401(a) Retirement Plan

Reinstatement of University Base Contributions to 401(a) Plan

  • On December 18, 2020, President LeBlanc provided an update regarding the reinstatement of university base contributions to the 401(a) Plan. Please review FAQs for more information.
  • University matching retirement contributions to the 401(a) Plan continue to be temporarily suspended until further notice.
  • Employees may continue to make payroll contributions to the 403(b) Retirement Plan.

Eligibility for the 401(a) Plan

When an employee reaches two years of qualifying service, they are eligible to participate in the 401(a) Retirement Plan for Faculty and Staff.

Upon eligibility, GW will automatically contribute a university base equal to 4% of your eligible compensation. Additionally, if you contribute to the 403(b) retirement plan, you are eligible for a university match contribution. 

Please review the Prior Service section below for details on how employment at other educational institutions may count towards the two year service requirement.  

Sumary Plan Description (SPD)

The 401(a) Summary Plan Description (PDF) provides a comprehensive description of your rights and obligations under the Plan. If you would like to receive a paper copy of the SPD, please email [email protected] or call 571-553-8382 and one will be provided to you free of charge.


Eligible employees will automatically begin receiving 401(a) contributions on completion of required service.

Eligible employees will automatically begin receiving contributions on completion of 2 years of qualifying service at GW. A year of qualifying service is a continuous 12 month period (starting with your hire date) during which you work at least 1000 hours.

The two year service requirement may be satisfied in whole or in part by service at another university or college of higher education (see Prior Service Verification).

Most GW employees are eligible for 401(a) contributions, including temporary/non-regular employees who are not eligible for health & welfare benefits. However, the following are not eligible (regardless of service):

  • Part-time faculty paid on a per-course basis (adjunct faculty)
  • Students, Graduate Teaching Assistants, Fellows, or others whose employment is incidental to their studies 
  • Leased employees or contractors

Once you are eligible for GW 401(a) contributions, Fidelity Investments will  contact you with information about your account and how to make your elections:

  • Logon to Fidelity NetBenefits (regardless of whether TIAA or Fidelity is your provider.)
  • Elect your preferred provider and investment fund options.
  • If you select TIAA as a provider, you can open and manage your 401(a) account online with TIAA. For assistance enrolling with TIAA call (800) 842-2776. 
  • If you do not make a provider election, GW 401(a) contributions will default to a Fidelity Freedom Fund.
  • If you have questions about the online enrollment process, please call Fidelity at (800) 343-0860.

Fund Investments

Both providers offer a number of funds you can invest in. If you make no investment election, contributions will be invested in your chosen provider's default fund.

  • You can amend your provider election online through the Fidelity NetBenefits portal.
  • If you selected Fidelity as your provider you can make changes to your investments and beneficiary deignations online with Fidelity. Questions about Fidelity's website can be directed to  (800) 343-0860.
  • If you selected TIAA as your provider, you can make changes to your investments, beneficiaries and account information online with TIAA. Questions about TIAA's website can be directed to  (800) 842-2776.

The two year service requirement may be fulfilled in whole or in part by service at another educational institute of higher learning. A year of qualifying service is a continuous 12 month period (starting with your hire date) during which you work at least 1000 hours. To submit your previous service to meet the two year requirement, please complete the Prior Employment Verification Form (PDF).

*Forms submitted during the 401(a) suspension period will be processed once the suspension period has ended.


All contributions made by GW to the 401(a) plan are 100% vested.

Once an employee is eligible, GW will automatically contribute an amount equal to 4% of your eligible compensation each pay check into the 401(a) plan.

If you participate in the GW 403(b) Plan, GW will also contribute an amount equal to 150% of the first 4% of your eligible compensation that you contribute to the 403(b) Plan. The maximum match is 6% of your eligible compensation.

The IRS limits compensation that can be taken into account when determining your retirement plan contributions during the year; for 2021 the annual compensation limit is to $290,000.


Loans or hardship withdrawals are not available from the 401(a) plan. Employees may request in-service withdrawals of matching contributions at age 59½ or older, and base contributions at age 62 or older. Otherwise, you may request withdrawals from your 401(a) account once your employment with GW ends.

To request a withdrawal from your Fidelity account, please call (800) 343-0860. To request a withdrawal from your TIAA account, please call (800) 842-2776.

Current taxes on contributions to your account, and on interest and earnings from the account, are deferred until withdrawal or when you begin receiving regular payments. 

Please Note: Investment values will fluctuate so that an investor's units, when withdrawn, may be worth more or less than the original cost. You can manage your account, including making changes to investment amounts, at any time throughout the year.