Human Resources

TSERS - A Defined Benefit Plan

With a Defined Benefit Plan, benefits are based on salary, years of service and a retirement factor. The retirement benefit is not based on the amount of contributions nor the investment earnings. There is no investment risk for the individual since the state takes on the risk and guarantees the retirement benefit.

The retirement benefit for a defined benefit plan is based on a formula and not on the amount you or the state contribute. The formula for Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) is determined by state statute and is:

  • Average salary based on the highest 48 consecutive month of earnings
  • Multiplied by a Retirement Factor of 1.82%
  • Multiplied by your years of creditable service

The University contributes an amount set by the state legislature each year which funds the:

  • Retirement Benefit
  • Retirees' Health Care
  • N.C. Disability Income Plan
  • TSERS Death Benefit

The University contribution to TSERS is not a match to your contribution; it can change each year. It is deposited into a separate account than your 6% contribution to help fund retirement benefits for all members.

Unreduced and Reduced Benefits

You qualify for full (or unreduced) retirement benefits with:

  • 30 years of creditable service or
  • 25 years of creditable service and age 60 or
  • 5 years of creditable service and age 65

You qualify for a reduced retirement benefit with:

  • 20 years of creditable service and age 50 or
  • 5 years of membership service and age 60

For a detailed discussion of full (or unreduced) and reduced retirement benefits please see the TSERS Handbook.


Retirement benefits are fully vested after you complete five years of membership service. If you leave State employment before completing five years of creditable service, you may request a refund of only your contributions, with such amount subject to any income taxes and early withdrawal penalties, unless you request a trustee-to-trustee transfer (direct rollover) of your refund to an IRA or another qualified retirement plan that will accept your transfer, or leave your contributions in TSERS in anticipation of a return to State service in the future.

Upon receipt of a refund of contributions, you waive any rights to the employer contributions or any other benefit from TSERS and the North Carolina Disability Income Plan.

A vested employee who terminates employment may elect to leave his or her contributions with TSERS and receive a retirement benefit starting at age 50 with at least 20 years of creditable service or, otherwise, at age 60.

Death Benefit


  • One or more years of service
  • Must be an active employee at the time of death


  • Highest 12 consecutive months of salary earned during the 24 months preceding your death
  • Not less than $25,000
  • Not more than $50,000

This amount is paid in addition to your accumulation in TSERS in the event of your death.

Survivor Benefits

If you die while in active service, your beneficiary will receive a refund of contributions and interest.

If you have 20 or more years of service or, if you are at least age 60 with at least 5 years of service at the time of your death, your beneficiary can choose between receiving a refund of contributions and interest or receiving a life-time benefit.

Please note: If you name more than one principal beneficiary the life-time benefit is not an option your beneficiaries can select.

Designating A Beneficiary

There are two beneficiary designations:

One to receive the refund of your contributions plus interest in the event of your death

One to receive the Death Benefit

Remember: If you name more than one principal beneficiary a lump sum payment of your contributions will be divided among the beneficiaries listed; there will be no option for life-time payments. If you name more than one principal beneficiary, you cannot name a contingent beneficiary. 


Winston-Salem State University

601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

Winston-Salem, NC 27110

Phone: (336) 750-2000

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