Union pension benefits may amount to a significant portion of your retirement plan. Your pension benefits give you a guaranteed income for life. These benefits are funded by your employer and are guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). When you retire, these benefits are paid to you, but what if you want to retire early? You may still get some of your pension benefits. You should understand how to go about claiming your union pension before your normal retirement age.
Request a pension distribution form. Your union representative will help you obtain your pension benefit distribution form. This form must be filled out before you can claim your pension benefit.
Fill out the form and name a beneficiary. If your pension allows an early distribution, you must fill out the distribution request. Name your spouse as a beneficiary if you're married. Otherwise, you'll need to get your spouse's permission and have her sign a waiver of future benefits so that you may take a lump-sum pension payment or lifetime payments with no beneficiary payment to your spouse.
Submit your form to your union representative. Your pension payments will begin within 30 days after you submit your form.
Some pension plans allow early pension distributions and use the early withdrawal exemption under IRS rule 72t to make penalty-free early distributions to you. Other pension plans, like 457 deferred compensation plans, may be drawn upon prior to 59 1/2 without a penalty and without using the exemption under IRS rule 72t. Check with your union representative prior to making a claim for benefit payments.
Many pensions allow early distributions, but your union is not required to give you an early distribution. Your pension may be subject to a 10 percent penalty on money you receive prior to age 59 1/2. This will result in a lower pension payment than you otherwise would receive.