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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

If you don't find your answer in the frequently asked questions below, you may wish to contact us.

Update Personal Information Apply for Benefits Learn More

Change my address with IMRF

Change or find out who my Designation of Beneficiary(ies) are

Move my service credit from my old IMRF employer to my new IMRF employer ("Transferring" service credit)

Find out which "Tier" I participate in

Report a member death

Apply for a refund of my contributions

Apply for IMRF disability benefits

Apply for an IMRF pension

Retire under the Illinois Reciprocal Act

Apply my unused, unpaid sick leave to my pension

Can the state "borrow" money from IMRF?

Borrow against my contributions

IMRF pension estimates

Tier 2 wage cap

Divorce and IMRF benefits

13th Check/13th Payment

IMRF and Social Security

Purchasing past service (including repaying a refund)

Resolving problems downloading/printing IMRF forms from the website

"Borrowing" money from IMRF

Question: Can the state "borrow" money from IMRF?

Answer: No. IMRF receives no State funding. The IMRF Board of Trustees sets responsible and actuarially sound employer contribution rates. All funding comes from investments, employers and members.  IMRF has unique authority to “police” employers to make sure contributions are paid in the correct amount and on time.

Since IMRF receives no money from the State, it cannot “borrow” money by reneging on payments due us. Can it take money out of our asset accounts? No. That money is held by our master trustee: The Northern Trust of Chicago.

As of December 31, 2011, the market value of IMRF’s net assets was $24.8 billion. These assets are held in trust; they are not public money to be spent for any other purpose other than for IMRF members’ disability, retirement, and death benefits.

It would take legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor for the state to ever touch IMRF funds. The likelihood of that happening is extremely unlikely.  Moreover, if any attempt were made to do so, IMRF would let all of our members know and we would fight such efforts strenuously. IMRF doubts that our 2,900 participating employers would let that happen either.

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IMRF and Social Security

Question: I am getting ready to retire and collect my IMRF pension. I was told that my Social Security benefits would be reduced because of my IMRF pension. Is this true?

Answer: No. When you participate in IMRF, you, like most members, also contribute to Social Security. Therefore, you are entitled to the benefits of both IMRF and Social Security. Your IMRF retirement benefits do not affect your Social Security benefits, or vice versa, in any way.

At retirement, you are entitled to full benefits from both. Your IMRF benefits are never reduced because you receive Social Security benefits, and your Social Security benefits generally are not reduced because you receive IMRF benefits. The only exception to this rule is if you earned service credit with IMRF during years that you did not also contribute to Social Security.

You should be aware that even though Social Security and IMRF do not affect each other, your pension benefits from other pension funds may be subject to a Social Security offset. If you are participating in a Reciprocal system, you should contact that system or the Social Security Administration to find out the rules that apply to that plan and Social Security.

Read more about IMRF and Social Security

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Change of Address

Question: How can I change my address with IMRF?

Answer: At this time and for your protection, your address cannot be changed by email. Your actual written signature is required.

You can change your address online through your Member Access Account.

Your employer can also change your address online.

You can also change your address with IMRF sending your request on a piece of paper that must include: the date, your new address, your name, last four digits of your Social Security number, and your signature. This may be mailed or faxed (630-368-5397) to IMRF.

You can read more about changing your personal information here.

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Question: How can I get a refund of my contributions?

Answer: To receive a refund, you must have stopped working for your IMRF employer. You cannot take a refund of your IMRF contributions if you have left your IMRF-qualified position but are still working for the same employer. For example, if you were working for a school district as a teacher's aide and participated in IMRF, then accepted a teacher's position with the same district and joined TRS, you cannot take a refund of your IMRF contributions.

You can apply for a refund online. Sign into your Member Access account, select the "Tools" tab, then select "Secure Online Forms."

Or you can complete IMRF Form 5.10 (Application for Separation Refund) and submit it to IMRF. Your employer must complete and file IMRF a Notice of Termination with IMRF before your refund will be processed.

Provided IMRF has all the necessary paperwork on file, it generally takes about 10 business days to process a refund.

Rollovers of refunds

If you are rolling over your refund to a qualified plan, please take Form 5.10 with you to the financial institution and have section 3 completed. Please advise the institution that Form 5.10 is the only rollover form IMRF can accept.

Other IMRF benefits related to your refund

If you are not vested, your IMRF contributions will be returned to you upon request. Keep in mind that if you take a refund of your IMRF contributions you forfeit your right to any other benefit from IMRF.

Reciprocal service credit and refunds

If you have 12 months of service credit with any of the 13 reciprocal retirement systems in Illinois (or if you have any amount of IMRF credit earned as a paraeducator and then went directly into TRS participation), your service credit can be combined to calculate a retirement benefit. You may wish to contact IMRF for more information about reciprocal service credit before submitting your refund application.

Form 5.10 (Application for Separation Refund)

Get Form 5.10, or communicate with IMRF and request one be mailed to you.

You can read more about the refund process for Tier 1 members or for for Tier 2 members.

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Question: How do I apply for my IMRF pension?

Answer: Before you apply for your pension, you may wish to download and review IMRF's Member Retirement Checklist.

  • You can apply for your pension online, via your Member Access account. Under the "Tools" tab, select "Secure Online Forms," then select " Apply for an IMRF Pension."

  • Or, you can complete IMRF Form 5.20, "Application for IMRF Pension," and submit it to IMRF one month before your desired retirement date.

IMRF pensions are effective on the first day of the month after you terminate employment. IMRF pays pensions in advance on the first day of every month. For example, your August pension will be paid to you on August 1. If you retire at any time during a month, you receive full service credit for that month, and your pension will be effective on the first day of the next month. If you retire on September 15, you will receive service credit for the month of September, and your pension will be effective on October 1. You will receive your first pension payment within 30 days of that date.

Please note: IMRF can "back date" a pension only 12 months

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Question: Can I borrow against my IMRF contributions?

Answer: You cannot borrow from your member contributions, nor can you use them as collateral for a loan. The Illinois Pension Code specifically states that members cannot borrow from their contributions nor use them as collateral. There is no "hardship provision."

However, under this same restriction, your IMRF member contributions are also protected from your creditors as long as your contributions remain on deposit with IMRF. They cannot be garnished or seized by any creditor.

You also cannot take a refund (full or partial) of your IMRF contributions while you are currently working for an IMRF employer (even if you work in a position that does not qualify for IMRF participation), nor can you opt out of IMRF participation if you work in a qualifying position.

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Downloading forms and publications from IMRF Online

Question: I am having trouble downloading forms from your website. Can you help?

Answer: In order to view and print documents found on IMRF Online, you need a software application called Adobe Acrobat Reader. You will not be able to view and print our publications online if you do not have this software installed.

Most new computers have Acrobat Reader already loaded. However, if you don't have this software already installed, it can be downloaded 100% free of charge directly from Adobe. It will allow you to view and print the IMRF publications available online.

If you have the software installed and are still experiencing difficulties, we recommend that you check the Adobe site and make sure you have the most recent version of the software.

If you are still unable to view or print IMRF publications online, please contact IMRF.

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Question: How do I find out who my beneficiaries are and how can I change my beneficiary(ies) on my IMRF account?

Answer: To find out who your beneficiaries are, sign into your Member Access account. To make any changes (add or remove) to your beneficiary(ies),

  • Sign into your Member Access account. Under the "Tools" tab, select "Secure Online Forms," then select "Change Beneficiary Information," or

  • Submit a paper Form 6.11 (Designation of Beneficiary). You must sign, date, and file the form with IMRF. Although we can accept the signature of a representative for name and address changes, we cannot accept the signature of anyone other than the member to change a beneficiary. If you make any changes to the Designation of Beneficiary form, you must initial each change as you would for any other legal document. If you do not do this, the form will not be accepted.

Your new Designation of Beneficiary is valid upon receipt by IMRF.

You may obtain Form 6.11 from IMRF Online or by calling 1-800-ASK-IMRF (1-800-275-4673).

NOTE: Retired members can also change their beneficiaries by signing into the Member Access account. If they wished to submit a paper form, they would complete IMRF form 6.11A.

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Question: How can I find out how much I will receive from IMRF when I retire?

Answer: Your IMRF annual member statement includes this information once you have eight or more years of service credit. You may also request a pension estimate from IMRF by calling 1-800-ASK-IMRF (1-800-275-4673), or by completing and submitting Form BF-20 (Pension Estimate Request) to IMRF.

You can calculate an online pension estimate based on your actual IMRF account information, or submit a BF-20 online, through Member Access.

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Question: What is the 13th Payment (Supplemental Benefit Payment)?

Answer: Eligible IMRF retired members (or their surviving spouses) receive a supplemental benefits payment, also called the "13th payment," every July. The 13th payment is normally mailed out by July 15 after the usual July payments are mailed.

Retired members can view their 13th payment statement by signing into their Member Access account, selecting the "Documents" tab and then searching for EFT and Tax Statements.

Read more about the 13th Payment.

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Unused, unpaid sick leave

Question: I am getting ready to retire. Can I use my unused, unpaid sick leave to earn additional service credit?

Answer: You may qualify for a maximum of one year of additional service credit for unused, unpaid sick leave accumulated with your last employer.

This additional service credit applies only if you are leaving employment for retirement. The effective date of your pension must be within 60 days of your termination date. If you are leaving one IMRF employer and are not eligible for (or choose not to) retire, in most cases you cannot "bank" your sick leave for your future retirement date.

Do you work for a school district?
Public Act 96-0299 was signed into law on August 11, 2009. This legislation provides that members retiring from a school district may qualify for a maximum of one year of additional service credit for unused, unpaid sick leave accumulated with any prior school district employers. The effective date of the pension must still be within 60 days of termination from a school district.

This new law applies only to employees of school districts and only to sick leave accumulated with a school district. Employees of other educational entities, such as special education cooperatives, and employees of all other non-school district units of government are not eligible.

Teachers retiring with IMRF service credit are eligible if the reciprocal pension will be effective within 60 days of termination and the sick leave was earned in an IMRF-covered position with a school district.

To report unused, unpaid sick leave, the previous school district employer may submit a corrected Notice of Termination of Participation via Employer Access.

If the school district does not submit a corrected termination notice, the member may provide IMRF with evidence of the unused, unpaid sick leave. Acceptable evidence must have originated on or before the date the previous employment ended.

The service credit is earned at the rate of one month for every 20 days of unused, unpaid sick leave or fraction thereof.

Unused, unpaid sick days Additional months of service credit

Please note: converted sick leave service credit cannot be used to meet the:

  • eight-year requirement for an IMRF pension,
  • 35-year requirement for a non-discounted pension under age 60, or
  • 20-year requirement for the IMRF Early Retirement Incentive.

    The sick leave must have been accumulated under an established sick leave plan available to all employees or a class of employees, and the effective date of your pension must be within 60 days of your termination.

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Leaving your IMRF Employer - "Transferring" Service credit

Question: What happens when I change jobs from one IMRF employer to another? Do I have to do anything to transfer the service?

Answer: The easy answer? You don’t have to do anything. Your new employer will submit a notice of enrollment in IMRF when you begin your new IMRF-participating position, deduct IMRF contributions from your wages, and report your monthly wages and contributions for you. And that’s all. No action is required on your part to make sure that your service credit “follows” you to your new employer.

Your service credit and member contributions will continue to accrue and will be credited to your Member Account. When you retire, each employer will be responsible for funding the portion of the pension you earned while working for them.

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How do I know which "tier" I participate in?

Question: I am seeing information about "tiers" of the different IMRF plans. How do I know which tier I participate in?

Answer: On January 1, 2011, a second "tier" of benefits was added to the IMRF SLEP, Regular, and Elected County Official (ECO) plans.

If you first participated in IMRF or an Illinois Reciprocal Retirement System prior to January 1, 2011, you participate in Tier 1 under the Regular or ECO plans. Once you are in Tier 1, you will always participate in Tier 1.*

If you first participated in IMRF or an Illinois Reciprocal Retirement System on or after January 1, 2011, you participate in Tier 2.

*If you first participated in the IMRF SLEP plan on or after January 1, 2011, with no prior SLEP Tier 1 service, you will participate in SLEP Tier 2, regardless of any previous Tier 1 Regular or ECO plan service.

Not sure of your plan or tier? Log in to your Member Access account or contact IMRF to find out.

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Reporting a death to IMRF

Question: What information do I need to report the death of an IMRF member?

Answer: If you need to report a member death to IMRF, you can call an IMRF Member Services Representative at 1-800-275-4673 (1-800-ASK-IMRF), Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

An IMRF Member Services Representative will assist you during this difficult time.

Please have the following information when you call:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Last four digits of his/her Social Security number
  • Date of death
  • If the member was married, the date of the marriage

You will also need to submit a copy of the death certificate for IMRF to process any claim for survivor benefits.  

Some facts to know about reporting a death to IMRF:

  • It is best to mail all forms and other materials together to IMRF. These forms might include a copy of the death certificate and copies of marriage and birth certificates. Please write the member’s name and the last four digits of his or her Social Security number on all documents. This allows our staff to make sure all necessary documents have been received and enables claims to be processed promptly.
  • We cannot give the names of any beneficiaries over the phone.
  • IMRF may request that a pension payment be returned.

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What is the wage cap?

Under Tier 2, a member's wages are capped at $109,971.43 in 2013. You do not pay any contributions on wages above the cap. The wage cap is also applied when IMRF calculates your benefits.

The wage cap increases each year by the lesser of 3%, or 1/2 of the increase in the Consumer Price Index (urban) for the preceding September.


If you have questions regarding IMRF, Communicate with Us.

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IMRF Online provides a brief summary of IMRF benefits and the adminstration of those benefits. IMRF members' and employers' rights and obligations are governed by Article 7 of the Illinois Pension Code. Statements in these publications are general, and the Illinois state law governing IMRF is complex and specific. If a conflict arises between information in these publications and the law, all decisions are based on the law.

Copyright Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund

Page Last Updated by JC on 11.27.12