Wisconsin Retirement System

Plan Summary

The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) provides retirement (pension) benefits to UW employees and to most public employees across the State of Wisconsin

The WRS is administered by the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF).

In addition to retirement benefits, the Wisconsin Retirement System also provides:

  • Separation Benefits
  • Disability Benefits
  • Death Benefits

Wisconsin Retirement System Eligibility

Any employee who meets the eligibility requirements for coverage under the Wisconsin Retirement System is automatically covered and required to pay any applicable employee contribution towards the WRS. You may not opt-out of the WRS.  If you do not meet the WRS-eligibility requirements when you are first hired, you will be covered under the WRS once you meet the requirements or are expected to meet the requirements.

You must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible for coverage under the WRS:

  • Must be in a Unclassified Faculty, Academic Staff, Limited or Classified appointment; and
  • 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*.
    • Classified: 2/3 of full-time is equal to 1,200 hours worked per year (58% appointment)
    • Unclassified 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); 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*.
    • Classified: 1/3 of full-time is equal to 600 hours worked per year (29% appointment)
    • Unclassified 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)

*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.

Contribution Rates

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 also contributes a portion of the employee’s salary to the WRS.

Contribution rates are based on an employee’s WRS category as follows:

  • Most Classified employees are covered by the General WRS category.
  • Most Unclassified Faculty, Academic Staff and Limited appointees are covered by the Teacher WRS category.
  • Employees whose main duties include law enforcement or firefighting are covered by the Protective WRS category.
  • Employees who hold the very highest level positions with the UW (president, vice president, chancellor…) are covered by the Elected/Executive WRS category.

Contribution rates are set on an annual basis.

WRS Contribution Rates*
 General/TeacherExecutivesProtectives w/
Social Security
Employee Contribution 7.00% 7.75% 7.00%
Employer Contribution 7.00% 7.75% 10.10%
Total 14.00% 15.50% 17.10%

*WRS contributions subject to IRS limits – employees pay WRS contributions on the first $260,000 of earnings.

Voluntary Additional Contributions

In addition to the employee-required contribution, you may also contribute extra money to your WRS account on a post-tax basis. These deductions can be made through either payroll deduction or by sending a check to the Department of Employee Trust Funds.

There is a limit to the amount that you can contribute on an annual basis. Use the Maximum Additional Contribution Worksheet to determine how much you can contribute this year.

See the Additional Contributions brochure for more information.

Additional contributions cannot be withdrawn from your account until you terminate all WRS-covered employment.

WRS Investments

The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) is administered by the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) and its investments are managed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB).

Two funds are available under the WRS:

  • Core Fund: 60% stocks, 40% fixed income and other assets
  • Variable Fund: 100% stocks

All contributions are automatically invested in the Core Fund unless you file a Variable Fund election to send half of your contributions to the Variable Fund. You may never invest all of your contributions into the Variable Fund.

For detailed information about how WRS funds are invested, see SWIB.

SWIB also provides several detailed reports about their investments at SWIB's Publications.

Variable Fund

  • If you submit a Variable Fund election to ETF within the first 30 days of your WRS-covered employment, half of your total contributions will be in the Variable Fund as of your 1st day of employment.
  • If you submit a Variable Fund election to ETF after the first 30 days of WRS-covered employment, the election will be effective January 1st following the year is was received by ETF.
  • See the Variable Fund brochure for more information.

WRS Benefits

The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) provides several different benefits to you. Each spring, you will receive a WRS Statement of Benefits that tells you the value of your account as of January 1st of the year. This statement will be available in myUW portal in the Benefit Information box (Statements tab).

Retirement Benefits

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.

Use an online calculator to estimate the value of your annuity. You can also read the Calculating Your Retirement Benefits brochure to see how retirement benefits are calculated.

WRS retirement benefits are usually not payable in a lump sum. When you retire you select the annuity option that best suits your needs. See the Choosing an Annuity Option brochure for details about annuity options available to you.

You can request a retirement estimate and application from the Department of Employee Trust Funds up to one year prior to your retirement date. You can submit your request online, submit a paper request or contact ETF directly. Visit ETF for contact 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.

Separation Benefits

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 ETF Brochure, Separation Benefits, for more information.

To request a Separation Benefits, contact the Department of Employee Trust Funds. Visit ETF for contact information.

Disability Benefits

If you become disabled while covered under the WRS, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the Wisconsin Retirement System.

  • Long-term Disability Insurance (LTDI) pays a monthly benefit until your reach your normal retirement age.
  • 40.63 Disability Annuity – if first hired before October 16, 1992, you may be eligible to receive a disability annuity instead of LTDI.

See the Disability Benefits Reference Guide for information about eligibility requirements and how benefits are calculated.

To request a Disability Estimate and Application, contact the Department of Employee Trust Funds. Visit ETF for contact information.

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 available to you.

Death Benefits

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.

You should complete a beneficiary designation to ensure your death benefit is payable per your wishes.

See the Death Benefits brochure for additional information.