Wisconsin Retirement System

The Wisconsin Retirement System includes all teachers in Wisconsin tax-supported schools and other agencies. The new participation requirements differ from previous ones in that the employer is required to review a person's eligibility for WRS at the end of each year of employment rather than at the end of two years. The new law provides that, except for specific exclusions listed in Section 40.22(2), Stats., the following factors determine when an employee becomes a participating employee under the retirement system:

  • Act 13 provides that for teachers employed on or after July 1, 1989 and for all others employed on or after January 1, 1991—whether a continuing employee or a new hire—the employer must immediately include the employee under the WRS if the employee is EXPECTED TO WORK at least one-third of what is considered full-time employment (440 hours for teachers or 600 hours for non-teachers) for at least one year. (One year is 365 consecutive days, 366 in leap year, from date of hire.)
  • Employees who first become covered by WRS on or after January 1, 1990 (this includes persons who close their WRS accounts by taking a benefit and then are employed in covered positions) must have service in at least 5 years to be eligible for retirement benefits. Those who do not meet the 5-year requirement are eligible for separation benefits and comparable death benefits regardless of age.

Legislation was enacted in 1984 to substantially improve retirement benefits for career public employees in the WRS. To help pay for the benefit improvements a mandatory "Benefit Adjustment Contribution" was instituted. The Benefit Adjustment Contribution is a mandatory employee contribution that is not credited to your individual account but is used to fund overall system benefit liabilities.

Employment Category Mandatory Employee Contribution
Rates Effective 1/1/96
General Employees
and Teachers
6.5% (includes 5% refundable Employee Required Contribution and 1.5% non-refundable Benefit Adjustment Contribution)
Protectives with
Social Security
6.1% (includes 6% refundable Employee Required Contribution and 0.1% non-refundable Benefit Adjustment Contribution)
Protective without
Social Security
Elected Officials and State Executive Retirement Plan Employees 4.6%

Death Benefits Before Retirement

The benefit will always include the full amount of required and additional contributions you made (or employee-required contributions which were paid for you by your employer), plus accumulated interest.

The amount of the death benefit payable from your retirement account will vary depending on your age at the time of death, your creditable service, the amount of accumulated contributions in your account, and the relationship of your beneficiary(ies).

If your covered employment began before 1966, the death benefit may also include employer contributions made to your account prior to 1966, plus interest credited to date of payment.

If you die as an active employee past the age of 60 (55 for protective occupations), and your beneficiary is your spouse and/or dependent child(ren), the death benefit includes matching employer contributions. The amount of the benefit is determined as though you retired on the date of death and selected a joint survivorship annuity continued in full to your spouse or dependent child(ren).

After Retirement

If your death occurs after retirement, benefits are determined according to the annuity option you chose at the time you retired. If you chose the option AFor Annuitant's Life Only,@ the benefit will be paid to you for as long as you live and will end at your death. Other options are available, such as life annuities with a guaranteed number of payments, and joint survivor options, that do provide a death benefit. Generally, joint survivor options provide better death benefit protection to a surviving spouse than the other options.


The program provides for disability benefits which are the same benefits to which the member would have been entitled if the member had been at retirement age. In order to qualify for the disability benefit the member:

  1. Must have been covered for five out of eight recent years;
  2. Must not be employed after becoming disabled; and
  3. Must sustain a 100% total and permanent disability.

The Retirement Formula

The formula method of computing the monthly annuity benefit is based on the following four factors:

  1. The age of the annuitant if under the age of 65;
  2. The number of years of service credit, a year of service credit being 120 days within a normal fiscal (not academic) year;
  3. The final average salary, computed on the highest three years' total yearly earnings (the years used are those in which reported earnings were highest and need not be consecutive); and
  4. A fixed factor of .016.

The "normal retirement age" for the different employment categories are:

  • Age 57 - general employees/teachers with at least 30 years of creditable service, including creditable military service.
  • Age 65 - general employees/teachers with less than 30 years of creditable service.

Actuarial reduction of .4% per month of age under the normal retirement age is decreased by .001111% for each month of creditable service, with a maximum of 360 months used to give an unreduced benefit at age 57. The full .4% per month reduction applies for months between ages 55 and 57.

Creditable military service - An employee who has 5 to 20 years of creditable service under the Wisconsin Retirement System may be granted credit for military service (maximum of 1 year for each 5 years of creditable service up to a total of 4 years) provided:

  1. previous credit has not been granted;
  2. such military service was performed prior to 1974;
  3. such military service time is not used for federal retirement benefit purposes; and
  4. discharge was under conditions other than dishonorable.

To receive credit an employee should submit military discharge papers after the 20 year requirement has been satisfied, or at the time of retirement, whichever occurs first.

Annuitants who return to covered employment will have an earnings limit of 7.2 times the final average monthly earnings at retirement. Earning limits will be provided to the annuitant and employer from Wisconsin Retirement.

Back to Part 2

Employee Handbook - Quick Links

Employee Handbook Quick Links

Footer Anchor