Employers are not required to offer retirement plans to employees.
If your employer has a retirement plan, it is important to know what kind of plan it is, and which employees are eligible to join the plan. Some plans include all employees. Others include only employees in certain kinds of jobs. Often plans have a waiting period before you can be covered by the plan. Many require that you sign up to join the plan.
When you start a job you should find out whether your employer has a plan, what kind of plan it is, whether it covers your type of job, and when you can join it.
In this section you can find information about the different types of retirement plans.
The legal requirements for participation in a retirement plan are described in the publications on this page. However, your employer’s plan may have rules that permit you to join sooner than the law requires.
Your plan’s booklet or Summary Plan Description (SPD) should have the rules that apply to you.
In this section you can find information about when you can join your employer’s retirement plan and special rules for retirement savings plans that automatically enroll employees.
It is important to understand how you earn retirement benefits while you are working.
Each type of plan has different rules, and the publications linked below will help you understand yours. They will also tell you about the documents your plan must give you and the responsibilities plan officials have to act in your interest.
It is important to understand how you earn benefits in a private-sector retirement plan. Earned benefits are typically not payable until some future date. The rules for traditional pensions differ from those for hybrid plans (such as cash balance plans) and from those governing defined contribution plans (such as 401(k)s and profit sharing plans).
The rules can also differ depending on when you leave work covered by the plan.
In this section you can find information about earning a retirement benefit, 401(k)-type retirement savings plans, loans and hardship withdrawals, documents your retirement plan must give you, and responsibilities of plan officials.
When changing jobs or retiring you may have choices to make about your retirement money. The choices will depend on your age and the type of plan you are in, as well as the rules of the plan.
If you are in a traditional pension plan, you won’t be able to receive your benefits until you meet the plan’s requirements for retirement, or early retirement if the plan rules include early retirement.
If you are in a cash balance or 401(k)-type plan you will have the right to either leave your retirement money in your employer’s plan when you leave the job or, if the plan rules permit, take your money out. Often you can roll over the money into another retirement fund. If you take your money out of the employer’s plan but do not put it into another retirement fund, the money could be subject to tax.
Whatever you do, check your options carefully.
In this section you can find information about form and amount of benefits, keeping plan documents for future reference, payment issues after retirement, and finding a former employer in order to apply for benefits.
Private retirement plans typically have provisions relating to benefits payable to a spouse, former spouse, or a named beneficiary at death or divorce. These provisions may differ depending on the type of plan.
It is important to notify the administrator of your plan of any change in your family status since this can determine the form of benefit you or your spouse or former spouse will receive.
In this section you can find information about survivor benefits for spouses and beneficiaries, and the division of retirement benefits at divorce.
A private retirement plan can change its rules or terminate at any time. These changes can occur for a variety of reasons: during company mergers, to streamline plan administration, to improve plan features, or to reduce costs.
While private retirement plans cannot change plan rules to reduce benefits that have been earned as of the date of the change, plan rules can be modified to reduce future benefit accruals and contributions.
If a plan terminates, participants are usually entitled to all benefits they have earned. However, if yours is a traditional or hybrid pension plan that ends without enough money to pay all promised benefits, your benefit will be limited to the amount guaranteed by the federal private pension insurance program, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
This information only applies to pension and retirement savings plans offered by companies, unions, and nonprofit organizations other than churches. Information about government plans, IRAs, and church plans can be found elsewhere on the Pension Rights Center website.
In this section you can find information about changes to your plan, changes to your employer, when your employer or plan encounters financial problems, and when a plan is terminated.
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