FAQs for Participants
- I am getting ready to retire. How much will my benefit be?
Your pension benefit is based on a formula that takes into account your years of credited service and employer contributions made on your behalf. To be entitled to a pension benefit from the Plan, you must be vested. You receive a benefit statement showing the amount of your benefit once each year. If you would like an estimate of your current retirement benefit, the Administrative Office is happy to provide the information. The estimate will be provided in writing and mailed to you at the current mailing address on file (they do not provide benefit amounts or estimates over the phone). Please contact the Administration Office to initiate the process.
- How do I become vested for a retirement benefit?
To become 100% vested, you must have at least five years of vesting service. You get vesting service credit for service that requires a contribution to the Plan and for contiguous non-covered service. Contiguous non-covered service is employment with a participating employer that does not require contributions to this Plan (non-covered employment), immediately followed or preceded by employment that does require contributions (covered employment). This covered and non-covered employment must be continuous service with the same employer.
- What happens if I leave covered employment before becoming vested?
If you are not vested when you terminate from covered employment, you will have up to five calendar years to return to covered employment and earn an additional year of credited service. By returning to covered employment, you can prevent your previous credited service from being canceled. If your credited service is canceled, you are not entitled to a Plan benefit for this period of time. If you become re-employed with a participating employer after losing previous credited service, your benefit accrual and credited service used for vesting will start all over again.
- What if I’m not vested and I want to cash out my benefit?
Before you are vested, there is no benefit available from this Plan. All contributions to the Plan are made by your employer on your behalf and cannot be returned to you. Once you become vested, you are eligible to receive a monthly benefit at retirement age.
- What happens if I die before I start receiving benefits?
If you are a vested participant and you are married at the time of your death, pre-retirement death benefits are available to your surviving spouse. Your spouse (or their representative) should contact the Administration Office for an application for survivor benefits as soon as possible following your death. Under current Plan rules, there are no pre-retirement death benefits available to beneficiaries of unmarried participants.
- How do I update my address?
The Administration Office requires that all changes to your record be signed. Please mail a short note to the Administration Office with the following: your printed name, your Social Security number, the change you would like to have made, your signature, and the date. You should also include a current phone number in case we have any questions.
- How do I apply for benefits?
Please click here for instructions on How to Apply.
- I am married and have several benefit options available to me. Which form of payment should I choose?
The Plan provides several pension benefit options so you can select the option that works best for you. Each option has certain advantages, but corresponding drawbacks. For example, the pension option that provides the highest monthly payment for the retiree (single life annuity) has zero benefit continuing to a surviving spouse. In contrast, the benefit option with the lowest monthly payment to the retiree offers an equivalent monthly amount for a surviving spouse (100% joint and survivor annuity).
The Administrative Office cannot advise you on which option to select. This is an important decision that you and your spouse should consider carefully to determine what makes the best sense given your circumstances.
- Can I work after I start receiving benefits?
You can only start receiving your benefits after the Administration Office has verified that you have terminated from all covered employment and contiguous non-covered employment for at least 60 days. You may return to work after you start receiving benefits, but your benefits are subject to suspension under certain conditions.
- Why do you need a copy of my divorce decree when I apply for benefits?
In a divorce, it is possible for the court to award a portion of your pension benefit to your ex-spouse. The Administration Office must verify that any ex-spouse does not have a claim against your pension benefit.
- Why do you need my spouse’s birth certificate and marriage certificate?
If you are married, you may elect a benefit option whereby your spouse will receive benefits after your death. This benefit will be calculated based on your age and your spouse’s age on your date of retirement. Therefore, the Administration Office must verify both of your correct ages, and that you are legally married and eligible to elect a spouse option benefit.
- Is my same-sex spouse entitled to survivor benefits under this Plan?
The Plan complies with the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court decision and recent IRS guidance on recognizing same-sex marriage for the purpose of Plan benefits. A copy of a valid marriage certificate must be provided to the Administrative Office prior to the payment of any benefits.
FAQs for Retirees
- When are benefit checks mailed?
We strongly encourage using direct deposit, use the Authorization for Direct Deposit form. There are big disadvantages to not using direct deposit – primarily, the delay associated with traditional mail delivery and the risk of interception. We allow the post office seven business days to deliver. If your check does not arrive after seven business days, you may notify us at the Administration Office and we will attempt to stop the previous check and issue a new one. However, if another party has intercepted and cashed your check, we will not reissue a new one. It will be your responsibility to pursue fraud charges.
- When will I get my direct deposit?
Direct deposits are scheduled for the first business day of the month. If the first day of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, the deposit will be made on the next business day.
- If I missed a benefit payment for some reason, can I have the missed benefits deposited into my account right away?
The Administration Office is only equipped to transmit direct deposit information one time per month for each participant. If you want a missed benefit payment via direct deposit, it must wait until the first of the following month.
- I changed my bank account. What happens now?
If you are changing banks, you need to fill out a new [Authorization for Direct Deposit form]. In addition, you will need to provide evidence for the new account – either a voided check or deposit slip with your name pre-printed on it. Alternatively, you could provide a letter from your bank, signed by a bank representative, confirming your new account number.
- Can I change the amount withheld each month for federal income tax?
Yes, you can change this at any time by completing and returning a Form W-4P. Please note that the Administration Office must receive such changes on or about the 20th of the preceding month.
- How much should I withhold each month for federal income tax?
You want to have enough withheld to cover any taxes you may owe. The amount of federal income tax that you owe on your pension depends on your personal financial situation. We are not tax advisors and cannot provide guidance on this. You may wish to discuss this with a tax consultant. Detailed information about the taxes owed on pension payments can be found in IRS Publication 575 Pension and Annuity Income.
- Can I work while receiving benefits?
You may return to work after you start receiving benefits, but if you are under age 65, your benefits are subject to suspension under certain conditions. Once you reach age 65, your benefit will not be suspended while continuing to work.
- Can I change my beneficiary after I have started receiving benefits?
If you have selected a Modified Life Annuity Option, you can change your beneficiary. If you are married and wish to change it to someone other than your spouse, written and notarized permission from your spouse is required.
However, if you are married and chose a Joint and Survivor Option form of payment, you cannot change the beneficiary once benefits start.
For example, if you and your named spouse get divorced after your retirement, your named spouse would still receive a monthly benefit when you die, in the amount you designated at retirement. Even if you remarried, the benefit would be paid to the named spouse to whom you were married at the time of retirement, not the spouse of your remarriage.
- My spouse, who was a Plan participant, just died. What do I need to do?
You should contact the Administration Office to notify them of your spouse’s death. If there are any additional benefits due, the Administration Office will require a copy of the death certificate.
- What does my spouse need to do when I die?
Your spouse (or their representative) should contact the Administration Office as soon after your death as possible. The Administration Office will inform them of any survivor benefits payable. If there are benefits payable, the Administration Office will require a copy of your death certificate.
- How do I update my new address?
The Administration Office requires that all changes to your record be signed. Please mail a short note to the Administration Office with the following: your printed name, your Social Security number, the change you would like to have made, your signature, and the date. Please include a current phone number in case we have any questions.
- Your forms ask for my Social Security number. Do I have to use the whole number?
In most cases, you can provide just the last four digits of your Social Security number. It helps to also provide your middle initial and phone number, in case there is more than one participant with the same name.
- How can I obtain proof of my pension income?
Upon request the Administration Office can mail a verification letter to your mailing address. These letters are generally mailed within 48 hours of your request. If you require a faster response, you can fax the Administration Office a signed request for the information with your name, your request and the fax number where you wish to have the verification letter sent. Responses to faxed requests are generally processed by the next business day. Your loan officer or case worker can also fax the Administration Office your signed authorization and any forms they require for income verification. The fax number for the Administration Office is (206) 441-7574.