Human Resources

403(b) Plan Highlights

WHOI offers a Defined Contribution 403(b) retirement savings plan. The Defined Contribution 403 plan is a tax-defered 403(b) plan which allows for employees to contribute a percentage (%) of their eligible earnings each pay period on a pre-tax or post-tax basis into the investment options in the Plan that they choose to invest in.

The information below will provide a highlight of the major components of the Plan.  For more detailed information about the Plan, please review the 403(b) Plan Document.

WHOI’s Contribution

WHOI will make Base contributions into the Plan for eligible employees.  The amount of WHOI’s contribution is based on a ‘points system’ determined by a combination of ‘age + service.’  Both age and service are tracked and adjusted during the year if an eligible employee has enough points to receive a higher WHOI contribution (e.g., from 8% to 10% when an employee reaches 60 points).  The change in WHOI contribution percent is generally effective on the first administratively possible pay period following when the eligible employee's points increase.

Points (age + service):

Amount of WHOI Contribution:

Less than 60 points

8% of pay*

60 < 70 points

10% of pay*

70 or more points

12% of pay*

In addition, WHOI will make extra contributions on on eligible earnings through a ‘Transition Benefit,’ which is available from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2020 for regular employees who were hired prior to January 1, 2010.  These special transition benefits are based on an employee’s age:


Amount of additional WHOI Contribution:

Age 50 < 60

Additional 2% of pay*

Age 60 < 62

Additional 4% of pay*

Age 62 or older

Additional 6% of pay*

Note: There is a maximum accumulated transition benefit amount of 36%.

*Includes eligible earnings


For Employee Contributions:

Any employee who is paid by WHOI and receives a W-2 will be eligible to participate in retirement savings by making pre-tax and/or after-tax Roth 403(b) contributions into the Plan.  There is no waiting period for commencing employee contributions.

For WHOI Contributions:

Employees must complete 1,000 hours to be eligible for a WHOI contribution.


There is a 3-year vesting period on all WHOI contributions made into the Plan.  This means that an employee who has received a contribution from WHOI must complete three (3) calendar years with 1,000 hours in order to own those employer contributions.  For regular employee's, prior service is counted towards the determination of an employee’s vesting achievement.

Any contribution that an employee makes on their own into the Plan is always 100% vested and owned by the employee.  These contributions are not subject to vesting rules. 

Contribution Limits

Under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), an employee’s own contribution (elected salary deferral) into the Plan is subject to annual contribution limits.  For 2017, the maximum amount an employee can contribute into a 403(b) plan is $18,000, or $24,000 if you are age 50 or older by December 31st. 

It is important to note that these limits are inclusive of any contributions you make, or have made during the year, into any 403(b) or 401(k) plan – not just WHOI’s Plan.  If you are making contributions through another employer’s retirement savings plan, you should speak with a qualified tax adviser to make sure that your combined contributions do not exceed the IRC limits.  This can be especially important for those employees who are newly hired to WHOI and have contributed to another plan during the year, prior to commencing their employment with WHOI.

Automatic Enrollment

Eligible employees will be automatically enrolled to contribute 6% of their eligible earnings on a pre-tax basis each pay period.  Eligible employees may opt out or contribute a different amount.  Making employee contributions does not impact the eligibility for the Employer Contribution.   

Lifetime Annuity Purchase Plan (Available to Defined Benefit (DB) Plan participants Only)

Eligible employees who are also DB Plan participants (closed to new participants on January 1, 2010) may roll-over the WHOI contribution portion of their Defined Contribution 403(b) Plan account balance to the DB Plan upon retirement in order to receive one (1) annuity payment.  In order to qualify for this option, the following criterion applies:

  • The employee must be a participant of the DB Plan
  • The employee must meet the criteria for Early Retiree benefits (at least age 55 with 10 years of service); or attain Normal Retirement Age (65)
  • WHOI Contributions must be fully vested
  • The employee must roll-over 100% of eligible contributions (e.g. partial roll-overs are not allowed)
  • Minimum roll-over is $5,000
  • Roll-over must commence rollover at the same time as distribution from the DB Plan
  • DB Plan distribution must be a full annuity payment (e.g., cannot take a lump sum payment from the DB Plan and use rollover from the 403(b) Plan for an annuity payment)

Last updated: May 22, 2017