The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) provides retirement (pension) benefits to UW System employees and to most public employees across the State of Wisconsin. Participation is automatic for all eligible employees, with coverage beginning on the first day an employee is eligible. The required employee and employer contribution rates are updated annually. The employee share is deducted on a pre-tax basis. You may not opt out of the WRS.
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.
In addition to retirement benefits, the Wisconsin Retirement System also provides:
- Separation Benefits
- Disability Benefits
- Death Benefits
The WRS is administered by the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF).
You must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible for coverage under the WRS:
- If you first became a WRS participating employee on or after July 1, 2011, you must be expected to work at least 2/3 of full-time for at least one year*.
- Faculty, Academic Staff, and Limited: 2/3 of full-time is equal to 880 hours worked per year (~42% appointment for twelve-month employees and ~56% appointment for nine-month employees)
- University Staff: 2/3 of full-time is equal to 1,200 hours worked per year (~58% appointment); or
- If you first became a WRS participating employee prior to July 1, 2011, you must be expected to work at least 1/3 of full-time for at least one year*.
- Faculty, Academic Staff, and Limited: 1/3 of full-time is equal to 440 hours worked per year (~21% appointment for twelve-month employees and ~28% appointment for nine-month employees)
- University Staff: 1/3 of full-time is equal to 600 hours worked per year (~29% appointment)
*For nine-month employees, one year is considered the academic year and an expectation to return the following academic year.
NOTE: During the period of July 1, 2011 through July 1, 2013, eligibility for coverage under WRS using the 1/3 of full-time measurement was extended to those employees who had been previously employed by a WRS participating employer, regardless of actual prior WRS participation. As of July 2, 2013, any current or new employee who is not under the WRS, must be evaluated on the 2/3 of full time measurement UNLESS he/she actually participated in the WRS prior to July 1, 2011.
Not eligible at time of hire
If you do not initially meet the WRS eligibility requirements, you can become eligible if the expectation of hours worked and/or the duration of employment changes and you meet the WRS eligibility criteria. At that time, you will be enrolled in the WRS. Your employment will also be evaluated for WRS eligibility at your one-year anniversary. If you did work the minimum amount of hours to be eligible, you will be enrolled in the WRS.
Returning to WRS-covered employment within 12 months
If you are a WRS-covered employee and you terminate and are subsequently rehired in less than 12 months at the same employer (this includes all UW System employment), unless you have taken a WRS benefit you will be re-enrolled in the WRS immediately upon rehire, regardless of whether or not the new employment period is expected to meet the WRS eligibility criteria.
Employees are required to contribute a portion of their salary to fund their Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) account. The employee contribution is taken on a pre-tax basis for State and Federal tax purposes. The UW System also contributes a portion of the employee’s salary to the WRS.
Contribution rates are based on an employee’s WRS category as follows:
- General: Most University Staff employees are covered by this category.
- Teacher: Most Faculty, Academic Staff and Limited appointees are covered by this category.
- Executives: Employees that hold the highest level positions (e.g. president, vice president, chancellor).
- Protectives: Employees whose main duties include law enforcement or firefighting.
Contribution rates are set on an annual basis.
|2021 WRS Contribution Rates*||General / Teacher and Executives||Protectives w/ Social Security|
*WRS contributions subject to IRS limits – University Staff employees are eligible for WRS contributions on the first $290,000 of earnings for the calendar year. Employees whose WRS salary is based on a fiscal year are eligible for WRS contributions on the first $287,500 of earnings for fiscal year 2020-2021.
In addition to the employee-required contribution, you may make additional contributions to your WRS account on a post-tax basis. These additional contributions earn the same rate of interest as your employee-required contributions.
Additional Contributions can be made one of three ways:
- e-Payment – Review the ETF Additional Contributions webpage for details.
- Check or money order – Send directly to ETF along with the Additional Contributions Remittance Form (ET-2545).
- Payroll deduction – Complete the and submit it to your institution human resources office.
There is a limit to the amount that you can contribute on an annual basis. Use theto determine how much you can contribute this year.
See thefor more information.
Additional contributions made cannot be withdrawn from your account until you terminate all WRS-covered employment.
WRS investments are managed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB).
The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) consists of two fund options, the Core Fund (which is the default fund) and the Variable Fund. All contributions are automatically invested in the Core Fund unless you file anwhich will send 50% of your future WRS contributions to the Variable Fund and 50% to the Core Fund.
Two funds are available under the WRS:
- Core Fund: 50% stocks, 50% fixed income and other assets
- Variable Fund: 100% stocks
For detailed information on how WRS funds are invested, see SWIB.
Seefor more information.
Employees who are first covered by the WRS on or after July 1, 2011 must have five years of WRS creditable service to be vested in the WRS. Employees who were covered by the WRS prior to July 1, 2011 are immediately vested in the WRS. Once vested, an employee is eligible to receive a retirement benefit. A full year of creditable service is determined as follows:
- For faculty, academic staff, or limited appointees 1,320 hours are needed from 7/1 – 6/30.
- For university staff employees, 1,904 hours are needed from 1/1 – 12/31.
- Note: An individual can only earn 1.0 year of creditable service in a 12-month period, no matter how many hours an employee is in paid status. Employees may earn a partial year of creditable service. A partial year is a percentage of the year equivalent to the hours spent in paid status (i.e. actual hours worked, vacation, sick leave or other paid leave status) divided by the number of hours required for a creditable year of service.
Employees are not eligible for a WRS retirement annuity or lump sum retirement benefit until they have five years of creditable service.
You are eligible to receive retirement benefits when:
- You end all WRS-covered employment; and
- You are vested in the Wisconsin Retirement System; and
- You reach the minimum retirement age of 55 (age 50 for those in the Protective WRS category)
When you retire, you will receive an annuity based on the higher of the two following calculation methods:
- Formula calculation – annuity is based on your years of service, age and three highest years of earnings; or
- Money purchase calculation – annuity is based on the total dollar value of your account.
Looking for information on retirement? See Life Events for more information.
If you end all WRS-covered employment before your minimum retirement age or before you’re vested in the WRS, you can either leave your money in the WRS to accumulate interest or close your WRS account by requesting payment of your employee-required contributions and any interest on those contributions. If you take a separation benefit, you will lose any employer-required contributions in your account.
See thefor more information.
To request a Separation Benefits, contact the Department of Employee Trust Funds.
If you become disabled while covered under the WRS, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the Wisconsin Retirement System.
- Disability Retirement Program – For information, see the Disability Retirement Benefits Brochure (ET-5107).
To request a Disability Estimate and Application, contact the Department of Employee Trust Funds.
In addition to the above disability benefits, you may also be eligible for disability benefits through Income Continuation Insurance (ICI), Social Security and/or Worker’s Compensation, depending on your situation. See the Disability page for all plans that may be available to you.
If you die while you are actively covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), a minimum of the total value of your account is payable upon your death.
If you die while not actively working for a WRS-covered employer and you are not receiving a WRS annuity, half of your total account is payable (the employee-required contributions plus interest).
Once you are receiving an annuity, death benefits will be based on the annuity option you select.
See thefor additional information.
Statement of Benefits
Annually, eligible employees receive a Statement of Benefits, which provides information about their WRS account as of January 1st. Information provided includes earnings, years of creditable service, retirement benefit projections (if vested), and separation benefit. The statement can be accessed in the MyUW portal. After you log into the portal, launch the Benefit Information module and click on the ETF WRS Annual Statement of Benefits to view and print your statement.
Employees are encouraged to designate a beneficiary(ies) to ensure benefits are paid according to their wishes. Whenever you have a life event, such as a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, review and updated your beneficiary designation. Beneficiary designations can be changed at any time.
For more information on beneficiary designations, see the Beneficiary Information page.
Contact your institution human resources office with questions about the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).
To contact Employee Trust Funds (ETF), who administers WRS, call 1-877-533-5020 or contact ETF online.
Every effort has been made to ensure this information is current and correct. Information on this page does not guarantee enrollment, benefits and/or the ability to make changes to your benefits.