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    403(b) Retirement Plan

  • What is an annuity?

    An annuity is a contractual agreement between you and an insurance company. In return for the deposits you make during your working years, the company promises to pay you monthly payments for a designated period of time.

  • What is a 403(b) (7)?

    In 1974, along with other code changes, paragraph (7) was added to Code Section 403(b). While previously 403(b) participants were limited to choosing between fixed and variable annuities, Section 403(b)(7) added a third investment option - mutual funds having custodial arrangements with a recognized financial institution. For the first time, participants were able to take advantage of the financial opportunities of mutual fund accounts, including the popular "no load" funds.

  • Who is eligible?

    Eligibility is determined by your District, so please check on your employer Summary page at www.ffga.com to see if any employee is excluded from participating in the District's Plan.

  • You should consider a TDA (Tax Deferred Annuity) if:
    • You pay substantial amounts of federal income taxes.
    • You are in a dual income family.
    • You are single, with no dependents.
    • You are investing money on an after-tax basis for long-term goals.
    • You have sufficient emergency funds.
  • What does tax deferred mean?

    Your contributions are deducted from your paycheck before taxes, thereby reducing your taxable income, which may reduce the federal and state income tax you pay each year. These deductions are still subject to FICA (social security) tax. Your balance and investment earnings grow tax deferred until you take the money out of retirement. At that time both your contributions and earnings are taxed as income.

  • Is there a tax credit if I have a low salary?

    Yes. If you participate in your 403(b) plan or other eligible retirement plan, you can receive a tax credit up to 50% on your contributions (up to $2,000). Eligibility for the credit was based on your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Please check with a tax advisor to determine if you are eligible.

  • How do I enroll?

    To establish a TDA plan, you must complete an application and a salary reduction agreement form; which, in effect, reduces your taxable salary. Your agent will be responsible for providing the application to the vendor and the SRA (salary reduction agreement) must be sent to First Financial Administrators. Your employer will reduce your paycheck by the amount you designate and will contribute that portion to the plan.

  • Can I invest with a vendor of my choice?

    In order to participate in the 403(b) plan, you must invest with one of your employer's approved vendors.

  • What is the contribution amount I can defer each year?

    You decide the amount that you want to contribute. Please keep in mind that there are limits imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. The maximum amount you can contribute during each calendar year is up to 100% of your includable compensation or for 2015 the maximum of $18,000 or whichever is less.

  • When am I eligible for catch-up contributions in 403(b) plans?

    At age 50, you become automatically eligible for the 50+ catch-up contribution of an additional $6,000 per year.

  • How are my plan contributions invested?

    Your contribution will be remitted to the investment providers based on the amount you chose on your salary reduction agreement.

  • What funds do I chose?

    Specific investment elections will need to be chosen through the investment providers. For more information about specific products or the available investments you will need to contact your investment provider.

  • Are there fees to the participants in the plan?

    You will need to contact your investment provider to determine their fees. Fees for allowable vendors and products are also displayed on the TRS website for the state of Texas.

  • When can I withdraw money from my account?
    The IRS prohibits withdrawal of elective contributions and earnings on those contributions except for:
    • attainment of age 59 ½
    • death
    • disability
    • separation from services
    • financial hardship (contributions only)
    If money is withdrawn for one of the above reasons, ordinary income tax must be paid. In addition, the contract itself may impose withdrawal or surrender charges. Also, a 10% tax penalty may be imposed by the IRS if you have not attained age 59 ½. If you qualify for a hardship withdrawal, your contributions must be suspended for 6 months following the withdrawal.
  • What are my distribution options?
    • Receive a lump sum distribution (subject to ordinary income tax)
    • Some vendors and products allow payments in the form of a monthly annuity or periodic payments.
    • Rollover your account balance to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or other tax qualified vehicle.
    • Transfer your account to another Plan.
  • When must I begin receiving a distribution from my TDA plan?

    Generally, the IRS requires that a participant must begin receiving retirement benefits no later than April 1 following the year in which the participant reaches age 70 1/2. However, if still employed by an eligible employer, the participant may defer making withdrawals until retirement/separation from service.

  • What happens to my money when I die?

    If you die before taking an annuity and your named beneficiary is your spouse, your contract may stay in force on a paid-up status with your spouse as the contract holder. Your spouse may choose any form of distribution that was available to you, such as lump sum distribution or annuitization. Your spouse would also have the option of a rollover to a 401(a), 403(b), governmental 457(b) plan, or IRA.

  • Can I rollover or withdraw my 403(b) account if I leave employment with the district?

    Yes. Your money is always 100% yours and can be rolled over into your new retirement plan when you leave employment. If you withdraw your money, taxes will be due on the distribution and there may be an IRS pre-mature distribution penalty if you are not age 55 when you separate service.

    If you change jobs, there are several options:

    • Transfer the money into your new employer's retirement savings plans
    • roll it into an IRA
    • Leave it where it is
    • Take a lump sum payment (penalties, taxes and other fees may apply)
  • When can 403(b) money be accessed without penalty?

    You can withdraw from your 403(b) without incurring a penalty when you reach age 59 ½, or if you retire at 55 (or later) or if you become disabled or die.

  • Are loans available under the plan?

    Policy loans are permitted by law. The maximum loan amount is generally 50% of account value, not to exceed $50,000, and must be repaid in five years or it will be considered a taxable distribution. Insurance companies are not obligated to offer a loan provision. Check with your Plan to see if loans are allowed, www.ffga.com, choose school.

  • How do I take out a loan?

    Once you know if loans are available you will complete the loan application from the vendor you want to take a loan from. Submit the completed application to First Financial to be reviewed and signed.

  • How do I apply for a hardship?

    Check with your plan to see if hardships are allowed. If allowed, you must complete the hardship application (see forms) and provide documentation supporting the hardship. A financial hardship withdrawal will affect you in two additional ways:

    • Your contributions must be suspended for 6 months following the withdrawal.
    • Your contributions for the year following this 6 month period will be subject to certain limitations.
  • What if I get a divorce?

    A withdrawal and distribution to an "alternate payee" is permitted if all or part of the account is awarded to an ex-spouse by a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

  • How often can I change my salary reduction?

    You can change your salary reduction at any time by completing a new salary reduction agreement. Click the forms button for a new salary reduction agreement.

  • Can I stop my salary reduction?

    You can stop your salary deferrals at any time by completing a new salary reduction agreement. Click the forms button for a new salary reduction agreement.

  • Can I move my funds to another company?

    If the company is an active vendor in the Plan, you may be able to "exchange" your funds into a different annuity or investment account with another vendor.

  • How can I get more information about the investment companies?

    To get more information about the investment companies, go to www.ffga.com, choose school, the school vendor list and it will give you the website and phone number for each available vendor.