Workplace retirement plans: ask the right questions

If you have a workplace pension plan or retirement savings plan, or might be joining a company with one, consider yourself lucky to have such a beneficial work perk! Having a pension plan means you are on your way to having a more secure and comfortable retirement. To help you get all the facts you may need about your workplace retirement plan, we’ve provided you with some questions to ask your pension plan administrator, human resources representative and/or employer that will help you become more knowledgeable.

Before you start a job

If you have a job offer or are about to start a job with a new employer who offers a registered pension plan ask these questions:

Is there a waiting period to join the workplace pension plan? (Note: if they have a pension plan and you are full-time, your employer must allow you to join within two years. If you are part-time or if the company offers a retirement savings plan, whether you can join is dependent upon different factors. Visit Workplace pension plans to learn more about the waiting period.)

Would you consider waiving the waiting period for me to join the pension plan?

What kind of pension plan is it (e.g. defined benefit (DB), defined contribution (DC) or a mix)?

How is the retirement benefit calculated?

Do I make contributions, and if so, how much? Can I contribute more?

How much are the employer contributions? Do they match contributions?

Is there a website I can refer to for more information about the retirement plan?

Is there a group retirement savings plan, and if so, when can I join?

Does the employer contribute to the group retirement savings plan, and if so, how much?

While working

If you are currently working with an employer who offers a workplace retirement plan, be it a pension plan or retirement savings plan, the best place to obtain information is through your plan administrator (if a pension) or human resources representative (if a retirement savings plan). Here are some questions you should ask:

Pension plans

What is the plan’s registration number and with which pension regulator is the plan registered?

Who is the pension plan’s sponsor?

Who holds the pension funds?

What type of benefits does my pension plan provide (e.g. defined benefit (DB), defined contribution (DC))?

If this is a DB plan, how is my retirement pension benefit calculated?

If this is a DC plan, can I decide how to invest the funds?

How much does my employer contribute to my DC plan? Is there a matching option?

If the pension benefit or contribution is calculated based on earnings, does that include commission or bonuses?

What is the financial position of the plan?

Is there an annual statement, and if so, when will I receive it and how?

Which plan records can I see? Where can I see the plan records?

Will I be notified if the plan is amended? If so, how and when will this occur?

Do I have a say in how the plan is administered?

Is there a website I can refer to for more information about the retirement plan?

Does the company run a retirement learning session? If so, how can I attend?

How do I set up a beneficiary? If I need to change my beneficiary, how can I do that?

If I need funds earlier than expected, can I access them? Are there penalties for this? Learn more about Financial Hardship Unlocking open new window.

What happens to my pension if get laid off or change jobs? What are my options?

Group retirement savings plans

What is the full name of the retirement savings plan?

Can I contribute more to my retirement savings plan than I am already?

What is the maximum contribution?

Is the employer contributing? Do they match my contributions?

If the contribution is calculated based on earnings, does that include commission or bonuses?

Are there certain activities or events I should know about that may affect my retirement savings plan? (marriage, divorce, losing job, changing jobs)

What happens to my retirement savings plan if get laid off or change jobs? What are my options?

If you have a workplace pension plan, be sure to visit your employer’s intranet or the pension plan’s website. You will often find lots of information there and answers to your questions, and if you are still unclear, give your pension plan administrator a call.

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