SUNY Optional Retirement Plan

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Plan information

The State University of New York offers this plan as part of workplace benefits. Now is a great time to understand what is offered - think about taking advantage of any opportunities to save and invest for the future.

Learn what plans allow eligible employees to do.

Employees hired on or after April 1st, 2012 will be in Tier VI and subject to the contribution schedule referenced below. Note that Tier VI employees continue to pay their employee contribution after 10 years of membership.
The Optional Retirement Plan requires members hired since July 27, 1976 to contribute 3% of base salary through regular payroll deductions. Legislation passed in 2007 requires the state or sponsoring organization to pick up the 3% employee contribution after 10 years of ORP membership by increasing the employer contribution correspondingly.
For those hired on or after July 17, 1992 the university also will contribute the equivalent of 8-10% of salary on your behalf, depending on your length of service. (Earlier hirees receive university contributions based on their salary levels; see table below for details.)
For new members: During the initial 366-day service period described in Eligibility, both your contributions and those of the university will accumulate in interest-bearing accounts. At the end of this period, the university will transfer a single lump-sum contribution, with interest, to TIAA covering the period, followed by regular biweekly contributions. In addition, your own contributions will be transferred to TIAA. Note: If you do not complete 366 days of service, your initial contributions will be refunded to you with interest, but you will not receive the University's contributions.
Contribution levels for new and existing Optional Retirement Plan members are based on your employee tier, according to this schedule:

Hire Date SUNY
Contribution Rate
Your Contribution
Tier I Before July 1, 1973 12% of salary up to $16,500
15% of salary over $16,500
Tier II July 1, 1973 - July 26, 1976 12% of salary up to $16,500
15% of salary over $16,500
Tier III July 27, 1976 - Aug. 31, 1983 9% of salary up to $16,500
12% of salary over $16,500
3% of salary
Tier IV Sept. 1, 1983 - July 16, 1992 9% of salary up to $16,500
12% of salary over $16,500
3% of salary
Tier V July 17, 1992 to March 31st 2012 8% of salary/up to 7 years of service
10% of salary/over 7 years of service
3% of salary
Tier VI  April 1st 2012 and later (note for Tier VI there are two distinct sets of contribution rates as indicated below)
  April 1st 2012 - March 31st 2013 8% of salary up to 7 years of service
10% of salary over 7 years of service
3% Pre-tax
  Effective April 1st, 2013 and later 8% of salary/up to 7 years of service
10% of salary/over 7 years of service
3% Pre-tax
Based on Salary Ranges (Pre-tax)
Wages up to $45,000 ......3%
Wages $45,000.01 and up to $55,000 ......3.5%
Wages $55,000.01 and up to $75,000 ......4.5%
Wages $75,000.01 and up to $100,000 ......5.75%
Wages $100,000.01 and greater ......6%

Note that these percentages of contributions are based on the total salary and not based on percentages within cumulative salary ranges.
For example: Someone earning $50,000 will contribute 3.5% based on $50,000
Note: For Tiers I, II, III, IV and V employee contributions will be picked up by the University after ten years of ORP membership. Tier VI employees will continue to contribute their required employee percentage. This is not picked up by the University.
Membership in the ORP is open to full-time UUP represented faculty and professional staff and part-time faculty and staff with term appointments, as well as to management-confidential employees.
  • Full-time employees must join a retirement program. You must complete your Retirement Program Election within the first 30 days of employment; once you choose a retirement program your election may not be changed.
  • Part-time employees with term appointments are eligible to join a retirement program at any time. For additional information, contact your campus administrator.
  • New employees without existing contracts from any of the approved investment providers will receive accumulated university contributions to the plan once they have completed 366 days of service. (If you do not serve for at least 366 days, the university will not contribute to your account, and your own contributions will be refunded with interest - see your Campus Administrator.

To obtain vesting information regarding this plan, contact TIAA at 866-662-7945.


Loans are available from a minimum of $1,000 to a maximum of $50,000 from each employer that you are eligible to take a loan from. How much you can borrow may depend on the amount you currently have in the plan that is eligible for loans and whether you have other outstanding loans. If you have money in other employer's plans, you may be able to transfer or roll it over to the The State University of New York retirement plan to increase your maximum loan amount. This is only if the The State University of New York retirement plan accepts rollovers.

Prior to rolling over, consider your other options. You may also be able to leave money in your current plan, withdraw cash or roll over the money to an IRA. Compare the differences in investment options, services, fees and expenses, withdrawal options, required minimum distributions, other plan features, and tax treatment. Contact TIAA or your HR Office to verify details of your plan(s) in regards to loan availability and transfer/rollover loan eligibility.


Lump-sum distribution

You can withdraw all or part of your account in a single cash payment, depending on your plan rules and the terms of your contracts.

  • Your right to a lump-sum distribution from your TIAA Traditional Account may be restricted to taking periodic payments under the terms of the contract. Please refer to your contract or certificate for full details or contact us at 866-662-7945.

Systematic withdrawals

If your plan allows, you can choose to receive regular income payments on a semimonthly, monthly, quarterly, semiannual or annual basis. You can increase, decrease or suspend the payments at any time.

  • These withdrawals are not available from TIAA Traditional Account balances.

Small-sum distribution

When you leave your employer, you may be eligible to withdraw your retirement savings. Your plan may distribute your entire balance if the value does not exceed $2,000. Even if your plan doesn't allow cash distributions, you can withdraw your entire retirement savings if your TIAA Traditional Account value does not exceed $2,000 and your overall account balance is below a limit set by your employer's plan (either $1,000 or $5,000).


You can withdraw elective deferrals and earnings from your retirement plan while employed by your institution but not working due to a disability.

  • To qualify you must be totally and permanently disabled, and the deferrals and earnings must have been credited to your plan on or after January 1, 1989.
  • Disability withdrawals are not subject to the 10% IRS penalty on withdrawals prior to age 59½.

Lifetime retirement income

  • One-life annuity - provides income for as long as you live.
  • Two-life annuity - provides lifetime income for you and an annuity partner (your spouse or someone else you name) for as long as either of you live.
  • One- or two-life annuity with guaranteed period - guarantees income for up to 20 years, as long as the period you choose does not exceed your life expectancy. It ensures that income continues to go to your beneficiaries for the remainder of the guaranteed period if you (one-life annuity) or both you and your annuity partner (two-life annuity) die before the end of that period.

Single-sum death benefit

A set amount your beneficiary(ies) will receive from your retirement account if you die before taking income.

Fixed period

You can choose to receive income for a set period of two to 30 years, depending on the terms of our contract and your plan's rules (and not to exceed your life expectancy).

  • Payments stop at the end of the period, during which you will have received all your principal and earnings.

Interest only

You can receive the current interest earned on your TIAA Traditional Account in monthly payments. Your principal remains intact while you receive the interest.

  • These payments generally are available to individuals who have attained age 55 but have not yet reached RMD Applicable Age and must begin at least one year prior to reaching RMD Applicable age. Your RMD Applicable Age was 70 ½ if you were born before 7/1/49; 72 if you were born on or after 7/1/49 or in 1950; 73 if you were born between 1951 and 1958; 75 if you were born in 1960 or later. If you were born in 1959, federal guidance is needed to determine if your RMD Applicable Age is 73 or 75. 

Retirement transition benefit

In order to more easily transition into retirement, you may be able to withdraw up to 10%, in cash, of your lifetime annuity income. The amount you withdraw will reduce your lifetime annuity income accordingly.

TPA to cash

If you need some of your retirement savings in cash, you can withdraw your TIAA Traditional Account balance through a Transfer Payout Annuity (TPA) under the terms of the contract. A lump-sum payment, subject to a surrender fee, may be available depending on your plan rules and the terms of your contract.

For more information about the terms of your individual contract, contact your plan sponsor or financial advisor.

Phased retirement

Phased retirement has been introduced for the baby boom generation nearing retirement. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re interested in a phased retirement:

  • Under most phased retirement plans, the employee resigns their full-time position in return for the right to work half-time at half-salary for a given number of years.
  • Many phased retirement plans benefit both the institution and the employee, giving you a way to work and still draw salary.
  • Every institution may have different rules around phased retirement, so research all your options.

For more information, contact your plan sponsor or financial advisor.

Special transfer services

Some employers allow their employees to request an STS or Special Transfer Service, to withdraw funds from your qualified retirement plan.

When considering an STS, keep in mind:

  • STS is available only to those institutions that have requested it.
  • If your employer doesn’t offer a STS, you may be able to request a Direct Transfer to an approved alternate carrier.
  • Transfer amounts can be 100% of the current contribution amount  using a specific dollar amount

For more information, contact your plan sponsor or financial advisor.

Minimum distribution option

You must begin taking minimum distributions from your IRAs and employer retirement plan accounts by your required beginning date (or retirement, if later for employer retirement plan accounts). For IRAs (other than Roth IRAs), your required beginning date is April 1 of the year following the calendar year in which you reach your RMD Applicable Age. For employer-sponsored retirement plans, your required beginning date is April 1 of the year following the calendar year in which you reach your RMD Applicable Age or retire from the plan sponsor, if later. 

Your RMD Applicable Age was 70 ½ if you were born before 7/1/49; 72 if you were born on or after 7/1/49 or in 1950; 73 if you were born between 1951 and 1958; 75 if you were born in 1960 or later. If you were born in 1959, federal guidance is needed to determine if your RMD Applicable Age is 73 or 75.

If you're married, you may be required to get spousal consent to receive any distribution option other than a qualified joint and survivor annuity.

This plan allows you to receive a cash withdrawal. This may be restricted by the terms of your TIAA contracts. Taxes and penalties may apply.

Understanding investment fees

Your financial well-being is TIAA's top priority and we are committed to helping you make informed decisions. Fees should be just one factor in your decision-making process since the lowest cost option may not be the best one for you.

Cost of plan services

Fees and expenses have always been part of a retirement savings plan-some fees are associated with the administration of the plan and may be covered by your employer, while others are paid by you based on the specific investments and services you choose. The following three categories of services are provided to your plan:

1. General record keeping and other plan services

Over the course of a year you pay for services like record keeping.

Many services are necessary for the day-to-day operation of your employer's retirement plan. General administrative services include recordkeeping, legal, accounting, consulting, investment advisory and other plan administration services. Some of these expenses are fixed and other expenses may vary from year to year. These costs are allocated to each participant in a uniform way.

2. Specific investment services
You pay only for what you use.
Each investment offered within the plan charges a fee for managing the investment and for associated services. But you pay only for the investments you actually use and in proportion to the amount of your investment. These fees are not deducted directly from your account; they are paid indirectly through the investment's "expense ratio". The specific expense ratio for each plan designated investment option is listed in your Quarterly Investment UpdateOpens in a new window.

3. Personalized services

You can opt for extra features, like loan services.

Personalized services provide access to a number of plan features and investments that you pay for, only if you use them. The personalized services used most often are:

Retirement Plan Loans
$75.00 per loan initiated for general purpose
$125.00 per loan initiated for a residential loan

$25 annual loan maintenance fee per active loan, assessed Annually

Retirement Plan Portfolio Manager is an optional service for professional account management.

Retirement Plan Portfolio Manager provides investment advice on your retirement portfolio based on your goals and needs. This managed account is an optional service with professional oversight and a systematic, disciplined approach to managing your money.

For an annual fee of 25 basis points, which will be deducted from your account on a quarterly basis, your portfolio is reviewed and adjusted as needed to help keep it on track. Features include:

  • Customized advice - Based on your goals, we'll help you decide how much to save, an appropriate asset mix and specific investment options.
  • Ongoing portfolio oversight - We'll make adjustments based on market conditions and other factors that may affect your investments. These adjustments include quarterly asset reallocation and rebalancing.
  • Modify direction as needed - You can update your preferences anytime and we'll fine-tune our recommendations.
  • Quarterly statements - Show adjustments made to your portfolio so you can see your current investment mix.

TIAA RetirePlus Pro® model service

The TIAA RetirePlus Pro® model service program can help you simplify your decisions by investing your contributions in a pre-determined mix of the plan’s options and/or other Investment vehicles.

There may be annual fees (assessed quarterly) associated with participation in this service.

For more information, please refer to the TIAA RetirePlus Pro Program Model Service Participant Disclosure DocumentOpens in new window.

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)
No additional charge
Sales charges, purchase, withdrawal and redemption fees for certain investments
Certain charges may apply. For additional information, see Quarterly Investment UpdateOpens in a new window.

More information about retirement plan fees and expenses is available at

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