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Pension Benefits Explained

What is the Equity-League Benefit Funds Pension Plan?

The Equity-League Pension Plan was created in 1961 to help Actors’ Equity members assure that they would have retirement income in their senior years. Currently, all members who work at least two weeks in covered employment in five separate years can earn a non-forfeitable future pension benefit (become “vested”). Eligibility rules have changed over the years and were generally more difficult to satisfy in the past. Consequently, depending on when work was performed, some participants have to earn as much as ten years of service in order to become vested.

Pension benefits are received in the form of a monthly payment, based on your career earnings and number of years worked. Virtually all Actors’ Equity contracts require employers to contribute to the Plan.

The Plan’s eligibility rules and forms of benefit payment are somewhat complicated and are described in detail in the Summary Plan Description. But, in very rough and general terms, your maximum annual pension benefit is equal to 3% of your career income plus $144 for each year of service. For instance, if you worked 20 years, earning $25,000 in each of those years, your annual pension at age 65 could be as much as $17,880.

Again, the actual pension benefit that apply to you might be higher or lower (e.g., because you received credit for being an Actors’ Equity member before the plan began, because some of your earnings were not considered pensionable, or because you will have some of your pension paid to a surviving beneficiary). The Equity-League Benefit Funds Pension Plan provides several different types of pension benefits to those who are vested. One or more of these pension benefits may be available to you, depending upon how you become vested and qualify.

What are the different types of pension benefits?

The Equity-League Benefit Funds Pension Plan offers the following types of pension benefits:

Regular pension – Available to those who reach the normal retirement age of 65 (or, if later, the date you are vested).

Service pension – Available to those who reach age 65 and have at least 25 separate and distinct years of attachment to the legitimate theater , with at least 15 of those years in covered employment. (A service pension provides pension benefits for any years after 1944 and before 1963 in which you were a paid-up member of Actors’ Equity in addition to regular pension benefits.)

Early retirement pension – Available to those age 60 who meet the service requirements for either a regular or service pension. Your pension benefit will be reduced for each month you are younger than 65 .

Disability pension benefit – Available to those who are vested and become totally and permanently disabled before age 65.

Terminal illness pension benefit – Available to those who become terminally ill (a life expectancy of one year or less) and who meet both of the following requirements:

◦ Accrued five years of vesting service (without incurring a permanent break in service during those five years), and

◦ Earned at least one year of vesting service in work that requires contributions to the Equity-League Benefit Funds Pension Fund.

In addition to the pension, benefits listed above, the Equity-League Benefit Funds Pension Plan also provides survivor benefits to your surviving spouse or beneficiary if you die before taking your pension. Visit our survivor benefits page to learn more.

For complete details about Equity-League Benefit Funds pension benefits, refer to the Equity-League Benefit Funds Pension Plan and 401(k) Plan Summary Plan Description. If you have additional questions or need assistance, contact the Equity-League Benefit Services Department at (212) 869-9380 (New York City) or (800) 344-5220.