New To SURS

Steps

  • SURS Receives Your Certification From Your Employer
  • Retirement Choice Packet Sent
  • Review Packet Materials
  • Submit Retirement Choice Election Form Within Six Months*

*If you do not choose a plan within six months, you will be permanently enrolled in the Traditional Plan. While you have six months to make your decision, there is a significant difference in the state contribution benefit related to the timing of enrollment in the Retirement Savings Plan (RSP). If you wish to select the RSP, you should do so as soon as possible.

Receive Certification

SURS participants do not contribute to Social Security.  If you are new to SURS, you must decide which of our three plans – Traditional, Portable, or Retirement Savings Plan (RSP) – is the best choice for your retirement fund.  This is a one-time, irrevocable selection. SURS must receive notification from your employer that you have entered into SURS-covered employment before you can make this election.   Many employers submit this certification to SURS after your first payroll; however, your employer may be different.  For clarification of your employer’s reporting guidelines, you should contact your employer’s Human Resources office.
               
Click here to view a list of SURS-covered employers

Choice Election Packet Sent

SURS will send out a packet of information on the Monday, Wednesday, or Friday following receipt of the certification from your employer.  The packet is mailed to the address provided by your employer.  If you provided your employer with a temporary address, please contact SURS to update your address.

Click here for SURS contact information 

The packet of information includes:

  • Cover Letter – This letter provides your deadline date to choose a plan.  You have six months to select a plan.  If you do not choose a plan, you will default into the Traditional Plan.  If you wish to select the RSP, you should do so as soon as possible.
  • Tier Fact Sheet – This fact sheet indicates whether you are Tier I or Tier II.  The date you first become a participant with SURS or another qualified Illinois retirement system covered under the Illinois Reciprocal Act determines your eligibility for SURS benefits and vesting requirements. It is important that you notify SURS if you have participated in another Illinois retirement system or if you had previous participation with SURS and accepted a refund.

Click here to view a list of reciprocal systems

  • Retirement Choice Booklets – These booklets can help guide your choice of retirement plan.  Please read them thoroughly.  Click here for Tier I booklet. Click here for Tier II booklet
  • Retirement Savings Plan Getting Started Guide – If you are considering the RSP, you should review the RSP Getting Started Guide. This guide provides an overview of the funds offered from Voya and TIAA and instructions for selecting your provider(s) and investment options.
  • Retirement Choice Election Form – Complete this form and return to SURS to select a plan. This form must be submitted to SURS by the deadline date noted on the cover letter.
    You have two options to return the form. You may go online to www.surs.org and click on the Member Login button to access, complete and electronically sign the Retirement Choice Election form; or you may fill out the enclosed form and return it to SURS in the self-addressed, stamped envelope. We will send you a written confirmation of your plan choice.   If you do not choose a plan within six months, you will default and be permanently enrolled in the Traditional Benefit Plan. 
  • Postage-paid return envelope
Review Packet Materials

You should review all of the materials in the Choice Election Packet.  The following resources may also help you choose a plan:

  • Webinars:  SURS offers monthly Plan Choice Webinars.  The webinars provide an overview of the Traditional, Portable, and Retirement Savings Plans and include a Q & A session.  The webinars are for Tier II employees (participants who were first employed by SURS or another reciprocal system on or after January 1, 2011). Visit Events to register.

    If you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact SURS:

    • Dial Toll Free:  800-275-7877
    • Dial Direct:  217-378-8800
    Submit Retirement Election Form

    You must choose your retirement plan and complete your Retirement Choice Election form within six months from the date SURS receives your certification of employment. You have two options to return the form. You may go online to www.surs.org and click on the Member Login button to access, complete and electronically sign the Retirement Choice Election form; or you may fill out the enclosed form and return it to SURS in the self-addressed, stamped envelope. We will send you a written confirmation of your plan choice.   If you do not choose a plan within six months, you will default and be permanently enrolled in the Traditional Benefit Plan.

    Don’t Default on your Plan Choice:  This is your chance to choose the plan that is right for you. Remember, your plan choice is an irrevocable, one-time decision that cannot be changed.  If you default into the Traditional Benefit Plan, you will not be able to change your plan at a later date.  A reminder letter will be sent to you prior to your deadline.

    If you elect the Portable Plan or Retirement Savings Plan you will receive a new Beneficiary Designation Form.  Please complete the form and return it to SURS.  Any prior forms submitted to SURS were submitted under the Traditional Plan and are, therefore, invalid.

    If you elect the Retirement Savings Plan, you must select your provider and investment options online at netbenefits.com/surs.  If you elect the RSP electronically at www.surs.org, you will automatically be directed to the net benefits website to complete your investment selections.  If you do not select your provider(s) or investment options, you will be defaulted into an age appropriate target date fund.

    Frequently Asked Questions
    1. Who are the SURS-covered employers? SURS covers all faculty and support staff of Illinois public higher education including universities, colleges, scientific surveys, and other related agencies. Click here to view a complete list of SURS-covered employers.
    2. What type of retirement plan does SURS provide? SURS offers a choice among three 401(a) qualified pension plans.  You make an irrevocable election to participate in either the Traditional, Portable, or Retirement Savings Plan during your first six months of employment with SURS.
    3. Do I have to contribute to SURS? If you are employed at a SURS-covered employer and are determined eligible to contribute to SURS, you must contribute.Your employer will determine your eligibility to participate in SURS. Generally, you will participate if your position requires you to work continuously for at least one academic term or 4 months, whichever is less, and your employment is not temporary, intermittent, or irregular.
    4. How much do I contribute to SURS? Your contributions are equal to 8 percent of your gross earnings, including earnings for overtime and summer sessions. Full-time community college employees (except City Colleges of Chicago) pay an additional 0.5 percent of earnings to fund a health insurance plan devised for community college retirees. If you began working for a SURS-covered employer on or after April 1, 1986, your employer is required to deduct contributions for Medicare from your gross earnings. Currently, this contribution equals 1.45 percent of gross earnings. Police officers and firefighters have special rules that allow them to contribute 9.5 percent of gross earnings.
    5. How much does my employer contribute? The State of Illinois shares the cost of providing benefits to SURS participants. The state contribution averages about 9.1 percent of the total earnings of all SURS participants in the Traditional and Portable plans. If you remain a SURS participant for many years and receive a retirement annuity, the state´s share for your benefits could be more than the 9.1 percent average of total earnings. The state contributions toward RSP equal 7.6 percent of earnings – of which up to 1 percent is used to provide you with eligibility for disability benefits.
    6. How long will I continue to receive my SURS retirement benefit? Traditional and Portable plan members will receive a monthly retirement benefit from SURS for their lifetime. RSP members will receive their benefits based on the type of options they choose at retirement time.
    7. How do I register/re-register on the Member Website? Click here to walk through the new registration process.
    8. When will I receive an update about my SURS benefits? You may access your SURS account information at anytime by logging into  the SURS Member Website at www.surs.org. If you are in the Traditional or Portable Plan, you  can view a daily snapshot of your account  including account balance, service credit, beneficiaries and more under the My SURS tab.If you are an RSP member, you can login to www.surs.org to view account balance information from both plan providers, updated quarterly.  You will also receive quarterly statements directly from the investment service provider(s).
    9. What are “picked up” contributions? The term “picked-up”contributions is an IRS term referring to those contributions that are made with before-tax dollars. At SURS those include:
      • Payroll contributions received 1/1/1981 and after
      • Optional service purchased with rollovers or installment contracts

      Conversely, “previously taxed” contributions are those made with after-tax dollars. At SURS those include:

      • Contributions received before 1/1/1981
      • Any payments for optional service credit made with after-tax dollars
    10. Can I borrow from my SURS fund? No. Under current law, you cannot borrow or take a partial withdrawal from the SURS accumulation.
    11. Can I make additional contributions to increase my SURS accumulation? No. Under current law, you cannot make voluntary contributions. Contributions are deducted from your salary by your employer and forwarded to SURS. If you qualify to purchase optional service credit, these payments would also increase your SURS accumulation.
    12. When am I eligible to retire? If participation first began prior to January 1, 2011 (Tier I):
      • Age 55 with eight or more years of service, with applicable age reduction
      • Age 62 with five or more years of service
      • Any age with 30 or more years of service*

      *Not applicable if employment termination prior to August 2, 2002

      If participation first began on or after January 1, 2011 (Tier II):

      • At age 62 with 10 or more years of service, with applicable age reduction
      • At age 67 with 10 or more years of service
    13. Is the retirement benefit I receive taxable? In most cases, your retirement benefit will be subject to federal income tax. Illinois residents do not pay Illinois state income tax on the retirement benefit. Any previously taxed contributions will be returned to you per Internal Revenue Service law. Under current law, a portion of the previously taxed contributions will be returned to you with each payment – you will not pay duplicate tax on these funds. SURS can deduct federal income tax from your retirement benefit with each payment. You will indicate whether you wish to have tax withheld from your payment by completing a W-4P form. On that form, you will indicate whether you wish to have tax deducted based on marital status, along with the number of exemptions you are claiming. You can change the amount of tax withheld at any time during the year by completing and submitting a new W-4P form.
    14. How long will I continue to receive my SURS retirement benefit? Traditional and Portable plan members will receive a monthly retirement benefit from SURS for their lifetime. RSP members will receive their benefits based on the type of options they choose at retirement time.
    15. If I qualify for the SURS retirement benefit, do I have to take it? Internal Revenue Service law indicates that if you are not working in this system or another Illinois Public Retirement System, SURS must begin the distribution of minimum benefits to you April 1 of the calendar year following age 70½.
    16. How does part-time employment affect my retirement? The percentage of service will not affect your accumulation of service credit for qualification of benefits or vesting. However, when your benefit is calculated, if you have more than three years at 50 percent time or less, your service credit and benefits may be reduced for calculation purposes.
    17. Do I also pay Social Security taxes while I am in SURS? Social Security taxes will not be withheld from your SURS earnings. SURS participants are not eligible for Social Security coverage based on their employment with a SURS-covered employer (limited exceptions apply).
    18. Will I receive my Social Security benefits from employment I had before I began employment with a SURS-covered employer? At retirement, certain restrictions may apply to your Social Security income if you receive Social Security benefits and a retirement benefit from SURS. You should contact the Social Security Administration for more information on these provisions.
    19. How can I get my questions answered about my SURS benefits? The SURS Call Center is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Call toll free at 800-275-7877 or dial direct at 217-378-8800 to discuss your questions.