Retirement Benefits: Knowledge is Gold and Availability is Priceless!



As a non-profit institution of higher education, the retirement benefits I manage are slightly different than those of for-profit businesses. Most notably, our institution contributes to a 403b as opposed to the more well-known 401k plan. The plans are similar: both are governed by ERISA, are defined contribution accounts (DCA), and have an employer match among other terms. However a 403b is only available to non-profits, schools, governments, and other similarly situated institutions.

In addition to our DCA, we along with many of our peer schools sponsor a retiree health plan and Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust. Upon retirement, our employees have access to one or both of these benefits, which includes group Medicare Advantage plans and a VEBA fund. These benefits, by far, consume the majority of my time as the plans have multiple eligibility and distribution requirements. Also, because the trust account is viewed as health insurance under the ACA, there are ramifications that affect flexible retirement arrangements (i.e. phased or partial retirement).

With the retirement plans above, the key to making sure our employees and retirees are informed is constant communication! And even though the contents of this blog and our communications about retirement are simply thrilling :-), we make sure we also hold monthly community hours focused on fun and learning just to keep our retiree’s connected to our current employees in a realm beyond benefits.

Many employees & retirees take on a look of fear as soon as the multiple procedures, acronyms, and numbers of retirement are tossed about. To calm those fears, we use a variety of methods including mail, email, a dedicated website, and an annual, comprehensive in-person workshop where our entire community has the opportunity to hear from each of our institution’s benefit vendors, along with representatives from Social Security and Medicare. To keep things exciting, each year we have a new element of surprise including a counseling session on how to mentally welcome retirement, exercise sessions, a health fair and more.

Feel free to check out our retirement portal, or reach out to me with any questions. While retirement can be scary, it’s also an exciting time! The majority of those transitioning just want open and accessible communication to ask questions and assuage fears. In HR benefits, your knowledge is worth its weight in gold, but your availability is priceless!




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