American Federation of Musicians & Employers’
Pension Fund (AFM-EPF)
A Pension Plan for Musicians
The billion-dollar-plus American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund is a retirement plan that provides a secure return on your pension investment. The pension plan pays in monthly installments, and does not stop paying during your lifetime.
The Fund was created in 1959 by former AFM President Herman Kenin, who negotiated it as part of a new five-year agreement between the AFM and the phonograph record industry. By mid-1960, pension coverage was extended to network radio and television, AFM traveling engagements and the AFM’s jingles contract. In July of 1961, symphony orchestras, arrangers, orchestrators and copyists became eligible for inclusion in the AFM-EP Fund. It is now available to Local 802 musicians in all fields.
The concept of a pension fund for musicians—many of whom are casually employed by many different employers over the course of a year, a month or even a week—would have to address the issue of portability. With the AFM-EP Fund, musicians are able to accumulate individual pension credits from different employers.
The American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund is administered by a Board of Trustees consisting of eight AFM union officers and eight employer representatives.
The day-to-day operation of the Fund is the responsibility of a Fund Administrator and a staff of 55 people. Their jobs include making sure contributions are received and credited, maintaining eligibility files, processing pension applications and contributions, answering questions and sending out pension checks each month to participants and their beneficiaries.
The AFM-EPF pension plan is protected under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and is, therefore, subject to close scrutiny by the federal government. Investment managers invest the Fund’s assets in bonds, stocks, government issues and real estate. The Fund is insured under U.S. law by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which guarantees most vested retirement pensions.
How Can a Musician Become a Participant in the Plan?
The pension plan is made available to musicians when an employer signs an agreement with the union regarding wages and pension contribution rates, then contributes to the Fund. Your employer may be, for example, a theatre producer, a symphony orchestra, an incorporated leader, a record company, a club or a manager. A musician may not make contributions to the Fund on his/her own behalf unless incorporated, since the Fund is an “employer only” fund.
The union agreement or contract with the employer must include certain necessary language and specific provisions in order for pension contributions to be made to the plan. The amount that is contributed to the pension plan is negotiated between the union and your employer.
Vesting in the Plan
As with any employer offering a pension plan, a certain amount of time and level of contribution must be made before one becomes “vested” or eligible to receive a payout from the plan. This must be for work that is done under contract with the union! Once you are a vested member of the plan you cannot lose any pension credits you have accumulated, even if you become inactive in the union.
It’s Quicker than You Think
The vesting period for participation in the AFM-EP Fund is only five years. Being “fully vested” means that a participant has earned a right to a regular pension that cannot be forfeited. A musician may accrue the five years on a quarter-year, half-year, three-quarter-year or full-year basis.
Of course, the more work you do under contracts that have pension provisions, the greater the benefit you will receive when you retire. But these quarter-year vesting provisions make it easier to become vested in the pension plan and to secure a guaranteed pension benefit.
AFM-EP Fund Means Big Benefits
The current regular pension benefit from the AFM-EP Fund consists of monthly payments to you based on (1) total contributions credited to you, and (2) your age on the effective date of your pension.
The regular pension benefit is generally paid as a life annuity with a guaranteed amount or as a husband-and-wife (joint and survivor) pension.
Under the husband-and-wife (joint and survivor) pension, monthly payments will be lower because the expected payment period is for the remainder of both you and your Joint Annuitant’s lifetimes. The exact amount of adjustments will depend on the age difference between you and your Joint Annuitant.
Who to Contact
We are now located at 14 Penn Plaza, 12th Floor New York, NY 10122. If you have questions concerning your eligibility for participation in the AFM-EP Fund or would like to check the status of your account, direct your inquiry to:
Maureen Kilkelly, Fund Administrator
AFM & EP Fund
P.O. Box 2673
New York, NY 10117-0262
In your letter, state your local number, Social Security number and birth date.
If you wish to learn how the Pension Fund can work for you, call the Local 802 offices at (212) 245-4802 and ask for the Organizing Department.
Visit www.afm-epf.org for more information.