If you work for the EPF domain, your pension fund is taken care of by PUBLICA (https://www.publica.ch/), an independent pension provider for several Swiss federal institutions. You enter under their umbrella as soon as you sign a contract with EPFL, and your monthly payments flow to them until your contract ends. But what’s next once you leave?
First, let’s look at the origin of your pension fund. Two thirds roughly are paid by your employer, EPFL, directly. One third is paid by you, i.e. retained from your monthly salary. And some bonus comes from interests that PUBLICA gets from investments. This usually varies between 0 and 2%. All these numbers are laid out neatly on your annual pension sheet, complete with explanations of what monthly income to expect once you retire (calculated as accumulated pension fund x pension rate, which depends on retirement age).
Now, if you want to, you can top up your pension with “rachats” (“buy-out”) – up to a certain sum per year. So if you happen to have too much extra money, topping up your PUBLICA pension fund might be a clever savings option – you can use the “buy-out” option to set away money at a fixed 1.75% interest rate, entirely tax-deductible…BUT it’s frozen until you retire (thought there was no catch?) All these inputs make up the lump sum that is ready once you chose to retire. Thinking about whether you want to increase it with a little extra makes sense, especially if you are Swiss and/or likely to retire in Switzerland.
So your postdoc at EPFL is nearing its end. If you chose to retire there and then, you’d have of course the option to take out the accumulated lump sum (and head off to Evian…). More likely, you’ll have a next job lined up and in this case, your accumulated pension fund is transferred straight to your new employer. What about bouts of unemployment between jobs etc. you might wonder. Well, if there is no next employer, the lump sum is blocked on a Swiss account (similarly to the “caution” you had to lay down when you rented your apartment) until your official retirement age (65 for now) or until you find a next employer.
If you are moving abroad for the next job, there are country-specific bilateral agreements between Switzerland and all EU countries that delineate exactly which minimal amount of your pension fund (if not all) needs to be transferred, and how much remains frozen in Switzerland. For some countries, you may even have the right to choose which option is more favourable for you. Get to know your options early so you can make an informed choice. This system also applies to doctoral students who go abroad for a postdoc.
PUBLICA is proud to be a top service provider so at the bottom of your pension sheet (sent once a year) they’ve inserted the name of your personal adviser for all things pensions. Don’t hesitate to call/email them and discuss your options.