University of Southern California

USC Benefits

USC Retirement Savings Program

Our video shows how the USC Retirement Program is helping these retirees live their dreams!

Whatever you look forward to doing after retirement, planning ahead will make it more likely that you will have the resources you need to spend your time as you choose. Your university retirement plan is an important part of that planning.

USC is committed to supporting your retirement savings by making a 10% employer contribution when you contribute 5%, and to providing you with as many options as possible to maximize your retirement savings opportunities. And to build even higher income for your retirement years, you can make additional supplemental contributions. Your employment at USC is covered by Social Security, so Social Security benefits also may be part of your retirement income.

Program overview

The USC Retirement Savings Program makes matching USC contributions that equal 100% of your matched pre-tax or Roth employee contributions that do not exceed 5% of your eligible earnings. The university also makes a 5% non-elective contribution whether or not you contribute. This means that the university will make a total 10% contribution if you make a 5% employee contribution.

You USC Match 100% Vested USC Non-Elective* USC Total Grand Total (You+USC)
5% 5% 5% 10% 15%
4% 4% 5% 9% 13%
3% 3% 5% 8% 11%
2% 2% 5% 7% 9%
1% 1% 5% 6% 7%
0% 0% 5% 5% 5%
*The USC non-elective contribution will be subject to a four year graded vesting schedule (25% per credited year of service) for employees hired on or after January 1, 2012. You will earn a year of vesting credit for each calendar year in which you are credited with at least 1000 hours of service. Each year of vesting credit earns you 25% ownership in the non-elective portion of the USC contribution. The USC matching contribution, the portion that matches one-to-one your 1–5% contribution, is structured to meet the IRS 401(m) "safe harbor" criteria and is 100% vested at all times. (VESTING: An employee's right to receive a present or future pension benefit is vested when it is no longer contingent upon the employee remaining in the service of the employer. Vesting of both employee and university contributions is immediate if you were hired before January 1, 2012.)

Staff and faculty employees (who are at least 21 years of age) may enroll in the retirement plan and begin making contributions after completing six months of employment in which they work at least 500 hours. Benefits will track your eligibility and notify you approximately 30 days prior to your eligibility start date. (Note: You may begin making contributions to the supplemental retirement plan as soon as you become a university employee.)

You choose the percentage of your eligible earnings you want to contribute, and the university will match your contribution. Although the university encourages you to maximize your retirement savings and participate at the highest possible level, if you decide you are not able to contribute to your retirement plan, USC will still contribute 5% (the "non-elective contribution"—see chart, above).

How your money is invested

Contributions are invested by your choice of companies from the selection provided by the university to manage the investment of the retirement plan contributions. Each company offers a wide variety of investment options:

See our retirement vendor comparison chart.

Note that you can change your contribution level, your investment funds and your investment company at any time—you do not have to wait for open enrollment. You also can transfer monies between companies and between investment funds at any time subject to limitations on the frequency and amount of transfers set by the investment and insurance companies.

Along with deciding the percentage you will contribute, you may also choose to have your contributions made before taxes are calculated, giving an immediate tax benefit, or as an after-tax Roth contribution which gives a future tax benefit providing you meet all the criteria when you withdraw the funds.

You also need to designate your beneficiaries.

If you do not enroll before you are eligible to participate, a retirement account will be established for you under the plan's default provisions—the 10% USC contribution/5% employee pre-tax contribution level and investment in the Vanguard Target Retirement Fund most appropriate for your estimated retirement age (assuming a retirement age of 65). However, you can change this default enrollment at any time, effective with the next pay period.

Accessing your money

You may leave your money in the USC retirement plans until age 70½. We do suggest you contact your vendor to discuss options and any possible restrictions. The USC plan does not require taking the 70½ IRS-required minimum distribution from your retirement plan as long as you are still actively at work. If you have retirement accounts from other employers you will need to check with those plans to determine if they will require you to take a minimum distribution.

Once you have left USC, contact your retirement vendor to discuss your options and request the applicable forms. After completing the forms and having your spouse's signature notarized (if applicable), submit the paperwork to Benefits, which will forward the documents to your vendor on your behalf. However, we recommend waiting one pay cycle from your termination date to start this process, to allow all final contributions to post to your account. Also, we cannot process your withdrawal paperwork until the payroll system no longer shows you as active employee and specifies a termination date.

In some cases, you may access retirement funds while still at work. Faculty may take an in-service withdrawal if over age 59½ and either not tenured or have entered into a phased retirement agreement. Staff may take one if over age 59½. All withdrawals are subject to taxes and will be reported as income to the IRS.

If you rollover your funds, it is not subject to immediate taxation. If you are over the age of 59½ or elect a lifetime annuity there is no IRS penalty applied. You will pay taxes for all withdraws to cash. If you transfer your funds to another retirement plan (i.e., IRA or new employer plan) you will not incur a penalty or taxes.

You may also be able to take out a loan against your retirement accounts—contact Benefits for assistance. In the event that an employee takes a distribution from his/her retirement plan due to a documented financial hardship, the employee portion of contributions to all of his/her USC retirement plans will be suspended for 6 months. It is the employee's responsibility to reinstate contributions at the end of the 6-month period.


Brochures about the retirement program and the wide range of investment options are available from Benefits (see Forms/information on this page). Extensive information is also available online from each of the participating companies.

You can make an appointment with a retirement counselor from your investment company to review your asset allocation, determine if you are saving enough to meet your retirement goals, and evaluate your distribution options at retirement. Appointments are available every month at each campus.

Participant Fee Disclosure Notice

The Participant Fee Disclosure Notice, required by the Department of Labor, was developed to help ensure that participants (and also employees who are not participating or not yet eligible to participate) receive sufficient information regarding their plan and the investment options available to them.

USC has directed TIAA-CREF, one of the vendors available under the USC Retirement Savings Program, to collect this data from all of the vendors and present their information in a combined notice. This publication contains information that can help you make informed decisions about any account you may have in the retirement plan and includes:

  • Fees and expenses related to plan accounts
  • Participant rights under the plan
  • Rules related to providing investment direction
  • Details about the plan's investment options, including investment-related fees and restrictions

For most participants, this notice will be provided annually. The most recent disclosures:

If you have any questions regarding this notice, please contact the USC Retirement Administration Office at