Save more with your UC benefits

When you prioritize saving money today, you may achieve your financial goals sooner. And UC gives you the tools you need to help maximize your savings.

By understanding the power of your UC benefits – and making the most of them – you could be setting yourself up for a healthy financial future. No matter what your financial goals may be, develop healthy savings habits today so you can have more peace of mind tomorrow.

Get to know what UC offers

For starters, you might be eligible for a pension benefit from the UC Retirement Plan (UCRP). The amount your pension benefit will be worth depends on your years of service, your highest average pay, and other factors. In addition to your UCRP benefit, you may need to save some of your own money to maintain the standard of living you’re used to.

While it may seem like UC’s pension benefit can meet all of your needs, keep in mind that the average UC retiree has roughly 20 years of service. For most employees, that equates to a UCRP pension benefit at age 60 of 50% of their highest average pay. If you’re like many people, you’ll work for several employers during your career, and you might not stay at UC long enough to build your UCRP pension benefits to a level that can meet your needs.

That’s where the UC Retirement Savings Program (UCRSP)—your UC 403(b), 457(b), and DC Plans—comes in. Together, UCRP and the UCRSP give you the best chance for financial security when you retire. So make this the year you commit to saving for your “someday.”

Then, strive to develop these three healthy savings habits

1. Start to save now to take advantage of the power of compounding

Most people are aware that the longer you save, the more you’ll potentially accumulate.

What you might not know is that saving steadily over the years is especially powerful when you do it in a tax-advantaged retirement savings plan, such as the UC 403(b) and/or 457(b) Plans. That’s because you pay no taxes on your contributions or any investment earnings until you withdraw them, giving your money the chance to grow more than it would in a taxable savings account.

Year over year, that means more of your money works for you. It’s called “compounding,” and it can make a substantial difference over time.

2. Save as much as you can

You don’t have to make a lot of money to have a healthy retirement savings balance by the time you retire. How much—and how long—you save is key. Experts suggest you may need to put away at least 10%–15% of your pretax income each year to have a good chance of meeting your retirement income needs. The earlier you start saving, the less you may have to save to help reach your goal.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that everyone can save 10%–15% of their pay. But the good news is that your UC 403(b) and/or 457(b) Plan contributions are made before taxes, which lowers your tax liability. And that means it costs you less to save more.

Here’s an example. Imagine you’re 45 years old, earn $50,000 annually, and are in the 25% federal tax bracket. If you contribute $2,500 (5%) annually to the UC 403(b) Plan, your actual annual income is only reduced by $1,875.

3. Consider funds that can help you meet your goals

Finally, look for ways to help your savings pull part of the load toward your retirement goal through investment gains. This is particularly important if you haven’t chosen investments for your UCRSP account. Until last year, the default fund for the UC 403(b), 457(b), and DC Plans was the UC Savings Fund. This means contributions may be invested in one of the most conservative options available in the UCRSP fund menu.

Too low an allocation to stock funds can limit how much money you have when you retire. From 1970 to 2019, stocks have returned an average of almost 10.5% annually, bonds 7.4%, and short-term investments 4.6%, before inflation.* Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results; there will always be ups and downs in the investment markets. But in general, stocks typically offer more potential for growth over the long term.

Of course, how much stock is right for you is a personal decision. Stocks can be more volatile and carry higher risks than bonds, especially in the short term. How you invest your savings depends on your personal risk tolerance, your investment horizon, and your financial situation.

The UC 403(b) and 457(b) Plans offer a range of funds so you can create a diversified mix of investments that helps spread out your risk. If you prefer a more hands-off approach, you can select a UC Pathway Fund, which automatically adjusts the percentage of stocks based on an estimated retirement date.

Here's an example:

  • Chris joined UC five years ago and rolled over $40,000 from a previous employer’s 403(b) plan into the UC 403(b). Chris also chose not to make monthly payroll contributions.
  • Now, Chris is age 47 earning $93,000 and wants to retire at age 65. Chris wants to have retirement income of about 80% of current pay.
This is Chris' potential UC pension benefit at age 65, assuming Chris retires from UC at age 65 with 23 years of service. >

(58% of pay)

However, this is the income Chris may need in retirement >

(80% of pay)

So, this is Chris’ potential annual shortfall in retirement income > $20,925
To make up the shortfall, Chris needs to make monthly UC 403(b) contributions of this amount from now until age 65 > $520
This hypothetical example is based on contributions as shown to the tax-deferred UC Retirement Savings Program, earning a hypothetical 5.25% annual rate of return compounded monthly. We assume contributions are made monthly at the beginning of the month from age 47 to age 65 with no loans, withdrawals or breaks in service. All earnings are reinvested, and all current Plan and IRS limits are applied. The potential 403(b) Plan account balance is calculated by converting a hypothetical fixed income annuity from age 65 to age 88 (assuming a hypothetical discount rate of 4.25%) into a lump-sum value at the retirement ages shown. Your own plan account may earn more or less than this example, and income taxes will be due when you withdraw from your account. Investing in this manner does not ensure a profit or guarantee against list in declining markets. This example does not include Social Security.

The UC pension benefit was provided by The University of California based on UCRP provisions as of March 2020 and the age, years of UCRP service, and salary assumptions shown. The estimates assume that the individual continues working for UC and earning UCRP service credit until the retirement age shown. The hypothetical estimates are not a guarantee of eligibility or benefit amounts.