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Retirement Savings Plans

Northwestern University has two 403(b) retirement savings plans:

Attention: Elect to maximize the Retirement Plan's 5% match BEFORE contributing to the Voluntary Savings Plan.

See the Retirement Savings Plans Summary Plan Description  for more information on both plans.

Contributions

Because of the financial impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwestern is suspending all University contributions to the retirement plan as of June 11, 2020. Contributions are expected to resume on January 1, 2021. Additional information can be found on the Human Resources Coronavirus FAQs page

The Retirement Savings Plans allow the following pre-tax contribution types: 


Contribution Source 2020 Annual Limits
Eligible salary limit for retirement plans $285,000
Employee total contribution limit $19,500
Age 50 catch-up limit (above and beyond the limit) $6,500 
Employee and employer aggregate contribution limit $57,000

Eligibility

Retirement Plan

Hired Before 1/1/2020: Any benefits-eligible employee scheduled to work half-time or more (18.75 or more hours per week) and is at least age 24, may participate in the Northwestern University Retirement Plan starting the first pay period available after their one-year anniversary.

Hired On or After 1/1/2020: Any benefits-eligible employee scheduled to work half-time or more (18.75 or more hours per week) and is at least age 21, may participate in the Northwestern University Retirement Plan starting the first pay period available after their two-year anniversary.

Service Waiver

You may receive a Waiver of Service of the Retirement Plan’s two years of service requirement if you are at least age 21, and you submit a completed Waiver Form documenting that you (1) were employed by a tax-exempt educational or research organization or a state educational organization (see Code Sections below) for at least a 24-consecutive month period ending 60 or fewer days before your Northwestern Date of Hire; and (2) received employer contributions under a Code Section 403(b) or 401(a) retirement plan maintained by this organization 60 or fewer days before your Northwestern Date of Hire.

 
Voluntary Savings Plan

All actively-employed faculty and staff (excluding contractors, consultants, and leased employees) paid by Northwestern via payroll are eligible. There are no length of service or age requirements. You may participate in the Voluntary Savings Plan even before you are eligible to participate in the Retirement Plan starting the first available pay period after your date of hire. 

If you are contributing to the Voluntary Savings Plan BEFORE becoming eligible for the Retirement Plan, your voluntary contributions will not automatically be transitioned to the Retirement Plan. You MUST ELECT to make Matched Contributions to the Retirement Plan this election and adjust your Voluntary Savings Plan.

Eligible earnings 

Your 403(b) retirement contributions are calculated by using your base salary including any eligible earnings.  Eligible earnings are generally considered wages - not scholarship funds, work-study, or NRSA earnings

Supplemental pay and pay for temporary assignments and additional assignments are included for employees who do not meet the IRS limit of highly compensated, which is $130,000 in 2020.