Retirement Programs

Employee Handbook Section 14

Western Michigan University contributes to your retirement savings and gives you the opportunity to increase your retirement savings through the plans described below. Retirement program information and enrollment forms are provided at orientation.

Social Security

The University pays a set percentage (in relation to your income) to the federal Social Security system on your behalf. The University also makes a mandatory deduction from your pay for your share of Social Security contributions. The amount of the University (employer's) share and your (employee's) share of the total contribution is established by the Social Security Act. The amount paid to you upon retirement from Social Security is also determined by the Social Security Act.

University retirement plan

The University Board of Trustees designates employee retirement plans. Plans and plan provisions may be changed; the following is a brief summary of current plans. For more information, contact Human Resources.

Eligibility

Regular benefits-eligible full-time employees participate in the University-sponsored retirement plan.

Note: "Benefits-eligible full-time" employees are those in positions with a full-time equivalency of at least .69. See employment status.

Current retirement plans

TIAA-CREF

New employees may enroll in the TIAA-CREF plan. This is a defined contribution plan, in that the contributions to the plan are a defined percentage of the employee's base wages. For participating employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013, WMU contributes 9 percent of total gross earnings to the employee's retirement account. WMU’s contribution increases to 10 percent if the employee tax-defers at least 1 percent but less than 2 percent; to 11 percent if the employee tax-defers 2 percent or more. For participating employees hired before Jan. 1, 2013, WMU contributes 11 percent of total gross earnings to the employee's retirement account. This plan is also self-directed, in that the employee decides how the funds in the account are invested amongst several options. The income received at retirement is based on the value of the account.

Vesting varies by your FLSA status:

  1. Exempt (salaried) employees have immediate vesting. The funds deposited into the employee's account belong to the employee without any delay or waiting period.
  2. Non-exempt (hourly-paid) employees have a five-year vesting period. The funds deposited into an employee's account belong to the University until the employee has completed five full years of plan participation. Time in layoff status does not count toward vesting, effective July 1, 2003. Should the employee separate from University employment prior to completing five full years of plan participation, the funds are returned to the University. After completing five full years of plan participation, the funds in the employee's account belong to the employee.

Enrollment

New employees must establish their account by completing the benefits enrollment process, as provided via Benefits Enrollment. If an employee fails to complete the appropriate enrollment forms, participation may be waived.

Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System

The University is not enrolling new employees in this defined-benefit plan. However, there are many employees hired in the past who actively participate and are acquainted with plan provisions. Questions can be directed to the Office of Retirement Services at (800) 381-5111 or Human Resources.

Tax-deferred savings program (optional)

Employees can add to their retirement savings by contributing to a 403(b) and 457(b) tax-deferred savings plan through payroll deduction. The funds you deposit into these retirement savings plans are deducted from your gross pay (before taxes are charged), accumulate tax-free, and are not taxed until they are received as income after retirement. These are self-directed plans, in that the employee decides how the funds in the account are invested amongst several options. The income received at retirement is based on the value of the account.

  • Participation in a 403(b) or 457(b) tax-deferred savings plan requires a signed salary reduction agreement. Monies are withheld from pay based upon a computation of the allowable amount as governed by federal law. Enrollment information and forms are provided during orientation and during open enrollment, which generally occurs once per year.
  • View How to Enroll or direct questions to Human Resources at (269) 387-3620 or to hr-hris@wmich.edu.

403(b) special pay plan

Upon separation from University employment, any payoff of annual leave, sick leave, and/or other designated payments is made by the University as an employer contribution to a 403(b) special pay plan account established on the employee’s behalf, to the extent allowable by plan provisions. Payment to the special pay plan is mandatory for gross payoff amounts totaling $2,000 or more combined, not to exceed the maximum allowable contribution under IRS regulations. Contributions in excess of the 403(b) plan limit, if any, will be made to a 415(m) plan account. Payoff of annual leave and sick leave amounts totaling less than $2,000 combined is made by payroll check. A separated employee’s access to special pay plan funds is governed by applicable IRS regulations.

 Retiring from WMU

At WMU, a "retiree" is not just an individual who has participated in a WMU retirement plan and has stopped working. A WMU retiree is an employee who has applied for retirement, has met certain eligibility criteria, and is therefore eligible for certain benefits and privileges.

Eligibility

  • For employees with a date of hire or rehire prior to Sept. 1, 2010:
    • To retire, you must be an employee at least 55 years of age.
    • If you were hired or rehired before July 1, 1996: You must have completed a minimum of 10 years of full-time service as a regular employee.
    • If you were hired or rehired on or after July 1, 1996: You must have completed at least 10 years of continuous full-time service as a regular employee immediately prior to retirement.
    • Effective July 1, 2003, time in layoff status does not count as service toward retirement.
  • For employees with a date of hire or rehire on or after Sept. 1, 2010:
    • To retire, you must be an employee at least 60 years of age and have completed a minimum of 15 years of continuous full-time service as a regular employee.
    • Time in layoff status does not count as service toward retirement.
  • For police command staff in the Department of Public Safety only, effective Nov. 14, 2011:
    • In addition to the above criteria, a member of the police command staff is eligible for WMU retirement at any age after completion of a minimum of 25 years of continuous full-time service as a regular employee. Police command staff are the director of public safety, the deputy chief of police, the captain of parking services, lieutenants and sergeants.
    • Time in layoff status does not count as service toward retirement.

Applying for retirement

Please contact Human Resources approximately six to 12 months before your planned retirement date. A staff member will meet with you to discuss your retirement options and benefits and provide you other pertinent information.

Notification

Employees are to notify their supervisor and department head, in writing, of their exact retirement date, no later than one month prior to the actual day of retirement.

Completing final paperwork

Employees should arrange an appointment with Human Resources one month prior to their retirement date to complete retiree benefits paperwork.

Income

Your retirement income will come from either the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System or TIAA-CREF—whichever plan you participated in during your working years. Additionally, you may have participated in the University's optional tax-deferred savings program, which will provide additional income during your retirement. Social Security will also provide part of your retirement income.

Benefits and privileges

WMU retirees qualify for a number of benefits and privileges. Eligibility for a particular benefit is governed by applicable policy, program definitions, rules and regulations. Benefits for WMU retirees are distinct from those for which active employees may be eligible. WMU retirees are not eligible for appointment or re-appointment to a benefits-eligible position at the University.

Human Resources will provide you with details on the following benefits when you meet to discuss your retirement.

  • Health insurance for you and any qualified dependents (coverage becomes supplemental to Medicare at age 65).  Employees with a date of hire or rehire on or after Sept. 1, 2010, have access to WMU’s retiree health insurance only, if eligible, by paying the full premium.
  • Life insurance.
  • Lump sum payment of any unused annual leave if eligibility criteria are met. Employees with a date of hire or rehire prior to Sept. 1, 2010, may be eligible for payment of unused accrued sick leave.
  • Permanent employee I.D. card/Bronco Card.
  • Sindecuse Health Center services, including pharmacy.
  • Unified Clinics' services.
  • Internet access and email accounts.
  • Parking permit.
  • University Libraries facilities and services.
  • Discounts at the WMU Bookstore.
  • Discounts on tickets for some athletic and cultural events.
  • Tuition discount.
  • Tuition remission.
  • Free membership for you and your spouse at the Student Recreation Center and the West Hills Athletic Club.

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