The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "vesting" as "the conveying to an employee of inalienable rights to money contributed by an employer to a pension fund or retirement plan especially in the event of termination of employment prior to the normal retirement age"
The purpose of the vesting rules is to make sure that the money the employee contributes to the plan is his, and can never be taken away. Here, there are actually two rules -- one for contributions made by the employee. These rights are "nonforfeitable" -- they cannot be taken away.
The second rules apply to the employer's contributions. The statute contains two approved vesting schedules. The first is the "3-year rule." If an employee has at least three years of service, he has a nonforfeitable right to 100% of the employer's contributions. The second is a schedule based on the years of service:
Due to its somewhat stricter nature, most this schedule is more attractive from the employer's perspective.
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