As musicians we’re lucky to have work we love, but none of us can keep going forever. Imagine collecting $1,000 a month or more when you retire! Local 1000 gives you access to one of the country’s best pension plans. The pension fund is secure and healthy, with an excellent payout – the AFM’s most valuable benefit.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the AFM Pension Plan
Adapted from an article by Charlie KingThe American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has one of the best pension plans available, but before the formation of Local 1000, traveling musicians like us were locked out. Now, with our own local, all that has changed. Now we can build our pensions with every job we do. With pension fund contributions we can provide for the future; plus, those contributions cannot be taxed as income.Who puts money into my pension fund?Your employer pays into the pension fund on your behalf. “Employer” means the person who is purchasing your services — the club owner, concert producer, student activities director, community contact — whoever signs the contract. The employer does not have to send the contribution to the pension fund. She/he can give it to you in one payment, along with your wage for the gig.
How does the money get to the pension fund?
After your employer gives you the money for the pension contribution, you write a check to the American Federation of Musicians & Employers Pension Fund (AFM-EPF), and send it to Local 1000, along with a signed copy of the LS-1 contract. We do the rest.
Can I put additional money of my own into the pension fund?
No. The AFM-EPF can only accept employer contributions for gigs performed under union contract. To put your own money away for retirement you can use an IRA or similar personal financial plan.
How much is the pension contribution for each gig?
Each AFM local sets its own policy (within broad union guidelines). The pension contribution is:
- a percentage of scale wages for the kind of job you are doing, or
- a percentage of the actual fee you receive
Local 1000 allows pension fund contributions from 8% to 15%. The pension contribution must be paid in addition to the wages you take home.
Suppose you choose to have your employer make a pension fund contribution of 10%:
- 10% of $220 (scale for a solo concert) = $22
- $220 (scale) + $22 (pension contribution) = $242 (your total compensation for the gig)
When should I begin getting contributions to the fund?
No matter how old you are, now is the time to begin building your pension, to ensure that you have a regular income in your later years.
We can show you how to begin receiving pension contributions on most of your musical engagements. The more contributions you receive, the better your retirement income will be. Think about it. Wouldn’t you like to be secure in knowing you can begin to collect a pension check every month when you reach the age of 65? The AFM-EPF is the only employer-paid pension plan available to traveling acoustic musicians and it is much better than anything you can get on your own.
How does the pension plan compare to an IRA or 401K?
An IRA, 401K, or similar plan, is a retirement savings investment plan. It is limited in what it can pay out to you upon retirement. When the investment runs out, so does your income. The AFM-EP, in contrast, does not get used up; and it pays out at a very good rate.
Consider this: At current payout rates, if you retire at 65, you will recoup the money put into the plan on your behalf in about two years. After that, the monthly payments keep coming as long as you live. To get the same rate of return an IRA or 401K, you might have to invest severaltimes as much.
Note: U.S. laws limit what you can put into an IRA when you are also receiving pension contributions. Consult an accountant if you have an IRA or are thinking about starting one.
Does the pension fund have a vesting requirement?
Yes. You must have contributions on at least $3,000 in covered wages (that means wages for jobs performed under a union contract) during five consecutive calendar years. In practice this means you can become vested in as little as 38 months.
(Suppose you receive your first contributions on $3000 in wages during December of 2006. You continue receiving contributions throughout 2007, 2008 and 2009. In January of 2010 you earn $3000 plus pension. You are now vested.)
How much will I get when I retire?
- At current rates, At age 65 you will receive $1.00 per month (the current rate) for every $100 contributed to the plan on your behalf after January 1, 2010. (Before that date all previous pay-out rates continue according to the rate at the time the contribution was made on your behalf. Consult your AFM Pension mailings for details.)
- You may choose to begin collecting pension benefits before age 65, though you will receive a lower monthly amount.
- If you become totally disabled before age 65 you may receive full pension benefits.
- Pension payouts and options are different for Canadians. Contact us for more information.
What happens to my spouse or partner if I die first?
The AFM-EPF includes a Joint and Survivor Annuity option. This means that your surviving partner, or any beneficiary you name, can receive half the amount you had been receiving every month. While you are both living, your pension benefit will be determined by a different formula than for single people.
What if I want to keep working after age 65?
You can begin collecting your pension at 65 and continue to work and receive pension contributions. All that is required is a brief cessation of covered employment.
How can I find out more?
You can download the Pension Summary Plan Description at www.afm.org. Log in under “Members” (you will need to establish a user name and password.) Then scroll down and click either “Pension Fund Summary Plan Description – USA,” or “Pension Fund Summary Plan Description – Canada.”
More questions? Contact the Local 1000 office or Membership Services Committee.