USC Retirement Savings Program


Due to the financial impact brought on by the effect of COVID-19 on university operations, USC has announced a temporary pause on the university’s 5% non-elective (automatic) contribution to employee retirement accounts during the 2021 calendar year, effective January 1, 2021. The up to 5% matching contribution from the university will continue.

During the 2021 pause, your voluntary contributions will continue to be deducted from your paycheck. Remember, you are free to make a change through Workday at any time. You can start, stop, or change your contributions at any time with changes effective the next pay period. Please remember the IRS annual contribution limit is not impacted by USC’s contribution. (For example, for calendar year 2021, employees under 50 can contribute up to $19,500, and employees 50+ can contribute up to $26,000 to their 403(b) retirement accounts, via the basic 5% contribution plus any additional supplemental contributions.)

All information below remains in effect, except there will be a pause in the USC non-elective (automatic) contributions for calendar year 2021. For additional information regarding the retirement pause, please refer to the FAQs.

USC is committed to supporting your retirement savings by making a 10% employer contribution when you contribute 5%, and to providing you with as many options as possible to maximize your retirement savings opportunities. And to build even higher income for your retirement years, you can make additional supplemental contributions. Your employment at USC is covered by Social Security, so Social Security benefits also may be part of your retirement income.

The USC Retirement Program matches your pre-tax or Roth contributions up to 5% of your eligible earnings. The university also makes a 5% non-elective contribution whether or not you contribute. This means that the university will make a total 10% contribution if you make a 5% employee contribution.


You USC Match 100% Vested USC Non-Elective* USC Total Grand Total (You+USC)
5% 5% 0% 5% 10%
4% 4% 0% 4% 8%
3% 3% 0% 3% 6%
2% 2% 0% 2% 4%
1% 1% 0% 1% 2%
0 0% 0% 0% 0%
*The USC non-elective contribution is subject to a four year graded vesting schedule (25% per credited year of service) for employees hired on or after January 1, 2012. You will earn a year of vesting credit for each calendar year in which you are credited with at least 1000 hours of service. Each year of vesting credit earns you 25% ownership in the non-elective portion of the USC contribution. The USC matching contribution, the portion that matches one-to-one your 1–5% contribution, is structured to meet the IRS 401(m) “safe harbor” criteria and is 100% vested at all times. (VESTING: An employee’s right to receive a present or future pension benefit is vested when it is no longer contingent upon the employee remaining in the service of the employer. Vesting of both employee and university contributions is immediate if you were hired before January 1, 2012.)

Faculty and staff employees (who are at least 21 years of age) may enroll in the basic retirement plan and begin making contributions which will be matched by USC after completing one year of
employment regardless of the number of hours worked. Benefits will track your eligibility and notify you approximately 30 days prior to your eligibility start date. (Note: You may begin making
contributions to the supplemental retirement plan as soon as you become a university employee.)

You choose the percentage of your eligible earnings you want to contribute, and the university will match your contribution. Although the university encourages you to maximize your retirement savings and participate at the highest possible level, if you decide you are not able to contribute to your retirement plan, USC will still contribute 5% (the “non-elective contribution”—see chart, above).

Contributions are invested by your choice of investment providers from the selection offered by the university to manage the investment of the retirement plan contributions. Each provider offers a wide variety of investment options:

Compare our investment providers

You can change your contribution level, your investment funds and your investment provider at any time—you do not have to wait for open enrollment. You also can transfer monies between providers and between investment funds at any time subject to limitations on the frequency and amount of transfers set by the investment and the investment providers.

Along with deciding the percentage you will contribute, you may also choose to have your contributions made before taxes are calculated, giving an immediate tax benefit, or as an after-tax Roth contribution which gives a future tax benefit providing you meet all the criteria when you withdraw the funds.

You also need to designate your beneficiaries.

If you do not enroll before you are eligible to participate, a retirement account will be established for you under the plan's default provisions—the 10% USC contribution/5% employee pre-tax contribution level and investment in the Vanguard Target Retirement Fund most appropriate for your estimated retirement age (assuming a retirement age of 65). However, you can change this default enrollment at any time, effective with the next pay period.

You may leave your money in the USC retirement plans after you terminate employment. You are not required to take money out of the account until the IRS requires you to do so at age 70½. The USC plan does not require taking the IRS-required minimum distribution from your retirement plan as long as you are still actively employed at USC; however, if you do not take the required minimum distributions following termination, USC will direct the provider to automatically distribute a payment to you to meet this obligation. If you have retirement accounts from other employers or IRAs, you will need to check with those plans to determine when they will require you to take a minimum distribution. We suggest you contact your provider to discuss options and any possible restrictions.

Once you have left USC, contact your investment provider to discuss your options and request the applicable forms. After completing the forms and having your spouse's signature notarized (if applicable), submit the paperwork to Benefits (contact the HR Service Center for help). Benefits will forward the documents to your provider on your behalf. However, we recommend waiting one pay cycle from your termination date to start this process, to allow all final contributions to post to your account. Also, your withdrawal paperwork cannot be processed until Workday no longer shows you as active employee and specifies a termination date.

In some cases, funds may be accessed early - see our In-service distributions page for details.

Extensive information is available online from each of the participating investment providers. In addition, you can make an appointment with a retirement counselor from your investment provider to review your asset allocation, determine if you are saving enough to meet your retirement goals, and evaluate your distribution options at retirement. Appointments are available every month at both UPC and HSC. See the Retirement guidance page for details. If you need copies of any of the documents below, contact the HR Service Center.

USC Retirement Savings Program Summary Plan Description
Important Notice about the USC Retirement Savings Program 2021
Default Investment Notice for the USC Retirement Savings Program 2021
Authorization to release information
USC Tax Deferred Annuity Plan 2019 Summary Annual Report
USC Defined Contribution Retirement Plan 2019 Summary Annual Report
Fund Change and Mapping Notice 401a and 401k

Support staff retirement plan documents

Supplemental to Annual Funding Notice
Annual Funding Notice
Non-exempt staff retirement plan

Fidelity Investments |
(800) 343-0860

(800) 842-2252

Vanguard |
(800) 523-1188

All retirement plan documents are available upon request.

The Participant Fee Disclosure Notice, required by the Department of Labor, was developed to help ensure that participants (and also employees who are not participating or not yet eligible to participate) receive sufficient information regarding their plan and the investment options available to them.

USC has directed TIAA, one of the vendors available under the USC Retirement Savings Program, to collect this data from all of the vendors and present their information in a combined notice. This publication contains information that can help you make informed decisions about any account you may have in the retirement plan and includes:

  • Fees and expenses related to plan accounts
  • Participant rights under the plan
  • Rules related to providing investment direction
  • Details about the plan's investment options, including investment-related fees and restrictions

For most participants, this notice will be provided annually. The most recent disclosures:

If you have any questions regarding this notice, please contact the USC Retirement Administration Office at