Many confused by potential effects of pension changes

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It’s a confusing time for UIC employees who are considering retirement.

Pension legislation passed by the state legislature in December takes effect June 1. The law’s constitutionality is being challenged in court, but it will still take effect in June unless a judicial stay is granted.

The new law reduces cost-of-living adjustments, increases the retirement age for some employees and puts a cap on pensionable earnings.

Employees who want to be covered by the former pension plan must retire by June 30, said Brenda Russell, president of UIC United, the UIC chapter of the State Universities Annuitants Association.

UIC United has been fielding questions from confused employees about whether they should retire before the legislation goes into effect, Russell said.

The answer depends on the employee.

“You cannot give a one-size-fits-all answer,” she said. “People need to check out their own situations.”

Employees can view their pension information and the impact the new law would have on their retirement benefits on the State Universities Retirement System website by clicking on the “benefits” tab.

“It really depends on how many years you’ve worked, how old you are, what your salary level is,” said Russell, professor emerita of physiology and biophysics. “Everybody’s got their own unique situation.”

Employees can also find out more information at two upcoming events.

UIC United holds its annual membership meeting April 24, with a talk by Ann Lousin, professor at the John Marshall Law School, on “What Is Going on with Illinois Pensions Today?” Her speech begins at 11 a.m. in the Thompson Rooms, Student Center West.

UIC hosts a free retirement planning conference April 26. The event, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Student Center East, includes information on steps to complete before retirement, preparing for retirement, protecting benefits, financial planning and more. Registration is required.

Employees considering retirement within the next two years can also schedule a counseling appointment with SURS.

“My concern is that people make a wise choice for themselves,” Russell said.

U of I President Robert Easter sent an email to the campus community last month encouraging employees who are considering retirement to contact SURS. “The changes mandated by the law will significantly impact faculty and staff retirement benefits, especially for those hired prior to Jan. 1, 2011,” he wrote.

The U of I Board of Trustees has directed campus administrators to explore potential supplemental retirement plan options.

“While we explore those options and confer with SURS and elected officials in Springfield, many employees are assessing the law’s impact on them. It is important to make informed decisions based on facts,” Easter wrote.

For more information, call SURS at 217-378-8800.

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