The money taken from your paycheck (a contribution) goes into a fund to gain interest for retirement. This money is called an asset in investment terms. The assets are invested in two separate funds: The Core Trust Fund and the Variable Trust Fund. The State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) handles investing the assets of the WRS.
Core Trust Fund
When you begin working, contributions to your WRS account are deposited on your behalf into the Core Trust Fund. The Core is the larger of the two trust funds managed by SWIB. The Core Fund is invested in a large amount of stocks, but it is also invested in other things like bonds and real estate to be a fully diversified and balanced fund. The main goal of the Core Fund is to earn the best return over the life of investment in the fund while taking an acceptable level of risk. To keep this fund stable, the results are smoothed over five years to give a more stable rate of return each year.
Variable Trust Fund
You can choose to deposit 50% of your contributions into the Variable Trust Fund. The Variable Fund is an all-stocks fund. Participants in this fund are exposed to a higher degree of risk (because of possible losses from unfavorable stock market performance), in exchange for the possibility of greater returns over the life of the investment in the fund. The Variable Fund is not smoothed like the Core Fund; therefore, the full rate of return is applied each year. See the Variable Fund page for more information.
Effective Rate of Interest
During your working years, your account balances are credited with an “effective rate of interest” each year. How much interest your account receives is based on the investment performance of the funds. The effective rates are applied to WRS account balances on December 31 and annuity adjustments affect retirees’ monthly payments starting May 1. This interest rate is shown in Section 3 of your Statement of Benefits and on our Returns, Rates, and Adjustments page.
No matter your timetable for retirement, it's important that you fully understand your WRS benefits and how they work for you. We suggest learning about the following, so that you make the right decisions at the right time:
- How trust fund investment performance affects contributions both you and your employer pay into your retirement account.
- How effective rates and annuity adjustments work.
- How WRS retirement benefits are calculated and the role that investment returns play in your benefit amount.
- How you can enhance your eventual retirement benefit by making additional contributions, which are credited with the effective rate of interest each year.
- How participation in the Variable Fund affects your WRS benefits, both as an employee and as a retiree.
For more information:
- Take part in free ETF webinars on these topics. Sessions are offered at convenient times over the lunch hour and early evening.