Sometimes a public employer who takes part in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) no longer meets participation criteria due to a change in organizational structure or becomes privatized. Under federal law, private employers may not take part in public pension plans. If you no longer work for a WRS employer, you become an inactive employee.  You will still have your WRS account, but it will work a little differently. Contact ETF immediately if you have any questions about your WRS benefits.

WRS Account

Your WRS account will remain with the ETF until you decide to take it out. No more contributions will be added to the account, but it will continue to earn interest each year. There is no fee and no action necessary to keep your account with ETF. However, please inform ETF of any address changes so that we can continue to send your annual Statement of Benefits.

Taking Money from Your WRS Account

There are 3 ways to take money from your WRS account:

  • Retirement Benefit:  you may apply for a retirement benefit once you have terminated all WRS employment, reached the minimum retirement age for your employment category, and are vested. For more information, see the Retirement Checklist page.
  • Separation Benefit:  A separation benefit is a 1-time payment consisting only of employee contributions, additional contributions (if applicable), and accumulated interest. You may take a separation benefit if you no longer work for a WRS employer, have not reached your minimum retirement age, and/or you are not vested. For more information see the Separation Benefit page.
  • Required Minimum Distribution: Under federal law, if you are no longer working under the WRS, and are not yet receiving a WRS benefit payment, you must receive a disbursement known as a required minimum distribution (RMD). This begins with the year you reach age 70½.
    • ETF will notify you in the year you turn age 69½ about your options to apply for benefits.
    • If you do not respond to ETF by December 31 of the year you reach age 69½, we must make an automatic distribution of the entire account balance. This could result in a tax consequence, an effective date or type of payment that you do not want. It is important for you to contact ETF before an automatic distribution is required.
    • How your benefit is paid depends on the size of your benefit and how this amount falls within federal thresholds. For questions about the impact that an RMD would have on your personal situation, contact your tax advisor or the IRS. You may also review ETF’s Tax Liability (ET-4125) brochure for more information.

Death Benefits

Inactive members receive updated death benefit information on their annual Statement of Benefits.

  • The death benefit includes only the employee-required contributions, additional contributions (if applicable), and accumulated interest. This is about half of the value of your WRS account because it does not include the employer contributions.
  • If your death occurs after you begin a WRS retirement payment, any death benefits available are decided by the annuity option you selected at retirement.

See the Death Benefits page for more information.