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WRS News Online Vol. 2, No. 4 - November 2016

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ETF is Going Virtual!

The Department of Employee Trust Funds is piloting virtual retirement appointments as another way for you to meet face-to-face with an ETF benefits specialist. These secure, online appointments are convenient, personalized and easy, using GoToMeeting technology.

All you need is a computer or laptop, your telephone, and an internet connection. Click on a link and a benefits specialist will walk you through the rest of the steps. It's that simple! Together, you will review your retirement estimate and application, discuss annuity options and the retirement process, and address all of your questions.

Note: Because your personal information will be discussed, we recommend that you find a quiet, private location for the virtual appointment - such as your home, an office or a conference room.

Find out whether a virtual retirement appointment is right for you - contact ETF at 1-877-533-5020 or send an email.

For more educational opportunities, visit the Member Education page.

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Take ETF's Financial Fitness Challenge

Picture Yourself Financially Fit

Financial Fitness

Who doesn't love the fun of taking a great "selfie"? But have you ever focused on something just as important: Your own financial well-being?

The Department of Employee Trust Funds is offering the Financial Fitness Challenge 2016, October 25 through December 31, to all Wisconsin Retirement System employees. The challenge is a confidential, 10-minute online survey that will teach you about your levels of financial knowledge, self-confidence, stresses and behaviors. Plus, you'll get free online tutorials and free financial coaching!

Take Control - Start and Finish the Challenge in 3 Easy Steps

Step 1. Get centered: Take the free Financial Fitness CHECKUP. It's a confidential, and secure online assessment of your financial well-being. Receive instant feedback - your personal Financial Fitness SCORE.

Step 2. Sharpen focus: Enroll in the free online Financial Fitness ACADEMY. Based on your Financial Fitness SCORE, you will be presented with recommendations for tailored, online learning tutorials (a $200 value). You can access the academy for 12 months after completion of the checkup. Using the tutorials can help improve your financial fitness. The tutorials cover topics such as debt management, budgeting, investments, and retirement planning.

Step 3. Zoom in on a bright future: If you need help with any of the tasks or topics you are trying to accomplish or learn, you may request to speak with a Financial Fitness ADVISOR free of charge for up to 30 days.

Don't delay, take the Financial Fitness Challenge today. Visit ETF's website for more information. You can also view our brief video on the challenge.

Stay connected! Follow ETF on Twitter and use #FinancialLiteracy to learn more about taking control and improving your financial health and wellness.

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Last Call: End-of-Year Considerations

If you are considering making any of the following decisions related to your Wisconsin Retirement System benefits, please be aware of important deadlines associated with each process:

  1. Making additional contributions
  2. Withdrawing a health insurance application/change submitted during the It's Your Choice open enrollment period
  3. Purchasing service
  4. Electing or cancelling Variable Trust Fund participation

Making Additional Contributions
Deadline: December 30, 2016

Did you know that you can make after-tax additional contributions to your WRS account to supplement your benefit? Contributions receive annual Core and Variable (if applicable) effective rates of interest and you can pay either through payroll deduction or direct pay. See our webpage showing Core Fund and Variable Fund returns, rates and adjustments since 1984.

Additional contributions can be made at any time while you are actively employed by a WRS employer, but December 30, 2016 is the deadline if you want your contribution to begin accruing interest on January 1, 2017. Additional contributions received after December 30, 2016 will not begin to accrue interest until January 1, 2018.

Withdrawing a Health Insurance Application/Change
Deadline: December 30, 2016

If you want to withdraw your recently-submitted health insurance application/change submitted during the It's Your Choice open enrollment period, you must notify your employer's benefits/payroll office in writing by December 30, 2016. ETF is the benefits/payroll office for WRS annuitants who participate in the group health insurance program.

Purchasing Service
Deadline: January 3, 2017

If you are eligible to purchase creditable service, it may be to your advantage to do so. Benefits of buying service:

  • a higher benefit if your annuity is calculated as a formula benefit; and
  • a higher special death benefit for your beneficiaries (if you die as an active employee)

The best time to purchase creditable service varies, based on individual circumstances. However, in order to buy service based on 2016 calendar year earnings at the current cost, your application and payment must be received by January 3, 2017. If your earnings are based on fiscal year earnings, changes in contribution rates will affect how much you pay. Contribution rates change each year - review the 2016 and 2017 rates for your WRS employment category here.

Variable Trust Fund Elections and Cancellations
Deadline: January 3, 2017

If you wish to either elect to participate in the Variable Fund or cancel your Variable Fund participation with an effective date of January 1, 2017, ETF must receive your election/cancellation prior to the close of business on January 3, 2017. Note: A cancellation form received by ETF via fax or as an e-mail attachment received by ETF after 4:30 pm on January 3 but before 12:00 a.m. on January 4 is still considered received on January 3.

Q. Why January 3 for Variable Fund cancellations?

A. The deadline is the last day of the year. However, when a deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, it's extended to the first working day after the deadline, per Wis. Stat. §990.001(4).

To learn more:

Review our brochures:
Buying Creditable Service (ET-4121)
Additional Contributions (ET-2123)
How Participation in the Variable Trust Fund Affects Your WRS Benefits (ET-4930)

Sign up for our live, interactive webinars and ask questions:

You can also watch recorded webinars on these topics.

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Supplement Your Retirement with WDC

couple walking

According to a national survey of American workers on retirement confidence, only 21% of Americans said they were "very confident" they could retire comfortably. What about you - are you on track to reach your retirement income goals? How can you be sure?

One way to reach your retirement income goals is to take advantage of the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation (WDC) 457(b) Program. This supplemental savings plan is an easy, inexpensive way to save for retirement via paycheck deferrals. Both traditional (pre-tax) and Roth (post-tax) options are available.

The WDC offers a free retirement readiness review that can help you determine how much you might need to save to reliably replace - for life - the income you made while working. This retirement readiness review, either with a counselor or online, will take into consideration any pensions, current retirement assets, as well as a Social Security estimate to determine if you are on track to meet your retirement income needs.

To schedule a retirement readiness review with a WDC counselor in your area, go to the WDC website, www.wdc457.org, and click on "Schedule a Meeting". You can also call 1-877-457-9327.

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Teachers: Your Vote Matters

Teachers Retirement Board Election in February

Woman and Child

Wisconsin Retirement System elementary and secondary school teachers have the opportunity to elect two members to the Teachers Retirement Board in February.

The 13-member TR Board advises the Employee Trust Funds Board on retirement and other benefit matters involving all public school, technical college, state and university teachers.

Active teacher members of the WRS (excluding those employed by the School District of Milwaukee, Wisconsin technical college system districts or the University of Wisconsin System) are eligible to vote in this election.

Three candidates are vying for two seats on the TR Board:

James J. Langkamp, Baraboo School District

David L. Wiltgen, Eau Claire Area School District

Nicole M. Zwiefel, Tomah Area School District

The Department of Employee Trust Funds no longer uses paper ballots to conduct board elections. All voters must vote online. Watch for more information about the candidates and how to obtain your PIN and cast a ballot in the January 2017 edition of WRS News Online.

Learn more about the WRS governing boards, scheduled meetings, agendas and materials.

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Webinar Takes the Mystery Out of Retirement

Bob Schulz

Don't miss this opportunity to participate in a three-part series of free pre-retirement webinars from Bob "The Retirement Guy" Schulz. The first webinar is set for Thursday, November 17, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., CST. Other segments will follow in April and May. Topics covered include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care and the secrets for living a "purpose-filled" retirement.

Schulz, a former Army Ranger, military pilot, college professor and human resources professional, has a unique perspective on the challenges faced by those striving to meet personal and financial goals for retirement. Since his own retirement in 2008, Schulz has shared his knowledge and insight with thousands of people across the country.

Hurry! Space is limited. Register for this free webinar now.

Note: All three segments in the Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement series will be recorded and available for later viewing on ETF's Member Education webpage.

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StayWell to Administer Well Wisconsin Program

Doctor and fruit

StayWell is set to administer an improved Well Wisconsin Program beginning January 1, 2017. Group health insurance program members will enjoy:

  • a mobile-friendly wellness portal that provides access to tools and resources for earning the $150 incentive and supporting health goals, including health coaching and integration with fitness trackers;
  • the option to redeem your $150 wellness incentive instantly;
  • a single customer service contact to assist with questions about the requirements, incentive status or resources.

Watch for more information from StayWell.

Want access to the StayWell portal as soon as it launches? Sign up for ETF's It's Your Choice E-alerts for Health & Wellness and you'll get an email as soon as it's available.

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Well Wisconsin Wednesday Webinars

Check out the Well Wisconsin Wednesday Webinars, a free series of lunchtime webinars for members covered under the state's group health insurance program and offered by the StayFit Plan. The next two webinars cover healthy eating for effective weight loss and primary prevention for a healthy and strong lower back.

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WRS Investment Performance Posted Online

The effect of investment returns on the benefits of Wisconsin Retirement System members is determined by the Department of Employee Trust Funds and is based on the rate of return as of December 31.

The State of Wisconsin Investment Board posts preliminary, calendar year-to-date returns monthly on its website. Final investment performance is also posted online in late January. The process takes nearly a month to complete because privately-traded investments, such as business loans, real estate and private equity, are not available until four weeks after the close of the month.

To view year-to-date investment returns as well as other WRS performance information, visit SWIB's website.

To receive immediate notification of preliminary, calendar year-to-date investment returns for the WRS trust funds, sign up for ETF E-mail Updates.

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Planning to Retire? Choose a Date, Request an Estimate

If you are ready to start the retirement process - and it is a process - within the next six to 12 months, congratulations! Among the priority to-do items: choose a termination date and request a retirement estimate. We've got the tools to help you get started and make informed decisions.

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Upcoming Board Meetings

Group Insurance Board - The GIB is set to meet on Wednesday, November 30 at Lussier Family Heritage Center, 3101 Lake Farm Road, Madison. Watch for agenda and meeting memos here.

Joint Retirement Board Meeting - The Employee Trust Funds Board, Teachers Retirement Board and Wisconsin Retirement Board are set to meet on Thursday, December 15 at the State Revenue Building, 2135 Rimrock Road, Madison. Watch for agenda and meeting memos here.

There are five Boards of Trustees associated with the Department of Employee Trust Funds:

  1. ETF Board
  2. Teachers Retirement Board
  3. Wisconsin Retirement Board
  4. Group Insurance Board
  5. Deferred Compensation Board

To learn more about these boards and review membership rosters, meeting schedules, agendas and past meeting minutes, visit our Governing Boards webpage.

To receive immediate notification of board meetings, Follow ETF on Twitter at @WI_ETF or sign up to receive ETF E-mail Updates and select topic choices under "Board Agendas and Materials".

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Before You Retire: Update Your WAMS Account

Most employees set up their WAMS account using their work email addresses. When you retire, your work email becomes invalid, no longer allowing you to access systems associated with your WAMS account. In order to access online benefits information during retirement, please take a few minutes - before you retire - to change your work email address to a personal one. To update your WAMS user ID (email address) and password, go here or contact ETF for assistance.

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Last Revised: November 15, 2016
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