403(b) Retirement Plan

The George Washington University Supplemental Retirement Plan (403(b) Plan) allows you to make Pre-Tax or Post-Tax Roth contributions. You can elect to contribute any percentage of your pay to the 403(b) plan, up to the IRS Annual Contribution Limit. The money you elect to contribute is conveniently deducted from each paycheck and invested with your chosen retirement provider.

Summary Plan Description

The 403(b) 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, you may email [email protected] or call 571-553-8382 and one will be provided to you free of charge.


Immediately upon hire, GW employees, including temporary/non-regular employees who are not eligible for other health & welfare benefits, are eligible to contribute to the 403(b) plan.

The following employees are ineligible to contribute to a 403(b) Plan:

  • Students, Graduate Teaching Assistants, Fellows, or others whose employment is incidental to their studies
  • Leased employees or contractors

Before you begin, we suggest reading the  Enrollment Guide (PDF) for detailed information about the plans, retirement providers, and enrollment instructions. 

Eligible employees enroll in the 403(b) retirement plan through the online platform, Fidelity NetBenefits, regardless of whether you choose Fidelity or TIAA as your provider. 

When you login to Fidelity NetBenefits, click the Enroll button next to your GW 403(b) account and follow the steps. Reference the How to Enroll (PDF) for detailed instructions on how to newly enroll in the GW 403(b) plan. 

To enroll for the first time:

  • decide the percentage of your pay you would like to contribute Pre-tax and/or Post-tax Roth.

  • Decide which investment provider(s) (Fidelity and/or TIAA) you would like to invest with.

  • If you select TIAA as a provider during enrollment, you will also need to enroll in the GW 403(b) account online with TIAA. Questions about the TIAA website may be directed to TIAA at (800) 842-2776. 

  • If you have questions about the online enrollment process, please call Fidelity at (800) 343-0860.

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

Changes can be made at anytime to your 403(b) retirement plan elections. The Fidelity NetBenefits website is used to make updates to your retirement contributions and/or change the retirement provider of your choice, or you can call Fidelity at (800) 343-0860 and request update to your deferral elections. Reference the How to Update Your Deferral (PDF) for detailed instructions on how to make changes to your 403(b) elections. 

To make changes to your retirement investment funds, contact information, and beneficiaries, login to your account with your provider: 

A beneficiary is the person (parent, spouse, child or other relative or friend) designated to receive your benefits in the event of your death. A beneficiary may also be a trust.

You can update your beneficiary information at anytime with your chosen retirement provider(s) - TIAA and/or Fidelity - either through your provider's website or contact your provider to request a paper form.

Keeping your beneficiary information update ensures your wishes are carried out upon your death. The designated beneficiary under the retirement plans take priority over the terms of your will. If you pass away prior to withdrawing your retirement savings from the univeristy's plans, your plan assets will be transferred to your designated beneficiaries.


You can elect to contribute a percentage of your pay to the 403(b) plan, and invest your contributions with funds administered by Fidelity Investments and TIAA. 

Please Note: Investment values will fluctuate so that an investor's units, when withdrawn, may be worth more or less than the original cost. 

Pre-Tax 403(b) contributions are deducted from your pay before income tax withholding is calculated. This reduces your current taxable income and lets you save money that otherwise would have gone toward income taxes. 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 from you 403(b) account. Tax-deferred earnings, coupled with the power of compounding, can provide greater growth than might be possible with taxable savings methods.

Post-Tax Roth 403(b) contributions are included in your taxable income reported on your paycheck and subject to state and federal taxes. But since contributions have already been taxed, qualified withdrawals from a Roth account, including earnings, are tax-free, making your savings go even further.

The amount you contribute to the GW 403(b) Retirement Plan (both Pre-tax and Post Tax Roth) cannot exceed the annual IRS limit.

  • For 2022, the general limit is $20,500.
  • If you will be age 50 or over during the 2022 calendar year (this includes those who will be turning 50 in 2022), you are eligible to make an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution, for a total limit of $27,000. 

Note to new enrollees: Any contributions made to a previous employer plan (401(k), 403(b), SIMPLE plans, or SARSEP) during the calendar year will count towards this IRS limit. Employees are responsible for their personal tax situation and any deferral impact.

If you would like to rollover funds from other eligible retirement plans or IRAs into the GW 403(b) plan, you can contact your chosen provider (Fidelity or TIAA) to request.

Rollover contributions do not count toward the IRS contribution limits.

Loans and Withdrawals

If you need to access your 403(b) savings while you are still working, the plan allows for loans from your account. Active employees may be eligible for a loan of up to 50% of their account balance. Total outstanding loans from the 403(b) plan may not exceed $50,000. 

An employee is permitted a maximum of 3 outstanding loans at any given time from the GW 403(b) plan.

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

Under certain circumstances, hardship withdrawals are available from your 403(b) account, to help you meet an immediate and heavy financial need. The withdrawal amount is limited to the amount of funds needed to cover the expense, or your total plan contributions (excluding rollover amounts), whichever is lower. You may request a hardship withdrawal to pay for the following expenses:

  • Medical expenses for yourself, your spouse, children, or dependents
  • Costs directly related to the purchase of your principal residence (excluding mortgage payments)
  • Tuition, related fees, and room and board expenses for the next 12 months of postsecondary education for yourself, your spouse, children or dependents
  • Payments necessary to prevent eviction from your principal residence or foreclosure on the mortgage for that residence
  • Funeral expenses for your spouse, children or dependents
  • Certain expenses to repair damage to your principal residence

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

Employees may request distributions after the birth or adoption of a child.

  • Up to $5,000 may be withdrawn within one year of the birth or adoption of a child.
  • The $5,000 limit is available to each parent if both are participating in a retirement plan that offers Birth and Adoption withdrawals. 
  • Birth and Adoption withdrawals are exempt from the 10% early distribution tax penalty. Federal tax withholding at the time of distribution is also not required, although amounts withdrawn are subject to federal taxation as income (State income tax withholding may also be required from distributions).
  • Birth and Adoption withdrawals can be repaid at a later date to your GW 403(b) account while you remain employed by GW, or to another eligible retirement plan or IRA that accepts rollovers.

Employees may request in-service withdrawals once they turn age 59½. Otherwise, withdrawals can be requested once employment with the university 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.

It’s important to understand your options and the impact of any withdrawal before taking money out of your retirement account. You will have to save more in the future in order to replenish any distribution. We recommend reaching out to a Fidelity or TIAA financial consultant to review your current situation, along with your short- and long-term financial goals, before making any decisions.