How to Take Pension Benefits


When you retire, your employer may provide a pension to you. The pension is a retirement plan that was set up by your employer for your benefit. Your pension is designed to provide you with retirement income for the rest of your life or for a set number of years, depending on how your employer structured the pension plan. But, in order to get your pension benefits, you must know how to make a claim for benefits.

Contact your H.R. department. Your human resources department will provide you with the forms you need to fill out to claim your pension benefits. Normally, your company will contact you and send you information in the mail about your pension benefits. If, for some reason, this hasn't happened and you are nearing retirement, you should be proactive and contact your company to inquire about the forms you need to claim benefits.

Decide on the pension benefit you want. There are generally three different ways to take your pension.

You may elect a lump sum distribution. The lump sum distribution allows you to take your entire pension savings. The pension savings is then invested by you. You are fully responsible for providing yourself with income during retirement.

You may elect a lifetime pension amount. The full lifetime pension amount is an amount of money that will be paid to you for your lifetime. When you die, no further benefits are paid to your spouse or anyone else.

You may elect a reduced benefit option. You can choose to receive either 75 percent or 50 percent of your full pension and save the rest for your spouse. If you predecease your spouse, your spouse will be able to collect the remainder of the pension set aside for her. If your spouse predeceases you, however, you've lost the amount of money you set aside for your spouse. You can't get it back.

Fill out the pension benefit form and turn it in to your H.R. department. When you elect the lump sum or lifetime payment option, you must have your spouse sign a consent form. This consent form discloses to your spouse that she will not receive any benefits after your death. When you've completed your pension benefits forms, you must turn them into your human resources department. You should receive your first pension benefit payment within the next 30 days or within 30 days of your scheduled retirement date.

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  • "Practicing Financial Planning for Professionals (Practitioners' Edition), 10th Edition"; Sid Mittra, Anandi P. Sahu, Robert A Crane; 2007
  • IRS: Publication 575
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