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Cliff Vesting

Cliff Vesting

What Is Cliff Vesting?

Cliff vesting is the interaction by which employees earn the right to receive full benefits from their company's qualified retirement plan account at a predefined date, instead of becoming vested steadily throughout some undefined time frame. The vesting process applies to both qualified retirement plans and pension plans offered to employees.

Companies use vesting to reward employees for the years worked at a business and for aiding the firm arrive at its financial objectives. Graduated vesting, in which benefits advance rapidly with time, is something contrary to cliff vesting.

Understanding Cliff Vesting

Cliff vesting is all the more regularly utilized by startups since it empowers them to assess employees before committing a full scope of benefits to them. For employees, cliff vesting can be an uncertain undertaking with upsides and downsides. While it offers the advantage of cashing out rapidly, cliff vesting can be more hazardous for employees assuming that they leave a company ahead of the vesting date, or on the other hand assuming that the company is a startup that bombs before the vesting date.

At times, an employee can likewise be terminated before the vesting date. This means that they lose access to the benefits guaranteed before. The normal cliff vesting period is five years. Endless supply of the vesting period, employees can roll over their benefits into a new 401(k) or make a withdrawal.

Defined Benefit versus Defined Contribution Plans

At the point when an employee becomes vested, the benefits the worker receives are different relying upon the type of retirement plan offered by the company. A defined benefit plan, for instance, means that the employer is committed to pay a specific dollar amount to the former employee every year, in light of the last year's salary, years of service and different factors.

Then again, a defined contribution plan means that the employer must contribute a specific dollar amount into the plan, however this type of benefit doesn't determine a payout amount to the retired person. The retired person's payout relies upon the investment performance of the assets in the plan. This type of plan, for instance, may require the company to contribute 3% of the worker's salary into a retirement plan, yet the benefit paid to the retired person isn't known. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 suggests a 3-year cliff vesting period for defined contribution plans.

Instances of Vesting Schedules

Expect that Jane works for GE and takes part in a qualified retirement plan, which permits her to contribute up to 5% of her annual pre-charge salary. GE matches Jane's contributions up to a cap of 5% of her salary. In year one of her employment, Jane contributes $5,000 and GE matches by placing in another $5,000. Assuming Jane leaves the company after year one, she has ownership over the dollars she contributed, no matter what the vesting schedule for the amount GE contributed. However, whether she approaches GE's $5,000 contribution relies upon whether GE utilized cliff vesting and assuming this is the case, what that schedule resembles.

GE, Jane's employer, is required to convey the vesting schedule to employees and report the qualified retirement plan balance to every worker. In the event that GE set up a four-year vesting schedule, Jane would be vested in 25% of the company's $5,000 contributions toward the finish of year one. Then again, a three-year schedule utilizing cliff vesting means that Jane isn't eligible for any employer contributions for the rest of year three.


  • Startups use cliff vesting regularly in light of the fact that it assists them with assessing employees before actually resolving to benefits.
  • Cliff vesting alludes to the vesting of employee benefits over a short period of time.
  • Cliff vesting accompanies advantages and disadvantages for employees.