Pension Plan Overview

What you need to know

The Equity-League Benefit Funds (ELBF) Pension Plan helps ensure that you have retirement income in your senior years. Pension benefits are monthly payments that are based on your career earnings and the number of years worked. Most Actors’ Equity contracts require that employers contribute to the Pension Plan.

Are your beneficiaries current?

To change your pension beneficiary, complete the Pension Beneficiary Designation/Change Form, and return it to Equity-League.

Most Actors’ Equity contracts require employers to make contributions to the Pension Plan. However, some contracts limit the amount that may be contributed toward your pension.

Pension plan eligibility

To earn pension benefits, you must become vested in the Plan.

There are several exceptions and other vesting criteria that may apply to you in the event you:

  • Worked before 1992
  • Worked before 1944
  • Worked prior to June 1, 1999

Once you are vested, your pension benefits are yours to keep—even if you leave the industry. When you can begin collecting pension benefits depends on the type of pension benefits you receive.

NOTE: It is possible to be a Pension Plan participant and not be vested. You become a Pension Plan participant on the first January 1 or July 1 after you complete at least two weeks of covered employment. The two or more weeks must be within the same consecutive 12-month period that began with your first week. Once you are a participant, you will begin receiving Pension Plan communications. It’s important to keep your contact information updated with the Fund Office.

The ELBF Pension Fund considers the normal retirement age to be 65, but you can begin collecting your pension as early as age 60—or as late as age 73. If you become permanently disabled or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, other rules apply.

Pension types

The ELBF Pension Plan offers several types of pensions. The type of pension benefits available to you will depend on eligibility factors, including how you become vested and qualify.

Special rules apply for American actors working in Canada and for Canadian actors working in the United States. For details, review the Pension Plan and 401(k) Plan Summary Plan Description.

Regular pension

Available when you are age 65 (the normal retirement age) or, if later, depending on the date you become vested).

Service pension
Available when you are age 65 and have at least 25 separate years of work in theater, with at least 15 of those years in covered employment, for which contributions were made on your behalf. (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 when you are age 60 and 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
If the Social Security Administration has determined that you are totally and permanently disabled before age 65, the Equity-League Benefit Funds also considers you disabled. Learn more in the Pension Plan and 401(k) Plan Summary Plan Description.
Terminal illness pension benefit
  • The Equity-League Benefit Funds Pension Plan defines terminal illness as having a life expectancy of one year or less. This benefit will be a lump-sum payment equal to approximately 60 months of what your pension would have been at age 65.

Available if you become terminally ill (a life expectancy of one year or less) and meet both of the following requirements:

  • Accrued five years of vesting service (without incurring a permanent break in service during those five years before 1992), and
  • Earned at least one year of vesting service where contributions were made on your behalf.
  • If you live beyond your diagnosed prognosis and subsequently qualify for a normal, early, or disability pension, the benefit will be reduced by the actual value of the terminal illness benefit you received.

Preretirement survivor benefits

Survivor benefits are available for your surviving spouse or domestic partner or beneficiary if you die after you have become vested but before your pension begins.

Preretirement Surviving Spouse / Domestic Partner Pension

Provides a lifetime monthly benefit to your eligible spouse or enrolled DP. Your spouse or DP will receive 50% of the monthly pension you would have received if you had eventually elected to receive your pension with a 50% joint and survivor benefit. If you die before 65, your spouse or domestic partner will receive half of your reduced benefit.

For your domestic partner to receive a Preretirement Surviving Spouse / Domestic Partner Pension, you must complete the domestic partner affidavit and the declaration of financial interdependence and designate your domestic partner as your pension beneficiary forms.

Preretirement death benefit

Provides a death benefit to your beneficiary if you have a vested right to a pension but die before payments begin. The benefit equals 60 payments of the monthly benefit you would have received at age 65 if you had qualified for a regular pension at the time of your death. Your beneficiary can elect the 60 payments or a lump-sum payment.

Your beneficiary may be able to roll over the benefit to another qualified retirement plan. Upon your death, the ELBF office will provide your beneficiary with a notice explaining the terms and conditions of eligible rollovers and the necessary election forms.


Equity-League Benefit Funds Office

(212) 869-9380
(800) 344-5220 (outside NYC)
Health Fax: (212) 869-3323
401(k) and Pension Fax: (212) 869-1824