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Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds
Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds
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Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds

Q&AStatement of Benefits FAQ

<< Statement of Benefits Home

 

Members

Jump to: General | Section 1 - Earnings & Service | Section 2 - Years of Creditable Service

Section 3 - Employee Required Contributions | Section 4 - Additional Contributions | Section 5 - Primary Beneficiary Designation(s)

Section 6 - Separation Benefit | Section 7 - Death Benefit | Section 8 - Formula Benefit Data |

Section 9 - Money Purchase Benefit | Section 10 - Retirement Benefit Projections

General

Your Annual Statement of Benefits is a summary of your year-end Wisconsin Retirement System account information.

Statements are distributed in mid-April.

Inactive members will receive their statements in the mail.

Active employees will receive their statement directly from their most recent Wisconsin Retirement System employer.

Active UW employees will receive their statements electronically through the UW system.

Retired members will not receive a statement, unless they still have additional contributions in their WRS account(s).

Central Payroll employees and approximately 800 individuals who work for the UW system will receive their statements in the mail.

All members who have worked or are currently working in an eligible position for a WRS employer who have a balance in a WRS account. This includes retirees who have not yet taken a benefit from the additional contributions remaining in their WRS account.

Alternate payees also receive a statement if they have a WRS account that has been divided pursuant to a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).

Carefully review your statement as soon as you receive it. The statement reflects your WRS account information as of January 1, 2017.

It's important to note that there are strict time limits that apply to any applicable corrections or appeals.

File your statement in a safe place for future reference.

To ensure that you continue to receive important, time-sensitive notifications about your Wisconsin Retirement System account, keep your mailing address, email and telephone number up to date.

Active employees (currently working for a WRS employer): Notify your employer of the correction.

Inactive employees and alternate payees: Complete an Address/Name Change (ET-2815) form (available as a PDF or Word document), send a secure email or call ETF toll-free at 1-877-533-5020.

Active employees (currently working for a WRS employer): If you believe an error has been made, contact your employer's payroll office. Your employer will report any needed corrections to ETF. If your employer is unable to resolve your concerns, send your request in writing to: Department of Employee Trust Funds, P.O. Box 7931, Madison, WI 53707-7931.

Inactive employees and alternate payees: If you believe an error has been made, contact ETF.

To be considered valid, your application must be completed, received, signed and have an effective date prior to your date of death.

If you took a retirement or separation benefit in the last year, you will not receive a statement of benefits for the partial year of earnings and service. Retirees receiving a monthly annuity payment will not receive a statement of benefits. Make sure that your address remains up to date with ETF prior to the mailing of statements of benefits in April.

Section 1 - Earnings & Service

If you are a teacher, judge or educational support staff, your statement shows your service and earnings for the full previous fiscal year (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016). In addition, your statement shows the first half of the current fiscal year (July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016).

The second half of the current fiscal year (January 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017) will be reflected on your next years' statement.

The earnings and service listed on your statement is that of your former spouse or domestic partner. These figures are listed on your statement because they are relevant factors for calculating a formula benefit when you apply for a retirement benefit.

This can happen when you have service in more than one employment category.

Section 2 - Years of Creditable Service

The hours you actually work are divided by the required hours applicable to your employment category. To earn a full year of service credit, the required hours for a teacher must be at least 1,320 hours, and all other employees must be at least 1,904 hours.

Based on Wis. Statute 40.02(17), WRS members cannot earn credit for more than one year of creditable service in a given calendar or fiscal year, regardless of the hours worked.

Your creditable service may be less than expected if you worked part time, took an unpaid leave of absence or your account was split by a court order related to a divorce or separation.

Eligible military service credit prior to January 1, 1974 and earned before you became covered by the WRS is not shown because it is not credited until you apply for a retirement or disability benefit.

Depending on the date you purchased the service, it may not have been credited to your account prior to the statements being printed.

Section 3 - Employee Required Contributions

Investment in contract is the amount of employee contributions that you made to your WRS account using post-tax dollars. This could also include monies paid for the purchase of service. You will not pay taxes on these contributions when you receive your retirement benefit.

If there is no information in the Variable Fund portions of your statement, it means that you do not currently participate in the Variable Trust Fund.

Section 4 - Additional Contributions

Currently, additional contributions are made “post-tax”, though some employees did make “pre-tax” additional contributions in the past.  Post-tax employee additional contributions are reflected as the “Investment in Contract” amount. 

Any “pre-tax” additional contributions are taxed after you terminate all WRS employment and receive a WRS Benefit. These are not reflected in the “Investment in Contract” amount. 

Section 5 - Primary Beneficiary Designation(s) for WRS Required Account

Your statement only shows your primary beneficiary designation(s) added after 1988. Secondary and tertiary beneficiaries are not listed, but are on file with ETF.

Your statement may not show any beneficiary designation for a few different reasons, such as:

  • You never filed a beneficiary designation with ETF.
  • You may have filed your beneficiary designation prior to 1988. This will not appear on your statement, but is on record with ETF.
  • ETF may not have received or accepted your beneficiary designation prior to printing the statement.

You may add, change or remove beneficiaries at any time by completing a Beneficiary Designation (ET-2320) or Beneficiary Designation-Alternate (ET-2321) form, available on the publications page or by contacting ETF.

Specialty beneficiaries such as a trust may not be listed because of the specific format. Your statement will reflect that message and note that your designation was accepted and placed in your file.

You may add, change or remove beneficiaries at any time by completing a Beneficiary Designation (ET-2320) or Beneficiary Designation-Alternate (ET-2321) form, available on the publications page or by contacting ETF.

Section 6 - Separation Benefits

A separation benefit is a payout of your employee-required contributions, plus any additional contributions (if applicable) and interest. It does not include the employer-required contributions. A separation benefit closes your Wisconsin Retirement System account. If you are vested and take a separation benefit, you forfeit all rights to a retirement benefit based on the employer contributions and your WRS service earned before the separation benefit.

You are eligible for a lump sum separation benefit if you leave all WRS employment, and you are not vested or you apply before your minimum retirement age. Minimum retirement age is age 55, or age 50 if you have some protective category service that is not purchased forfeited service.

You may have to meet one of two vesting laws depending on when you first began WRS employment:

  • If you first began WRS employment after 1989 and left employment before April 24, 1998, then you must have some WRS-creditable service in five calendar years; or
  • If you first began WRS employment on or after July 1, 2011, you must have five years of WRS-creditable service.

If neither vesting law applies, you were vested when you first began WRS employment. If you are vested, you may receive a retirement benefit at age 55 (age 50 for protective category participants) once you leave all WRS employment. If you are not vested, you may only receive a separation benefit, regardless of your age.

Section 7 - Death Benefit

An active death benefit will be paid if you die while employed in a Wisconsin Retired System-covered position. A higher formula death benefit may be payable if you are an active WRS employee and are minimum retirement age when you die. An active employee’s beneficiary(ies) is entitled to this benefit regardless of vesting requirements.

An inactive death benefit will be paid if you are no longer working in a WRS-covered position and have not yet received a WRS benefit when you die.

Section 8 - Formula Benefit Data

If you participate in the Variable Trust Fund, you'll see a Variable excess or deficiency amount listed. This amount represents the amount that your account is either "ahead" or "behind" when compared to what your account value would be if you never participated in the Variable Fund. This excess or deficiency is used in the formula benefit calculation at retirement and will either increase or decrease your benefit.

A formula retirement benefit is calculated based on:

  • Your three highest years of WRS earnings. The years do not need to be consecutive nor your three most recent years.
  • Your final average monthly earnings (FAE). Your FAE is calculated by adding the total earnings in your three highest years, dividing the total by the total service credited for those three years, then dividing the result by 12.
Any Variable Fund excess/deficiency as of January 1, 2017. What is a variable excess or deficiency?

Section 9 - Retirement Benefit Projections

Your money purchase balance is the total value of both the employee-required contributions, plus the equal amount of the employer-matching contributions in your account.

  • Your money purchase benefit is calculated by multiplying your total account balance (including interest) by the money purchase factor for your age.
  • In 2017, this balance is only available as a lump sum retirement benefit if the monthly amount is less than $401.

Section 10 - Retirement Benefit Projections

In order to project a retirement benefit, you must meet the vesting requirement. Your estimated payment must be at or above the 2017 minimum of $196. ETF is also unable to project retirement benefits for alternate payees or reestablished accounts.

You may also use the Retirement Benefits Calculator to estimate your future retirement benefit. If you are within one year of your minimum retirement age (age 55, or age 50 if you have protective category service) and are vested, you may contact ETF to obtain a Retirement Benefit Estimate and Application (ET-4301).

You may want to consider applying for a retirement benefit as soon as you are eligible, regardless of your current employment status or income. While delaying your retirement benefit may increase your monthly annuity, you should consider how long it will take to recover the monthly payments and annual increases lost by waiting to begin receiving a benefit. Additionally, if you die before you begin a retirement benefit, the death benefit will be approximately half of your total account balance because you will forfeit the matching employer contributions and interest.

Federal law imposes tax penalties if you do not apply for your retirement benefit before December 31 of the year in which you reach age 69 ½, unless you are still working under the WRS. Active WRS employees older than age 69 ½, must apply within 30 days after ending your employment. If you die before applying, your surviving spouse must apply before December 31 of the year in which you would have reached 69 ½. If no application is received, ETF must make a forced distribution in the year that you reach (or would have reached) age 70 ½.

You may apply for a benefit at any time, regardless of your age or employment status. However, the type of benefit available is dependent on the age of the original member from whom you received the account.

If the original member is under age 55 (or age 50 and has some protective employment):

  • The alternate payee can apply for a separation benefit until the member reaches age 55 (age 50 if protective). A separation benefit only includes the employee and additional contributions (if any), plus accrued interest. Employer contributions and all associated service are forfeited. The alternate payee should carefully consider the consequences of taking a separation benefit. The alternate payee would forfeit all rights to a future retirement benefit when the member is eligible for a retirement benefit.

If the original member is age 55 or older (or age 50 with some protective employment):

  • The alternate payee can apply for a retirement benefit if the member is vested. Retirement benefits are based on the full account value and are calculated using both the formula and money purchase methods, and automatically pays the higher of the two calculations.

You can also refer to the Interactive Statement of Benefits for more assistance.