Retirement Savings Plan

The Princeton University Retirement Savings Plan (RSP) is a 403(b) defined contribution plan that allows participants to save money for retirement on a pretax and/or after-tax (Roth) basis. The University does not make contributions to the RSP. The contributions deducted from a participant’s pay are invested as directed by the participant. Participants can start, stop, increase, or decrease their contributions anytime during the year by going to HR Self Service and following the instructions described below. Participants can register online with the plan’s recordkeeper TIAA to establish an account, name beneficiaries, and select investments. Participants can also contact TIAA at 1-800-842-2252.


  • Participants always 100% vested.
  • Contributions withheld directly from pay; may be pretax and/or after-tax.
  • Contributions and assets allocated across many investment choices.
  • Loans available.


  • Participants cannot contribute in excess of IRS limits in a calendar year.  
  • Pretax contributions are exempt from federal and FICA taxes when made.
  • Contributions are taxable in the State of New Jersey.
  • Eligible compensation is total gross income from base pay, faculty summer salary, overtime, lump sum payments for outstanding performance or special assignments, lump sum payments in lieu of a regular salary increase, and temporary disability salary or wage continuation.


  • All employees are eligible to participate in the RSP as of their date of hire. An employee must be receiving ordinary income including wage supplements directly from Princeton or be a postdoctoral research fellow, to participate in the plan. Visit the Benefits Eligibility Tool for more information.



  • Unless benefits eligible employees make affirmative elections to participate or not to participate, they are automatically enrolled to contribute 5% of eligible compensation on a pretax basis. Employees who are not benefits eligible are not automatically enrolled in the plan.
  • Participants have the option to change the auto-enrollment contribution percentage or amount or waive out of the plan. 
  • If, within 90 days of the first contribution a participant elects to waive out of the plan, they may withdrawal all of their automatic contributions.  
  • If participants are automatically enrolled in the plan and do not direct the investment of contributions through TIAA, the contributions are invested in the Vanguard Target to Retirement Fund closest to year the participants reach age 65.


  • The retirement savings plan does not have a required minimum per pay contribution. Contributions cannot exceed the maximum amount permitted by the Internal Revenue Service in a calendar year, and begin in the pay period following a participant’s online election.
  • Contributions may be elected as a flat amount or percent of eligible compensation. Eligible compensation is determined before any pretax deductions are taken from the paycheck.
  • Contributions may be made pretax and/or after-tax (Roth) up to the limits set by the Internal Revenue Service. The limit on the after-tax (Roth) contributions is the same as the pretax limit, and the two plans are combined for the purposes of the annual limit. If participants are age 50 or older during the calendar year, they may contribute an additional amount. The IRC limits can be found online.
  • Participants can start, stop, increase, or decrease their contributions anytime during the year by going to HR Self Service and following the steps described under "Start, Stop, Increase, or Decrease your RSP Contribution" below.
  • During a paid leave of absence, contributions continue based on the compensation participants are paid during their leave of absence and in accordance with their election. Participants cannot make contributions to the RSP during unpaid leaves of absence.

Start, Stop, Increase, or Decrease RSP Contributions:

To start, stop, increase, or decrease 403(b) contributions, log in to HR Self Service and follow these steps:

  • Click on Benefit Details
  • Click on Life Event
  • Select Enroll/Update my Retirement Savings Plan, type in the effective date using the calendar icon, click on Start Life Event
  • Click the Benefit Enrollment button on the left
  • Click Start My Enrollment
  • Click the Retirement Savings Plan tile if you want to change your pre-tax contribution. Click on Roth Retirement Savings tile if you want to change your after-tax contribution.
  • Change your Flat Amount or Percent of Per Pay or select waive (if you do not want to contribute)
  • Click Done, then Click Submit Enrollment
  • Click on Event Completion and Exit
  • Review your new election
  • Click complete

Investment Allocations

  • Participants can allocate current funds and/or future contributions among many investments.
  • If investment(s) are not selected for contributions, they default into the Vanguard Target to Retirement Fund closest to the year participants reach age 65. Participants can change their investment allocations at any time by accessing their online accounts or contacting TIAA at 1-800- 842-2252.

Hardship Withdrawal

  • If participants have financial hardship due to qualified reasons, they may be eligible to take a hardship withdrawal from the RSP to meet that need. Qualified reasons include buying their primary residence, preventing eviction, paying medical expenses or educational expenses for them or their immediate family, or paying funeral expenses for their immediate family.


  • Participants may borrow money from their accounts. Loans can be taken for any reason. Contact TIAA at 1-800-842-2252.
  • Loans are offered with a fixed rate of interest and funded directly from the employee’s retirement account. The loan amount is deducted from the employee’s account balances, and subsequent loan payments, including interest, are credited to this account.
  • If a loan is taken out, there is a one-time origination fee charge. The fee is $50 for general purpose loans and $125 for primary residence loans. Additionally, there is an annual loan maintenance fee of $25.
  • The spouse of a participant must consent to the loan at the time of request.   
  • The minimum amount is $1,000.
  • Loans cannot be taken against after-tax (Roth) contributions.
  • The maximum amount is the lesser of 50% of the vested balance or $50,000 (less the highest outstanding loan amount in the past 12 months).
  • The maximum number of loans allowed from a participant’s account, at any one time, is three.
  • Participants must repay their loans within five years unless they use the loan solely to purchase their primary residence, in which case they have ten years. 
  • Employees who terminate employment must make loan payments through direct billing.
  • Participants may fully prepay their loan at any time with no penalties.
  • Under federal tax law, the entire outstanding balance may be in default and become taxable as income when participants fail to make timely loan repayments.


  • Participants may rollover a retirement plan account from their previous employer to the RSP, which accepts rollovers from qualified plans.
  • Participants may rollover an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to the RSP.
  • Participants are entitled to receive a distribution from the RSP and may roll over the distribution directly into an eligible retirement plan. Distributions from Roth accounts can be rolled over to Roth accounts in another eligible retirement plan. 
  • Any distribution other than a direct rollover from the plan into an eligible retirement plan is subject to a minimum federal tax withholding of 20% of the distribution plus applicable state and local taxes. Special rules may apply to a rollover from a Roth account.
  • Participants may transfer account assets between pretax and after-tax accounts.


  • Participants may take an in-service distribution at any time after they obtain age 59 ½; if they are receiving benefits under the University’s Long Term Disability Plan, or if they go on a leave for active military duty of more than 30 days.
  • Participant may elect to receive a distribution of their account at any time after they terminate their employment from the University. The distribution options available to a participant depend upon the investment provider and investment options that they have elected.
  • The normal form of payment under the RSP is a single life annuity if participants are unmarried and a qualified joint and survivor annuity if married. However, instead of the normal form of payment, participants may choose from among other available distribution options when they retire or otherwise terminate from employment. The distribution options available depend upon the investment provider.
  • After termination of employment with the University, the law requires participants to withdraw minimum amounts from the RSP by April 1 of the calendar year in which the participant attains the required beginning date age as set forth here: If your date of birth is before July 1, 1949, your required beginning date age is 70 ½. If your date of birth is on or after July 1, 1949 and before January 1, 1951, your required beginning date age is 72. If your date of birth is on or after January 1, 1951, your required beginning date age is 73. Federal law determines the amount of their distribution. Participants must begin taking distributions under the Minimum Distribution Option (MDO) by April 1 following the calendar year in which they reach their required beginning date age or April 1 following the year they retire, if later. Participants who fail to satisfy the minimum distribution requirements are subject to a tax penalty. Once their minimum distribution income has started, participants must take their annual minimum distribution each year by December 31.
  • Participants must contact TIAA at 1-800-842-2252 to learn more or access their money. For additional information and/or to review detailed Plan rules, participants may also refer to the Summary Plan Description.
  • Upon termination of employment, participants can no longer make contributions to the plan.

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)

  • If a participant is involved in a court proceeding that results in a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), the account is split in accordance with the order, establishing a separate account for the alternate payee.
  • The alternate payee account is not available for distribution until the participant is eligible for a plan distribution. 
  • Contact TIAA, Princeton’s recordkeeper, at 1-800-842-2252 for assistance with QDRO administration.

Beneficiary Designation

  • Beneficiaries can be named online.
  • Participants may change their beneficiary designations at any time prior to receipt of their benefit payments. If participants are married, their spouses must consent in writing if they elect a non-spouse beneficiary or form of payment other than a joint-life annuity with their spouse as their annuity partner.
  • If participants die prior to the payment of benefit, the named beneficiaries receive the amount of their account. If a participant dies before benefit payments begin without having named a beneficiary and is married at the time of death, the spouse automatically receives 50% of the account and the estate receives the remaining portion. If a participant is not married and does not designate a beneficiary, the estate receives the full balance.

If there are any discrepancies between the information in this publication, verbal representations, and the plan documents, the plan documents always govern. Although Princeton intends to continue these benefits, the University reserves the right to amend or terminate these plans at any time.