UACES Facebook C.E.S.P. 8-19: U.A. Retirement Plans
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Employee Benefits – Fringe Benefits

C.E.S.P. 8-19:  UA Retirement Funding Plans

Date Revised: 11-11-2015

Supersedes: 3-26-2014

Summary: Establishes for Extension employees on University appointment the policies and procedures for participation in the University of Arkansas Retirement Plan (consisting of TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity Investments) or the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System.

The University assists employees in planning for life beyond their working years with generous and flexible retirement benefits that do not require employee contributions, but do offer an employer match of optional employee contributions. University employees can choose from two retirement options: the UA Retirement Plan, a defined contribution plan consisting of 403(b) and/or 457(b) investment options with Teachers Insurance Annuity Association (TIAA) & College Retirement Equalities Fund (CREF) and Fidelity Investments, or a defined benefit plan available through the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS). The terms “defined contribution plan” and “defined benefit plan” are explained below.

All benefits-eligible employees must make a permanent decision when they are hired to participate in either the defined contribution plan (TIAA-CREF or Fidelity Investments) or the defined benefit plan (APERS). Employees have 31 days from the beginning date of employment to choose a plan. If a decision is not made within the 31 day period, the employee is automatically enrolled in the defined contribution plan. Once a plan is selected or the 31-day period has passed, the choice is final and permanent.

I. Defined Contribution Plans: TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity investments

A defined contribution plan does not pay a specific pension benefit when you retire.  Your retirement benefit is dependent on the earnings or losses of your retirement investments. You may contribute a percentage of your pay, and the University will make a matching contribution up to 10% of your regular salary. At retirement or separation of service from the University, you can withdraw this money in a lump sum or over time, subject to plan limitations. Or before you retire, you may begin withdrawing this money at age 59½.

The University gives you the option of investing with two companies, TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity Investments, and offers the following retirement options: regular 403(b), Roth 403(b), and 457(b) plans. These are defined contribution retirement plans which work in much the same as way as 401(k) plans and are available to employees of government and tax-exempt groups, such as schools, hospitals and churches.

Employees may choose to invest with one or both companies. TIAA-CREF is a nonprofit financial services company which offers investment opportunities in long-term bonds and common stocks. Fidelity Investments is a mutual fund company which offers the employee an opportunity to make pooled investments in stocks, bonds, and short-term investments. Retirement benefits from each company include lifetime annuities and lump sum payments. Within the IRS limits, you may enroll, end, increase, decrease, or suspend your contributions at any time.

Contributions to TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments

The University contributes an amount equal to 5% of your regular salary to your TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity Investments retirement plan even if you choose not to contribute. However, the University will match any contributions you make over 5% up to a maximum employer contribution of 10%. Any retirement contribution you make above 10% of your regular annual salary is not matched by the University.  At no time can the combined employee and employer contributions exceed the contribution limits established by the Internal Revenue Code.

Contribution Limits


Employees Below Age 50

Employees Age 50 and Above

403(b) Plan



457(b) Plan






You must reach your 403(b) limit before the end of the calendar year in order to participate in the 457(b) plan, which requires completion of a Salary Deferral Agreement.

You may contribute to your 403(b) plan in one of two ways:

  • Pre-tax: Retirement contributions are deducted from your salary before state and federal taxes are calculated, and your taxes are based on your income after your retirement contribution. Pre-tax retirement contributions and earnings are taxed at withdrawal.
  • After tax (Roth): Retirement contributions are made after the applicable taxes have been deducted from your salary. Therefore, taxes on Roth retirement contributions are paid in the year they are contributed rather than when they are withdrawn at retirement.

Vesting (Ownership)  -  TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments

To be vested in the University defined contribution plan means that you own the money in your retirement account. Employee contributions are 100% vested immediately.  University (employer) contributions are vested if, while employed in a benefits-eligible position, the employee either:

  • Completes 12 consecutive months of employment;
  • Reaches age 65;
  • Becomes disabled as determined by the Social Security Administration or the University's long-term disability insurance provider; or
  • Dies

Employees not vested when they leave University employment forfeit any University employer contributions made to their retirement plan.

The University of Arkansas has a once vested, always vested rule. Your retirement funds will follow you if you change jobs within the University of Arkansas System. If you previously worked for a UA System campus and were vested when you left employment, you will retain that vesting status when you are re-employed by any UA System campus. Consequently, you should inform Human Resources of any prior UA System employment you have had. If you are not vested when you leave University employment and return to the University with a separation of 30 or more days, your vesting period starts over.

Making Changes

When enrolling in a new retirement account, you must complete a company account application online for TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity Investments. 

For new enrollments and any subsequent changes, you must also complete the Salary Deferral Agreement form to:

  • Start your retirement contributions
  • Increase or decrease the amount you contribute to retirement
  • Change the mix of your contributions between TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments
  • Change your contributions to be traditional tax-deferred or Roth contributions
  • Stop your retirement contributions

All changes to your 403(b) and 457(b) deductions will be effective at the beginning of the next payroll period, unless you specify a later effective date. 

Changing Beneficiaries

A beneficiary is the person or entity you name to receive funds from your defined contribution plan when you die. Follow the links below to make beneficiary changes.

Send paper forms to:

UA Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
Human Resources
2301 S. University Ave
Little Rock, AR 72204
Fax: 501-671-2251

Retirement Counseling

Employees may contact TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments directly to schedule free telephone consultations or make appointments at their local company offices. Counselors from both TIAA-CREF and Fidelity Investments also provide free individual retirement planning counseling sessions at the LRSO on a quarterly basis.

II. Defined Benefit Plan: APERS

Also called a pension plan, a defined benefit plan pays a specific amount per month at retirement based on a formula that takes into account years of service and final average salary. The University of Arkansas defined benefit plan is provided through the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS).

Once you have chosen to participate in the defined benefit plan when you are hired by the University, you may not choose to participate in the employer matched defined contribution plan (TIAA/CREF and/or Fidelity Investment) in the future. However, if you participate in APERS, you can choose to make unmatched contributions to TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity Investments.

Contributions to APERS

In the past, the APERS defined benefit plan was non-contributory. However, the Arkansas Contributory Program Act 2084 of 2005 now requires all APERS participants to be in the APERS contributory plan. Contributory means that both the employee and the employer contribute to the plan. Required plan contributions are:

  • University employer contributions - 14.50%
  • Required employee tax-deferred contributions - 5%

If you have past service with APERS before it became a contributory plan, you may be eligible to continue participating in the APERS non-contributory plan at the University. Non-contributory means that you do not contribute to APERS, but you still receive the employer APERS contribution. Your pension with the non-contributory APERS plan is expected to be less than with the contributory plan. Contact APERS directly if you think you qualify to participate in the non-contributory plan.

Vesting in APERS

You are vested after you have five years of service credit in the plan. If you leave employment before your APERS service is vested, you will not be eligible for a pension, but you can be refunded the 5% you contributed. If you are vested but choose to be refunded your 5% contributions when you leave University employment, you will lose the service credit for that period of University of Arkansas employment.

APERS Retirement Benefits

In determining APERS retirement benefits, there are age and length of service requirements:

  • Full benefit at age 65 with a minimum of 5 years of credited service.
  • Full benefit at age 55 with a minimum of 35 years of credited service.
  • Full benefit at any age with 28 years of actual service.

The benefit formula can be found on the APERS website: Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS). For additional information, contact the APERS office directly.

When an Extension employee elects to retire from an Arkansas state retirement plan [i.e., Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS) or Arkansas Teacher’s Retirement System (ATRS)], there may be a “mandatory wait period” before the employee can return to any form of employment with Extension.  Each employee is advised to contact their retirement plan to determine their individual “mandatory wait period.”

APERS Beneficiary Changes

A beneficiary typically refers to someone who is eligible to receive distributions from your defined contribution plan upon your death. To change your plan beneficiaries, complete the APERS Employee Contributions Beneficiary Designation d form and send to:

UA Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
Human Resources
2301 S. University Ave
Little Rock, AR 72204
Fax: 501-671-2251

  III. Retirement Option for Employees Not Eligible for Benefits

The University offers a retirement option for employees who are not eligible for benefits. Any University employee can participate in a Supplemental Retirement Plan with TIAA-CREF and/or Fidelity Investments. If you are not in a benefits-eligible position, you will not receive any employer contributions to your 403(b) retirement plan, but you can make voluntary, unmatched contributions. Contributions can either be tax-deferred or after tax. Within IRS limits, you may enroll, end, increase, decrease or suspend your contributions at any time. You may contact the Human Resources Office for more information.




730 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Fidelity Investments
P.O. Box 770002
Cincinnati, OH 45277

124 West Capital, Suite 400
Little Rock, AR 72201-3704

2301 S. University Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72204