Planning for Retirement
The Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) offers a WRS Retirement Benefits Calculator to help you estimate your monthly retirement annuity. Your ETF annual statement of benefits contains information that will help you use this calculator. You should also consider obtaining a separate calculation of your Social Security benefits.
You may request a retirement packet annually beginning at age 54 (49 for the protective category).
To compare your current take-home pay to your retirement estimate, subtract from your take-home pay the benefits deductions and savings contributions (403(b), 457(b)) that you will not be making in retirement. The resulting number can be compared to your retirement income estimate to see how retirement will affect your finances.
- Attend a Ready to Retire session.
ETF also conducts group presentations.
- Run an estimate of your sick leave value in retirement.
You are also encouraged to use ETF’s annuity estimate calculator.
- Read ETF’s When Can I Retire?
- Request your retirement packet (annuity estimates and application) from ETF, or call ETF at 1-877-533-5020.
- Ask questions about your benefits and sick leave to UW–Madison Benefits Services.
Ask questions about your annuity estimates and retiree health to ETF.
- Submit your retirement application to ETF, ideally 2-3 months prior to your last day of employment.
See the Roadmap to Retirement for long-term planning information.
- Additional Contributions
- Are You Considering Early Retirement?
- Benefits at Retirement Appointments
- Buying Creditable Service
- Calculating your retirement benefits
- Choosing an annuity option
- Death Benefits
- How Divorce Can Affect Your WRS Benefits
- How Part-Time Employment Affects Your Benefits
- How SWIB Investments Affect an Employee
- Tax Liability on WRS Benefits
Wisconsin Retirement System Benefits
Participation in the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) is automatic for all eligible employees.
Your retirement income will be based on your years of WRS service, your age at retirement, and the average of your highest three years of earnings or based on the total cash value of your account, whichever is greater.
Wisconsin Retirement System Guide (PDF)
Health Insurance and Other Benefits at Retirement
State Group Health Insurance
Employees must be enrolled in State Group Health Insurance coverage at the time of retirement and take an immediate annuity to be able to have their sick leave certified and continue the health coverage (may be enrolled as a dependent on another State employee’s plan to have sick leave certified at retirement). If not currently enrolled in the State Group Health coverage, employees may enroll in the Access Plan within 30 days prior to retirement and have their sick leave certified. The application to enroll must be received by the first of the month that the employee retires.
You may continue on the State Group Health Plan coverage provided premium payments are made. There is no employer contribution toward the annuitant health coverage.
Employees covered under the WRS may use the value of their sick leave at retirement to pay for health insurance premiums. Please use the Sick Leave Estimator to estimate the value of your sick leave. Sick leave credits may only be used to pay for State Group Health Insurance premiums in retirement; they have no cash value for other purposes. You must be enrolled in the State Group Health plan as an employee or a dependent at the time of retirement to have your sick leave hours certified for use in retirement. If you have over 15 years of continuous service, you may be eligible for additional matching sick leave credits. For more information, please see ETF’s sick leave policy.
If you have other comparable coverage at the time of retirement or at any point during retirement, you may set aside (escrow) your sick leave for future use. Sick Leave Credit Escrow Application
Upon reaching Medicare age, ETF will require you to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B.
You are able to change health plans in retirement for the following reasons: moving from the service area; the annual “It’s Your Choice” benefits enrollment period; or a qualifying life event such as a marriage or birth/adoption of a child.
State Group Life Insurance
You are able to continue your State Group Life coverage at retirement and pay the group rates. To calculate the cost of the coverage, use the State Group Life Calculator. Upon reaching age 65, the basic unit of State Group Life becomes a paid-up policy and no further premium payments are necessary. The face value of the basic unit decreases to 75 percent of the highest annual State earnings at age 65 and finally to 50 percent at age 66. The supplemental and additional units of the State Group Life coverage terminate at age 65. You may also convert the final value of your State Group Life coverage to pay for health insurance premiums in retirement.
You may also be eligible for a living benefit through the State Group Life plan and may apply to receive all or part of the value of your life insurance coverage while still living, provided you are diagnosed with a terminal condition and have a life expectancy of 12 months or less.
If you have health or long-term care insurance through ETF and your life insurance has been reduced to its final amount, you may elect to use the present value of your life insurance to pay premiums for your health or long-term care insurance.
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) – Health Care
You have the following options:
If you contribute your full annual election amount, you may continue to be reimbursed for expenses incurred through the end of the plan year (December 31). To do so:
- You may complete an Election Change Request up to 60-days prior to your termination/retirement to request that the remaining contribution balance be deducted (in full) from your final paycheck. This request may be submitted directly to your local HR Contact; or
- You may complete a continuation form and submit payment to ETF within 60 days of your coverage end date, or by the date on the continuation notice, whichever is later. Cobra/Continuation information will be mailed to your home address.
- All expenses must be incurred by December 31. The carryover provision does not apply to employees who terminate mid-year.
If you do not contribute your full annual election amount, you may be reimbursed for expenses incurred through the end of the month in which your employment ends. Any expenses incurred after that date will not be reimbursed.
*NOTE: If you have carryover funds from the prior plan year, but do not participate in the current plan year, your carryover ends at the end of the month in which your employment ends.
Flexible Spending Account (FSA) – Dependent Care
You cannot continue dependent care contributions after your employment terminates. You can continue to request reimbursement for eligible expenses until you exhaust your account or until the end of the plan year, whichever comes first, even if you have not contributed the full annual election amount.
UW 403(b) Supplemental Retirement Program (SRP)
Deductions will automatically end with your last paycheck. Contact your investment company for distribution options.
Wisconsin Deferred Compensation 457(b) Program (WDC)
Deductions will automatically end with your last paycheck. Contact Wisconsin Deferred Compensation for distribution options.
At retirement you may convert the following coverages (if enrolled at the time of retirement to individual policies) to individual plans: UW Employees, Inc. Life Insurance, Individual and Family Life Insurance, Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D).
At retirement you may continue the following coverages (if enrolled at the time of retirement to individual policies) at premium rates comparable to what was paid as an active employee: Delta Dental, DeltaVision, Flexible Spending Account (FSA) program, University Insurance Association (UIA) Life Insurance.
Emeritus status is an honorary designation conferred upon retirees to recognize their contributions and accomplishments over their university careers. Requirements include completion of ten or more years of service at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with significant contributions to the institution and its mission as well as permanent employee status at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with eligibility to receive an annuity from the Wisconsin Retirement System. Emeritus status is available to Academic Staff, University Staff, and Faculty.
Talk with your supervisor, department chair, or administrator to discuss your eligibility and department support for submitting a request.
Working after You Retire
After retirement, there is no effect on your WRS annuity or benefits if you work for an employer not covered by the WRS.
You may return to work with a WRS employer as a rehired annuitant*, provided certain requirements are met.
*A rehired annuitant:
- Is receiving a monthly WRS annuity (if you received a lump sum retirement benefit, you are not considered a rehired annuitant);
- Had a valid termination; and
- Served the minimum required break in employment between retirement and returning to work; and
- Now works for an employer covered by WRS.
If you are rehired and meet the WRS eligibility standard of “two-thirds of full time,” you are eligible for participation in WRS and your annuity will be suspended until you re-retire. This does not apply to employees who retired on or before July 1, 2013. For UW purposes, “two-thirds of full time” is calculated as follows:
- University Staff Employees: You are expected to work one year and 1,200 hours (58 percent appointment)
- Unclassified Faculty, Academic Staff and Limited: You are expected to work one year and 880 hours (42 percent appointment for twelve-month employees and 56 percent appointment for nine-month employees)
- UW Retirement Association — Sponsors an array of activities, information and volunteer initiatives
- PLATO (Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization) — Sponsors courses, lectures, socials and special events for people who live in and around Dane County
- Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery — Sponsors programs, lectures, outreach and volunteer opportunities
- Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association (WREA) — Works to protect and improve WRS, provides social and service opportunities, and offers various member benefits