Answers to the most frequently asked questions

The Architects’ Pension Fund (VwdA) is the retirement pension provider for members of the Baden-Württemberg and Hamburg Chambers of Architects and the Schleswig-Holstein Chamber of Architects and Engineers. You must be a member of one of these three chambers to participate in the VwdA.

As soon as you join one of these three chambers, the VwdA will be informed of your registration. We will then contact you automatically and tell you about the benefits of joining the VwdA. We would also be happy to advise you in advance!

If you are no longer a member of one of the chambers of architects, your compulsory participation in the Pension Fund will come to an end. You can, of course, choose to continue participating voluntarily – without interruption and with the same rights and obligations.

Generally speaking, if you have an exemption certificate from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund, you are invariably required to join a professional chamber. If you no longer fulfil the exemption requirements, you must inform the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund of this and your exemption certificate will then be invalidated. If in such cases you are still in employment, you can use the Pension Fund as a supplementary pension scheme.

You will still be obliged to participate in the Pension Fund for as long as you are a member of one of the associated chambers (Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein). If you are no longer registered with any of these chambers, your compulsory participation in our Pension Fund will come to an end. If you join a different chamber, you can choose to stay insured with the VwdA or to join the pension fund associated with your new chamber. Please note, however, that it is not always possible to transfer the contributions paid to our Pension Fund into a new pension fund. The rules depend on which other pension fund is involved. Please contact our service team for advice.

If a participant passes away, we still have an immediate obligation to take care of their family. Provided that the participant was still married when they died, we pay their surviving spouse a widow’s or widower’s pension from the day after the participant’s death (in accordance with § 29 para. 6 of our Statutes, a registered civil partnership has the same status as a marriage). If the deceased participant was already drawing a disability pension or retirement pension from the Architects’ Pension Fund (VwdA) at the time of death, we will pay the widow’s or widower’s pension from the following month. The widow’s or widower’s pension paid by the VwdA generally amounts to 60% of the pension paid before the participant’s death or 60% of the disability pension or retirement pension which would have been paid to the participant. We pay the widow’s or widower’s pension without the need for recipients to meet any special requirements, such as a lack of financial means or financial dependence on their spouse.

The children of a deceased participant are entitled to an orphan’s allowance until they reach 18 years of age. Beyond this point, the allowance will continue to be paid for as long as they are in education or vocational training, although it will cease on their 27th birthday (an exception is made to this if the child undertakes or has undertaken voluntary military service or volunteers under the Federal Volunteers Service, in which case we will continue to pay the allowance as appropriate after they reach 27 years of age). If the child has lost one parent, the allowance generally amounts to 20% of the participant’s entitlement to a disability pension or retirement pension (for children who have lost both parents: 30%). Overall, the survivors’ allowance must not exceed the disability pension or retirement pension amount plus the child allowance.

The Architects’ Pension Fund (VwdA) always pays benefits on the grounds of inability to work if a member is no longer able to make a living from working as an architect due to health reasons. Your annual pension statement shows your current personal disability pension entitlement. So do you need additional private disability insurance to supplement the cover provided by the VwdA? This depends entirely on your personal need for protection. Generally speaking, the protection offered by the Architects’ Pension Fund should be completely sufficient if you are no longer able to work.

Voluntary payments are an effective way of increasing the size of your retirement pension, disability pension and survivors’ allowance.

You can make voluntary payments in addition to your compulsory contribution, provided they do not exceed the relevant maximum contribution limit. You do not need to inform the Pension Fund of your voluntary payments. All you need to do is make a bank transfer to one of our accounts and quote your insurance number and a statement like “voluntary extra payment” as the payment reference.

Voluntary payments are generally annuitised like compulsory contributions, although specific factors need to be taken into account in terms of the disability pension entitlement in the event that you are no longer able to work. Don’t forget that you can declare your contributions to the Pension Fund as allowable expenses for tax purposes.

The Architects’ Pension Fund (VwdA) works differently to the statutory pension insurance scheme. This means that the statutory regulation according to which contributions are paid by the state during periods of parental leave does not apply to the Pension Fund. However, you are entitled to apply for periods of parental leave to be taken into account by the statutory pension insurance scheme. In accordance with the case law of the German Federal Social Court, this also applies if you have been granted an exemption certificate so that you can join the Architects’ Pension Fund. If you paid into the statutory pension insurance scheme before participating in the VwdA and have not reached the general qualifying period set by the statutory pension insurance scheme of 60 months of contributions despite the time you spent on parental leave being taken into account, you can choose to make up for the missing months by paying voluntary contributions.

If you do not earn anything or only earn a very small amount from your professional activities during periods of time spent raising a child, you are generally entitled to apply for an exemption from paying contributions to the Pension Fund. Please note, however, that your pension entitlement depends solely on the contributions you make. We would therefore like to take this opportunity to remind you of the option to make voluntary contributions. More information can be found here under the key word voluntary contributions. 

It is important to note that the disability pension is calculated differently. It generally comprises the pension entitlement calculated on the basis of the contributions paid plus an additional payment equal to the amount which you would have accrued if the average compulsory contributions you paid before the occurrence of the covered event (for a maximum of the last five calendar years) had been paid until you reached the age of 55. On this basis, if you are currently not paying any contributions or are only paying small contributions, this would result in a lower additional payment and a smaller pension pot if you are no longer able to work. The VwdA’s Statutes include an important provision on this, which prevents the disability pension entitlement from being lowered for up to five calendar years following the birth of a child by stopping the additional payment from being reduced. If you need to start drawing a disability pension between the birth of a child and the child’s 10th birthday, the additional payment is calculated on the basis of payments made for up to the last five calendar years before the birth of the child if this would lead to a higher pension amount. For actuarial reasons, this exception for participants taking parental leave is not detailed on your annual pension statement. You can ask the Pension Fund to inform you of the size of your disability pension pot.

The statutory pension insurance scheme and the Pension Fund are completely separate systems which are governed solely by their own rules.

The two systems are financed very differently. The statutory pension insurance scheme is a pay-as-you-go system, which is also known as an intergenerational agreement. This means that the contributions being paid today are used to finance the payments made to current pension recipients. This is leading to ever-growing problems because the number of pension recipients is rising all the time, while the number of people paying contributions is falling. The statutory pension insurance scheme does not make any capital investments and no interest is added to the contributions paid.

The Pension Fund, on the other hand, is a funded scheme. The contributions paid in are invested and, following the deduction of very low administrative costs, the participants are the sole beneficiaries of the interest earnt. This means that the pension paid to you by the Pension Fund is calculated solely on the basis of the contributions you pay into your personal contribution account. The VwdA only takes into account the contributions you have paid and contribution-free periods (e.g. during education) are not considered. For more information on this, please also read about how we take parental leave into account.

The benefits paid by the Pension Fund consist of a retirement pension, disability pension and a survivors’ allowance (widow’s or widower’s pension and orphan’s allowance). The benefits are powerful, secure and flexible so you can plan for your future. All our benefit payments are tailored to architects’ requirements.

If you leave employment to start working as a self-employed architect or town planner, you can continue to use the Architects’ Pension Fund (VwdA) to provide cover in the same way as you did before. In this case, your compulsory contribution amounts to 18% of your earnings from your work as an architect (or 9% of your earnings during the first five years of participating in the Pension Fund). If you are no longer earning any money, you must pay at least the minimum contribution, which stands at €319.50 a month in 2021. (You can, of course, also choose to make a higher voluntary contribution). You can apply for an exemption from paying your contributions to the VwdA if your total annual net income from professional work of any kind (in this case, it does not matter if you are working in a field other than architecture) is less than one-fifth of the contribution assessment ceiling in the statutory pension insurance scheme; in 2021, it must be less than €17,040.00.

If you are no longer working as an architect or town planner and have instead moved into another line of work, it is important to note that the exemption certificate issued by the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund generally only applies to professional activities in the field of architecture and the related employment relationship. If you are working in a different field, you are therefore still obliged to pay contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme. In such cases, you can still use the Pension Fund as a supplementary pension scheme or you can submit an application for exemption from participation or from contribution payments. If, due to its specific characteristics or your contract, the work away from the field of architecture is limited to a maximum of two years and directly follows a period of employment in a profession in the field of architecture, you can apply to have the exemption extended for the limited period of time during which you will be working in this other field.

The statutory pension insurance scheme and the Pension Fund are completely separate systems. This means it is not possible to transfer your contributions. Any pension claims from the statutory pension insurance scheme are completely independent of entitlements from the Pension Fund.

If you have not reached the general qualifying period of 60 months of contributions under the statutory pension insurance scheme, you have not fulfilled the criteria for entitlement to a pension from the statutory pension insurance scheme. In such cases, you can apply to have your contributions refunded, although only the employee contributions will be repaid to you. If you are thinking about applying for a refund, it is important to consider that subsequent contribution periods may also count towards the qualifying period (e.g. parental leave or time spent working in another field). You also always have the option of paying voluntary contributions to make up for the missing months. This is especially worth considering if you have only just fallen short of paying into the statutory pension insurance scheme for the required 60 calendar months. If you have any questions about contribution refunds or voluntary supplementary payments, please contact the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund directly.