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STATE UNIVERSITIES RETIREMENT SYSTEM

Executive Director: William E. Mabe

Chairperson:  Lindsay Anderson

Self-Managed Plan FAQ

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Roles & Responsibility

1. What are the member’s responsibilities in the SMP Plan?
2. What are the Providers’ responsibilities in the SMP Plan?
3. What are SURS’s responsibilities in the SMP Plan?

Contributions/Funds Information

4. What amount of contributions does the State of Illinois match in the SMP Plan?
5. Can I contribute more than 8% to the SMP Plan?
6. Are loans permitted in the SMP Plan?
7. Do I contribute to Social Security while I am working at SURS?
8. What effect will SMP proceeds have on my Social Security benefit?
9. How do I change the percentage of money allocated to each Provider for the SMP Plan?
10. Is the employer match retroactive?
11. How do I move existing monies within my SURS account?
12. What fees does SURS charge for being the SMP service agent?
13. What is the usual processing time frame for my money to be sent from my employer to TIAA-CREF or Fidelity?
14. When do I become vested in the matching contributions?
15. What is dollar cost averaging and how does it work?
16. What is a Target Date Fund?
17. How can I tell what funds I am invested in?
18. What are the ticker symbols for the SMP investment options?
19. How can I get information regarding investments in the SMP Plan?
20.How can I get copies of investment returns and expense ratios?
21. Could you explain the information in the SMP Performance section of the website?
22. Why is it so difficult to project the future value of the SMP account?
23. Why is the fund selection limited?
24. When do I get a statement?
25. How do I access my online SURS account?

Distribution Options/Health Insurance

26. When am I eligible to retire?
27. What are my options at retirement?
28. What are my provider options for selecting a monthly annuity?
29. How can I determine what my account balance will equate to in a monthly annuity?
30. Is the annuity amount shown in an illustration guaranteed?
31. What types of annuity options are available?
32. Who can I consult regarding annuity payout options?
33. What can I expect to be discussed in a counseling appointment with SURS?
34. How do I schedule an SMP counseling appointment with a SURS representative?
35. How can I find out when webinars and pre-retirement seminars are scheduled?
36. How soon prior to retirement should I submit my application?
37. How do I apply for retirement?
38. What annuity begin date should I enter on my retirement application?
39. When will I receive my first annuity check?
40. Are health insurance benefits available?
41. What is the effective date of my health insurance?
42. How do I pay for my health insurance premiums?

Miscellaneous

43. May I return to work and if so what are the restrictions?
44. Are purchases allowed in the SMP Plan?
45. Are roll-ins allowed in the SMP Plan?
46. Can a QILDRO claim be filed against my SMP funds?
47. What is required to file a death claim when an SMP participant becomes deceased?
48. Are SMP members eligible to receive disability benefits?
49. Are my SMP pension benefits subject to taxation?


1. What are the member’s responsibilities in the SMP Plan?
Members selecting the SMP Plan have accepted the responsibility for assuming nearly total control over their retirement plan. In this plan there are no minimum guarantees nor are there any limits on the maximum benefits. Members have the ability to select the funds of their choice depending upon their risk tolerance, goals, time horizons, etc…. They may move money between Providers once per quarter and have the flexibility to move money from fund to fund within a Provider as frequently as on a daily basis. At retirement time members will select from a variety of lump sum distribution options or annuity options.

2. What are the Providers’ responsibilities in the SMP Plan?
The SMP Providers (Fidelity, Principal & TIAA/CREF) are responsible for providing a wide array of investment funds as well as making available all of the information pertaining to those funds.  Providers are also responsible for a large amount of communication materials that are made available to each member, including Quarterly Reports.  Representatives with the Providers are available for answering any questions you might have regarding fund choices, fund characteristics, historical returns etc…  The Providers are also available to discuss the large variety of distribution options at retirement time.

3. What are SURS’s responsibilities in the SMP Plan?
SURS is responsible for overseeing the operation of the SMP Plan.  SURS selects the Providers and negotiates management fees for all funds in the SMP Plan.  SURS also serves as the record keeper by transmitting demographic information, member contributions, state matching contributions and forfeiture information to the Providers. 
SURS is also responsible for processing a great deal of the work associated with distributions so that when it goes to the Providers everything is accurate and accounted for.  SURS also provides information regarding the SMP Plan via written materials, the SURS website, the SURS Member website, quarterly webinars, and pre-retirement seminars, as well as by answering questions that come into the SURS Call Center.

4. What amount of contributions does the State of Illinois match in the SMP Plan?

The State of Illinois matches your contribution at a rate of 7.6% of your eligible earnings. Of the 7.6%, 7.2% is applied to your SMP account and .4% is set aside for the disability fund.

5. Can I contribute more than 8% to the SMP Plan?
No. SURS statutes stipulate that everyone, with one possible exception, will contribute 8%. If one wishes to defer additional income you should contact your Human Resources Department and inquire about contributing to either a 403(b) or 457 plans.

6.  Are loans permitted in the SMP Plan?
The SMP Plan Document approved by the IRS does not permit loans of any type from the plan.

7.  Do I contribute to Social Security while I am working at SURS?
With few exceptions, SURS members do not contribute to Social Security.

8.  What effect will SMP proceeds have on my Social Security benefit?
Social Security may reduce their benefits for either the lump sum or monthly annuity from the SMP plan.  Social Security provides a guide for you to calculate this reduction here.   You may also contact your local Social Security office for assistance.

9.  How do I change the percentage of money allocated to each Provider for the SMP Plan?
You must decide if you are moving money from your existing account, changing future allocations, or both. Regardless of what you do, the last step of this process will be to contact the Provider(s) to select the funds into which you want your money to go.  Failure to do this we result in the money being placed in a default Target Date Fund.

1. Future Allocations – You may either log on to the SURS Member Website and make the changes there or call a SURS Benefit Counselor at 1-800-275-7877.  When the allocation percentage is changed, a confirmation letter and Provider-to-Provider Transfer (P2P) Forms are mailed to the member. 

2.  Move Existing Money - To move money from an existing account in the SMP plan to another Provider, complete either a Fidelity to TIAA-CREF or TIAA-CREF to Fidelity Transfer Form. These forms are only available from SURS.  You may either print the form from the SURS Member website or call a SURS Benefit Counselor at 1-800-275-7877.  You should complete the form with the desired changes and forward it to the FROM Provider (the Provider you are transferring money from).

3.  In the event you wish to do both, change future allocation and move existing money, you may either call SURS to change the future allocation and have a P2P Transfer Form mailed to you or you may go online to the Member website to change the future allocation.  A P2P Form will then be mailed to you or you may print the P2P Form from the website.

10.  Is the employer match retroactive?
No, the employer match is not retroactive. When the initial SMP balance transfer is sent, all prior employer match money is forfeited. The balance transfer consists only of employee contributions. Employer matching funds begin with the first full payroll following the receipt of your SMP plan election.

11.  How do I move existing monies within my SURS account?
To move money from an existing account in the SMP plan to another Provider, complete either a Fidelity to TIAA-CREF or TIAA-CREF to Fidelity Transfer Form.  These forms are only available from SURS. You may either print the form from the SURS Member website or call a SURS Benefit Counselor at 1-800-275-7877.  The form is completed with the desired changes and forwarded to the FROM Provider (the Provider you are transferring money from).

12.  What fees does SURS charge for being the SMP service agent?
SURS does not charge SMP participants fees for administering the SMP Plan. SURS administrative expenses are paid by the State of Illinois. The only fees paid by SMP participants are the expense charges for the investment options. The expense ratio of each investment option is listed on the quarterly performance sheet.

13.  What is the usual processing time frame for my contributions to be sent from my employer to TIAA-CREF or Fidelity?
The payroll process requires your employer to provide SURS with:

  1. An FTP with detailed payroll information for each employee,
  2. Employer must release FTP file from SURS Employer Website
  3. Contributions need to post to your account.

After SURS receives all three components of the payroll and they are in agreement, the payroll can be reconciled. SURS wires the money to member accounts in two working days.

14.  When do I become vested for the matching contributions?
Members become vested when they accumulate five years of service credit.

15.  What is dollar cost averaging and how does it work?
It is an investment strategy for reducing risk or the volatility in the market.  Since most members are paid once or twice a month you are automatically dollar cost averaging in the SMP plan.  The amount of shares you can purchase for a fixed amount of money varies inversely with the price of those shares.  In other words, if the share price of your selected investment declines, you will purchase a greater number of shares with each payroll.  Conversely, if the share price of your selected investment rises, you will purchase a fewer number of shares.

16.  What is a Target Date Fund?
It is a “mutual fund” that automatically resets the mix of stocks, bonds and cash equivalents in its portfolio according to a selected time frame that is age appropriate for an individual investor.  For example, if you expect to retire in 2050 you might select that respective target date fund.  Target date funds may carry more or less risk than an individual prefers.

17.  How can I tell what funds I am invested in?
Since you can essentially move your money within your funds every day, SURS does not have the capability of knowing which funds you are invested in.  The primary source of this information would be the Provider(s) website(s).  The websites provide your fund balances and net asset value (NAV) as of the close of business each day.

18.  What are the ticker symbols for the SMP investment options?
Ticker symbols for each mutual fund are given below. Note that TIAA-CREF´s variable annuity investment options do not have ticker symbols.
Refer to the Fund Overview page.

19.  How can I get information regarding investment funds in the SMP Plan?
Information is available from numerous sources.  The primary sources of information would be the Provider(s) website(s) and the Registered Representatives available with each Provider.  SURS is not allowed to provide specific fund advice.

20.  How can I get copies of investment returns and expense ratios?
Fund returns and expense ratios are provided on the Fund Overview  page.  For more frequent information, returns are available by logging on to the Provider(s) website(s) or contacting your Provider(s).

21.  Could you explain the information in the SMP Performance section of the website?
Click here for information relating to benchmarks and their interpretation.

22.  Why is it so difficult to project the future value of the SMP account?
As with any investment account there are no guarantees. Markets move up and down on a daily basis, thus your account balance changes on a daily basis. The economy, interest rates, inflation, global factors, investment horizons, fund selection, etc…. are just a few of the factors that may impact your account balance.

23.  Why is the fund selection limited?
Funds were selected for the SMP using the philosophy that they should be appropriate for an individual's primary retirement account. This philosophy will tend to exclude funds that generate highly volatile returns (i.e., precious metal funds) or those that have consistently low rates of return. The intent is to offer funds that have moderate rates of return and moderate volatility levels.

24.  When do I get a statement?
Fidelity and TIAA-CREF statements are made available quarterly. The SURS SMP Unified Statement is prepared approximately 20 business days after the end of the quarter and, upon email notification, may be viewed and printed from the Member Website.  If you want up-to-date account value, you should access your online account by contacting your Provider.

25.  How do I access my online SURS account?
Visit www.surs.org and click on Member Access. If you have misplaced your user name or password, re-register or call SURS at 800-275-7877. You may use this link for a brief PowerPoint presentation which gives you step by step instruction; Registration Guide.

26.  When am I eligible to retire?
The following are vesting periods for SURS:

  1. 5 years of service at age 62
  2. 8 years of service at age 55
  3. 30 years at any age
  4. Police/Firefighters have special vesting – see SMP Member Guide

27.  What are my options at retirement?
Essentially you have two options at retirement time.  First, you may take a lump-sum distribution.  Secondly, you may elect to take a lifetime annuity payout which you cannot outlive.

28.  What are my provider options for selecting a monthly annuity?
SURS currently uses Principal Life Insurance Company and TIAA/CREF as annuity Providers. You may use one or both for your annuity payout(s).  Since Fidelity is a mutual fund company and not an insurance company, they cannot pay out annuity retirement benefits.  Only insurance companies can issue annuity contracts.

29.  How can I determine what my account balance will equate to in a monthly annuity?
One way is to request an illustration from one or both Providers.  TIAA/CREF offers a Retirement Income Calculator on their website that you may log on to if you are making contributions to TIAA/CREF. TIAA/CREF Retirement Income Calculator

30.  Is the annuity amount shown in an illustration guaranteed?
Not necessarily.  Keep in mind that an illustration is simply a snapshot of that point in time.  It will state on the illustration in the disclaimer section how long the illustration is guaranteed for.  Many factors go into creating this illustration.  Factors such as account balance (which changes daily), interest rates, mortality factors and age, just to name a few, may change frequently.  Annuity illustrations more than a year into the future are not very reliable due to the possibility of the factors listed above changing.

31.  What types of annuity options are available?
Each annuity provider offers the very same options with the exception that TIAA/CREF offers a variable annuity as well.  You may select a straight life annuity or one with joint and survivor options.  You may also select those with 10, 15 or 20 year guaranteed payouts.  You may also mix the joint and survivor feature with a guaranteed payout period.

32.  Who can I consult regarding annuity payout options?
SURS offers counseling appointments for those members anticipating retiring within four years.  The Providers, Principal Life Insurance Company and TIAA/CREF, have registered representatives available via a phone call to discuss options within their annuities.

33.  What can I expect to be discussed in a counseling appointment with SURS?
Lump-sum options, annuity options, insurance, the application process, taxes, Social Security and return to work options will be discussed.

34.  How do I schedule an SMP counseling appointment with a SURS representative?
If you are within four years of retirement you may call 1-800-275-7877 to schedule an appointment.  Appointments may either be in person or via phone call.  Members are limited to one appointment per 12-month period.

35.  How can I find out when webinars and pre-retirement seminars are scheduled?
Future webinars and seminars are listed on the SURS website Homepage (http://www.surs.org/seminars-webinars) under the Seminars and Webinars heading.

36.  How soon prior to retirement should I submit my application?
60 days prior to retirement is recommended. 

37.  How do I apply for retirement?
The SMP retirement application is found on the SURS website under the Forms tab.  You will need to complete the appropriate sections of the application that apply to your specific situation.  A Notary Public is required for signatures on the application.  When all of the forms are complete, return the application to SURS along with appropriate birth verification(s) and marriage certificate, if applicable, if they are not on file with SURS.

38.  What annuity begin date should I enter on my retirement application?
Since all annuity benefit payments are made on the first of the month, it is recommended that you select the first day of the month in the month in which you desire your benefit to begin.

39.  When will I receive my first annuity check?
This can vary considerably but on average you can expect your claim to be finalized within two to three months.  There are several factors that may impact your claim:

  1. Application errors.
  2. The length of time it takes your employer to complete a termination report and send their final payroll to SURS.
  3. Payroll reconciliation at SURS.
  4. Transferring of funds between SMP Providers.
  5. Reciprocal claims may take longer to process.

40.  Are health insurance benefits available?
Yes.  In order to be eligible to receive health insurance through the State of Illinois you must annuitize your entire account balance, thus taking a lifetime annuity.  Please note that some members at community colleges may not be eligible for the College Insurance Plan (CIP).  Members taking lump sums are ineligible for health insurance benefits.

41.  What is the effective date of my health insurance?
Coverage will be effective on your annuity begin date unless you have filed your application late. Your insurance cards will likely arrive a few weeks after your annuity begin date.

42.  How do I pay for my health insurance premiums?
Since your annuity payments are coming from Principal or TIAA/CREF, SURS is not able to deduct your insurance premiums from the payment.  Therefore you will be Direct Billed for your insurance premiums.  Most annuitants write a check for the first month and then have the premium direct debited from their checking or savings account. 

43.  May I return to work and if so what are the restrictions?
You may return to work after retirement with no restrictions.  There is not a 60-day waiting period.  There are no monthly or annual earnings limitations. You will not contribute the 8% of earnings to SURS.

44.  Are purchases allowed in the SMP Plan?
All purchase types are allowed.  There will not be any state match contributions applied to your purchase. You should contact SURS for verification of purchase eligibility and/or updated cost.

45.  Are roll-ins allowed in the SMP Plan?
Roll-ins are allowed from other qualified plans.  There will not be any state match contributions applied to your roll-in. You should contact SURS for verification of purchase eligibility and/or the appropriate forms.

46.  Can a QILDRO claim be filed against my SMP funds?
An Alternate Payee may file a QILDRO claim in a court of law.  Attorneys handle all of the paperwork involved with a QILDRO.  Once the court has ruled, SURS will distribute funds according to the court order when it is received.
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47.  What is required to file a death claim when an SMP participant becomes deceased?
Beneficiaries should contact SURS to request the appropriate claim forms.  One should complete the claim form and return with a certified copy of the death certificate.  Calculations will be done and the benefits paid out by the Providers.  For more information on Death Benefits please consult pg. 12 in the SMP Member Guide (http://www.surs.org/pdfs/mem_guide/Guide-SMP.pdf)

48.  Are SMP members eligible to receive disability benefits?
Yes. Disability applications may be obtained from your employer.  You will complete the employee section.  Your employer will complete their section.  The final section needs to be completed by your physician and forwarded to SURS along with the appropriate medical documentation.  A Medical Claims Processor will then research the claim and determine whether eligibility is granted or denied.  If granted, the claim is then forwarded to a claims calculator who will determine the amount of the disability benefit.

49.  Are my SMP pension benefits subject to taxation?
Your pension benefits are subject to taxation by the Internal Revenue Service for federal income tax purposes.  Under current law, your pension benefits are not subject to income tax by the State of Illinois.  Should you relocate to another state, you should check with that state on the taxation of your pension benefit.

     

 

 

 

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