Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA)


The Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA) is a financial term referring to a specific type of annuity payment provided by pension plans to the surviving spouse or designated beneficiary of a deceased plan participant before they reach retirement age. QPSA ensures that the beneficiary receives a portion of the pension benefits even if the participant dies prior to retirement. The QPSA is mandated by certain retirement plans, such as defined-benefit pension plans, to protect the interest of the beneficiaries.


Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA) can be phonetically broken down as follows:Qualified – k-w-o-l-i-f-ay-dPre-Retirement – p-r-ee r-i-t-y-r-m-e-n-tSurvivor – s-uhr-v-eye-v-e-rAnnuity – a-n-n-y-oo-i-t-eeCombining them together, you have “k-w-o-l-i-f-ay-d p-r-ee r-i-t-y-r-m-e-n-t s-uhr-v-eye-v-e-r a-n-n-y-oo-i-t-ee”.

Key Takeaways

  • A Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA) is a retirement plan benefit intended to provide ongoing income to a surviving spouse or beneficiary upon the death of the plan participant before retirement.
  • QPSAs are often included in pension plans and are required for defined-benefit and certain defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
  • Before a plan participant can waive the QPSA benefit, they must obtain the written consent of their spouse, ensuring that the spouse does not lose survivor benefits unknowingly or involuntarily.


The Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA) is an important term in business/finance as it ensures financial security for the surviving spouse of a deceased employee in the form of continued pension benefits before the employee’s retirement. This protection feature, which is mandated by law under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), guarantees that a certain percentage of the vested retirement benefits is payable to the spouse for their lifetime, without the need for the employee to reach retirement age or commence pension payouts. As a result, the QPSA provides peace of mind and a safeguard against financial hardship for spouses, supporting them during a vulnerable period and preserving the value of the employee’s pension benefits.


The Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA) is a crucial financial instrument designed to provide a layer of financial security to the surviving spouse of a retirement plan participant. The primary purpose of a QPSA is to ensure that, in the unfortunate event of the plan participant’s death prior to retirement, their spouse is still able to receive a regular, lifetime income. This guaranteed income is an essential safety net that can mitigate the financial hardships often associated with the loss of a family’s primary breadwinner. Surviving spouses are automatically eligible for QPSA benefits, unless both the participant and spouse have agreed to waive this benefit.

QPSAs are typically associated with defined benefit pension plans, where employers make contributions based on an employee’s years of service and salary level; however, they may also be included in some defined contribution plans. In most cases, the amount of the QPSA annuity benefit is calculated based on the participant’s accrued benefit at the time of death, which usually takes into account the vested portion of their pension benefits. By offering this protection, QPSAs can provide surviving spouses with financial stability and independence, enabling them to focus on navigating the complex emotional and practical challenges that arise during such a difficult time. Ensuring that one’s spouse is protected financially even after one’s demise is a vital consideration in retirement and financial planning.


1. John’s company pension plan: John, a 45-year-old employee at a manufacturing company, participates in a defined benefit pension plan sponsored by his employer. In this plan, he has earned a Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA). Consequently, if John passes away before retirement, his spouse, Mary, will be entitled to receive a monthly survivor annuity equal to at least 50% of John’s vested pension benefits. The QPSA ensures Mary will have some financial security in case of John’s premature death.

2. Sarah and Tom’s retirement plan adjustments: Sarah and Tom are a married couple who both work and participate in their respective employer-sponsored retirement plans. Sarah’s plan includes a QPSA, which provides her husband Tom with survivor benefits in case she passes away before retirement. Upon reviewing their retirement savings strategy, Sarah and Tom decide they want more comprehensive coverage than what’s provided by the QPSA. They choose to purchase an additional life insurance policy to bolster their financial plans and safeguard against unexpected events.

3. Richard’s waiver of QPSA benefits: Richard, a 55-year-old employee, participates in his employer’s defined benefit pension plan, which offers QPSA benefits. However, he has significant personal savings and other investments that he believes would provide more than enough financial support for his spouse, Eliza, if he were to pass away before retiring. Because of his favorable financial situation, Richard discusses his options with Eliza and decides to request a waiver of his QPSA benefits. This will allow him to allocate his pension benefits in a different manner, such as potentially receiving a larger payout during retirement. Note that to proceed with the waiver, Eliza must provide written and notarized consent, acknowledging that she is aware of the waiver and its implications.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA)?

A Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA) is a payment plan provided by certain pension plans that offers a lifetime income to the surviving spouse or beneficiary of a plan participant who dies before reaching retirement.

What type of pension plans offer QPSAs?

QPSAs are generally provided by defined benefit pension plans and certain defined contribution plans, such as 401(a) and 403(b) plans, which are subject to the annuity distribution requirements set by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

How does the QPSA payment work?

The QPSA payment works by providing a monthly income to the surviving spouse or designated beneficiary of the plan participant, based on a percentage of the participant’s potential future annuity payment. The payments continue for the lifetime of the beneficiary.

How is the QPSA percentage determined?

QPSA payments are usually set at 50% of the participant’s potential future annuity payment. However, some pension plans may offer different percentages, such as 75% or 100%, depending on the terms of the specific plan.

Is it mandatory for a spouse to be the beneficiary of a QPSA?

Yes, it is mandatory for a married participant’s spouse to be the beneficiary of the QPSA, unless the spouse waives their rights with a notarized written consent.

Can a participant opt out of a QPSA provision?

Yes, a participant can opt out of (or waive) the QPSA benefit by obtaining the notarized written consent of their spouse. Upon doing so, the participant can choose an alternative form of payment, such as a joint and survivor annuity, a single life annuity, or a lump-sum distribution, depending on the options available in their pension plan.

When does the QPSA payment start for the beneficiary?

QPSA payments generally start as soon as administratively feasible after the plan participant’s death, and they continue to be paid for the lifetime of the beneficiary.

Are QPSA payments taxable?

Yes, QPSA payments are typically subject to federal income tax for the beneficiary, as they are considered personal income. Tax laws may vary depending on the jurisdiction where the beneficiary resides.

Do QPSA benefits affect other survivor benefits, such as Social Security?

QPSA benefits are usually independent of other survivor benefits, such as Social Security. However, receiving multiple benefits may impact an individual’s overall tax liability, and you should consult a financial or tax advisor for personalized advice.

Where can I find information about my pension plan’s QPSA provisions?

Information about your pension plan’s QPSA provisions can usually be found in the Summary Plan Description (SPD) document provided by your employer or plan administrator. You can also contact your plan administrator or human resources department for specific information on QPSA benefits and other plan details.

Related Finance Terms

  • Joint and Survivor Annuity
  • Defined Benefit Pension Plan
  • Spousal Consent
  • Vesting Period
  • Life Expectancy Payout

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More