Accessing Your Plan Money 

Retirement plans are meant to provide you with income in your retirement years. Generally, this means that you should take money out of your plan only when you’re officially retired. There may be times, however, when you need to access your savings before then – for example, to buy a house or pay college tuition.

Retirement plans are regulated by the federal government, so there are specific rules pertaining to when you can access your retirement plan money.


Accessing Your Money While Employed at Penn

Here are the options for accessing your money:

In-service withdrawal Hardship withdrawal Disability withdrawal Loan
SRA - age 59 ½
Basic/Matching - age 70 ½
SRA Plan All plans SRA Plan
Once you reach the ages above, you become eligible to take withdrawals from the plans. To request a hardship withdrawal, contact TIAA at 877-736-6738. Available to employees who are on Penn's Long Term Disability, or who have been declared by Social Security as permanently disabled. To request a loan, call the Retirement Call Center at 877 PENN-RET (877-736-6738).

Be sure to ask for the correct withdrawal type (or loan). Each type has its own forms and process. If the withdrawal type is incorrect, your request will need to be declined and you'll need to submit a new request.


Loans are available from the SRA Plan.  Loans may be taken by active employees, and a maximum of two loans may be outstanding at a time.
A loan from the SRA Plan is a binding obligation. You are required to repay it.

Effects of a Loan on Your Retirement Savings

When you take a loan from the SRA Plan, you borrow money from your account and then repay it to your account with interest. There are two drawbacks that you should understand before taking a loan:

  • Decreased opportunity for long-term growth – When you take a loan, the loan balance doesn’t benefit from investment experience while it’s out of your account. That can significantly reduce the amount of money you accumulate for retirement.
  • Double taxation – You repay your loan with money on which you’ve already been taxed, but regulations require it go into your account in its original pre-tax form. When you eventually take a taxable distribution from the Plan, that money will be taxed again.

Defaulting on a Loan

If you fail to repay the loan according to the repayment terms, the loan will be in default.  If the loan isn’t repaid in full with applicable interest by the end of the quarter following the quarter in which the default occurred, the unpaid amount of the loan will be deemed a distribution and will be reported as taxable income in the year of the default (you will also incur the IRS’ 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under age 59 ½).  This deemed distribution, however, does not relieve you of your obligation to repay the loan. A plan loan is not intended to be a distribution, and regulations require that it must be repaid. If you have an outstanding deemed distribution when you become eligible for a distribution from the SRA Plan, your plan account will be reduced to repay the outstanding loan. 

If a defaulted loan is outstanding, another loan may not be taken until the defaulted loan is cured.

Click here for the IRS FAQ on loans.

Hardship Withdrawals

Rules regarding hardship withdrawals are established by the IRS. Although Penn approves hardship withdrawals for plan compliance purposes, you are responsible for deciding whether your situation is sufficiently serious to warrant an application to withdraw retirement funds. We recommend that you obtain advice from your legal and/or tax advisor in making this determination.

IRS rules state that hardship withdrawals can be taken only for immediate and heavy financial need. All other reasonably available financial resources must be exhausted first.

Hardship withdrawals are available from the Supplemental Retirement Annuity Plan (SRA) only. Your contributions, but not the earnings on those contributions, are eligible for a hardship withdrawal.  If you qualify for a hardship withdrawal, you may withdraw up to the amount stated on the required documentation (see chart in Immediate and Heavy Financial Need section).

Immediate and Heavy Financial Need

To satisfy the IRS’ “immediate and heavy financial need” requirement, the distribution must be for:


ReasonDocumentation Required

Medical expenses for the employee or the employee’s spouse, children or dependents, or primary beneficiary under the plan

Copy of bill from healthcare provider.  Must be dated within 90 days of request.  Medical or diagnostic information is NOT required and should not be submitted.

Costs directly related to the purchase of a principal residenceContract of sale, good faith estimate, estimate of construction costs, etc.  Must be dated within 180 days of this request, and expected closing date must be within 365 days after the request.
Payments necessary to prevent the eviction of the employee from the employee’s principal residence or foreclosure of the mortgage on that residenceMortgage collection letter, eviction notice, etc., that clearly states that non-payment will result in foreclosure or eviction, as well as the amount required to prevent the foreclosure or eviction.  Must be dated within 90 days of request, and payment due date may not be more than 90 days after the request. 
Payment of tuition, related educational fees, room and board expenses for the next 12 months of post-secondary education for the employee or the employee’s spouse, children or dependents, or primary beneficiary under the plan; (books, transportation, and club fees are not covered) Tuition bill.  Must be dated within 90 days of this request and cannot be for a previous academic term.
Payments for burial or funeral expenses for the employee’s deceased parents, spouse, children or dependents, or primary beneficiary under the planBill from funeral home, cemetery, religious institution, etc.  Must be dated within 90 days of this request, and the date of death may not be more than 365 days prior to the request.
Expenses to repair damage or to make improvements to a primary residenceStatement of the repair or improvement cost.  Must be dated within 90 days of this request, and the date of damage may not be more than 365 days before the request.

Here is a printable guide for substantiation of hardship withdrawals.

Reasonably Available Financial Resources

Before taking a hardship distribution, IRS rules require that you first exhaust all other reasonably available financial resources, including:

  • Reimbursement or compensation by insurance or other agency.
  • Reasonable liquidation of your assets, to the extent that such liquidation would not itself cause an immediate and heavy financial need.
  • The funds you would normally contribute to the retirement plans.
  • Borrowing from commercial sources on reasonable commercial terms in an amount sufficient to satisfy the need.
  • Other available distributions from the retirement plans.

Taxation and Penalties

Hardship distributions are taxable as income.  If you are under age 59½ at the time of the withdrawal, you may also be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty by the IRS. If you have sufficient funds in your account, you can elect to have an additional amount withheld to cover the applicable taxes.

Hardship withdrawals are subject to very specific IRS rules. They must be carefully followed in order to avoid IRS sanctions against both Penn and the employee. Therefore, no application for a hardship withdrawal will be approved without the appropriate support documentation.

Click here for the IRS FAQ on hardship withdrawals.

TIAA Interest Payment Retirement Option at Age 55

If you are age 55 or older, you may elect to begin receiving income under the TIAA Interest Payment Retirement Option (IPRO). For more information, please contact the Retirement Call Center at 877-PENN-RET (877-736-6738).

Accessing Your Money after Separating from Penn

Once your active employment at Penn has ended, you may take a distribution from the retirement plans at any time (subject to any restrictions on your investment funds – you would have agreed to such restrictions before choosing these funds).

Your options

One you leave Penn, your options for the retirement plan are:

  • roll your money over to another employer plan, or to an IRA
  • leave your money in Penn’s plan
  • cash it out

The first two options, rolling it over or keeping it in Penn’s plan, won’t trigger a taxable event. Rolling it over allows you to consolidate your retirement savings.  Some people, however, decide to leave their money in their former employer’s plan because the investment options or other plan features better suit their investment goals. 

The third option, cashing out your account, is a significant financial setback. Cashouts are taxable as income; if you’re under age 59 ½, the IRS will also typically impose a 10% early withdrawal penalty.  Unless you are cashing out your account for planned retirement income, we suggest meeting with a TIAA retirement plan counselor or a financial planner to discuss the long-term impact of the cashout.


Rollover DistributionSeparation from Service Distribution (cashout)Disability withdrawalLoan

All plans

All plansAll plansSRA Plan

To another employer plan (if the plan accepts rollovers), or to an IRA


consolidates retirement investments


if under 59 ½ years of age, the IRS will typically impose a 10% early withdrawal penalty

significantly erodes your retirement savings if taken early

If you’re under 59 ½ and are declared permanently disabled by Social Security, taking a Disability Withdrawal will help you avoid the IRS 10% early withdrawal penalty (please ask a tax advisor about your specific situation)

Significantly erodes your retirement savings

Loans must be paid back to the SRA Plan according to the terms of the loan.

To request a withdrawal, contact the Retirement Call Center at 877-736-6738.


To request a loan from the SRA Plan, call the Retirement Call Center at 877 PENN-RET (877-736-6738).

Required Minimum Distributions at Age 72

IRS rules state: "You must take your first required minimum distribution for the year in which you turn age 72 (70 ½ if you reach 70 ½ before January 1, 2020). However, the first payment can be delayed until April 1 of 2020 if you turn 70½ in 2019.  If you reach 70½ in 2020, you have to take your first RMD by April 1 of the year after you reach the age of 72. For all subsequent years, including the year in which you were paid the first RMD by April 1, you must take the RMD by December 31 of the year."

TIAA administers Required Minimum Distributions, and they will notify you of the amount that their records indicate you need to take for a given year. For more information, contact the Retirement Call Center at 877-736-6738.

Click here for the IRS FAQ on Required Minimum Distributions.


The payment of your account in the event of your death is determined by several factors, including whether payment had already begun, whether you have a spouse/partner, and if there is a named beneficiary (see Designating Your Beneficiaries for more information). For more information about payment options, please see the Summary Plan Descriptions.