Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Western Pension Plan. 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 Human Resources (see below) to get more specific information.

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:

New UWOFA members joining the Academic Pension Plan are required to make regular contributions to the plan at the rate of 5.5%.

UWOFA members who were members of the Pension Plan on November 16, 2010 or before, were asked to set their regular contributions rate at either 1.5 per cent or 5.5 per cent in June 2011. Members who choose nor to increase their contributions to 5.5 percent at that time may still opt to increase their contribution at any time by completing a UWOFA Pension Contribution Change Form.

Voluntary Contributions: In addition to Regular/Required Contributions, all members may also make Voluntary Contributions. The total amount of contributions is subject to maximums set by Canada Revenue Agency.

How much does Western contribute to the pension plan?

Staff members:

Western contributes are as follows:

  • for employees with less than 10 years of service, employer contribution levels are 8%
  • for employees with 10 years and less than 20, employer contribution levels are 8.5%
  • for employees with 20 years or more, where an employee's elected regular contribution is at 2.5%, the employer contribution level is 8.5%
  • for employees with 20 years or more, where an employee's elected regular contribution is at 5.5%, the employer contribution levels are 9.0%

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.

*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 dollar limit set by CRA, 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?

To view your current investments and make changes, log in to your Western Pension account at sunlife.ca/western. You can continue to see your account, as at December 31, 2016 on the old Western pension system until spring 2017, but you may no longer make changes there.

How should I invest my funds?

Making investment decisions can be a challenge. At Sun Life Financial you can speak with a licensed Investment Advice Specialist who can provide you with personal, unbiased, one-on-one investment advice on your Western Pension Plan. Call 1-866-733-8612 any business day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET to speak with an Investment Advice Specialist.  Sunlife.ca/western also offers many other tools and resources to help you learn about investing including calculators, webinars, articles and more.

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

Faculty Members:

  • The normal retirement date for Faculty Members is July 1st following your 65th birthday. If your birthday is July 1, your 65th birthday is your normal retirement date.

Administrative Staff:

  • The normal retirement date for Administrative Staff is the first of the month following your 65th birthday.

General Information:

  • You may elect to retire early – at any time within ten years of your normal retirement date. Please see your employee agreement, appropriate policies, and the Western Pension Plan summary for details regarding early retirement.
  • Even when you reach the normal retirement date, there is no requirement to retire, however your membership in the University Pension plan must end at a certain point, as outlined in your employee agreement.
  • You are required to give written notice of your retirement date. The length of notice varies by employee group – some groups require one year’s notice. Your collective agreement may outline the required notice period, otherwise you are encouraged to give as much notice as possible.

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 in your Western Pension Plan. 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 Sun Life Financial Customer Care Centre at 1-866-733-8612 for more information.

How do I change my beneficiary?

You may change your beneficiary online at sunlife.ca/western.  Sign in, go to my financial centre, select Quick Links, then Beneficiary info.

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 in the Western Pension Plan, subject to an annual administration fee of $400.  It can also be transferred to appropriate accounts at  another 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 plans pay investment fees. Overall, investment fees* at Sun Life are very close to, or lower than fees paid by members in the past, and lower than an individual would expect to pay in the market. As well, the Joint Pension Board negotiated a 10-year lock on investment management fees.

An annual fee of $400 ($200 semi-annually) 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:

  • Fee paid for removing funds from voluntary contribution accounts

*Total fees include investment management fees, custodian fees and fund operating expenses.

Published on  and maintained in Cascade CMS.