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Compare the Plans: UWRP and PERS Plan 3


You Have a Deadline

Academic staff, professional staff, and librarians who are eligible for the UW Retirement Plan (UWRP) on or after July 1, 2011 have a choice of participating in one of two retirement plans. You have 30 days from the date the Benefits Office notifies you of your option to elect between UWRP or the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) Plan 3 administered by the Department of Retirement System (DRS). Once 30 days have passed, your 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 eligible employees a Notice of Eligibility/Election to their home address of record. This Election Notice indicates you have a choice of which plan you wish to participate in (UWRP or PERS 3) and a deadline in which to make a plan election. If you are a new retirement-eligible employee and you have not yet received this notice, email the Benefits Office as soon as possible to review your eligibility.

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

Use the side-by-side comparison chart below to help you decide on the retirement plan that is right for you. Because this is a one-time irrevocable decision, we encourage you to make time during the 30-day election period to familiarize yourself with both plans, talk with your spouse or partner, and seek the assistance of 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 separate from the UW. 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 PERS Plan 3?

PERS Plan 3 is a hybrid Defined Benefit (DB) and Defined Contribution (DC) Plan retirement plan under IRC Section 401(a):

Defined Benefit (DB) Plan

The DB portion of the plan is only 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 generally requires 10 years of full-time equivalent service.

Defined Contribution (DC) Plan

The DC portion of the plan is only 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.

Enrollment Reminder: If you elect PERS 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 PERS 3 website.

Plan Comparison Chart

UW Retirement Plan

PERS 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 your investment selection.

You elect your contribution rate from a list of six options.

You are responsible for your 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 your 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.
PERS 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.

After 10 service credit years, you have a vested right to the employer-paid defined benefit retirement when you meet the Plan’s age requirement, even if you leave employment. Or, after 5 years of service credit, depending on your age and when your service credit was earned. Refer to the PERS 3 Handbook or contact the DRS for more information.

Vesting is immediate. 100% of employee contributions and any investment returns are yours upon separation.


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 annuity for you and/or an annuity partner, cash withdrawal, roll over to IRA, interest only withdrawals, minimum distribution required by the IRS and others.

Formula-driven, lifetime monthly pension, if funds are vested and participant meets retirement eligibility rules. The formula is 1% x average final compensation x years of service. Other Plan information is available in the PERS 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 and whether or not you intend long term service with the University Washington and/or the state of Washington. The UWRP is portable, flexible, and requires you to take responsibility for making investment decisions best suited to your risk tolerance and long term retirement savings goals. PERS 3 is best suited to those who anticipate long-term employment with the state of Washington and prefer the security of the defined benefit as a baseline income in retirement.


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 PERS statutes, the Plan Document or statue will prevail.

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