SERS Plan 3
School Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) Plan 3
SERS Plan 3 has two parts: pension and investment. Your employer contributes to your pension, and you contribute to the investment account. When you meet plan requirements and retire, you are guaranteed a monthly benefit for the rest of your life from the employer-funded pension. With the investment part, you choose when to begin withdrawing funds, which can be any time after you separate employment.
You contribute between 5% and 15% of your wages to your investment account. You select this percentage when you begin employment.
More about Plan 3 contribution rates
Member contribution rate options
Option A 5% all ages
Option B 5% up to age 35 6% ages 35 through 44 7.5% ages 45 and older
Option C 6% up to age 35 7.5% ages 35 through 44 8.5% ages 45 and older
Option D 7% all ages
Option E 10% all ages
Option F 15% all ages
If you don’t choose a contribution rate, your withholding will default to Option A. Once your rate is set, you can change it only when you change Plan 3-covered employers. Changing means working for a different employer, not another division or department within your current workplace.
See a live or recorded Plan 3 webinar.
How much will your pension retirement be?
Estimate your retirement benefit in minutes using the personalized Benefit Estimator in your online account. Your total pension amount is based on your years of service and your income. See more about how we calculate your benefit.
How to estimate your benefit
- From the DRS homepage, select the Member Login button in the top right.
- Log in to your online account.
- In the menu bar, select your plan name – such as PERS 2. This will open a dropdown menu.
- Select Benefit Estimator.
- Read how to use the estimator and select Accept & Continue.
- For first-time users, we recommend using the four-step process. This helps you learn how your benefit is calculated.
You can use this tool at any point in your career. You can create an estimate using different factors as many times as you like. This calculator will allow you to see a private preview of what your monthly retirement income might look like.
Years of service
Review your service credit detail through your online account. Service credit is based on the number of hours you work, which your employer reports to DRS. You can earn no more than one month of service credit each calendar month, even if more than one employer is reporting hours you work. A school year spans Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.
You earn 12 months of service credit if:
- You work 810 hours or more, beginning work in September and working at least nine months of the school year
What if you work fewer than 810 hours?
Work between 630 and 809 hours, beginning in September, and working at least nine months of the school year
You earn: Six service credit months (half a service credit for each month) per school year
Work at least 630 hours during at least five months within a six month period during the school year
You earn: Six service credit months per school year
Work 90 or more hours in a month
You earn: One service credit month per month
Work at least 70 hours but fewer than 90 hours
You earn: Half a service credit month per month
Work more than 0, but fewer than 70, hours
You earn: One-quarter service credit month for each month
More information about service credit
Items that could affect your service credit:
Employees of the Washington State School for the Blind, the Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss, or an institution of higher learning:
If you begin working in September in an eligible position and earn compensation during at least nine months of the school year, you can receive 12 service credit months for the school year if you are compensated for at least 810 hours of employment. Six service credit months can be awarded if you start in September and are compensated for at least 630 hours but fewer than 810 hours during the school year.
If you earn compensation in fewer than nine months of the school year, you will receive service credit based on the number of hours you are compensated for each month.
The Average Final Compensation, or AFC is the average of your 60 consecutive highest earning months in your career. This could be at the beginning, middle or end of your career. DRS uses your AFC income information to calculate your pension amount. For high income public employees, federal law limits the amount you can contribute toward retirement and limits the benefit calculation. See IRS limits.
SERS Plan 3 pension formula
1% x service credit years x Average Final Compensation = monthly benefit
Let’s say you work 23 years and the average of your highest 60 months of income (AFC) is $5,400 per month.
1 % x 23 years x $5,400 = $1,242
When you retire, you’d receive $1,242 per month in pension income. Remember, your investment income is calculated separately.
How much will your investment retirement be?
The total amount available from your investment account in retirement will depend on a few things.
- The income percentage you chose (or defaulted into) when you selected the plan
- Your income and years of contributions
- Investment selection and performance
Get a complete picture of your projected retirement income through your investment account. Here you can add your Plan 3 pension and investment income, social security, and any additional retirement savings such as DCP.
When can you retire?
Now that we’ve discussed how much money you can get in retirement, let’s talk about when you can retire. You are eligible for a pension retirement when you are vested, which happens when you have achieved one of the following:
- 10 service credit years
- Five years of service credit with at least 12 months earned after age 44
- Five service credit years earned in PERS Plan 2 before September 1, 2000
Full retirement is the earliest age you can retire without any reduction to your retirement benefit. For SERS Plan 3, this is when you reach age 65. What if you want to retire younger than age 65 and you don’t have 30 years of service?
You can withdraw from your investment account at any time after separating employment. For your employer-funded pension plan, specific rules apply for when you can retire. You can retire as early as age 55 with a reduced benefit if you have at least 10 service credit years.
More about early retirement
How does retiring early affect my monthly benefit?
When you retire early, your monthly benefit amount is reduced to reflect that you will be receiving your defined benefit for a longer period of time. The amount of the impact depends on the amount of service credit you have, the date you retire, your age and the early retirement factor used. (See early retirement benefit formulas below.)
If you retire with between 10 and 30 years of service credit, your monthly benefit is reduced by a factor that is based on your average life expectancy. The reduction is greater than if you retire with at least 30 service credit years.
If you retire with at least 30 years of service credit, you can choose one of the following options:
- A 3% Early Retirement Factor (ERF) reduction for each year (prorated monthly) before you turn age 65
- The 2008 ERF, which provides a smaller benefit reduction but imposes stricter return-to-work rules
Early retirement rules are different for members who are first hired on or after May 1, 2013. At age 55 with 30 years of service credit, your benefit is reduced by 5% for each year (prorated monthly) before you turn age 65.
Early retirement factors
Actuarial early retirement factors, for those with less than 30 years of service, vary by system and plan and are updated at least every six years. See current early retirement factors for Plan 2 members with at least 20 years or Plan 3 members with at least 10 years of service.
- Plan 2: Need at least 20 years of service credit to qualify
- Plan 3: Need at least 10 years of service credit to qualify
Early retirement factors for less than 30 years of service
Early retirement factors for 30 or more years of service
|Retirement Age||3% ERF||2008 ERF||5% ERF|
If I retire early, what reductions will apply?
The amount of the reduction to your monthly benefit depends on how much younger than age 65 you are when you retire and the amount of service credit you have. This reduction reflects that you will be receiving your defined benefit for a longer period of time than if you had retired at age 65. Consider how the ERFs are applied in the examples shown below.
For more information on early retirement, read Washington Administrative Code 415-02-320.
Plan 3 early-retirement formula
1% x service credit years x Average Final Compensation (AFC) x ERF = monthly benefit
Returning to work could affect your retirement income. See working after retirement.
Early retirement examples
How much difference can early retirement make? That depends on your circumstances, including your wages and age at retirement. Consider the examples below. The administrative factors used in these examples are for illustrative purposes only.
Customer retires Sept. 1, at age 55 with 22 years of service credit.
Their AFC is $3,600. They are retiring early, so using the administrative factor (above table) the monthly benefit is 40.92% of what it would have been at age 65, calculated as follows:
= 1% x 22 years x $3,600 x 40.92%
= 0.01 x 22 x $3,600 x 0.4092
Customer retires April 1, at age 62 with 30 years of service credit using the 2008 ERF.
If they choose to retire under the 2008 ERF, their benefit is not reduced (due to age and service credit). But they must now follow stricter return-to-work rules than retirees who choose the 3% ERF. The 2008 ERF monthly benefit would be calculated as follows:
= 1% x 30 years x $4,400 x 100%
= 0.01 x 30 x $4,400 x 1.00
See a live or recorded early retirement webinar.
Considering delaying your retirement? This short delayed retirement video offers some tips and information.
Using sick leave to qualify for retirement
You can use up to 45 days of unused sick leave to help you qualify for retirement. Sick leave not cashed out by your employer may be converted into a maximum of two months of service credit. However, this service credit isn’t used in the calculation of your benefit. It can only be used to qualify for retirement.
How do you retire?
Estimate your retirement income
You can use the benefit estimator tool in your online account to help plan for retirement at any point—while you are still working, and even after you submit an official request to retire. Log into your online account and select the benefit estimator tool to get started.
How to retire with DRS
When you are within 12 months of retiring, you can start the official retirement process with DRS. First, you request an official benefit estimate. Once you receive the estimate, you complete and submit your application to retire.
1. Request an official benefit estimate from DRS 3 to 12 months prior to your retirement date. Make this request through your online account or by contacting us. In most cases, we will provide your estimate 5 to 8 weeks before your retirement date. If you haven’t received your requested estimate within 5 weeks of your retirement date, contact us.
Estimates are prioritized by retirement date, which allows DRS to use the most recent information available for you and gives you ample time to submit your retirement application. An official benefit estimate is not the same as the benefit estimator tool available to all customers. To assist your retirement planning any time before or after requesting your official benefit, you can use the benefit estimator tool through your online account.
2. Complete a retirement application at least 5 weeks from the date you intend to retire(once you receive your official estimate). Complete the application online, or request a paper form.
When do you get paid?
Your pension money will be direct deposited into your bank account on the last business day of the month, every month, for the rest of your life. The retirement application has a section for your bank information so your funds will be deposited. Once you’ve retired, you can make any updates to your direct deposit through your online account.
Separation vs retirement
You are retired from DRS when you separate from employment and begin collecting your pension. If you leave public employment, but you are not yet collecting a pension, we consider you separated, but not retired. These instructions assume you are separating and will be collecting your pension (retiring).
See live or recorded retirement planning webinars.
How can you increase your pension amount?
You can increase your pension benefit by increasing your years of service or your income. But when it comes to total retirement income, you have more options.
DCP savings program
The Deferred Compensation Program or DCP is a voluntary savings program you can use to increase your retirement savings. DCP uses many of the same investment options available to Plan 3 members, including investments that are managed for you. With DCP, you control your contribution amount so your savings can grow with you. Saving an additional $100 a month now could mean an extra $100,000 in retirement!
(Example based on 6% annual rate of return over 30 years of contributions.) Find out more.
What is an annuity?
Annuities are lifetime income plans you purchase.
When it’s time to retire, you have some additional options—options that can change your finite savings into a monthly, lifetime income called an annuity. An annuity is a guaranteed income plan you purchase. The monthly payments you receive are based on the dollar amount you choose to purchase. The annuity will provide monthly payments for your lifetime. The annuities DRS offers are administered by Washington state with investments provided by the Washington State Investment Board.
Is an annuity right for me?
Annuities can provide guaranteed income for your life. And they offer security through a set monthly income which can increase annually if you are eligible for a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). However, flexibility is not a feature of annuities. Once you set it up, an annuity doesn’t allow you to change the income amount. Once you begin receiving monthly payments, you cannot cancel the annuity.
With annuities, you take money out of market risk and use it to give yourself a monthly lifetime income. Annuities are the only investment withdrawal option that guarantee you will not outlive your account balance.
How do annuities affect my taxes?
Each year you’ll receive a statement that shows the taxable amount of your annuity. Complete a Form W-4P to choose the amount you’d like withheld from your payments for taxes. Without a Form W-4P, the tax withholding will follow IRS guidelines using a status of married with three allowances.
For more information about taxes, review IRS Publication 575. You might want to consult a tax advisor. DRS and the record keeper are not authorized to give tax advice.
SERS Plan annuity
This annuity is available to all PERS, SERS and PSERS retirement plan members. With this annuity, your survivor will be the same as the one you selected for your pension payment. You can use your DCP savings to purchase this annuity in addition to other approved funding sources. If you return to work, this annuity continues.
More about the plan annuity
When can I purchase? When you are retiring.
Are there limits to the annuity amount I can purchase? Yes, the minimum purchase amount is $5,000. There are no maximum limits.
How much does it cost? Log in to your account and choose “Purchasing Annuity.” Here you can find the monthly increase to your pension for any purchase amount.
What funds can I use to purchase an annuity? Your payment must come from an eligible governmental plan, like your DCP savings. Members cannot use PERS/SERS/TRS Plan 3 contributions to pay for this annuity.
When does my annuity benefit begin? Your retirement date or the day after your bill for the annuity is paid in full, whichever comes later.
How often do I receive my annuity benefit? Monthly.
Can I designate a survivor? Yes. Your survivor must be the same survivor and survivor option you chose for your retirement benefit.
Will I receive a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)? Yes. You will receive a COLA up to 3% annually. If you’re a Plan 1 member, a COLA is optional at retirement and your choice will also apply to this annuity purchase.
How do I purchase this annuity? Request this annuity when you retire online. You can also purchase it when completing a paper retirement application.
Can I cancel the annuity if I change my mind? In most cases, no. Annuities are fixed income sources. Once you purchase the annuity, you will not have access to the funds you used to make the purchase.
There are two exceptions:
If you have not completed the annuity purchase, you can still change or cancel the annuity.
Once you make the purchase, you’ll have 15 days to cancel the transaction. You’ll receive a mailed contract that includes your rescission, or cancel by date.
Will my annuity purchase be refunded if I die? If you (and your survivor if you selected a survivor option) die before the amount of your annuity purchase has been paid back to you, the difference will be refunded to your beneficiary.
What if I return to work? Your annuity continues.
Purchase service credit
Purchasing additional service credit increases your monthly retirement benefit for the rest of your life. You can purchase between one and 60 months of service credit in whole months. Purchasing service credit will increase your monthly benefit, but it will not increase the years of service posted on your account. The increase to your benefit is calculated using the same formula as your retirement benefit. This additional service credit is available at the time of your retirement only. Also, you cannot use the additional credit to qualify for retirement (it won’t increase your years of service).
More about the service credit annuity
When can I purchase? When you are retiring.
Are there limits to the amount of service credit I can purchase? Minimum: One month; Maximum: 60 months.
How much does it cost? Log in to your account and choose “Purchasing Service.” Here you can find the estimated cost and income increase per month you purchase.
What funds can I use to purchase service credit? You can use any funds except for Plan 3 contributions.
When does my annuity benefit begin? After you have made payment in full.
How often do I receive the benefit? Monthly.
Can I designate a survivor? Yes. Your survivor will be the same option you chose for your retirement benefit.
Will I receive a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)? Yes. You will receive a COLA up to 3% annually. If you’re a TRS Plan 1 or PERS Plan 1 member, a COLA is an optional choice at retirement.
Can I cancel the annuity if I change my mind? No. Annuities are fixed income sources. Once you purchase the annuity, you will not have access to the funds you used to make the purchase. If you have not completed the annuity purchase, you can still change or cancel the annuity.
How do I purchase service credit? Request this annuity when you retire online. You can also purchase it when completing a paper retirement application.
Will my annuity purchase be refunded when I die? Yes. If you (and your survivor if you selected a survivor option) die before the amount of your purchase has been paid back to you, the difference will be refunded to your beneficiary. For TRS Plan 1, this refund does not apply if you selected the Maximum Option.
What if I return to work? The return to work rules for service credit are the same as your retirement benefit. If you return to work for a DRS-covered employer, your annuity will stop if you return to retirement system membership or if you exceed allowable hours as a retiree (867 per year). If you do not return to a DRS-covered employer, your annuity will continue.
When will my benefit increase be effective? The increase in your benefit will be effective the day after the department receives your full payment.
Plan 3 TAP – Total Allocation Portfolio
Plan 3 members can use their plan contributions to purchase the Total Allocation Portfolio (TAP) Annuity. With the TAP Annuity, you are not limited to the survivor options you chose for your pension retirement. You can choose another survivor. You can also purchase the TAP Annuity any time after you separate from DRS-covered employment.
It can take 45 to 90 days to receive your first TAP Annuity payment. See the payment section below for a timeline of the purchase process.
More about the Plan 3 TAP Annuity
When can I purchase? When DRS receives your separation date, or any time after.
Are there limits to the annuity amount I can purchase? Minimum: $25,000; Maximum: Your total Plan 3 investment account balance.
What funds can I use to purchase the annuity? Contributions from your Plan 3 investment account. To purchase the annuity using funds from both your WSIB and Self-Directed investment programs, you’ll need to transfer the funds to either the WSIB program or the Self-Directed Investment Program first.
How often do I receive my annuity benefit? Monthly.
Can I designate a survivor? Yes.
Can I cancel the annuity if I change my mind? In most cases, no. Annuities are fixed income sources. Once you purchase the annuity, you will not have access to the funds you used to make the purchase.
There are two exceptions:
- If you have not completed the annuity purchase, you can still change or cancel the annuity.
- Once you make the purchase, you’ll have 15 days to cancel the transaction. You’ll receive a mailed letter that includes your rescission, or cancel by date.
How do I purchase an annuity? Complete the purchase online or call the Plan 3 record keeper at 888-327-5596 for assistance.
Will I receive a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)? Yes. Your TAP annuity will receive an automatic COLA of 3% annually. This COLA is applied on the anniversary of the annuity.
Will my annuity purchase be refunded when I die? If you (and your survivor if you selected a survivor option) die before the amount of your annuity purchase has been paid back to you, the difference will be refunded to your beneficiary.
What if I return to work? Your annuity continues.
Can I buy more than one TAP Annuity? No. You can buy only one TAP Annuity.
What else should I know?
You don’t need to be separated to move money into the TAP investment program, only to purchase the TAP Annuity.
You can purchase the TAP Annuity and start receiving distributions at any age.
You can purchase the TAP Annuity anytime you qualify to receive a distribution—between employment opportunities, at retirement or any time after retirement.
You can only purchase the TAP Annuity one time per retirement system membership (one each for PERS, SERS or TRS accounts).
The 3% Cost-of-Living increase (COLA) will be added to your payment each year on the anniversary of your annuity purchase.
How can I find out more? Contact the Plan 3 record keeper for assistance.
When do I receive my first TAP Annuity payment?
How long does it take? About two months
Your first payment could take anywhere from 45 to 90 days. The most common timeline is about two months. The timeline includes DRS receiving your request and a separation date from your employer. Your employer usually sends your separation date with your final contributions to DRS after you receive your final paycheck—that could take up to 45 days depending on your employer’s reporting process.
Why does it take this long?
The price for the WSIB TAP fund is calculated each month, after the end of the month. When you request to purchase a TAP Annuity, it can take two or more months to know the value and have the final reporting from your employer.
TAP Purchase timeline
1 Request and separation
July 9 – The customer separates employment and completes TAP Annuity purchase request.
July 26 – DRS receives a separation date from the employer.
2 Price and purchase
Aug. 13 – The TAP valuation from July is applied to calculate the value of the TAP shares.
Aug. 30 – An annuity contract is created on the 2nd to last business day of the month and sent to the customer. They will have 15 days to rescind the contract.
3 Contract and payment
Sept. 3-10 – The first TAP Annuity payment is issued to the customer. Depending on the form of payment (paper check or direct deposit), the customer receives the payment between the third and tenth of September, and will receive payments on or around the same day each month.
Why is my separation date important?
If the DRS record keeper has not received completed paperwork from the customer or the employer has not sent the separation date by the third to last business day of the month, it could add an additional month to the purchase timeline. DRS cannot distribute the funds until the employer has notified DRS of the separation of the customer, which will not take place until sometime after the customer has received their last paycheck from the employer. For TRS and SERS members who separate or retire in the summer, this means that annuity payments will not start before September and likely won’t begin until November.
What is the fastest way to purchase the TAP Annuity?
There are a few actions you can take to ensure your annuity purchase goes smoothly.
Transfer your funds into the WSIB TAP investment program prior to making your TAP Annuity purchase. Transfer your funds online or contact the record keeper to start the transfer so you don’t have to wait until you stop working.
Complete your TAP Annuity purchase request online through your Plan 3 account. Ensure that the DRS record keeper has all necessary information before the third to last business day of the month.
Check in with your payroll office to know when they will be sending your separation date to DRS. If DRS receives this information after the third to last business day of the month, it will delay the purchase cycle another month.
Why is the WSIB TAP fund calculated monthly?
The fund contains slower moving assets, such as real estate. These assets increase the total diversity of the fund, but it takes more time to assess the value.
See a live or recorded annuity option webinar.
Plan 3 customers have investment accounts you fund with a percentage of your income.
We offer two types of funds: One-step or build and monitor. All funds are provided by the Washington State Investment Board.
One-step: These investments are automatically adjusted for you based on your age. The One-Step Investing approach includes Retirement Strategy Funds, also called age-based or target date funds. Because most customers choose one-step investing, this is also the default investment type for customers who do not select investments.
Plan 3 also includes a fund called the WSIB TAP or Total Allocation Portfolio. This is also a one-step investment program. However, this fund is not adjusted based on your age, but is managed in the same way the state pension fund is invested. If you select this option, all your new contributions will be invested in this fund.
Build and monitor: This is the DIY approach to investing where you choose from a selection of investments and create your own mix from a list of funds.
Select the funds below to view their fact sheets. Funds for each table are listed in order of risk (lowest to highest). View the latest performance for all funds through your online account.
Target date funds
- Retirement Maturity Strategy Fund
- 2010 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2015 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2020 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2025 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2030 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2035 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2040 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2045 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2050 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2055 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2060 Retirement Strategy Fund
- 2065 Retirement Strategy Fund
Build and monitor funds
- Short-Term Investment Fund
- Washington State Bond Fund
- Socially Responsible Balanced Fund
- US Large Cap Equity Index Fund
- Global Equity Index Fund
- US Small Cap Value Equity Index Fund
- Emerging Market Equity Index Fund
WSIB Investment Program
Funds are classified into two investment programs: Self-Directed and WSIB. Only the WSIB TAP fund is part of the WSIB investment program. The classifications are important for Plan 3 members when it comes to withdrawing your funds. Self-Directed fund values are calculated daily, whereas the WSIB TAP fund is calculated monthly. Plan 3 customers can transfer balances between the two investment programs. See the withdrawal section for more information about timelines.
Compare the most recent performance for your Plan 3 investments through your online account. You can also access a quarterly overview of fund performance in the table links that follow.
Fees: Retirement Strategy Funds (as of July 2023)
|Funds||Manager fee||Manager administrative fee||WSIB fee||Recordkeeping fee||Total|
|Retirement Maturity Strategy Fund||0.1610%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2650%|
|2010 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1620%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2660%|
|2015 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1658%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2698%|
|2020 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1711%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2751%|
|2025 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1811%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2851%|
|2030 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1982%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.3022%|
|2035 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.2114%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.3154%|
|2040 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.2141%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.3181%|
|2045 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.2035%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.3075%|
|2050 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1920%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2960%|
|2055 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1920%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2960%|
|2060 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1920%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2960%|
|2065 Retirement Strategy Fund||0.1920%||0.0000%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.2960%|
Fees: Build and Monitor Funds (As of July 2023)
|Funds||Manager fee||Manager administrative fee||WSIB fee||Recordkeeping fee||Total|
|Short-Term Investment Fund||0.0800%||0.0006%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.1846%|
|Washington State Bond Fund||0.0000%||0.0080%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.1120%|
|Socially Responsible Balanced Fund||0.2680%||0.0480%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.4200%|
|US Large Cap Equity Index Fund||0.0000%||0.0010%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.1050%|
|Global Equity Index Fund||0.0250%||0.0097%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.1387%|
|US Small Cap Value Equity Index Fund||0.0100%||0.0064%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.1204%|
|Emerging Market Equity Index Fund||0.0700%||0.0200%||0.0200%||0.0840%||0.1940%|
Fees: WSIB Investment Program (as of July 2023)
|Funds||Manager fee||Manager administrative fee||WSIB fee||Record keeping fee||Total|
|Total Allocation Portfolio (TAP)||0.4589%||0.0224%||0.0000%||0.0000%||0.4813%|
Managing your investments
Plan 3 investments, performance and fee information
Make investment changes through your online account. Change your fund selections anytime during or after your employment. You can also contact the record keeper for assistance. To change the investment program for future contributions, complete this form and give it to your employer.
To safeguard customers against the effects of excessive trading, DRS has established trading restrictions that regulate how frequently you can change investments.
If you are transferring more than $1,000 out of a fund, you are required to wait 30 calendar days before transferring money back into that same fund. The 30-day window is based on the last time you made a transfer out of the fund. The restriction will not affect your regular contribution or the ability to leave state service and withdraw your money. Transfers of $1,000 or less are not impacted by the trading restrictions.
DRS periodically reviews trade data to identify excessive trading. If existing restrictions are not sufficiently addressing excessive trade practices, DRS might take additional action. DRS reserves the right to establish or revise restrictions to comply with federal or state regulations, or as circumstances indicate.
In addition to the trading restrictions described above, DRS will also comply with restrictions put in place by our fund managers.
Note: Excessive trading (also referred to as “market timing”) involves transferring significant amounts of money and/or making frequent trades between investment options. This practice requires more cash on hand to honor the frequent trades and transfers. Because the excess cash is used to cover potential transfers instead of being invested, long-term returns can be lowered for other participants. Excessive trading can also increase fund management costs.
Can DRS give me investment advice?
No. While DRS and the Plan 3 record keeper can provide you with information about investments, we cannot offer investment advice. If you are still not sure which investment approach might be right for you, talk with your financial advisor. To find out more about each fund, see each investment’s Fund Fact Sheet (linked within each plan’s section). These fact sheets are prepared by the fund managers and contain information about performance, asset mixes and the goals of the fund.
How do I choose a one-step Retirement Strategy Fund?
These funds are listed by date in increments of 5 years. Just choose the date closest to the one you plan to begin withdrawing funds. In other words, take the year you were born and add it to the age you expect to retire or withdraw your funds. The sum is your target date.
birth year + retirement age = target date
1993 + 65 = 2058
Pick the fund with the date closest to your target date. In the example here, the closest fund would be 2060. If you have been retired for 15 years or more, you would choose the Retirement Maturity Strategy Fund. See your plan section above for performance and fee information related to these funds.
What costs are associated with Plan 3 investments?
All investments include costs, which take the form of fees. At just a fraction of a percent, most investment fees seem pretty insignificant and many of us ignore them. But knowing the true cost of your investments is a critical part of retirement savings. Let’s take a closer look at investment costs. Plan 3 has two different types of costs: Administrative and management.
Administrative costs: These cover investment services provided by the Washington State Investment Board (WSIB), recordkeeping, communications and customer service. Plan 3 administrative costs are included in the price of shares and won’t be visible on your statement. Administrative costs apply to all customers, are based on the administrative costs of the program and are determined annually. Changes, if any, usually go into effect in July.
Because Plan 3 only recovers costs to administer the program, we are able to keep the fees low. The Plan 3 administrative cost includes WSIB and recordkeeping fees. These total 0.1040%.
Management costs: Funds are managed by teams of investment professionals. The costs vary with each investment option. The costs are included in the price of shares and won’t be visible on your statement. See the Plan 3 fund fees table to view actual management fees for each fund. WSIB works with fund managers under contract to keep costs low. You always have the option to change your investment selection for Plan 3. When selecting any investment, it is beneficial to review the management costs.
Example of fees applied to a $10,000 balance
This example is simplified because normally your investments would vary each quarter depending on your contributions and the performance of the market. Plan 3 fees are calculated based on your exact account balance and performance at the time.
The fee total varies by fund. For this example, let’s use the 2035 Retirement Strategy Fund for Plan 3. The total cost for this fund is included in the last column of the fee tables above. This fund has a total fee of 0.3154% per year.
Formula to estimate your fund cost:
Account balance x Total fee = Annual cost in dollars
2035 Fund annual fee: $10,000 x 0.003154 = $31.54
The total annual fees for the $10,000 balance would be $31.54
Plan 3: How do I move money between the WSIB TAP and the Self-Directed funds?
To move funds to or from the WSIB TAP Fund, contact the DRS record keeper. The TAP Fund is valued only once a month and the transfer of funds can take up to 60 days to complete.
Plan 3: How do I change the investment program for future contributions?
To change the investment program for future contributions, complete this form and give it to your employer.
What are diversification, performance and risk? Why do they matter?
Diversification is a strategy that can be neatly summed up as “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” The strategy involves spreading your money among various investments in the hope that if one loses money, the others will make up for those losses. Dividing investments among different kinds of assets, such as stocks and bonds, with different risks and returns, can minimize the potential harm from any one asset. You can invest in any combination of the investment funds available through Plan 3.
With the One-Step Investing approach, your Retirement Strategy portfolio is already well diversified and will automatically adjust as you move closer to your target date. With the Build and Monitor approach to investing, you can allocate your contributions among the seven available funds to achieve diversification.
Your portfolio should include investments in several different objective categories. Spreading your assets among different types of investments might help you achieve a favorable rate of return while minimizing your overall risk of losing money. Market or other economic conditions that can cause one category of assets, or one particular security, to perform very well can often cause another asset category, or another particular security, to perform poorly. Although diversification is not a guarantee against loss, it is an effective strategy to help you manage investment risk.
Past investment performance is no guarantee of future results. So why do we share past performance if it can’t predict future returns? Viewing past performance can provide you with insight into how a particular investment works and can help you determine what is “normal” behavior for an investment.
Let’s talk about risk. The growth of investments is always tied to some form of risk. Earnings do not always increase. Higher risk investments are designed to have the potential for higher earnings (faster growth), but they also have a greater potential for a loss of principal. Lower risk investments minimize risk, but this also comes at the cost of potential for faster growth. This is generally why younger investors will have higher risk investments where investors closer to retirement age select lower risk investments. The level of risk you choose is a personal decision.
Where can I get additional information about investing?
Financial Literacy and Education Commission
888-MyMoney – mymoney.gov
MyMoney.gov is an online point of access to financial information from the 21 federal agencies, departments and bureaus that make up the Financial Literacy & Education Commission. Find information about how to plan for a host of life events that have financial implications, such as birth or adoption of a child, home ownership or retirement.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
888-SEC-6585 – sec.gov
The mission of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets and facilitate capital formation.
Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI)
877-746-4334 – TTY: 360-664-8126 – dfi.wa.gov
DFI provides regulatory oversight for our state’s financial service providers.
Washington State Investment Board (WSIB)
360-956-4600 – sib.wa.gov
WSIB closely monitors the performance of all Plan 3 investment options. Safeguarding and maximizing your retirement dollars is one of the investment board’s highest priorities. Trustees of the WSIB have fiduciary responsibility to act only for the benefit of the participants.
Required minimum distribution
What is a required minimum distribution (RMD)?
If you are a Plan 3 customer who is separated or retired, you must withdraw a minimum amount from your retirement investment accounts every year starting when you reach age 72. This minimum distribution of funds is required by federal income tax regulations. DRS calculates and pays out the minimum amount to you each year. This is to help you avoid the 50% tax penalty the IRS can impose if the minimum is not withdrawn.
The payments are automatically distributed to you, so no actions are needed for you to meet the requirements. But you can also choose to make adjustments to the distribution, such as the frequency of payments. Here is the form you need:
If you have investment funds in both the Self-Directed and the WSIB programs, your minimum payment will be withdrawn from your WSIB investment program account first. By completing the Plan 3 RMD form yourself, you can choose to have the money withdrawn differently.
Note: The SECURE Act has raised the RMD age from 70 ½ to 72 for most retirees. However, retirees born before July 1, 1949 will still have an annual RMD starting in 2021. DRS recommends that you consult a tax advisor for information on how the new RMD legislation affects you.
How is the minimum payment calculated?
You can calculate your required minimum distribution by taking the previous year’s Dec. 31 investment account balance and dividing it by the IRS distribution period based on your age. If you are a member of Plan 3 and DCP, you have two investment accounts that are subject to minimum distribution requirements and you calculate these separately.
To calculate your own RMD withdrawal, you can use the tables below. Find your age in the table. The distribution period is the number you divide your total investment account balance by to get the required minimum amount. See the following table for an example.
IRS distribution period for your age
This table applies to you if your status is:
- Married with spouse who is not more than 10 years younger
- Married with spouse who is not the sole beneficiary of your account
IRS distribution period for your age
Example of an RMD calculation:
Alex is age 75 with a Plan 3 account balance of $150,000 as of December 31, 2018. To find the required minimum distribution (RMD) amount, Alex takes the account balance and divides it by the distribution period based on age 75, which is 22.9 years.
$150,000 / 22.9 years = an RMD of $6,550.00 for 2019.
If Alex is also a member of DCP, the same calculation will need to be performed on the DCP investment account balance.
When is it due?
DRS must issue your minimum payment by Dec. 31 to meet IRS requirements. You’ll usually receive your payment earlier in December. DRS will send you 1-2 reminder letters in the year you turn age 72 so you’ll know the RMD is coming. In the years after age 72, these payments will be automatic. You can change the frequency and amount of payment anytime by completing a Plan 3 withdrawal. Your withdrawal amount must at least meet the required annual minimum.
How do the requirements apply to a surviving spouse or beneficiary?
If the original account holder dies, the required minimum distribution is still required for beneficiaries of the account. Here’s how these requirements work:
A spousal beneficiary will be required to continue receiving RMD payments if the account owner had already met the required age. If the account owner had not reached the required age prior to death, the spousal beneficiary will be required to start their RMD payments in the year in which the account owner would have turned age 72.
For non-spousal beneficiaries, the RMD is calculated based on the beneficiary’s life expectancy in the calendar year immediately following the account owner’s date of death. DRS will process an RMD payment if the account owner had turned age 72 or older. If the account also has rollover requests, the RMD will be processed before these.
What if I’m still employed?
If you are still employed by the same DRS-covered employer, the minimum distribution requirement does not apply to you. If you separate from your Plan 3 covered employment and you are age 72 or older, the RMD will apply.
To find out more, contact the DRS record keeper at 888-327-5596 or visit the RMD section of the IRS website.
This information about required minimum distributions is a summary. For a complete description of RMD rules and information, see Required Minimum Distributions on the IRS website. If a conflict exists between the information on this page and what is contained in current law, the law governs. Please talk with your financial advisor if you have questions about taxes on your investment funds. DRS team members aren’t able to give tax advice.
Life events that can affect your pension
Death of a retired member
Please contact DRS as soon as possible. If the retiree chose a survivor benefit, we must update the account for payments to continue. If the retiree did not select a survivor option, we need to stop monthly benefits to avoid an overpayment. When you contact us, please be ready to provide the deceased retiree’s full name, Social Security number and date of death.
Death of an active or not yet retired member
If the deceased worked in a public service position in Washington, payment may be due to survivor(s). When you contact us, please be ready to provide the deceased member’s full name, Social Security number and date of death. Also tell us if the death may be work-related.
Death of a beneficiary or survivor
If you are an active member, you can update your beneficiary designation at any time by logging into your online account.
If your named survivor dies after you retire, you can have your pension benefit changed to the single-life option with no survivor reduction. You will need to report the death to DRS. This provision applies to all DRS plans except for LEOFF and WSPRS Plan 1, which have different survivorship options.
Report a death to DRS
Phone: 800.547.6657 – Menu option 7 or extension 47081
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Please provide only the last 4 digits of the deceased’s SSN
If you become totally incapacitated and leave your job as a result, you might be eligible for a disability retirement benefit. The disability retirement was originally created for customers who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible to start receiving a retirement benefit. Even if you have not yet reached the minimum age for retirement, or you are not yet vested in your plan, you can still apply for a disability retirement.
Do you already qualify for retirement?
If you are vested in your plan and qualify to retire, there is no financial benefit to taking disability vs retirement, even for early retirement. The income you receive for either retirement uses the same calculations. Early or full retirement is also a much faster process than disability retirement.
How to apply for a disability retirement
Call DRS and request an official estimate for a disability retirement. It takes about 3-4 weeks for DRS to calculate your benefit. Then we will mail you a packet with the estimate and a three-part form. You, your employer and your doctor will need to complete all three forms in the packet.
Once DRS receives the completed application and all supporting documentation, it usually takes about four to six weeks to determine your eligibility for a disability retirement.
The full application process averages 4-5 months from the time you request the estimate, but the timing can vary. Providing all requested documentation along with a complete application can help reduce the wait time.
If the disability retirement is approved, your retirement date would be the first of the month after your separation date. DRS would issue your monthly benefit payments on the last business day of the following month and every month after.
Separation and withdrawals
If you separate from Plan 3 employment, you can choose to either leave your contributions in the plan until you’re eligible to retire or withdraw them. The IRS requires that you begin taking payment of your monthly benefit by the time you are 72, unless you are still employed.
The pension part of your plan is designed to provide you with a source of income throughout your retirement. Your employer contributions are only available to you as pension income when you retire. You can’t withdraw the contributions your employer makes to this part of your plan.
If you have at least 20 years of service credit when you leave employment, your pension benefit will increase by about 3% for each year you delay receiving it, up to age 65.
As a Plan 3 member, you can withdraw your contributions and investment earnings from your investment account at any time after you leave your plan-covered employment. However, if you do, you could reduce an important source of your retirement income.
There are tax implications to withdrawing your contributions, so you might want to contact the IRS or a tax advisor before making a decision.
Be sure to keep us up to date on any changes to your name, address or beneficiary. It’s important that you keep your beneficiary designation current, because a divorce, marriage or other circumstance might invalidate it.
For more information about your options when separating, see this short career transitions video.
Service credit is cumulative
The service credit you earn toward vesting is cumulative. This means if you separate but later return to public service, you can continue to earn service credit toward your vested status even if you didn’t yet qualify when you separated. For Plan 1 and Plan 2 members, withdrawing your contributions when you separate will set your service credit years to 0.
Plan 3 has pension and investment withdrawals
Plan 3 has two parts – a pension funded by your employer and an investment account funded by you. These account balances are kept separate and you withdraw them separately in retirement. This separation allows you an important opportunity for flexibility. You can withdraw from both fund sources at the same time in retirement, or you can choose to withdraw from one or the other at different times. Many people choose to withdraw only from their investment contributions and leave the employer-funded pension payments until they reach the full retirement age of 65. You withdraw your pension account funds through DRS and your investment account funds through the DRS record keeper.
When can I withdraw money from Plan 3?
You must be separated from Plan 3-covered employment to withdraw from your account. The rules to withdraw money from your pension or investment accounts are different. You can access your Plan 3 investment contributions any time after you leave DRS-covered employment. To withdraw your employer-funded pension, you must meet minimum age and service year requirements. See the how do you retire section at the beginning of this page for more information on pension retirement.
How do I withdraw investment funds from Plan 3?
To complete your withdrawal online, log into your online account and select your Plan 3 investment account. Under the “More resources” menu, select Request online withdrawal.
With online withdrawal, your account information is prefilled for you, you can estimate payments and tax withholdings instantly and add your direct deposit information. You’ll also receive immediate confirmation that your transaction is in progress.
You can also contact the DRS record keeper, Voya financial at 888- 327-5596 for assistance with your investment transaction. Log into your Plan 3 investment account to chat live with a customer service associate. They will help you select the right transaction for your needs.
What withdrawal types are available for Plan 3 investments?
Plan 3 Withdrawal – This is the withdrawal type you can make when you separate from employment. The withdrawal offers you a variety of options for payment types including lump sum, installments and rollovers.
Plan 3 TAP Annuity Purchase – You can purchase the TAP Annuity using funds from your Plan 3 investment account contributions. This annuity is exclusively available to Plan 3 members. Read more about DRS annuities.
Beneficiary Distribution Request – Request a withdrawal from your awarded beneficiary account.
Alternate Payee Withdrawal – Withdraw funds per a Qualified Domestic Relations order.
Hardship withdrawals for Separated Plan 3 customers – If you are experiencing severe financial hardship because of an unforeseeable emergency, you may be eligible to expedite the withdrawal of funds from your WSIB Investment Program contributions. Due to the monthly valuation of these funds, the timeline for processing WSIB payment withdrawals is typically much longer than funds in the Plan 3 Self-Directed Investment program. See “How long does my withdrawal take” below for more information.
Direct deposit for investments – Request or modify direct deposit for your DCP, Plan 3 or JRA investment account payments.
Direct deposit for pension payments – Use this form to request or modify the direct deposit information for your employer-funded Plan 3 pension account payments. You can also complete this request online.
IRS Form W-4P – Request to have federal income tax withheld from each withdrawal or annuity payment you receive.
How long does my withdrawal take?
How long will it take to get my first Plan 3 payments? The timing is dependent on a few things. Because Plan 3 has a pension and an investment part, withdrawals from your accounts are separate and have unique timeline factors. The type of withdrawal you choose will also affect your payout timeline. When you complete your request, you’ll receive information specific to your withdrawal type.
Investment withdrawals (your contributions)
The investment portion (your contributions) you pay into has investment shares with valuation time periods that vary by the investment program you selected. If you’ve already left service and your employer has electronically uploaded your separation date, the following timelines will apply. It could take an additional 30 days beyond the timeframes given below if your employer hasn’t reported your separation to DRS. Plan 3 members have two investment programs to choose from and you can transfer your contributions from one fund to the other.
Self-Directed Investment Program (1 to 31 business days)
For lump-sum payments, investment shares are redeemed daily. If your documents are accepted by 1 pm Pacific Time, your payment is issued the next business day. For scheduled payments, investment shares are redeemed between the first and 27th of every month, and payments are issued on the first or 15th of each month.
WSIB Investment Program TAP Fund (6-8 weeks)
If your funds were invested in the WSIB TAP fund you should expect to receive them 6-8 weeks after your request. Your request for payment and separation date from your employer must be received by the third to last business day of the month to meet the cutoff for the monthly pricing the following month, with payment being made at the start of the month after that.
WSIB withdrawal timeline example:
- March 10 – You separate employment and request a withdrawal from your Plan 3 account which is invested in the WSIB TAP fund.
- March 23 – Your employer notifies DRS that you have separated employment (DRS then notifies Voya, the Plan 3 record keeper). Since both your request and your separation date have been received your request for withdrawal is in good order prior to the third to last business day of the month.
- April 13 – The WSIB TAP price is applied to calculate the value of your shares to determine the number of shares sold and/or value of your account. This happens on the 10th business day of the month—the date could vary with weekend timing.
- May 3-10 – Your payment is issued. Depending on the form of your payment (paper check or direct deposit) will affect the exact date you receive your payment.
Why is the WSIB TAP fund calculated monthly?
The fund contains slower moving assets, such as real estate. These assets increase the total diversity of the fund, but it takes more time to assess the value.
Under certain emergency conditions, you can expedite the timing of this withdrawal. Contact the record keeper to find out more 888-327-5596.
Frequently asked questions about Plan 3 withdrawals
Can I withdraw from Plan 3 while employed?
No. If you submit an investment withdrawal request while you are still employed, the request will be held for up to 180 days until we receive a separation date from your employer. Once you separate, the withdrawal will be processed.
What about loans or borrowing from my Plan 3 account? Per federal regulations, borrowing from your account is not permitted. See loans or borrowing for more information.
Does Plan 3 offer hardship withdrawals?
No. Plan 3 does not allow any withdrawals while you are employed, including hardship withdrawals. If you separate from Plan 3-covered employment, you can withdraw your investment contributions at any time. See “how long does my withdrawal take” below for more information about withdrawal processing timelines. If you have a DCP account, an Unforeseeable Emergency Withdrawal may be possible under certain criteria. To discuss the requirements and obtain an Unforeseeable Emergency Withdrawal Packet, contact a DCP representative at 888-327-5596.
Does Plan 3 allow loans or borrowing?
No. Due to Internal Revenue Service regulations regarding government pension plans, none of the state retirement pension plans allow for loans or borrowing from your contributions. Retirement plan members, you can only access the funds you’ve contributed if you have separated employment from a DRS-covered employer.
What if I leave Plan 3 covered employment before I am eligible to retire?
The pension part of your plan is designed to provide you with a source of income throughout your retirement. For this reason, you cannot withdraw the contributions your employer makes to this part of your plan.
- If you have at least 20 years of service credit when you leave employment and do not start to receive your pension, it will increase by approximately 3% for each year you delay receiving it up to age 65 (this is called indexing and is exclusively available to Plan 3).
- If you have at least 10 years of service credit and you’re age 65, you can retire with a full benefit.
- If you have at least five years of service credit, you can retire at age 65 with a full benefit if you earned at least one of your five years of service credit after age 44.
As a Plan 3 member, it is possible to withdraw your contributions and investment earnings from your defined contribution part any time after leaving Plan 3-covered employment. However, if you do withdraw early, you reduce an important source of your retirement income.
How is my withdrawal taxed?
You will pay federal income tax for withdrawals from both your Plan 3 pension and investment accounts. The withdrawal request you complete will include tax information specific to your withdrawal type. Here is some general information about withdrawals.
Investment withdrawals (your contributions)
If you choose a direct rollover, except for a Roth IRA, you are not taxed until you later take payment out of the traditional IRA or the eligible employer plan. Taxes will continue to be deferred.
The IRS requires a 20% tax withholding on any lump-sum withdrawal or if your installment payment plan is expected to last less than 10 years. This means that if you decide to withdraw $10,000 all at once, you will be sent a check for $8,000. The remaining $2,000 will be sent to the IRS. If your installment payments will last longer, you might decide what you would like withheld by completing a form IRS W-4P.
If you receive a payment before you reach age 59½, and you do not roll over your defined contribution funds, you might have to pay an additional tax equal to 10% of the taxable portion of the payment when you file your taxes. Visit the IRS website for more information. If you complete your investment account withdrawal online, you’ll also receive a real-time estimate of your tax withholding. For tax advice, you should consult an accountant, qualified financial advisor, or the Internal Revenue Service.
Pension benefit (employer contributions)
Your monthly pension payments will have standard income tax deducted. We do not deduct any individual state tax, no matter where you live.
For more information about withdrawing from your Plan 3 investment account, contact the DRS record keeper.
Returning to public service
If you leave your position, withdraw your contributions and later return to SERS work, you can restore your Plan 3 contributions at any time unless you waived your pension benefit.
A dual member, or someone who belongs to more than one retirement system, might be able to restore service credit earned in a retirement system other than SERS. Each time you become a dual member, you’ll have 24 months to restore service credit earned in a previous retirement system. It might still be possible to purchase service credit after the deadline has passed. However, the cost in that case is considerably higher.
To explore financial projections and comparisons of your estimated retirement benefits, try using the Plan Choice Calculator.
Retired? See working after retirement.
Missing or withdrawn service credit
Missing or withdrawn service credit
Service credit is the time used to calculate your pension retirement income. Sometimes customers notice their service credit doesn’t match their seniority date—these times do not always match. Often, the difference is because of missing or withdrawn service credit. You may be eligible to purchase some or all of the missing credit. Here is what you need to know about the process.
How do I check my service credit?
View your complete service credit history through your online account. It is a good practice to check your service credit every few years to be sure it matches your expectations.
Contact DRS for a cost estimate
You will need to contact DRS to request a cost for restoring your credit. We are not able to provide an estimate when you call. Similar to a retirement benefit estimate, this cost must be calculated by DRS and may require information from your employer.
You’ll need this information
The following preparation can expedite your request:
Provide the dates for the missing service. Find your service credit history in your online account.
Let us know if there is a gap in your service credit or if you withdrew from your account.
- If there is a gap in your service credit, do you know why? Were there any special circumstances around your employment at the time? Some common events for missing credit include: authorized leave of absence, childbirth, substitute teaching, temporary duty disability, or injury.
- If you withdrew from your account, when did you pull out the contributions?
How do I pay?
Make direct payment with either a personal or cashier’s check. Or in many cases it’s also possible to transfer funds from another eligible retirement account to purchase service credit. However, DRS cannot accept funds in excess of the cost to make your purchase. Check with your account administrator to see if you can transfer those dollars to a 401(a) account type.
There is a deadline
You must request and purchase the missing service within the timeframe allowed for your plan. The amount of time varies by plan. Ask DRS about your options for purchase. If the deadline has passed, you may still have the option to purchase additional service credit as an annuity option when you retire. This purchase will not restore missing time, but it would be used in your retirement payment calculation.
Working after retirement
How will your retirement income be affected if you return to work? It depends on where you work and how many hours.
You fully separate from employment
You must separate from employment. This means you must wait at least 30 consecutive days after your effective retirement date before returning to work and not have any pre-arranged agreement to return to work before retiring. If you return to work for a DRS-covered employer in any capacity before 30 days have passed, your benefit will be reduced.
If you return to work for a DRS-covered employer before your effective retirement date, your retirement application will be cancelled and you will continue to make member contributions.
How many hours are you working?
If you’re going to work less than 867 hours in a calendar year, your benefit won’t be affected. If you return to work for an employer covered by one of the state retirement systems in a DRS eligible position, your benefit could be affected if you work more than 867 hours per year. Your employer can tell you whether your position is eligible.
Working for a non-DRS covered employer
Unless you’ve been approved for a disability retirement, you can return to work for an employer not covered by a Washington state retirement system without affecting your monthly benefit.
Are you under age 65?
If you are under age 65 and retired under the 2008 ERF, your benefit is suspended during any months you are paid by a DRS-covered employer unless the position qualifies for an exemption described below. If you are over 65 and retired under the 2008 ERF, your benefit would follow normal return to work rules based on your position and hours worked.
Exceptions for nursing positions and school districts
New state laws allow some retirees to return to work up to 1,040 hours without affecting pension benefits. See the new exceptions.
See a live or recorded working after retirement webinar.
Members of more than one retirement plan
If you are a member of more than one Washington state retirement system, you are a dual member. You can combine service credit earned in all dual member systems to become eligible for retirement. However, your retirement benefit will be calculated using only the service credit earned in each system.
In most cases, your monthly benefit will be based on the highest base salary you earned, regardless of which system you earned it in. Base salary includes your wages and overtime and can include other cash payments if those payments are included as base salary in all the retirement systems you are retiring from.
If you retire at age 65 with three years of service credit from SERS Plan 3 and four from the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) Plan 3, you are a dual member. Without dual membership, your service wouldn’t be eligible for a monthly benefit from either system. With dual membership, your service credit is combined, giving you enough to retire. Your benefit from each system is calculated with service from that system alone. This is how your benefit is calculated:
1% x 3 (SERS service credit years) x Average Final Compensation (AFC) = SERS benefit
1% x 4 (PERS service credit years) x AFC = PERS benefit
SERS benefit + PERS benefit = total monthly benefit
See a live or recorded membership in multiple plans webinar.
Do you have U.S. military service? If you leave or reduce your DRS retirement plan-covered employment to serve in the military, you could be eligible for restoration of missing retirement service credit. The amount of service credit you have directly affects your retirement income calculation.
There is a deadline
You must complete payment for the military service credit within five years of returning to DRS-covered employment, or before you retire, whichever comes first. After this time has passed, and if the service does not qualify for no-cost service, you will no longer be eligible to replace the service credit using the military credit program. However, you can still purchase the service credit for a much higher cost as an optional bill past the statutory deadline date up to the time you retire (RCW 41.50.165). The longer you wait, the more it costs.
How much will it cost?
You can apply to recover up to five years of interruptive military service credit (sometimes up to 10 years depending on your circumstance). If your military service was during a period of war or an armed conflict during which you earned a campaign badge or medal, you might be able to recover up to five years of service credit at no cost to you.
For other interruptive military service, you can apply to receive an optional bill for the retirement contributions you would have paid on your normal salary during that time. However, you must pay your optional bill within five years after you return to work, and you must be working for the same employer you left to serve in the military. If you don’t pay the bill within five years, you might still be able to purchase the service credit, but at a much higher cost.
How do I apply?
Contact DRS about a month and a half after you return to work to ask about recovering military service credit. You will then submit information, such as a copy of your DD214 service record, to help us determine your eligibility. DRS will review your account as well as the information you provide and notify you of our findings, including an optional bill if applicable. This usually takes 2-3 weeks.
Other ways to increase your retirement
Depending on the type of funds you have available, DRS has a couple of annuity purchase options to increase your monthly pension amount.
Marriage or divorce
Your retirement account can be affected by changes in your marital status. If you marry or divorce before you retire, you need to update your beneficiary, even if your beneficiary remains the same.
If you are married when you retire, you choose from a few benefit options that can include retirement income coverage for your spouse if you die before them. See options for changing your benefit after retirement.
If you marry after retirement, you could be eligible to change your benefit option to add your spouse. You need to be married at least a year and request DRS add your spouse during your second year of marriage. See options for changing your benefit after retirement.
If you become widowed after retiring, you can have your benefit option changed to the single-life option with no survivor reduction. You will need to report the death to DRS.
Contact DRS for more information.
Divorce or separation
Upon divorce or separation, your monthly benefit is not subject to sharing or division unless it is court-ordered. DRS could be required to pay a portion of your retirement account to satisfy a divorce agreement. This order is called a property division. The order could award an interest in your account to your ex-spouse, or split your account into two separate accounts.
For questions about a property division, or to start the process, contact DRS.
For further research on property orders, see WAC 415-02-500.
IRS federal taxes or limits on your benefit
Federal taxes on your benefit
Most, if not all, of your benefit will be subject to federal income tax. The only exception will be any portion that was taxed before it was contributed. When you retire, we will let you know if any portion of your contributions has already been taxed.
Since most public employers deduct contributions before taxes, it’s likely your entire retirement benefit will be taxable.
At retirement, you must complete and submit an IRS W-4P form to let us know how much of your benefit should be withheld for taxes. If you don’t, DRS is required to withhold federal taxes as if you are single with no adjustments. To adjust your IRS tax withholding amount after retirement, log in to your online account or mail a new W-4P form to DRS.
For each tax year you receive a retirement benefit, we will provide you with a 1099-R form to use in preparing your tax return (see 1099-R). These forms are usually mailed at the end of January for the previous year. The information is also available through your online account.
It is your responsibility to declare the proper amount of taxable income on your income tax return.
Federal benefit limits for high income members
If you are a highly paid member or retiree, you may encounter a federal limit on your retirement benefit. There are two federal regulations that could limit benefits for highly paid members and retirees. The salary limit (which restricts the salary used to determine your benefit) and the benefit limit (which limits the annual benefit amount you can receive). In other words, federal law limits the amount of compensation you can pay retirement system contributions on, and that can be used in your benefit calculations. The IRS can adjust the amount each year.
2023 salary limit
The 2023 limit is $330,000. This means any salary you earn over this amount in 2023 will not be part of your retirement contributions or your pension calculation. See the following section for more information on how this limit applies to you.
Internal Revenue Salary Limit for Active Members
If you began public service before 1/1/96
- You don’t have a salary limit
- You pay contributions on all salary earned
- DRS does not adjust your Average Final Compensation for limit testing purposes
- Your pension calculation is not affected by salary limits
- IRC section 415(b) requires that your annual benefit must not exceed the limit. If you don’t exceed the benefit limit at the time you retire, it is still possible that your benefit may be affected at a later date.
If you began public service on or after 1/1/96
- The current year salary limit applies (see above)
- The salary limit is the same for all members and is adjusted annually by the IRS
- If you reach the salary limit in a calendar year, you stop paying contributions
- DRS notifies your employer when you approach the salary limit
- Your Annual Final Compensation is capped for limit testing purposes if it includes the years you exceeded the salary limit
- Your pension calculation is affected by salary limits
How do survivors or beneficiaries impact the limit?
Does my benefit amount change for my survivor beneficiary after I die?
No. If you chose to provide for a survivor beneficiary, and you die before your survivor does, your benefit transitions to your survivor at the rate you chose (100%, 50% or 67%). After the transition, your survivor’s benefit will also be tested.
What happens if my survivor beneficiary dies before I do?
If your survivor beneficiary dies before you do, your benefit increases as if you hadn’t chosen a survivor option. If your survivor beneficiary was your spouse or domestic partner, we will continue to use your original benefit amount in your annual testing. If your survivor beneficiary was not your spouse or domestic partner, we will use your new, higher limit amount in your annual testing.
More information about federal limits
The IRS characterizes the retirement systems as 401(a) defined benefit plans. To retain status as qualified plans, the systems must comply with federal regulations. For more information about salary limit regulations, see Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 401(a)(17). For more about benefit limit regulations, see IRC 415(b).
For more information see these IRS resources:
More about SERS Plan 3
Selecting a beneficiary
The beneficiary information you give DRS tells us the person(s) you want to receive your remaining benefit, if any, after your death. Submit or update your beneficiary information at any time before retirement using your online account. Or you can submit a paper beneficiary form.
If you don’t submit this information, any benefits due will be paid to your surviving spouse or minor child. If you don’t have a surviving spouse or minor child, we will pay your estate.
Be sure to review your beneficiary designation periodically and update it in your online retirement account if you need to make a change. If you marry, divorce or have another significant change in your life, be sure to update your beneficiary designation because these life events might invalidate your previous choices.
State-registered domestic partners, according to RCW 26.60.010, have the same survivor and death benefits as married spouses. Contact the Secretary of State’s Office if you have questions about domestic partnerships.
Your retirement benefit options
When you apply for retirement, you will choose one of the four benefit options shown below. Once you retire, you can change your option only under limited circumstances.
Option 1: Single Life
This option pays the highest monthly amount of the four choices, but it is for your lifetime only. No one will receive an ongoing benefit after you die. If you die before the benefit you have received equals your contributions plus interest (as of the date of your retirement), the difference will be paid in a lump sum to your designated beneficiary.
Option 2: Joint and 100% survivor
Your monthly benefit under this option is less than the Single Life Option. But after your death, your survivor will receive the same benefit you were receiving for their lifetime.
Option 3: Joint and 50% survivor
This option applies a smaller reduction to your monthly benefit than Option 2. After your death, your survivor will receive half the benefit you were receiving for their lifetime.
Option 4: Joint and 66.67% survivor
This option applies a smaller reduction to your benefit than Option 2 and a larger reduction than Option 3. After your death, your survivor will receive 66.67% (or roughly two-thirds) of the benefit you were receiving for their lifetime.
If you have a spouse, legally separated spouse or registered domestic partner, your spouse must give consent if you: Choose Single Life Option 1 or name someone other than your spouse as your survivor. If spousal consent is required and you are unable to provide it, your application could be delayed. You will need to notify DRS, and an Option 3 benefit will be paid to you with your spouse designated to receive the survivor benefit.
Proof of age
If you choose a survivor benefit option, you must send a copy of a proof-of-age document when you apply for retirement. Only documents listed here can be accepted as proof of age. The document must include the month, day and year of birth.
- Birth Certificate
- Passport/Passport Card
- Government-Issued Driver License
- Government-Issued Identification (ID) Card
- NEXUS Card
- Global Entry Card
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Certificate of Armed Services Record — US DD-214
See a live or recorded benefit options webinar.
Health insurance options
Ask your employer if you will be eligible for health insurance coverage through the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) once you retire. You can also call the Health Care Authority at 800-200-1004 or visit hca.wa.gov.
If you qualify for continuing coverage after retirement, you must meet strict timelines to apply or request a deferral. If you are not entitled to PEBB coverage, you might be eligible for health insurance your employer provides. For more information, consult your employer.
Visit the health care page for more resources.
In general, you are automatically a member of SERS if you are hired into an eligible position. A SERS-eligible position is normally compensated for at least 70 hours of work per month for at least five months of each year and the employer is a Washington state public school district or educational service district.
Enrollment in your specific SERS plan (Plan 2 or Plan 3) depends on additional conditions, including your hire date and the plan you chose at the time you first went to work for a DRS-covered employer.
Some employees might satisfy the basic membership criteria but be ineligible for other reasons. If one of the following applies to you, please contact us to determine whether you are eligible for SERS:
- You are a member of, or have retired from, another public retirement system in Washington state.
- You work for a college or university and belong to that entity’s retirement plan.
- You signed a student waiver while employed by a college or university.
- You provide professional services on a fee, retainer or contract basis and the income you receive from those services is less than 50% of gross income for work performed in that profession.
- You work for the city of Seattle, Spokane or Tacoma, or you are an elected or appointed official of one of these cities.
- You are enrolled in a state-approved apprenticeship program, employed to earn hours for completing the program, and are making contributions to a union-sponsored or Taft-Hartley retirement plan.
If you are a classified substitute, your SERS membership is optional. If you are an elected or appointed official, your SERS membership might be optional.
If you have ever been a member in another of Washington’s public service plans, it is important that you contact us to confirm your eligibility and discuss your retirement options.
A substitute is an employee of a school district or Educational Service District (ESD) who is employed exclusively as a substitute for an absent employee or working in an ineligible position. As a classified substitute, your membership in the School Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) is optional.
Am I eligible to obtain service credit?
To become eligible for membership if you’ve never been a SERS member, you must work as a classified substitute for 70 or more hours per month for at least five months of a school year. Existing members don’t need to meet the hours requirement.
When can I apply for service credit?
Once the school year is over, you can apply for service credit and request a bill beginning in September of the next school year. To avoid paying interest on the contributions, submit your application between September and February of the school year following the one in which you worked.
For example, if you worked during the 2016-17 school year, submit your application between September and February of the 2017-18 school year. If your payment is received after the last day of February, you will be charged interest on the employer contributions. (Plan 2 must also pay interest on the member contributions.)
Your SERS membership officially will begin on the date your substitute bill is paid in full. For existing members, your membership began on either the date your first substitute bill was paid in full or when you were first hired into a SERS-eligible position.
I’m eligible and want to receive service credit. What should I do now?
Follow the steps below.
- Apply by completing this form. If you are a new member, carefully consider whether you want to join Plan 2 or Plan 3, which you will choose on the Member Information Form for Substitutes on pages 4-5. Your choice is permanent. Find out more in choose a plan.
- Send in copies of any quarterly reports for the 2003-04 school year, if applicable. For more recent years, each employer you work for during the school year reports your hours and earnings to the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS). However, they don’t deduct contributions from your pay. You may not purchase service credit for substitute time before July 27, 2003.
- DRS will process your request. This step can take up to 10 days from the date we receive your forms and any additional documentation. If approved, DRS will send you a substitute bill.
- Pay your bill in full.
When will I receive a bill?
Once DRS receives your application materials, we will look up the amount of service credit you are eligible to buy. Then we will send you a bill for the amount due.
Once you pay your bill in full, we will apply the service credit to your account. View your service credit balance in your online account.
How can I submit my payment?
Payment must be made in a full lump sum. You can make a direct payment with a personal check or cashier’s check. You can transfer funds from another of your eligible retirement accounts to purchase service credit.
The IRS classifies DRS plans as 401(a) accounts.
Will I owe interest on my bill?
The interest-free period lasts from September through February of the school year after the one for which you’re seeking service credit.
If your payment is received after the last day of February, you will be charged interest on employer contributions. Plan 2 members will also be charged interest on the member contributions.
Must I submit quarterly reports?
You must submit a quarterly report only if you are purchasing service credit for the 2003-04 school year. For more recent years, each employer you work for during the school year reports your hours and earnings to DRS.
Quarterly reports must show the exact hours you worked as well as the compensation you earned each month. Your employer must sign the reports too.
What if I previously withdrew my SERS contributions?
If you were previously a member of SERS Plan 2 and withdrew your contributions, you can reestablish your membership.
To reestablish membership in Plan 2, you must work as a substitute for five months for at least 70 or more hours per month during a school year.
Complete the Substitute’s Application for Service Credit to receive a bill.
If you are a Plan 3 member and withdrew your defined contributions, you can continue to apply for service credit in Plan 3.
Is buying substitute service credit my best option?
Typically, yes. However, if you’re age 65 or older and vested, purchasing your current substitute service credit might not be your best choice. Please call DRS to discuss your options.
Elected or appointed official
As an elected or governor-appointed official, you are eligible to join a state retirement plan. To earn service credit, most elected positions need to earn at least 90 times the state minimum wage each month. Or you can participate if you are already working in another position with a DRS retirement plan.
To enroll or opt out, complete this membership form. You can enroll at any time during your elected or appointed service. Your contributions will continue until you separate from employment.
Your contributions and retirement benefit
- See contribution amounts.
- See retirement benefit calculation.
How service is calculated
- State elected officials earn one full credit for each month worked, regardless of hours worked.
- Governor-appointed and local elected officials need to earn 90 times the state minimum wage and then service credit will be based on the standard rules of the plan—full credit is applied when you work at least 90 hours in a month, with partial credit for fewer hours.
Can you purchase credit for past terms?
You can purchase a maximum of two years credit for past elected terms.
What if you retired from a DRS plan before you were elected or appointed?
You can choose to remain retired or you can return to active membership.
- Remaining retired: You will be subject to the standard retiree return to work rules for your plan.
- Returning to membership: This will stop your ongoing benefit, but resume your contributions and service credit accumulation for a larger benefit when you reapply for retirement.
Can you retire with a DRS pension and still receive monthly payments while in an elected position?
In some cases, yes, but your elected official income will need to fall under a limit. This is important to know if your elected position extends beyond retirement. Contact us for more information.
For additional assistance, contact the Elected Official Team at 800-547-6657, extension 47966.
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