Earning Your Pension

Earning Credit

While you’re a participant, you’re earning both pension credits and vesting credits.

  • Pension Credits
    • Future service pension credits. You earn one “future service pension credit” if you work at least 1,800 hours in a calendar year. The total number of pension credits you’ve accumulated when you are eligible to receive your pension are used to determine the amount of your monthly benefit.
    • Past service pension credits. You may be eligible to include service for the time you spent working before your employer joined the Plan. These are called “past service pension credits.”
  • Vesting credits. Vesting credits affect your eligibility for a benefit, but not the amount of your benefit. In general, you earn one vesting credit for each calendar year you work 700 hours or more. Once you’ve earned five vesting credits, you’re considered “vested” in the Plan, which means you’ve earned a right to your pension benefit. Even if you have a permanent break-in-service, as long as you’re vested, you are still eligible for your earned pension benefit when you meet the requirements.

Pension Credits

1,800+ hours in a year =
1 pension credit

Used in determining the amount of your benefit

Vesting Credits

700+ hours in a year =
1 vesting credit

Used in determining your eligibility for a benefit

Plan Mergers


If you became an active participant in the NIPF because your group was part of a plan that merged with the NIPF, special rules may apply to the calculation of your service and benefit.

Your Summary Plan Description and Summary of Material Modifications provide much more information on how credit is earned, including partial credit amounts, credit for certain periods when you’re not working, and other factors that may affect your pension.


If you stop working for a period of time, you may incur a “break-in-service.” Breaks-in-service can be a one-year break—and be repaired—or permanent, which means you’re at risk of losing some or all of the credit you’ve earned toward your pension. 


One-Year Break-in-Service

If you don’t work at least 350 hours in a calendar year before you are vested, you’ll have a one-year break-in-service. Any pension or vesting credits you earn before the break will not be counted until you return to work and earn additional vesting credit.


Permanent Break-in-Service

If the NIPF does not receive employer contributions on your behalf for seven consecutive years and you are not yet vested you will lose all of your vesting and pension credits.  If you return to work and your employer begins contributions again, you will start with a "clean slate" and begin earning credit again.