General Retirement Plan questions

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Learn more about the AFTRA Retirement Plan with the following Frequently Asked Questions and answers.

General Retirement Plan questions

  • Q. How is my pension different from a 401(k) plan?

    A. Your Retirement Plan is a defined benefit plan, and a 401(k) is a defined contribution plan. A defined benefit plan provides you with a specific monthly benefit when you become eligible for a benefit, typically based on a formula that takes into account your earnings and years of service. A defined contribution plan provides a benefit based on the amount contributed and is affected by investment gains and losses, income and expenses. Unlike this defined benefit plan, a 401(k) defined contribution plan receives contributions that employees voluntarily elect to defer from their salary.
  • Q. What are AFTRA-covered earnings?

    A. AFTRA-covered earnings are compensation for services performed under a SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreement for which an employer is obligated to contribute to the AFTRA Retirement Fund.
  • Q. What are employer contributions?

    A. Employer contributions are paid to the AFTRA Retirement Fund on your behalf for work done under SAG-AFTRA-negotiated collective bargaining agreements which require an employer to make such contributions to the AFTRA Retirement Fund. The contribution amount is based on a percentage of your AFTRA-covered earnings (earnings that require contributions to the AFTRA Retirement Fund on your behalf) as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement(s) under which work was performed. Contributions received by the AFTRA Retirement Fund are used to support benefits provided through the AFTRA Retirement Plan. Effective May 1, 2009, your pension accruals are calculated using a percentage of the employer contributions made on your behalf.
  • Q. What is vesting service and how do I earn it?

    A. Vesting service determines whether you have a non-forfeitable entitlement to a pension. Generally, you become vested after you earn five pension credits, and you earn pension credits by earning a minimum level of covered earnings in a base year (Dec. 1 – Nov. 30 – see the next FAQ for details). Once you are vested, this means you cannot lose your right to a pension benefit, even if you leave covered employment before reaching the age when you can apply for a Retirement Plan benefit. Note that there is no “partial vesting,” meaning that you must be fully vested to receive a pension.
  • Q. What are pension credits, and how do I earn them?

    A. Pension credits are used to determine which base years (Dec. 1 through Nov. 30) will count toward the calculation of pension benefits under the AFTRA Retirement Plan. You earn a pension credit for each base year that you reach or surpass a minimum level of AFTRA-covered earnings (see chart below):

    Minimum covered earnings required to earn a pension credit:

    Time period

    Minimum AFTRA-covered earnings

    For base years December 1, 1954-  December 1, 1988...  $2,000 annual minimum
      AFTRA-covered earnings

    For base years December 1, 1989 - December 1, 2001 

    $5,000 annual minimum
    AFTRA-covered earnings

    For base years December 1, 2002 -  December 1, 2008 …

    $7,500 annual minimum
    AFTRA-covered earnings

    For base years December 1, 2009 
    and after …

    $15,000 annual minimum
    AFTRA-covered earnings

     
    To confirm how many pension credits you have accumulated or your vesting status, call Participant Services at (800) 562-4690 or send a written inquiry to the AFTRA Retirement Fund. 

     

  • Q. If I return to work after I start collecting my pension, how does it affect my monthly payment? Is my retirement payment re-calculated?

    A. If you perform AFTRA-covered work after your retirement (or if you receive residuals or royalties) and earn additional pension credits, your monthly benefit will be recalculated. If this occurs, any increase to your monthly benefit will become payable on June 1 following the base year (Dec. 1 – Nov. 30) in which the additional pension credit was earned.
  • Q. Can I make my own contributions to the Retirement Plan?

    A. No, you may not make your own contributions to the Retirement Plan.
  • Q. Can I take a loan against my pension?

    A. No. The Retirement Plan does not allow it.
  • Q. Can I assign my pension?

    A. No. The Retirement Plan does not allow it.
  • Q. I am in the process of a divorce and I want to know how I can divide my AFTRA Retirement Fund pension with my spouse.

    A. A Domestic Relations Order must be submitted. A draft of the Order should be forwarded to the AFTRA Retirement Plan for review to determine if it meets the Plan requirements for Qualified status. If the AFTRA Retirement Fund does not have a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) on file, it cannot pay retirement benefits to anyone other than the participant. Refer to the 2013 Retirement Plan Summary Plan Description and relevant Benefits Updates for additional information. 
  • Q. What is a QDRO, and how would a QDRO affect my pension?

    A. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a legal order or decree that requires the AFTRA Retirement Plan to pay all or a portion of a participant’s pension benefits to an alternate payee for child support, alimony or spousal rights. You will be notified immediately if we receive a QDRO for your benefits. You or your beneficiary may request a free copy of the AFTRA Retirement Plan’s procedures for determining the validity of QDROs at any time by calling Participant Services at (800) 562-4690. Refer to the 2013 Retirement Plan Summary Plan Description and relevant Benefits Updates for additional information.
  • Q. If a QDRO is in effect and I work after my divorce, is my pension affected?

    A. The terms of the QDRO will govern how much you or your ex-spouse will receive. In most cases, the ex-spouse is not entitled to that portion of your benefits resulting from pension credits earned after the end of the marital period. Refer to the 2013 Retirement Plan Summary Plan Description and relevant Benefits Updates for additional information.
  • Q. If a QDRO is in effect, can my ex-spouse name me as a beneficiary of his/her portion of my pension benefits?

    A. There is no Retirement Plan provision that prevents an ex-spouse from naming you as a beneficiary of his/her legally entitled portion of your benefits. However, the provisions of the QDRO typically govern the payment of any survivor benefits. Refer to the 2013 Retirement Plan Summary Plan Description and relevant Benefits Updates for additional information.