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Total Rewards frequently asked questions

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What is the vacation waiver, and why did I receive a communication about it?

If you received a vacation waiver comminucation, UM System records estimate you may be impacted by changes to retiree insurance eligibility, effective January 1, 2018. If you have the desire to retire before changes take effect, the waiver may provide peace of mind if unavoidable circumstances arise and push your official retirement date into 2018.

The waiver allows you to receive a lump sum payment for unused accrued vacation that, without the waiver, would be used after December 30, 2017.

Please note, any vacation accruals paid as a lump sum will not be included in creditable service or salary in your final pension calculation.

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My coworker/friend received information about the vacation waiver. Why didn’t I?

Employees who received the vacation waiver communication are estimated to meet the following criteria:

  • Already submitted a Notice of Intent to Retire form for 2017; OR
  • Are estimated to be in Access Category B or C as of December 31, 2017;
  • Are eligible to retire in 2017; and
  • Are in a vacation-accruing position.

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Can faculty with a 9-month position waive service credit and retire in December of 2017?

The waiver form is only available to employees in vacation accruing positions, and allows them the option to waive their right to associated service and salary credit in their pension calculation. This option is not available to 9-month faculty appointments.

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I submitted my NOI form but wish to change my retirement plan. Why does my dept. have to approve?

It is possible your department has already begun reviewing their budget and taking steps to make staffing changes as a result of your previously submitted retirement plan. It is at the discretion of your department if a change for an already submitted retirement plan is approved.

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I submitted my NOI form, but want to sign and return the waiver. Can I?

If you have already submitted your Notice of Intent to Retire (NOI) form and do not wish to change your retirement plan (last day worked, vacation usage or retirement date), you may send your signed waiver to the UM System Office of Human Resources, where your form will be kept on file in the event that unavoidable circumstances arise causing your vacation usage plan to change.

If you have already submitted your NOI form and now wish to consider changing your retirement plan (last day worked, vacation usage or retirement date), please contact your department to discuss your options. Your department must approve of any changes to your retirement plan if the NOI form has already been submitted.

NOTE: If you change your retirement plans within 60 days of your official retirement date, your first pension payment and retiree health insurance enrollment will likely be delayed.

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I want to meet with a Retirement Specialist to discuss the waiver. When can I get an appointment?

The typical wait time for an appointment with a Retirement Specialist is approximately one to two weeks. However, if you would like to contact the Retirement Programs team, your questions may be answered by phone or email. Please reach out to us via email at retirement@umsystem.edu or by phone at 573-882-9810 or toll-free 800-488-5288.

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I’m in Access Category A, but want to complete the waiver to receive my vacation as a lump sum.

The vacation waiver option is only available for employees who are impacted by the changes to retiree health insurance eligibility (for retirements beginning January 1, 2018). As an employee in Access Category A, you are not impacted by the changes. Therefore, it is not necessary to complete the waiver form.

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If I submit a waiver and retire in 2017, when will I receive a lump sum payment for vacation?

The lump sum payment for vacation that would have extended into 2018 will be processed in January 2018, on your final active pay cycle (biweekly – 1/24/18, monthly – 1/31/18) to allow for final accrual review and confirmation. If you have questions regarding taxes on your lump sum distribution, please work with your tax advisor.

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If I submit the vacation waiver and retire in 2017, what happens to my unused sick leave?

While sick leave is not paid out upon retirement, you will receive service credit for all unused sick leave. There is no maximum amount of sick leave one can accrue. 

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Is there a deadline to return the signed waiver?

No. However, please be aware that if your retirement plans change within 60 days of your official retirement date, your first pension payment and retiree health insurance enrollment will likely be delayed.

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Will retiree insurance change for current retirees on 1/1/18?

Changes to retiree insurance eligibility and subsidies, effective in 2018, have little effect on current retirees. All current retirees, as well as their spouses and other dependents, who are enrolled in UM’s insurance plan(s) will:

  • Retain their UM insurance coverage—including medical, dental, life, and vision insurance.
  • Retain the current subsidy from UM—including subsidies for spouses and other dependents.

In other words, if you are a current retiree, the changes being communicated to active employees do not impact you. For a list of all current plans available to retirees—including dental, vision, and life—visit the retiree benefits overview on the Total Rewards website.

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How will retiree insurance change for current faculty and staff on January 1, 2018?

Under the approved changes, employees’ eligibility for retiree insurance benefits, as well as their eligibility for a UM System premium subsidy, will be different depending on their age and years of service. Visit the Changes to retiree insurance webpage for general information on eligibility, or access the resources below, which can be especially helpful in determining how you will be affected:

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What research was conducted to support the changes to retiree insurance?

The Retiree Medical Study provided the research on which the Total Rewards Advisory Committee (TRAC) made its deliberations when developing its retiree insurance recommendations, which have since been approved. For more information, access the Retiree Medical Study webpage or the Changes to retiree insurance webpage.

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When deciding which Access Category I am in, does UM round my age and years of service?

Effective January 1, 2018, employee’s eligibility for the university’s retiree insurance plans will change. Eligibility will differ based on whether an employee falls into Access Category A, B, C, or D. The Access Category you are assigned to is based on whole numbers; partial years are not counted. For example, if you are age 50.5 and have 5.5 years of service, you drop the half a year on each and add 50 and 5. In this example, the calculation is 50 + 5 = 55. It’s not 50.5 + 5.5 = 56.

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Do changes to retiree insurance affect all retiree insurance benefits, or just medical plans?

The changes pertain to eligibility and subsidies for these retiree insurance plans: medical and dental. In the future, as recommended by TRAC, the university will conduct a review of retiree life insurance as well to leverage the marketplace and provide focused value to retiree needs. 

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How does an employee become eligible for UM retiree insurance right now?

Prior to 1/1/2018, or for those employees in Access Category A, an employee is eligible for retiree insurance if he/she is:

  • Eligible for retirement* and
  • Enrolled in a UM insurance plan prior to retirement

This is the structure of retiree insurance benefits and applies to any employee retiring before January 1, 2018, or any employee in Access Category A. Changes to retiree insurance take effect on January 1, 2018, and change eligibility criteria. Read about how eligibility criteria changes in 2018.

* Learn about current retirement eligibility criteria by watching the Retirement eligibility and the defined Benefit Plan on-demand online seminar.

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What tools are available to help me with my retirement decision?

If you're interested in tools that can help you decide if it is better to retire before retiree insurance benefit options change or to wait until later, the university has many resources to support you.

In summer of 2016, UM mailed personalized retirement estimates to employees who wanted to better understand their retirement options. To better understand your retirement options now, you may use UM’s Retirement Calculator to estimate what your pension payout would be if you retired at different points in time.

The decision of whether and when to retire is an individual decision and involves many factors, including pension benefits, other retirement savings, medical coverage options, and an individual’s own career and personal aspirations. UM cannot provide retirement advice, but both Fidelity and TIAA offer free, objective retirement guidance and education on every campus. Visit the Changes to retiree insurance webpage for tools and resources.

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If I have a sick or vacation time accrued, what happens to it when I retire?

When you retire, you will receive day-for-day service credit for accrued sick leave, and there is no cap on sick leave accruals. 

For unused accrued vacation time, you will receive service and salary credit. Unused accrued vacation time is paid out over time at retirement; there are caps on vacation accrual based on your accrual rate. 

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What happens to my service credit if I become disabled in 2017, prior to retiree insurance changes?

The years of service credit necessary to retire and to enroll in retiree insurance will be measured the same way in 2018 as it has always been. In other words, the changes to retiree insurance have no effect on how service credit is accrued.

Under the changes to retiree insurance that go into effect on January 1, 2018, each employee is placed in an access category based on the employee’s status as of December 31, 2017, whether an employee is on Long Term Disability (LTD) or not. If an employee was vested before going on LTD, his/her service credit up to and including December 31, 2017, will be counted. If an employee is NOT vested when the LTD leave begins, he/she will not accrue service credit up to and including December 31, 2017.

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If an employee retires and returns to a benefit-eligible position, could this benefit change again?

We can't tell you absolutely that retiree insurance will never change again. But at this time, we don’t anticipate additional changes. If an employee retires and comes back to a benefit-eligible position, the person would return to their original access category they were in based on age and years of service as of Dec. 31, 2017.

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I’m in Category B with 19 years of service on 1/1/18. Can I enroll in ret. insurance after 1/1/18?

If retiring on or after 1/1/18, you must work to age 60 and attain 20 years of service to be eligible for retiree insurance. Category B employees who work to age 60 and attain 20 years of service can enroll in the university’s retiree insurance plans, regardless of what date the employee reaches those two benchmarks.

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I’ve heard I can only retire at certain times of the year; is that true?

If you are in a 9-month appointment, you may retire on 3/1 or 9/1. All others can retire on any day of the year after meeting the eligibility requirements to be a retiree.

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If spouses work for UM, what if one retires while eligible for ret. insurance and the other doesn’t?

If a spouse loses his or her eligibility for a UM benefit(s), the retiree may add the spouse as a dependent for retiree insurance benefits. Please keep in mind, the newly covered spouse is eligible only for continued coverage under the same programs he or she was enrolled in as an eligible employee. Additionally, such a change must be made within 31 days after the change in status.

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What are the current retiree insurance plans?

UM medical insurance options are different for retirees who are enrolled in Medicare versus those who are not eligible or not enrolled. The following plans are available for 2017.

For a list of all current plans available to retirees—including dental, vision, and life—visit the retiree benefits overview on the Total Rewards website.

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