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FAQs about USS

1. How can I access my USS online profile?

If you have not yet activated your account, you can register on USS's registration webpage. In order to register, you will need to have your USS member number, your National Insurance number and a personal email address. Your member number can be found in any email correspondence you have received from USS, your Annual Member Statement or your welcome letter – it’s the 8-digit number beginning with the number 4. If you’ve recently joined and haven’t received your membership number yet, please call USS’s Member Service Team on 0333 300 1043.

2. What should I do if I cannot find my password or PIN?

If you have registered an account but have lost your password or PIN, go to the USS login page and click ‘Forgotten details?’. You’ll be asked to enter the email address you registered with and (after you continue) you’ll be asked to provide an answer to your personal security question and whether you would like to reset your password, your PIN or both. Once you have confirmed this, USS will send you a temporary password and/or PIN which you can use to log in to your account. Once you have logged in to your account, you will then you will be asked to update your password, PIN or both. If you have any issues, please call USS’s Member Service Team on 0333 300 1043.

3. What is the contribution rate?

Currently, you will pay in 6.1% of your salary each month which is usually taken on a salary sacrifice basis through the Pensions+ arrangement. This means that you get relief on your tax and National Insurance (NI) contribution payments, so some of the money that you normally pay towards tax and NI goes into your pension instead. The University pays in 14.5% of your salary each month towards your benefits and running USS. 

4. What will I get from USS for my main pension contribution?

You will receive a guaranteed retirement income from the Retirement Income Builder which is the defined benefit part of USS. Every year, you’ll build a block of pension based on an accrual rate (which is currently 1/85th of your salary, up to the salary threshold) and you’ll also get a one-off tax-free cash lump sum of three times your total pension amount to take at retirement. As long as you’re paying into USS, you will get life cover to help take care of your loved ones once you’re gone. You can find out more about the death benefits USS offer on their website.

If you have to stop working because of ill health, as long as you’ve been building your pension with USS for at least two years, you could retire early with full USS benefits. 

More information about the Retirement Income Builder can be found on USS's website

5. What is the salary threshold?

The salary threshold for 2023/2024 is £41,004. If you earn over this amount, you’ll automatically start paying into the Investment Builder (the defined contribution (DC) part of USS). On your earnings above the salary threshold, you will contribute 6.1% of your salary into the Investment Builder and the University will contribute the equivalent of 13.9%.

6. What is the Investment Builder?

The Investment builder is a flexible savings pot and is the defined contribution part of the USS pension scheme. You will only contribute into the Investment Builder if you earn over the salary threshold, have elected to pay any additional voluntary contributions (AVCs), or have transferred in any savings from another pension scheme. More information about the USS Investment Builder can be found on USS's Website.

7. How can I make additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) to the Investment Builder?

Once you have logged into My USS, you can view and manage your savings on the ‘View or manage savings’ page in the Investment Builder section. You’ll find forms on this page that allow you to make or change your AVC payments. You’ll have the option to make AVC payments based on a percentage of your salary, pay a one-off lump sum payment from your salary or pay 1% of your salary through 'The Match' (which is a salary sacrifice arrangement). Please note, any AVC payments that are not made through 'The Match' will not be taken through salary sacrifice (this means you will only receive relief on your tax payments and not your National Insurance Contributions).

8. What is 'The Match'?

The Match is one way to make additional contributions to save more. You can choose to pay an additional 1% of your salary every month to the Investment Builder. If you paid 'The Match' between October 2016 and March 2019, you would have received an extra 1% contribution from the University too. But from 1 April 2019, the employer contribution element of 'The Match' was removed. Therefore, you can still choose to pay 'The Match', but the University will no longer match the 1%. Please note, that the contributions made through 'The Match' will be taken on a salary sacrifice basis so you will receive relief on National Insurance contribution payments as well as on tax.

9. How can I withdraw or opt out of the scheme?

USS provides an excellent range of benefits and you should consider what you would be missing out on before you withdraw. By being a member, you get valuable protection for your loved ones should you pass away whilst paying into USS and protection if you have to retire early owing to ill health. If you opt out of USS, you will no longer be eligible for this cover. USS membership also includes a significant contribution from the University and pension increases when you receive it. 

Should you decide that you do not want to be a member of USS you can opt out but this cannot be done in advance of your first day of employment; if you joined the scheme by being auto-enrolled under the Government's criteria, opting out also cannot be done before you have received your enrolment notice. You will only receive a discretionary refund of your contributions if you opt out within the first 3 months’ of being enrolled into the scheme.

If you decide to withdraw after being a member for 3 months, you can do so by giving the University and USS at least 28 days’ written notice. Your withdrawal will be effective at the end of the month in which the notice expires. Please note, your deferred pension will be calculated differently if you leave after three months and within two years of joining the scheme.

If you still wish to leave the scheme, please visit USS's 'Think of Leaving' webpage.

10. I’ve stopped contributing but my net pay hasn’t increased by the same amount I put in (6.1%), why is that?

Your gross pay will have increased by 6.1%, but your tax and National Insurance payments will also increase as they will now be based on a higher gross salary. Therefore, your net pay will increase but it will not be equivalent to 6.1%.

11. I’m leaving the University, what happens to my pension?

If you leave the University, the Pensions Office will inform USS as part of the monthly payroll process. USS will then write to you at your home address and provide you with a leaver statement which will detail your pension benefits and your options. Please always check that your address is up-to-date on Employee Self Service to ensure your leaver statement will reach you. Further information can be found on the USS's 'Leavers' Hub' webpage.

12. I want to finish working and retire. How can I draw on my benefits?

Retirement from the scheme is not automatic. If you are considering retiring from the scheme, we would recommend contacting the University’s Pensions Office 6 months prior to your proposed retirement date to ensure that you have enough time to: request and receive a quotation; hand in your notice; have your leaver paperwork completed by your department and sent to the Payroll Team; complete any necessary USS paperwork; and seek any financial advice if needed.

USS require your completed retirement forms and to be notified of your date of retirement at least 8 weeks prior to this date in order to avoid any delays in settling your benefits. Please note, the University’s Pensions Office is only able to notify USS of your retirement date once the leaver form has been received from your department so please ensure this is sent to the Pensions Office as well as the completed USS retirement forms 8 weeks prior to your retirement date. Once these documents have been sent to USS, they will contact you directly to confirm that the paperwork has been received. 

After USS have confirmed that they have received your documentation, the next time you will hear from USS will be near to your retirement (or after if the forms were not submitted on time) to confirm the benefits payable. 

If you require any further information regarding fully retiring from USS, please see the ‘A timeline To Retirement’ summary on USS's website or contact the Pensions Office for further details. If you are seeking to flexibly retire from the scheme, please visit the University’s Flexible Retirement webpage

13. Can I flexibly retire?

 Flexible retirement is available for USS members. Please visit the University’s Flexible Retirement webpage for further details.

14. I want to retire earlier than I thought, will I lose out?

There are different options open to you depending on your age and what you want to start taking. Even if you’re not able to start taking your benefits yet, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for your future. USS have a dedicated webpage to help members plan for any retirement scenario. which will provide you with further information.

15. Can I transfer my pension benefits in from another arrangement?

If you have pension savings elsewhere that you haven’t started taking and that scheme is registered with HMRC, you could transfer these to the Investment Builder (the defined contribution part of USS). Please visit the following USS's webpage for further details about transferring benefits.

16. How can I update my beneficiaries?

All you have to do is complete an Expression of Wish form or a Registration of Potential Dependant form on your MyUSS online account to let USS know who you’d like to receive your benefits if you die. It doesn’t always have to be a person, it could even be a charity or any other organisation capable of receiving the money. USS recommend that you update these every three years so that they know they’re up to date, even if your wishes haven’t changed.

17. Where can I find my Annual Member Statement?

Your annual benefit statement is published each year in late autumn and can be found on your MyUSS online account. The statement will show you the annual pension benefits you have built up in the Retirement Income Builder and the current value of your flexible savings pot within the Investment Builder.

Contributions paid to the Retirement Income Builder are not shown in your statement or My USS because your Retirement Income Builder benefits are calculated based on your length of service, salary, and pension accrual rate, rather than on the amount of money you contribute. However, you can see the total contributions you make to your USS pension on your payslips which can be downloaded from the Employee Self Service portal.

Further information regarding Annual Member Statements can be found on USS's website.

18. What is the difference between a defined contribution (DC) and a defined benefit pension?

The USS is a hybrid scheme with defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) parts.

The USS Retirement Income Builder is the DB part. DB schemes are sometimes referred to as ‘final salary’ or ‘career average’ pension schemes. How much members will get will depend on their pension scheme’s rules, not on investments or how much they’ve paid in. In these arrangements, the investment risk is with the employer who must fulfil the benefits promised. DB pension scheme benefits are usually based on a number of factors such as the employee’s salary and how long they’ve worked for the employer.

The USS Investment Builder is the DC part. DC arrangements allow employees and employers to contribute into a flexible savings pot. This pot is then invested by the pension provider and the value of the pot can go up or down depending on how the investments perform. In these arrangements, the investment risk is with the employee who can choose how their contributions are invested. The amount members will get when they take their pension pot will depend on: how much was paid in, how well the investments have done and how they decide to take the money (for example as regular payments, a lump sum or smaller sums). The pension provider will usually take a small percentage as a management fee.

In DC and DB arrangements, you can usually get 25% of the value of the benefits as a one-off tax-free lump sum limited to the standard lump sum allowance which is currently set at £268,275.

Further information can be found on MoneyHelper’s Pensions Basics webpage.