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Compare the Plans: UWRP and TRS Plan 3


You Have a Deadline

You have 30 days from the date the Benefits Office notifies you to elect between two retirement plans: the UW Retirement Plan (UWRP) and the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) Plan 3. The "TRS 3" plan is administered by the Department of Retirement System (DRS). Once 30 days have passed, this election cannot be changed at any time during your ongoing employment with the UW, regardless of whether your job changes.

Retirement Plan Election Notice

The Benefits Office sends newly-eligible employees a "Notice of Eligibility/Election" to their home address of record. This Election Notice indicates a choice between the UWRP and the TRS 3 retirement plans and a deadline in which to make a plan election. If you are a new benefits-eligible employee and you have not yet received this notice, email the Benefits Office to review your eligibility.

You have 30 days from the notice date to decide between UWRP and TRS 3.

Use the side-by-side comparison chart below to help you decide on the retirement plan that is right for you. This is a one-time irrevocable decision. We encourage you to take time during the 30-day election period to familiarize yourself with both plans and if applicable, review this choice with your spouse or partner. You may consider seeking assistance from a financial counselor if the choice is too overwhelming. If you have a legal spouse, note that he/she will also be required to give "spousal consent" to your choice of plans. The deadline will not be extended so be sure you make time to evaluate this important decision.

Things to Know

Before electing a plan, it is important to know the following:

What is the UWRP?

UWRP is a Defined Contribution (DC) Plan under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 403(b). The employee defers a defined percent of wages to a retirement account before federal withholding tax is calculated, and the UW matches 100% of those contributions. Both the employee contributions and the employer match are invested and managed by the employee. Any earnings grow on a tax-deferred basis. Vesting is immediate, meaning that the account, including the employee and employer contributions and earnings, is fully portable and is yours whenever you leave. Authorized UWRP funds for your investments are available through Fidelity Investments, the UW’s master administrator.

Enrollment Reminder: If you elect UWRP for your retirement plan, you have up to two years from the date of your initial eligibility or "2-year Optional Period" to enroll and begin contributions.

For more information about this plan, see the comparison chart below and/or visit the UWRP website.

What is TRS Plan 3?

TRS Plan 3 is a hybrid "defined benefit" (DB) and "defined contribution" (DC) retirement plan under IRC Section 401(a):

Defined Benefit (DB) Plan

The DB portion of the plan is funded by employer contributions. Based on the plan's formula, it provides a specific lifetime monthly pension amount when you retire. The formula takes into account your Washington State public employee years of service and salary history. Vesting requires 10 years of full-time equivalent service. The TRS 3 Defined Benefit formula is:

1% x service credit* years x average final compensation** = monthly benefit

* Service Credit is based on the number of hours you work, which your employer reports to DRS.  Details about earning Service Credit can be found in the TRS 3 Member Handbook.

** Average final compensation is the average of your 60 consecutive highest paid service credit months.  Any severance pay, lump sum payment for unused sick leave, or vacation/annual leave, is not included.

Defined Contribution (DC) Plan

The DC portion of the plan is funded by tax-deferred employee contributions. An employee elects one of six contribution options. This is a one-time election and cannot be changed during the duration of UW employment. You are responsible for directing where your contributions are invested. You can choose to invest in either the Washington State Investment Board (WSIB) Investment Program or the Self-Directed Investment Program.  The value of your defined contribution benefit at retirement will consist of your contributions and their investment returns.

Enrollment Reminder: If you elect TRS 3 for your retirement plan, participation is mandatory from the date of initial eligibility—retroactive contributions may be required.

For more information about this plan, see the comparison chart below and/or visit the TRS 3 website.

Plan Comparison Chart


UW Retirement Plan

TRS 3 – hybrid plan

Employer contributions

Employee contributions

IRS Qualification

403(b) Defined Contribution Plan

401(a) Defined Benefit Plan

401(a) Defined Contribution Plan

Employee Tax Deferred Contributions

Percent of gross salary:
5% - under age 35
7.5% - age 35 & older
10% - age 50 & older *
*(optional-action required)

You are responsible for investment selection.


You elect the percent of gross salary.



You are responsible for investment selection.

UW Employer Contributions

100% match
Percent of gross salary:
5% - under age 35
7.5% - age 35 & older
10% - age 50 & older *
*(optional-action required)

You are responsible for investment selection.

Employer contributions fund the defined benefit only and are unavailable to participants who leave the plan prior to retiring.



UWRP: When a participant gains ownership in the Employer contributions.
TRS 3: When a participant becomes eligible for the employer-paid defined benefit

Vesting is immediate: 100% of employee and employer contributions and any investment returns are yours upon separation from the UW.

After 10 service credit years; or, 5 service credit years with at least 12 months earned after age 44; or, 5 service credit years earned before July 1, 1996.

You have a vested right to a retirement defined benefit when you meet the Plan’s age requirement, even if you leave employment.

Vesting is immediate. 100% of employee contributions and any investment returns.


The accrued benefits that can be transferred or accessed when a participant leaves UW employment.

100% portable.

Both employee and employer contributions, and any investment returns can be rolled over upon separation of all UW employment.

Not portable.
Employer contributions made on behalf of the employee remain with the Plan to fund the defined benefit (vested or not) and are not portable.

100% portable.

May be rolled over to another qualified plan or IRA. You lose any Washington state service credit if you withdraw.

Retirement Benefits

The amount of your retirement income will be based on the balance of your UWRP account when you retire. There are a wide variety of income options available at separation or retirement. These include lifetime annuities for you and/or an annuity partner, cash withdrawals, IRA roll overs, interest only withdrawals, minimum distributions required by the IRS, and more.

Formula-driven, lifetime monthly pension, if funds are vested and participant meets retirement eligibility rules. The formula and other Plan information is available in the TRS 3 Member Handbook.

The amount of your benefit will depend on the amount you contribute and the performance of your investments. A variety of distribution options are available. Contact DRS for more information.


Your decision regarding these two plans will depend greatly upon your career goals. The UWRP 403(b) is similar to a 401(k) and portable worldwide to other higher education institutions as well as private employers.  UWRP requires you to take responsibility for making investment decisions best suited to your risk tolerance and long term savings plans.  TRS 3 may be best suited to those who anticipate long-term employment with the state of Washington as a K-12 teacher or higher education faculty member and who prefer the security of the defined benefit as a baseline income in retirement.  The defined benefit employee-paid TRS 3 defined contribution is fully portable. However, employer contributions made on behalf of the employee will remain with the Plan in order to fund the defined benefit (vested or not). Employer contributions are not portable.


First-time Enrollment

Once you have elected your retirement plan, click on the appropriate link to begin enrollment:


Should you wish to increase your retirement savings contributions, consider one or both of the following optional pre-tax retirement savings programs:

Disclaimer: If there are any discrepancies between this document and the provisions of the UWRP Plan Document or TRS statutes, the Plan Document or statue will prevail.

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