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Question: Can I get my pension money if I am laid off?
Answer: Generally, if you are enrolled in a 401(k), profit sharing or other type of defined contribution plan (a plan in which you have an individual account), your plan may provide for a lump sum distribution of your retirement money when you leave the company.
However, if you are in a defined benefit plan (a plan in which you receive a fixed, pre-established benefit) your benefits begin at retirement age. These types of plans are less likely to contain a provision that enables you to withdraw money early.
Whether you have a defined contribution or a defined benefit plan, the form of your pension distribution (lump sum, annuity, etc.) and the date your pension money will be available to you depend upon the provisions contained in your plan documents. Some plans do not permit distribution until you reach a specified age. Other plans do not permit distribution until you have been separated from employment for a certain period of time. In addition, some plans process distributions throughout the year and others only process them once a year. You should contact your pension plan administrator regarding the rules that govern the distribution of your pension money.
One of the most important documents you should have is the Summary Plan Description (SPD). It outlines what your benefits are and how they are calculated. A copy of the SPD is available from your employer or pension plan administrator.
In addition to the SPD, your employer also may give you-or you may request-an individual benefit statement showing the value of your pension benefits-the amount you have actually earned to date and your vesting status. These documents contain important information for you, whether you withdraw your money now or later.