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About Public Retirement
Find out more About Public Retirement

So what is 'Public Retirement'? That's a common question for many people. The first thing to distinguish is what a public employee is. Public employees are usually those people who work in some full time capacity for a branch of government. This can be State, City or Township Government, or in education. In Rhode Island, your employer (city or town) must choose to become covered by The Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island. Once your employer has made that election, the administration of your retirement plan is handled by ERSRI, a division of the Department of the Treasury.

Most public employees in the United States, including members of the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island, receive their primary retirement benefit through a Defined Benefit Plan rather than a Defined Contribution Plan. It is important that you understand the fundamental differences between the two types of plans.

In a Defined Benefit Plan (also known as a DB Plan), your benefit at retirement is determined by a preset formula. Critical to determining that benefit are (1) your years of service with your employer and (2) your final average salary over a set period of time. Typically, during your active employment, both you and your employer make monthly contributions to the Retirement System. These contributions become part of the System's trust fund and are invested by professionals retained by the System. Funds in the System's investment portfolio are used to pay retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. You personally are not impacted by investment decisions because your benefit level is established in advance by a formula set by state law or local ordinance.

In a Defined Contribution Plan (also known as a DC Plan), your retirement benefit is determined by the amount of assets in your personal account at the time of your retirement; and you determine how these assets are to be distributed in your retirement years. Typically, during your active employment, both you and your employer make monthly contributions to your personal account. You have the primary responsibility to determine how these funds are then invested. Your investment decisions and factors such as the general state of the economy will influence the amount of funds available at the time of your retirement. Poor investment choices have a profound impact on your retirement benefit.

Depending on whom your employer is and what position you hold, the Rhode Island General laws dictate what benefits you receive when you retire. These benefits may be different for people in high risk public service jobs, such as Police and Firemen, or may have unique provisions for counting service credit, as with Teachers. ERSRI administrates about 21 different benefit structures, which may include Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA's) over time, or unique retirement eligibility conditions. For this reason, some public employees are entitled to different benefits than others. To understand and plan for your retirement, you should browse our web page to familiarize yourself with your retirement benefits. As you near retirement, the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island offers free retirement counseling at our offices and at 'outreach centers' around the state.

If you need to contact us you have three options:

  • The most efficient way is by email through the "Contact Us" page. You may get to this page by clicking on its link on the navigation bar on the left side of each page.
  • You may also write us, or mail in a filled out form downloaded from the "ERSRI Forms" page. You may get to the "ERSRI Forms" page by clicking on its link on the navigation bar on the left side of each page.
    Our main mailing address is:
    Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island
    50 Service Avenue, Second Floor
    Warwick, RI 02886-1021
  • If your communication is of critical importance you may contact us by phone during regular working hours at:

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