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Wisconsin Retirement System Benefits Summary

The Department of Employee Trust Funds administers a number of benefit programs available through Wisconsin public employers. Most government employers in Wisconsin other than the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County participate in the WRS. WRS employers may also elect to offer various insurance programs offered through ETF.

The following types of benefits are available through the WRS:

  • Separation Benefits. If you terminate employment and apply for a benefit before age 55 (50 for participants with some protective category service) you will receive a separation benefit. A separation benefit is a lump sum payment of your employee required contributions plus accrued interest. If you are not vested in the WRS a separation benefit is payable regardless of your age.

  • Retirement Benefits. A retirement benefit is available to vested WRS employees after you terminate employment and have reached age 55 (50 for participants with some protective category service). Retirement benefits are based on both employee and employer contributions, and are usually paid as a monthly annuity payable to you for life.
  • Disability Benefits. If you become permanently and totally disabled while employed under the WRS you may qualify for disability benefits.
  • Death Benefits. If you die before you begin receiving a WRS retirement or disability annuity a death benefit will be payable from your WRS account. If you die as an "inactive" WRS participant (you are not currently employed in a position covered under the WRS, but have not taken a benefit from your WRS account), death benefits usually consist of employee required contributions plus accrued interest, and in certain cases may include some employer contributions. If you die while employed in a position covered under the WRS, the death benefit will include both employee and employer contributions.Once a WRS annuity begins any death benefit payable is based on the annuity option you selected when you retired.
  • Additional Contributions. As long as you remain employed under the WRS you may make additional contributions to your WRS account. Additional contributions earn the annual effective rates of interest.

  • Federal Limits on Benefits & Contributions. The Internal Revenue Code provides dollar limits on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans, which are adjusted annually for cost of living increases. There may be other factors that affect the limits on your benefits and contributions. If you believe your benefit may be affected by these limits, please contact ETF.
  • Buying Creditable Service. While you are actively employed under the WRS you may be eligible to buy creditable WRS service, which will increase the benefits for which you are eligible when you terminate employment. There are only certain types of service that you can buy, and the most common are your six-month qualifying period (applies only to non-teachers who began WRS employment before 1973) and WRS service forfeited by withdrawing your employee contributions.

  • How Divorce Can Affect Your WRS Account. If your marriage is legally terminated, the court can award up to 50% of your WRS account or annuity to your former spouse through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A WRS account or annuity can be divided if the divorce occurred after January 1, 1982.


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