.
  • Retirement planning can be a daunting process, and it’s one you don’t want to mishandle. The SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to get paired with a professional that can walk you through this undertaking. Simply answer a few questions based on your personal situation. Then we’ll set you up with as many as three advisors near you.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/adrian825, ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/Sean_Pavone

Chris Thompson, CEPF® Chris Thompson is a retirement, savings, mortgage and credit card expert at SmartAsset. He has reviewed hundreds of credit cards and loves helping people find the one that best matches their financial needs. Chris is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He graduated from Montclair State University where he received the Journalism Achievement Award. Chris’ articles have been featured in places like MSN and Bleacher Report. He lives in New Jersey and is a Mets, Jets and Nets fan.
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