The average public pensioner who recently retired receives between $38,184 and $53,700 a year, depending on the pension system in California.
The range in pension benefits, however, can be broad.
In Los Angeles County, for example, the average employee who worked for the county for 5-9 years retired last year with $1,416 in monthly benefits ($16,992 a year). But a sheriff’s deputy or firefighter who retired last year with more than 30 years of service is getting $11,358 a month, or $136,296 a year for life.
Some, but not all public employees, are eligible for Social Security.
Generally, public safety workers such as police and firefighters as well as public school teachers do not participate in the federal retirement program as a result of administrative decisions made decades ago. Other public workers, however, do contribute to Social Security and are eligible for benefits on top of their pension checks.
For some, a 2011 report from the Little Hoover Commission, a government watchdog agency, estimated that between pensions and Social Security, a career public servant has the potential to collect “more money in retirement than he or she did on the job.”
Many of those public workers can also count on lifetime health benefits.
It’s a stark contrast to the private sector.
Just 4 percent of private-sector workers in America have access to pensions while 49 percent have shifted to 401(k) plans, in which the employee bears the risk of investments. Another 14 percent have access to a combination of both.
That’s compared to 86 percent of state and local government workers who have access to pensions.