University of Massachusetts 403(b) Elective Deferral Savings Plan

As an employee of the University of Massachusetts, you have valuable retirement investment options available to you, one of which, the University of Massachusetts 403(b) Elective Deferral Savings Plan makes it easy to save and invest more for retirement with special tax advantages and the convenience of regular payroll deductions.

By saving just a little more from each paycheck now, you can make a big difference in the amount you could have to work with when you retire. Your participation in the University of Massachusetts 403(b) Elective Deferral Savings Plan is a significant step toward helping you prepare for your retirement goals. For 2024, if you are under age 50 years, your 403(b) plan elective deferral limit is $23,000. If you are age 50 years or older, your 403(b) plan elective deferral limit is $30,500.  

Pay Less in Taxes While Saving for Retirement: Traditional 403(b) contributions are deducted from your gross income before tax, meaning your contributions allow you to reduce your federal and state income taxes. For example, a pretax contribution of $10 per biweekly paycheck actually translates to only an $8 deduction from your net pay (if your combined federal and state tax rate is 20%).

Realize Your Tax Savings Later: Roth 403(b) contributions are also available. With the Roth 403(b) contribution option, your contributions are deducted from your pay after income taxes are taken out, meaning you do not receive an immediate tax break. As with traditional contributions, earnings grow tax deferred. Since you already paid tax on Roth contributions, you will not owe tax when you withdraw them. If your withdrawals of earnings are qualified (typically if it has been five years since your first Roth contribution and you are over the age of 59 ½), those distributions are completely tax free also.

Several years ago, the University moved to a new recordkeeping model and plan design that includes a much smaller investment lineup, which is carefully reviewed and monitored in terms of fees and performance. This new plan structure also includes a self-directed brokerage window, which will allow access to a larger selection of investment options that will not be under the direct oversight of the plan. The benefits of these enhancements include: a streamlined, efficient investment lineup comprised of high quality and competitively priced funds; enhanced participant services; reduced overall administrative/participant costs; significantly improved employee communication, education and assistance.

To start 403(b) contributions or change a biweekly 403(b) contribution amount:
First time users, you will need to register with your full name, date of birth and the last 4 digits of your social security number.  If required, the University’s Plan number is 50266.  Once registered, you will be able to start biweekly payroll deductions, choose investment options and designate beneficiaries. 

If you are already participating in the 403(b) plan and would like to make a change to your biweekly contribution amount, please visit

If you need assistance with the NetBenefits system, see the User Guide.

For one time deferrals of vacation and/or sick time into your 403(b) account at separation of employment or retirement, please complete the One-Time Payout Deferral Form below.  

One-Time Payout Deferral Form

For more information about the University's 403(b) Retirement Plan, read the 403(b) Frequently Asked Questions in the second section of this page and visit the following resources:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan (MA SMART Plan)

The Massachusetts 457(b) Deferred Compensation/SMART PLAN is another retirement savings plan. The plan allows employees to save and invest pre-tax or ROTH dollars through salary deferrals. Empower Retirement, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, serves as the third-party administrator and recordkeeper for the SMART Plan. University employees may contribute up to the maximums for both the University's 403(b) Plan and the 457(b) Deferred Compensation SMART Plan. Review a brief comparison of the 403(b) and 457(b) plans. 

For one time deferrals of vacation and/or sick time into your 457(b)/SMART Plan account at separation of employment or retirement, please complete the Paycheck Contribution Form below. 

Paycheck Contribution Form

Visit or call 877-457-1900 for more information on the SMART Plan. You may also contact your local SMART Plan representative below for more information.

 Dan Moroney Amherst Campus (413) 335-0542
 Marianne ColeBoston Campus, President's Office - Beacon Street (339) 788-4621
 Vito DeSimone Dartmouth Campus (401) 439-3715
 Sean Doucette Lowell Campus (978) 806-7205
 Aiman JaninehWorcester (Chan Medical School) and Westborough (President's Office) (774) 265-4090

For additional information you may also contact the University's System Human Resources Office at (774) 528-0369.

Contribution Limit

For calendar year 2024, the contribution limit is $23,000 if you are under age 50 years and $30,500 if you are age 50 years or older.  


During the first 30 days of employment, all full-time and part-time benefited employees are eligible to enroll in the group legal plan offered through MetLife which is known as the MetLife Legal plan. MetLife Legal is a voluntary benefit that provides an employee, their spouse, and dependents with convenient, professional legal counsel for $18.25 per month through payroll deduction. The plan provides fully covered legal advice and representation for most legal matters. Employee may also enroll in or terminate coverage during the annual open enrollment in February.  Please visit UMass Compass for more information. 

All full-time and part-time benefited employees are eligible for group discounts offered through Liberty Mutual, Travelers and Farmers Insurance for auto and home insurance through convenient payroll deduction.

For more information please visit UMass Compass.

With as little as $15 per month through direct deposit, you are able to start saving for the cost of higher education through MEFA's U.Fund 529 College Investing Plan with Fidelity Investments.

For more information or to enroll, go online to the 529 College Savings Plan Overview page or call 1-800-544-2776 to speak to a dedicated U.Fund College Investing Plan representative. Once your account has been set up with Fidelity, your contributions can be made automatically from your bank account, your Fidelity Account, or with direct deposit from your paycheck. If you wish to set up direct deposit from your paycheck be sure to get the routing number and account number from Fidelity and enter it into HR Direct/Employee Self-Service. 

The University of Massachusetts offers identity theft protection with a program called Allstate Identity Protection (formerly InfoArmor) that delivers a powerful new approach to online privacy with unique tools and proactive monitoring that help you see your personal data, manage it with real time alerts, and protect your identity.

Monitor your financial transactions, social media, and more. If fraud occurs, our in-house experts fully manage restoring your identity.

Coverage options (payroll deducted):

  • Allstate Identity Protection Pro Plus - Click to view plan summary
  • $9.95 per month for individual plan
  • $17.95 per month for family plan

General Investment Advice

Take a little extra time now to understand the investment process and develop an investment strategy tailored to your individual needs. To develop your investment strategy, professional advisors generally recommend that you:

A. Understand risk and the risk/reward relationship.

What is risk?

There are several types of risk to consider, including:

Inflation Risk is the risk that the future purchasing power of your investment will be eroded by inflation, particularly over the long term. For example, if your fund has earned 4% per year, but the inflation rate is 6% per year, you have actually lost purchasing power.

Price Risk is the potential change in the price or market value of your investment. The greater the range of change in price or market value, the riskier the investment. For example, if the share price of your account is up 20% one year and down 10% the next, it is considered riskier and more volatile than one that grows at a steady 4% per year.

What is the relationship between price risk and reward?

According to investment professionals, there is normally a correlation between the amount of risk you are willing to assume and the amount of reward you may realize. If you don't assume the risk, you have less potential for gaining the higher reward; if you do assume the added risk, there is absolutely no guarantee you will be rewarded commensurately. In fact, your investment could lose value, particularly in the short run.

B. Identify, as specifically as possible, your goals or objectives and your attitude toward risk.

  • Is your goal to preserve the value of your original investment and, therefore, avoid all price risk,  or
  • Perhaps your goal is to realize a stream of higher current income to guard against inflation. If so, you must generally be willing to accept some price risk, or
  • Perhaps you may seek the potential for growth in the value of your investment over time. Are you willing to accept possibly significant price risk along the way in return for this growth?

You may have a combination of objectives and therefore may want to balance your investments by diversifying your choices. Investment professionals generally believe that this is one of the most effective ways to manage risk.

C. Establish your investment time horizon.

Are you investing for just a few years?

If so, your capital must be there when you need it. You may want to avoid exposure to price risk.

Are you able to leave some or all of your money invested for over 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? 30 years?

If so, you will probably be investing through many market cycles, both up and down. You may, therefore, be able to tolerate more price risk to protect yourself against inflation risk.

D. Consider your other savings and investments.

Is most of your money in bank savings accounts or CDs?

If so, you might want to consider adding bonds or stocks to your portfolio for some growth.

Or is most of your money in stocks?

If so, you might want to consider adding bonds or money market funds to add some stability and balance to your portfolio.

E. Match the objectives of the investments offered with your own goals and willingness to accept risk.

Do the investments offer stability and safety of principal? current income? growth in the value of your original investment? What kinds of securities are held in the investments? treasury bills? bonds? stocks?

Answers to these questions can be found in prospectuses and annual reports. Always request and read these publications before you invest.

Finally, remember that investing for retirement is a long-term process. What is appropriate today may not always be. Therefore, while you should feel confident and committed to your strategy, you should review the appropriateness of your plan at least once a year. As you progress along your career path and get closer to retirement, your goals may shift from an emphasis on growth to a concern for current income and stability. Appropriate changes in your investment should be made to match shifts in your goals. Samples of some investment strategies that many advisors consider appropriate for people at various stages of their careers can be found in the section on Balancing Your Portfolio.

It is always important to remember that there is no one investment strategy appropriate for everyone. Each individual has specific goals and financial circumstances that must be considered before making investment decisions. Professional investment advisors generally agree that the basic rule is to diversify your assets so that they reflect your particular circumstances, such as age, income, years to retirement, and tolerance for risk.

This diversification process is known as asset allocation. Asset allocation helps to balance your investment choices among asset categories such as money markets and fixed annuities as well as investments in stocks and bonds. Such balancing may help smooth out the inevitable ups and downs of the market.

Finally, investors must remember, that there are large differences within categories of funds. Some stock and bond funds are riskier than others because their investment objectives are different. You should always make sure you understand the investments' objectives. Request and read a prospectus and annual report.

403(b) Frequently Asked Questions

All University employees are eligible to participate in the plan; except that students of the University whose employment is incidental to their education at the institution are not eligible.

Federal and Massachusetts income taxes on your 403(b) contributions are deferred until you draw benefits from your account. You benefit from the tax savings each payday. For example, someone earning $25,000 per year and saving 5% ($1,250 per year) of salary, would pay Federal income taxes on only $23,750.

  • Annual Salary: $25,000
  • Minus 5% 403(b): $1,250
  • Taxable Salary: $23,750

The annual tax savings on this $1,250 403(b) contribution is $188 (assuming a 15% Federal tax bracket).

By getting started early, your savings grow faster because of compounded earnings.

Yes. The IRS limits the amount of your tax-deferred contribution each year. In calendar year 2023, the limit for employees under age 50 years is $22,500. For employees age 50 or older, the limit is $30,000.  

In calendar year 2024, the limit for employees under age 50 years is $23,000. For employees age 50 or older, the limit is $30,500.    

You are responsible for making certain that all of your tax-favored retirement contributions do not exceed the IRS's limits. Your failure to comply with the prescribed limits can result in taxes, penalties, and interest charges from the IRS.

Employees who are age 50 by December 31, 2023 may also contribute up to an additional $7,500 in 2023, increasing the limit to $30,000. 

Employees may contribute to the State's Deferred Compensation Plan (457B plan) in addition to contributing into the 403B plan.

Yes, if certain conditions are met, the IRS allows for the deferral of some types of post-severance compensation, including accumulated vacation and sick pay.  Please see the Deferral of Sick-Vacation and Back Pay document for more information.

No, the IRS does not allow for deferral of severance payments made after termination of employment.

You may increase, decrease, stop and restart the amount of your contributions anytime during the year by logging in to Enter your Username and Password at the top of the website and click Log in. On the NetBenefits® home page, choose Contribution Amounts in the Quick Links menu for the Plan in which you wish to make a contribution election. Please note that all contribution election changes will go into effect in the next payroll processed, and you cannot choose a future effective date.

In an effort to improve our programs, from both the perspective of the participant and the administrator, the University’s Supplemental Retirement Plan Investment Committee (the “Committee”) launched a competitive procurement process to select a single vendor as the primary plan provider for the University’s supplemental retirement plans.  Assisted by Cammack Retirement Group, an independent, registered investment advisor, the Committee selected Fidelity Investments as its primary retirement plan provider.  The Committee also selected TIAA-CREF as a secondary provider in order to maintain access to some of TIAA-CREF’s proprietary investment options.  

The 403(b) carriers offer different "funding vehicles." These vehicles may be Fixed Annuities, Mutual Funds, or Variable Annuities.  Please see the Fundamentals about Investment Options, which will help you understand their differences.

Each provider may offer several investment funds for your choice. For example, a provider may offer Money Market, Stock, and Bond investments under their funding vehicle. You allocate your 403(b) contributions among the funds provided by your carrier. This wide variety of investments means that you can select those investments, either variable or guaranteed, that best meet your personal financial goals.

Review the section on Before You Invest for basic investment concepts. The information will help you understand each carrier's funds to determine your investment choices and how to allocate your contributions. You may contact each carrier for assistance in helping you understand their funds and determining your allocation.

In general, distributions from the plan cannot be made until one of the following “triggering events” occurs:       

  • You terminate employment with the University;
  • You attain age 59 ½; 
  • You become disabled;
  • You encounter a financial hardship; or
  • Upon your death.

The University uses the IRS Safe Harbor method in administering financial hardship withdrawals.  Prior to taking a hardship distribution, you must first obtain all loans and any other distributions that may be available under the plan.  In addition, you must meet an eligible reason, as defined by the IRS under the Safe Harbor method, for requesting a hardship withdrawal.  You must provide documentation to the University to confirm the financial need; and except for allowing for taxes, the amount of the hardship withdrawal cannot exceed the amount of the documented need.  Lastly, you may draw only on your contributions from the plan for purposes of a hardship.  The investment earnings must remain in your account until the occurrence of one of the other triggering events referenced above.     

Each 403(b) plan provider offers a variety of distribution methods under our plan. The most common methods available are:

  • lump-sum payments;
  • installment or fixed-period payments;
  • income payable for either your lifetime or life expectancy;
  • "interest only" payments; and
  • systematic withdrawals.

Each carrier may offer more or fewer payment methods than these. You will need to carefully check each firm's features to be sure it offers the methods you expect to utilize. There may also be differences in withdrawal restrictions and fees imposed by each carrier.

Yes. The minimum loan amount under the University's 403(b) plan is $1,000 and you may maintain only two (2) loans with unpaid balances under the plan at any time.  If you default on your loan payments, then your loan will be considered a taxable distribution to you from the Plan.  A loan currently in default precludes you from taking another loan under the Plan.

Please contact the provider directly to obtain information on how the loan provision operates, as well as current interest rates and repayment schedules.

Since Federal and Massachusetts* income taxes have been deferred on your contributions and the investment earnings in your 403(b) account, you should expect to pay this tax on your benefits.

While tax withholding is voluntary on benefit payments made over ten or more years, the IRS requires 20% withholding on any payments made to you for periods of less than ten years. For example, lifetime annuity income paid to you by the Plan is not subject to the mandatory withholding, but a lump-sum payment to you is subject to the mandatory withholding.

In general, the IRS also imposes a 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty on most distributions that are paid to participants who are younger than age 59 1/2. This also includes hardship withdrawals.

Although we have tried to identify the key tax issues most employees must consider, there can be other tax implications of drawing your benefits at a certain time and in a certain way. You should discuss this issue carefully with representatives of your carrier as well as qualified counsel.

*Note: Contributions made prior to 1998 were only deferred from Federal income taxes. Therefore employees have already paid Massachusetts state taxes on such contributions. Contributions made after January 1, 1998 are tax deferred for both Federal and Massachusetts income tax purposes.

Any death benefits under the Plan are payable to the beneficiaries you have named. The death benefit payable before you begin drawing benefits from the 403(b) plan will vary from carrier to carrier. Generally, your current account balance will be your "pre-retirement" death benefit.

The death benefit payable after you have begun drawing benefits from the plan also depends on your carrier's provisions, as well as the payment method you have chosen to receive benefits. Death benefits are often called "Survivor Benefits." Your 403(b) carrier representative can answer your questions about the Survivor Benefits payable from your account.

Yes. The University's 403(b) Plan accepts rollovers (certain restrictions may apply).  You should carefully check with your prior carrier to identify any withdrawal restrictions and fees that may be applied to your rollover to this, or any other, 403(b) program.