Human Resources

FAQ & Glossary

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Western Retirement Plans. You may also wish to visit the Investment Reporting Glossary of Terms for further explanation and answers to your questions.

If the answer to your question is not found here or elsewhere on this website, you may wish to contact the Human Resources Communication Centre (see below) to get more specific information or to arrange for a meeting with a consultant.

How much am I required to contribute to the pension plan?

Staff members:

Most staff members make Regular Contributions of 2.5% of earnings. Some staff members contribute under a prior arrangement (6% minus Canada Pension Plan contributions) and should contact a Western Pension and Benefits Consultant to discuss changing to the 2.5% level. You may also, of course, also make voluntary contributions beyond your Regular Contributions.

Note: Beginning November 1, 2012, all new PMA-eligible employees joining the pension plan will be required to make regular pension plan contributions of 5.5% - an increase of 3%. Those who joined the plan prior to November 1, 2012 will be asked to make a choice to either maintain their regular pension contributions at 2.5% or increase to 5.5%.

Faculty members:

Effective November 16th, 2010, new UWOFA members joining the Academic Pension Plan are required to make regular contributions to the plan at the rate of 5.5%.

Those UWOFA members who were already members of the Academic Pension Plan on November 16, 2010 were asked to set their regular contributions rate at either 1.5% or 5.5% by June 30, 2011. They were also reminded they could make voluntary contributions beyond Regular Contributions. The total amount of contributions is subject to limitations set by Canada Revenue Agency.

How much does Western contribute to the pension plan?

Staff members:

Western contributes 7.5% of regular annual earnings increasing to 8.0% after 10 years of service and 8.5% after 20 years of service.

Note: Beginning November 1, 2012, employer contributions for most PMA-eligible employees will increase .5 percent. The employer contributions will be:

Faculty members:

Western contributes 8.5% of regular annual earnings.

Can I contribute more to the pension plan?

Yes, you can make additional Voluntary Contributions up to the limit set by the Canada Revenue Agency*. This will help you increase your savings via payroll deduction. You can increase, lower or stop your voluntary contributions any month. Investment fees for the investment options offered on the Western plans are generally lower than for outside RRSPs. It is also important to note that these funds are not locked in, so you can withdraw them at any time. A service fee will apply, and taxes will be withheld at the lump sum withdrawal rate.

To begin making Voluntary Contributions please complete both the Voluntary Contribution Change Form (both sides) and indicate your investment direction under column 4. Return them to Human Resources Communications in person (Rm. 5100, Support Services Building) or via fax (519-661-4104) or via campus mail, or scan and email to

*Important: The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) sets restrictions on the total contributions you can make. This includes your Required Contributions to Western’s pension plan, any voluntary contributions, contributions made by Western on your behalf in the year. The limit is either 18% of your earnings in the current year, or the amount set by CRA ($22,970 for 2011), whichever is less. If you do not contribute the maximum allowed you will have corresponding RSP room in the following year.

Where can I go online to see what my current investments are and make changes?

You can view your current investments by logging in to your Western pension account and choosing ‘Balances’. You will see holdings in your regular pension plan, and any holdings you may have from voluntary contributions. You will also see the rate of return for the current calendar year.

While on the system you can also do a number of other things:

How should I invest my funds?

We cannot give you advice on which funds are best for you. We understand that making investment decisions can be a challenge. Each individual member must make decisions based on their age, years to retirement, risk tolerance, external investment holdings or retirement income, and other factors. You may wish to use our investment decision making tools, or you may wish to consult with a financial advisor.

When can I retire and how much notice do I need to give?

Faculty Members:

Administrative Staff:

General Information:

How much RRSP room do I have? Can I make an RRSP contribution at Western?

The amount of RRSP room is shown on your most recent Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue Agency. This amount will reflect any unused RRSP room from the past.

While you cannot use that RRSP room to increase your Western voluntary contributions, you can contribute to RRSPs through your bank or financial institution, and transfer them to your voluntary account at Western. Although there are no tax implications to transfer the funds, you should inquire with your current RRSP provider regarding any fees or penalties which may apply. Please contact the Human Resources Communication Centre at for an information package and forms.

How do I change my beneficiary?

Complete the Change of Pension Beneficiary Form and forward it to the Human Resources Communication Centre, Room 5100, Support Services Building. Note that if you have a spouse, your spouse must be your beneficiary for any contributions made after January 1, 1987 unless she or he signs a spousal waiver. We recommend that the spouse obtain independent legal advice.

It is a good idea to name a Contingent Beneficiary(ies) who will receive your pension funds should your main beneficiary predecease you.

To see your current pension beneficiaries, log on to your pension account or refer to your most recent Annual Pension Statement.

You may also wish to update your life insurance beneficiaries by using the Benefit Application Change Form. To see your current life insurance beneficiaries, log on to My Human Resources.

What happens if I leave Western before I retire?

Once all contributions are reflected in your account, Human Resource Services will mail you an options package. Please be sure to log on to My Human Resources to update your address before you leave!

The money can be left at Western, subject to an annual administration fee of $400, it can be transferred to appropriate accounts at a Canadian financial institution, or possibly transferred to a new employer.

Pension laws will determine what portion of your account is designated as “locked-in” pension money, and what portion is not “locked-in”. Your options for the two types of money differ slightly.

When can I join the pension plan?

Regular full-time faculty and staff are eligible to join the plan immediately upon employment. Part-time and contract employees may be eligible depending on your circumstance. Details are available here.

What fees are charged by Western’s retirement plans?

All members of Western’s pension plans pay investment fees. These fees are charged by the external managers of the funds in which you invest. The total management expense cost is about 46 basis points (0.46%) of assets per year for pension plan members and slightly more for some participants in the Western Retirement Income Fund program. You will find that, in general, these investment fees are generally lower than for outside RRSPs. More information and specific fund fees are available on page 10 of the annual Investment Performance Review.

An annual fee of $400 is charged to pension plan members who leave Western before their normal retirement date, but leave their funds in the Western pension plan. It is also charged to members who work at affiliated university colleges and other affiliated organizations.

Other possible fees include: