How Does the NFL Pension Work?

The National Football League offers a pension plan for its players. Here’s how it works.


The National Football League (NFL) pension plan is a defined benefit plan that provides retirement and disability income benefits to eligible players, coaches, and team personnel who worked in the NFL. The NFL pension plan is one of the most generous pensions in professional sports.

In order to be eligible for the NFL pension, you must have played in at least three NFL seasons. Your pension benefits are based on your years of service and your final year’s salary. If you played for more than 20 years, you can receive up to $300,000 per year in pension benefits. If you played for fewer than 20 years, your benefits are reduced accordingly.

Players vested in the NFL pension plan also receive survivor benefits, which provide income to your spouse or other designated beneficiary in the event of your death. These benefits are paid until your beneficiary reaches age 65. In addition, players vested in the NFL pension plan also receive disability benefits if they are unable to work due to a football-related injury.

The NFL pension plan is funded by a combination of player contributions and league contributions. Player contributions are deducted from your paycheck each week and deposited into the pension fund. The league contributes an amount equal to about 60 percent of all player contributions plus any investment earnings on the fund’s assets.

You can begin receiving benefits from the NFL pension plan when you reach age 55. However, if you choose to begin receiving benefits before age 65, your benefits will be reduced by 5 percent for each year that you start receiving them early. For example, if you start receiving benefits at age 60, your annual benefit will be reduced by 25 percent (5 percent x 5 years).

How the Plan Works

The kernel of the plan is simple. Players who have been in the league for three or more years and are not yet vested can receive a pension when they retire. The amount of the pension is based on the number of years of service and the average of the player’s three highest-paid seasons. There are other benefits that come with the pension, such as disability and survivor benefits, but the pension is the keystone of the plan.


To be eligible for a pension, a player must have played in at least three NFL seasons, and his benefits must have vested. Vesting occurs after five years of service in the NFL. A player’s pension benefits are based on his length of service and the average salary of his last three years in the league. A player is fully vested in his benefits after 10 years of service.

If a player is vested, he is eligible to receive benefits starting at age 45. If a player retires before age 45, he can choose to either receive reduced benefits starting at age 55 or wait until he turns 65 to receive unreduced benefits. A player’s widow or child is also eligible to receive benefits from the plan.


Assuming you played in the NFL for at least three years, you will receive the following benefits once you reach retirement age:
-An annual pension equal to $110,000 per year.
-Up to $50,000 per year to cover medical expenses.
-A $10,000 life insurance policy.
-An annual NFL Most Valuable Player Award of $1,000.
In order to receive these benefits, you must be retired for at least one year and you must be 55 years old or older.

How the Plan is Funded

The NFL pension plan is a retirement plan that is jointly funded by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The plan is designed to provide retirement income for eligible former NFL players. The plan is currently funded through a combination of annual contributions from the NFL and the NFLPA, investments, and player benefits.

Employee Contributions

Player contributions to the Plan come from a mandatory election of 1.5% of their eligible pay each year. The amount is deducted from their paycheck and forwarded to the Plan’s Trust Fund. In 2019, active players contributed $62 million to the fund. Players become vested in the Plan after three years of credited service.

Employer Contributions

The employer, in this case the NFL, contributes a specific amount per year to the pension fund. For every year that a player is in the NFL, the league contributes an amount equal to 1.61 percent of that player’s salary to his or her retirement account. The maximum that the NFL can contribute per player per year is $49,000 (as of 2018).

How the Plan is Administered

The NFL pension is a retirement plan that has been established for players who have played in the NFL for at least three years. The plan is administered by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). The NFLPA is responsible for ensuring that players receive their benefits.

The Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees consists of nine members, four of whom are appointed by the NFL Management Council and four by the NFL Players Association. The ninth member, who serves as Chairman of the Board, is elected by the other eight trustees. A former player or coach must serve as one of the four player representatives. One of the four management representatives must be an officer or employee of the League office or a club, but cannot be employed in a collective bargaining capacity. The Player Representatives are elected by active and retired players, and the Management Representatives are appointed by the Commissioner.

The Pension Plan Office

The Pension Plan office is responsible for the administration of the Plan. The staff consists of a Director, two Assistants, a Benefits Specialist, an Accounting Technician, and a Secretary.

The Plan office is located in New York City. The mailing address is:

NFL Players Association
Attn: Pension Plan
320 Park Avenue, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10022-6819
(212) 821-9600


In conclusion, the NFL pension plan is a great way for players to have some financial security after their playing days are over. The amount of money that a player will receive from the pension plan is based on a number of factors, including years of service and total salary earned. While the pension plan is not perfect, it is still a great benefit for former NFL players.

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