Please consult the following FAQs to learn more about CIRS, our plans, services, and retirement in general. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, or just need a little more guidance, please contact us!
Jump to a section below: General information | Pension- General |Pension – Tier I | Pension- Tier II | Savings | Group Life Insurance
What is CIRS and what benefits do I have as a Member?
As an Eligible Employee, you have access to three plans: The Cultural Institutions Pension Plan (CIRS Pension Plan), The Cultural Institutions Savings Plan (CIRS 401k Savings Plan), and The Cultural Institutions Group Life and Welfare Benefits Plan (CIRS Group Life Plan).
All three Plans are portable. In other words, if you change jobs, your membership in the Plans will continue – as long as your new employer is a CIRS Participating Employer and you continue to be an Eligible Employee–note that not all CIRS Participating Employers participate in all three plans.
What is a CIRS Participating Employer?
When do I become a Member?
For the CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan and CIRS Group Life Plan:
If you are an Eligible Employee, will become a Member of both Plans on the first day of the month on or after the later of:
- your 21st birthday; or
- the date you complete three months of Employment Service
For the CIRS Pension Plan:
If you are an Eligible Employee, will become a Member of the Plan on is the first day of the month on or after the later of:
- your 21st birthday; or
- the date you complete one year of Employment Service
Tier I Members of the Pension Plan are generally employees that were hired initially prior to October 1, 2016. Employees will remain Tier I Members unless they terminate employment before completing 5 years of Employment Service, incur a 5-year break in service and are rehired on or after October 1, 2016.
Tier II Members of the Pension Plan are generally employees that were hired on or after October 1, 2016.
As a general rule, if you transfer your employment from one CIRS Participating Employer directly to another, your Membership in the Plans continues without interruption.
How do I enroll in the plans?
A separate enrollment kit will be mailed to you once you become a member in the Pension Plan.
Who is an Eligible Employee?
What is Employment Service?
Employment Service is measured in years and months with a full month of service credit given in your month of hire and month of your Severance from Service Date.
What is Benefit Service?
When is my Severance from Service Date?
- the date you terminate employment, retire or die; or
- the date your layoff or leave of absence ends, if the layoff or leave of absence lasts less than one year and you do not return to work at such time; or
- 12 months after the date you leave, if you leave employment for any other reason.
What is Base Salary?
What is a Beneficiary?
A contingent beneficiary is the person or persons you choose to receive your applicable survivor benefits in the event that all your primary beneficiaries are deceased at the time of your death.
Who can be my Beneficiary?
How can I elect a Beneficiary or make a change to my Beneficiary election?
- For the CIRS Pension Plan, beneficiary elections must be made through Transamerica (cirs.trsretire.com or call 1-888-976-8196).
- For the CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan, beneficiary elections must be made through Voya (cirs.voya.com or call 1-866-719-2477).
- The beneficiary elections made for the CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan will be used for the CIRS Group Life Plan.
- If you want to choose a different beneficiary for the CIRS Group Life Plan, there is a separate form you must complete. You can click here to print out this form or contact CIRS at 212-674-0101 to request a copy.
You should renew your beneﬁciary elections for all plans, even if you have previously made elections, to ensure that CIRS has current information in our files.
CIRS Pension Plan - General Questions
What is the CIRS Pension Plan?
What is Vesting?
You are automatically vested in any contributions you make to the CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan or the CIRS Pension Plan (as applicable).
What is a Break in Service?
If you return to work after a Break in Service, your earlier Employment Service and Beneﬁt Service are restored if you were vested when you terminated your employment (i.e., had already been credited with ﬁve or more years of Employment Service). However, if you received a lump sum payment of your beneﬁts, your Beneﬁt Service prior to your Break in Service will not be restored. If you were not vested when you terminated, all Beneﬁt Service and Employment Service is restored only if the period of the Break in Service is less than ﬁve years. Special rules regarding Benefit Service apply to Tier II Members who received a refund of their employee contributions.
What is Normal Retirement?
When is Early Retirement?
What is Rule of 85 Retirement?
To be eligible, you must terminate employment at a CIRS Participating Employer on or after age 55, and your age plus your years of Benefit Service must equal to or exceed 85 (i.e. age 55 plus 30 years, age 56 plus 29 years, etc.).
Can I retire early if I am disabled?
How can I get an estimate of my monthly pension benefit?
Alternatively, you can call Transamerica at 1-888-976-8196, Monday through Friday, from 8am to 8pm.
What are my payment options?
- Single Life Annuity — Under this form of payment, you receive your full monthly benefit for life. No monthly benefits are paid after your death. This is the standard (automatic) form of payment if you are single when your benefit payments begin unless you elect another form of payment. It is an optional form of payment if you are married.
- Joint and Survivor Annuity — Under this form of payment, you receive a reduced monthly benefit for your lifetime and, after your death, your beneficiary receives a percentage — either 50%, 75%, or 100% — of your reduced benefit for their lifetime. The amount of the reduction depends on the ages of you and your beneficiary and the survivor percentage you elect. The younger your beneficiary is in comparison to you, the greater the reduction. Also, the higher the survivor percentage elected, the more your lifetime monthly benefit is reduced. If your beneficiary dies before you, your monthly benefit amount will remain the same. You cannot change to another form of payment due to your beneficiary’s death nor can you change or add a beneficiary after payments commence.
- A 50% Joint and Survivor Annuity is the standard (automatic) form of payment if you are married when your benefits begin unless you elect another form of payment with written, notarized spousal consent. However, in the event you elect a 75% or 100% Joint and Survivor Annuity with your spouse as beneficiary, your spouse’s consent is not required. A 50% Joint and Survivor Annuity is an optional form of payment if you are single.
- Joint and Survivor Annuity with “Pop-Up” Feature — Under this form of payment, you receive a reduced monthly benefit for your lifetime and, after your death, your beneficiary receives a percentage — either 50%, 75%, or 100% (based on your election)— of your reduced benefit for their lifetime – just like the Joint and Survivor Annuity. However, if your beneficiary dies before you, due to the “popup” feature, the amount of your monthly benefit payments will be increased to the amount you would have received under the unreduced Single Life Annuity option. Similar to the Joint and Survivor Annuity, the amount of the reduction depends on the ages of you and your beneficiary and the percentage of your benefit payable to your beneficiary. Since your benefit will increase (“pop-up”) if your beneficiary dies before you, the amount of the reduction is higher than under the normal Joint and Survivor Annuity.
- Certain and Life Annuity — Under this form of payment, you receive a reduced monthly benefit for life, guaranteed for the first 5, 10 or 15 years. The amount of the reduction depends on your age and the guaranteed term you select. You will continue to receive this benefit for your lifetime if you live beyond the guaranteed period. If your beneficiary dies before you, the amount of your monthly benefit will remain unchanged. If your beneficiary dies before the guaranteed period is over, you may name a new beneficiary. If you die during the guaranteed period, monthly payments will continue to your beneficiary for the rest of the guaranteed period, stopping when that period is over. If you die after the guaranteed period is over, no additional monthly annuity benefit will be paid to your beneficiary. The amount of the reduction depends upon your age.
- Level Income Annuity —Under this form of payment, you will receive a Single Life Annuity with a higher monthly benefit until you reach age 62, when you become eligible for reduced Social Security payments. Your monthly benefit will be reduced after that. Therefore, your monthly benefit, when combined with an estimate of your Social Security benefit, will provide you with (as nearly as possible) a level amount of income throughout your lifetime. Take note: this option is only available if you retire early (Early Retirement or Special Rule of 85) and is not available under Disability Retirement or if you terminated employment before becoming eligible for Early Retirement. There is no survivor annuity benefit under this option. It is possible that by electing to increase the benefit payable to you before age 62, there may be little or no benefit payable to you at age 62 and beyond. In this case, your remaining benefit (if any), as well as the Post–Retirement Lump Sum Death Benefit, may be payable to you at age 62 on an actuarially adjusted basis.
- Lump Sum Payment — If the actuarial value of your vested benefit is less than $20,000, you may elect to receive a lump sum payment instead of a monthly annuity. If you are married, and the value of your benefit is greater than $5,000, your spouse must provide written, notarized consent to this election. If you are eligible to receive a Disability Retirement Beneﬁt, you cannot elect this method of payment.
Example of Payment Options
If we assume you are a Tier I Member and your monthly Normal Retirement Benefit is $1,000, you elect a beneficiary that is not your spouse and both you and your beneficiary are age 62, the following chart shows how much each of you would collect under the various payment options.
|Your Monthly Benefit||Your Beneficiary’s Monthly Benefit if He or She Survives You|
|Single Life Annuity||$1,000.00||N/A|
|Certain & Life Annuity|
|Joint & Survivor Annuity|
|Joint & Survivor Annuity with "Pop-Up" Feature 2|
 Payments to your beneficiary will commence only if your death occurs before the certain term expires. Payments to your beneficiary will cease once the total number of payments made to both you and your beneficiary reaches the certain term.
 The amount of your monthly benefit payments will be increased to $1,000 if your beneficiary dies before you.
Are taxes withheld from my pension benefit?
When do I have to decide my payment option?
How can I apply for my pension benefit?
The retirement kit includes information about the amount of your benefit under each of the available forms of payment. When you request this information, you will be asked to provide your last day on payroll and your spouse’s or beneficiary’s date of birth as applicable.
I'm already retired. Who do I contact if I have questions?
You can reach out to Transamerica to do any of the following tasks:
- Obtain an explanation of the check received, including federal and state taxes, and other deductions, begin and end dates of current and future deductions
- Verify primary and banking address information and/or request change of address (address changes should be sent in writing)
- Request electronic deposit forms to enroll, change, or cancel electronic direct deposit of the monthly benefit
- Request to change your federal or state tax withholding amounts
- Inquire to the status of your check if not received on a timely basis
- Request a stop payment and reissue of your check
- Obtain an explanation of IRS 1099-R form
- Request a copy of IRS 1099-R form
I’ve submitted my retirement kit. How do I check the status?
What happens if I die before I retire?
If you are not actively employed by a Participating Employer when you die, the survivor beneﬁt is reduced for early payment.
If you are a non-vested Tier II Member, your beneﬁciary(ies) will receive a refund of your employee contributions.
If I am currently retired and then die, what benefits are available to my Beneficiaries?
For Tier II Members, if at the time of your beneficiary’s death (or yours if no benefits are payable to a beneficiary), the total monthly benefits that were paid to you and your beneficiary does not exceed the value of your employee contributions, then the remainder of your employee contributions will be paid to your contingent beneficiaries (or estate).
What is the Post-retirement Lump Sum Death Benefit?
Pension - Tier I Members Only
Who is considered a Tier I Member?
What is my Normal Retirement Date?
How is my Monthly Pension Benefit calculated?
2.0% x years and months of Benefit Service since 1990 x 4-Year Final Average Salary = Annual Pension Benefit
Your annual pension benefit is then divided by 12 to arrive at your monthly pension benefit. Your Final Average Salary is based on the highest four consecutive July 1 Base Salaries during your last ten years of Benefit Service.
If you have earned Benefit Service prior to January 1, 1990, there is a different formula. Please contact CIRS for further information.
What do I contribute to the Pension Plan?
Pension - Tier II Members Only
Who is considered a Tier II Member?
What is my Normal Retirement Date?
How is my Monthly Pension Benefit calculated?
1.4% x years and months of Benefit Service x 4-Year Final Average Salary = Annual Pension Benefit
Your annual pension benefit is then divided by 12 to arrive at your monthly pension benefit. Your Final Average Salary is based on the highest four consecutive July 1 base salaries during your last ten years of Benefit Service.
What do I have to contribute to the Pension Plan?
|For each Payroll Period, if your Annualized Base Salary Is||Contribution Percentage|
|$70,000.00 or less||2.0%|
|$70,000.01 to $100,000.00||2.5%|
|$100,000.01 or more||3.0%*|
* Note that your employer will not withhold contributions on Base Salary in excess of the IRS limit.
Am I required to make mandatory employee contributions while on a Leave of Absence?
Can I receive a refund of my mandatory employee contributions?
How will I receive my refund?
If the value of your refund is greater than $5,000, then you have additional options for receiving your refund as an annuity. If you are married, spousal consent is required if you do not elect a 50% Joint and Survivor Annuity as a payment option.
If I am rehired and received a refund of my mandatory employee contributions, will I be required to repay my refund?
If you have not incurred a 5-Year Break in Service, you will be given the option to repay your refund, plus interest as specified by the Internal Revenue Service. Prior Benefit Service will be restored if a refund is repaid. If a refund is not repaid, all prior Benefit Service will be forfeited but any prior Employment Service will be retained.
If you have incurred a 5-Year Break in Service, you will not be given the option to repay your refund and you will have permanently forfeited all prior Benefit and Employment Service.
CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan
What is the CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan?
You pay no current income taxes on before-tax contributions to the CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan and the earnings on your investments, so you save on taxes today as well as preparing for your future needs.
How much can I contribute to the Plan?
What is the IRS maximum contribution amount?
The table below illustrates the IRS contribution limits for the last four years.
How can I change my contribution percentage?
Can I make any other contributions to the Plan?
How do I rollover money from my previous employer’s 401(k) plan?
How can I check my CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan account balance?
What are my investment options?
- Stable Value Fund (default fund)
- Bond Market Index Fund
- S&P 500 Index Fund
- S&P 400 Index Fund
- Russell 2000 Index Fund
- International EAFE Index Fund
- Emerging Markets Index Fund
Effective December 2, 2017, target date funds are also available.
In addition, you have the option to open a brokerage account at TD Ameritrade where you can invest in thousands of mutual funds and hundreds of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).
How should I invest my money?
Is there a fee to get investment advice?
However, Voya also provides the option of enrolling in their Professional Management Service, which provides professional investment advice and actively makes changes to your account based on your ﬁnancial goals. The fee for this service is based on the size of your account balance and will not exceed 50 bps (0.50%) of your account balance.
Can I borrow money from my CIRS 401(k) Savings Plan account?
When can I receive a distribution from my account?
Note that, if you rolled money from a previous employer, this money can be withdrawn at any time, including while you are still employed.
How can I receive a distribution from my account?
If your account balance is greater than $1,000 and less than or equal to $5,000, you can:
- leave the money in the Savings Plan; or
- request payment in a lump sum; or
- rollover the balance into an IRA or another employer’s qualified plan.
If your account balance is greater than $5,000, you can:
- leave the money in the Savings Plan; or
- request a lump sum payment; or
- request the purchase of an annuity; or
- request installment payments — paid monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually; or
- rollover the money into an IRA or another employer’s qualified plan.