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 employee and employer contribution rates are updated annually. The employee contribution is deducted on a pre-tax basis.
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).
For more information on the WRS review the Overview of the Wisconsin Retirement System video (14 minutes).
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 they actually participated in the WRS prior to July 1, 2011.
Not eligible at time of hire
If you do not initially meet the WRS Benefits Package eligibility requirements, you can become eligible if your expectation of hours worked and/or your the duration of employment changes. At the time of expectation change you will be enrolled in the WRS. Your employment will also be evaluated for WRS eligibility at your one-year anniversary. If you worked 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.
You contribute a portion of your eligible earnings to fund your Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) account. The employee contribution is deducted on a pre-tax basis for State and Federal tax purposes. The UW System also contributes a portion of the your eligible earnings 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 (for example: president, vice president, chancellor).
- Protectives: Employees whose main duties include law enforcement or firefighting.
Contribution rates are set on an annual basis.
|2022 WRS Contribution Rates*||General / Teacher / Executives||Protectives w/ Social Security|
*WRS contributions subject to IRS limits – University Staff employees are eligible for WRS contributions on the first $305,000 of earnings for the calendar year (1/1 – 12/31). Employees whose WRS is on a fiscal year (7/1 – 6/30) are eligible for WRS contributions on the first $297,500 of earnings for fiscal year 2022.
|2023 WRS Contribution Rates**||General / Teacher / Executive||Protectives w/ Social Security|
**WRS contributions subject to IRS limits – University Staff employees are eligible for WRS contributions on the first $330,000 of earnings for the calendar year (1/1 – 12/31). Employees whose WRS is on a fiscal year (7/1 – 6/30) are eligible for WRS contributions on the first $317,500 of earnings for fiscal year 2023.
For information on how contribution rates are determined review the WRS Contribution Rates video (5 minutes).
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 web page 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 benefits contact. Note: Enrollment, change, and stop requests take 1-2 pay periods to be processed.
There is a limit to the amount that you can contribute on an annual basis. Use the Maximum Additional Contribution Worksheet (ET-2566) to determine how much you can contribute this year.
See the Additional Contributions Brochure (ET-2123) for more information or view the Additional Contributions video (8 minutes).
Additional contributions made cannot be withdrawn from your account until you terminate all WRS-covered employment.
The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) consists of two fund options, the Core Fund and the Variable Fund.
- Core Fund: 50% stocks, 50% fixed income and other assets
- Variable Fund: 100% stocks
All contributions are automatically invested in the Core Fund unless you file an Election to Participate in the Variable Fund (ET-2356) which means 50% of your future WRS contributions to the Variable Fund and 50% to the Core Fund.
See the Variable Trust Fund Brochure (ET-4930) or review the Variable Fund video (15 minutes) for more information.
WRS investments are managed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB). For detailed information on how WRS funds are invested, go to the SWIB website.
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.
- For executives, 1,904 hours are needed from 7/1 – 6/30. Executives are employees that hold the highest level positions (for example: president, vice president, chancellor).
- 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.
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 tile and go to the WRS Annual Statement of Benefits to view and print your statement.
More information can be accessed on the WRS Statement of Benefits web page.
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 Retirement Lift Events web page 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 the Separation Benefits Brochure (ET-3101) for more information.
To request a Separation Benefits, contact the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF).
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).
- Duty Disability Program: For information, see the Duty Disability and Survivor Benefits Brochure (ET-5103).
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 and Income Continuation Insurance web page for 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 the Death Benefits Brochure (ET-6101) for additional information.
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 web page.
- WRS Fact Sheet (ET-8901)
- Benefit Handbook (ET-2119)
- Variable Trust Fund Brochure (ET-4930)
- Election to Participate in the Variable Fund (ET-2356)
- Canceling Variable Participation (ET-2313)
- Additional Contributions Brochure (ET-2123)
- Maximum Additional Contribution Worksheet (ET-2566)
- Buying Creditable Services Brochure (ET-4121)
- Buying Other Governmental Service Brochure (ET-2207)
- Separation Benefits Brochure (ET-3101)
- WRS Guide to Retirement Brochure (ET-4133)
- Choosing an Annuity Option Brochure (ET-4117)
- Applying for Your Retirement Benefit Brochure (ET-4106)
- Calculating Your Retirement Benefits Brochure (ET-4107)
- WRS Retirement Estimate Request
- Retirement Estimate Request (ET-4207)
- Tax Liability on WRS Benefits (ET-4125)
- How Divorce Can Affect Your WRS Benefits Brochure (ET-4925)
- Disability Retirement Benefits Brochure (ET-5107)
- Duty Disability and Survivor Benefits Brochure (ET-5103)
- Death Benefits Brochure (ET-6101)
- Military Service and Your WRS Benefits
Reach out to your institution benefits contact with questions about the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).
To contact the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF), WRS administrator, call (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.