The Steep Price of Caring for a Loved One

How Caregiving Can Affect Your Retirement Plans

In the past year, about 43.5 million American adults worked as unpaid caregivers, the bulk of them to an adult age 50 or older, according to a joint study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Among its findings, the report indicated that family caregivers spend 24.4 hours per week helping with activities of daily living (ADL), like eating, bathing, using the bathroom, or getting dressed, and that 38 percent of caregivers reported high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving.

Caregivers Providing Financial Support

Caregiving can require more than just helping sick relatives or loved ones with ADL activities. A previous National Alliance for Caregiving survey found that most caregivers spent an estimated $5,531 each year on out-of-pocket expenses for sick family members or for loved ones. At the time, survey respondents indicated that they stopped saving for their own future, deferred home improvement projects, and cut back on leisure activities to make ends meet.Financial-strain-on-caregivers_draft-2

Unfortunately, not much has changed in eight years.

The costs of caregiving can add up quickly. A 2014 report stated that almost half (46 percent) of family caregivers spend more than $5,000 per year on caregiving expenses. Absorbing these financial costs are straining their own budgets. Only 28 percent of “sandwich-generation” adults supporting an aging parent and children say they’re living comfortably, while 11 percent say they don’t have enough to meet their own basic expenses, according to the Pew Research Center.

Caregivers Not Retirement Ready

In a TD Ameritrade survey, 22 percent of financial supporters said they have had to dip into their savings, and 14 percent have added to their own debt, which is already at an average of $22,000. A third have delayed saving for retirement. According to NBC News, if they have to help defray long-term care costs for their loved ones, only 56.5 percent of caregivers aged 60-64 say they are retirement ready. Among workers age 55 to 59, that retirement readiness is at 57 percent.

If you are a caregiver, here are some resources available to you:

United States Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator

National Family Caregiver Support Program

How To Keep Your NYSLRS Records Up-to-date

NYSLRS specialists are here to assist you as you plan and get ready for retirement. However, if your records are incomplete or incorrect, it can cause delays later on. We need your help to make sure your personal information is correct and accurate. So whether you have just recently joined NYSLRS or have been a member for a number of years, here are some instances where you should get in touch with us right away:

  • Let us know when your mailing address changes. This is especially important if you leave public employment before becoming eligible for retirement. Having your correct address on file will help us keep you up-to-date about benefits. Just complete our Change of Address Form (RS5512) and return it to us.
  • Report any date of birth errors. Let us know if your date of birth is incorrect on any official documents or paperwork we send you. You can write to our Member & Employer Services Bureau Registration Unit, 110 State Street, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12244-0001 to correct your date of birth, and include any supporting documentation (such as your birth certificate). You don’t need to send us an original document to prove your birthdate, but if you do, we’ll return it to you.
  • Name changes. You can change your name by submitting a Name Change Notice Form (RS5483). A signed letter requesting such a change is also acceptable. (If a court order was required for the change, a copy of the court order must be submitted.)
  • Naming or changing your beneficiary. If you wish to update your beneficiaries, you must complete a Designation of Beneficiary Form (RS5127) and send it to us. Please list all beneficiaries you wish to designate. Remember, submitting a new designation of beneficiary form replaces any previous designations you made.

You can read more about your obligations as a NYSLRS member in our publication, Membership in a Nutshell.

Choosing a Beneficiary

Here’s what to consider.

Designating a beneficiary is a choice you must make and revisit throughout your career. This decision requires some careful thought. If you die while working, the beneficiaries you choose may receive certain benefits. If you want to make a beneficiary change, make sure you’re aware of who can be named as your beneficiary.

Types of Beneficiaries

There are two types of beneficiaries you can name: primary and contingent. A primary beneficiary receives your death benefit. You have the option to name more than one primary beneficiary. If you chose to do this, each primary would share the benefit equally.


If you listed your spouse and child as primary beneficiaries, your family would receive:

  • Spouse: 50 percent of benefit
  • Child: 50 percent of benefit

But you can also state specific percentages of how you’d want the benefit paid out to primary beneficiaries. Just keep in mind that the percentages must add up to 100 percent. (This applies to contingent beneficiaries also.)

A contingent beneficiary only receives a benefit if all your primaries die before you. You can have primary and contingent beneficiaries, but a contingent may only get a benefit if there are no primaries to choose from. If you outlive your primary and contingent beneficiaries and haven’t named anyone new, your benefit will go to your estate.

Special Beneficiary Designations

Your beneficiary doesn’t have to be a person – you could also name your estate, trust, or an organization to receive your benefit.

  • Estate. The executor of your estate will receive your benefit to be distributed according to your will. You can make your estate a primary or contingent beneficiary, but if you name it your primary, you can’t name a contingent.
  • Trust. If you name your trust as a beneficiary, keep in mind that the trust is the beneficiary, not the individual you established the trust for. If you cancel the trust or it expires, it won’t be a valid beneficiary anymore. (You may also want to speak with your attorney if you’re thinking about making your trust a beneficiary.)
  • Organizations. You can name any charitable, civic, religious, educational or health-related entity as a beneficiary. Please provide the organization’s full name and address if you name them a beneficiary.

You can read more about beneficiaries in our publication, Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary?

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 6

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS.

Today’s post looks at Tier 6 in the Employees’ Retirement System. Anyone who joined ERS on or after April 1, 2012 is in Tier 6. There are 91,607 ERS Tier 6 members as of March 31, 2015, making them the second largest tier group in ERS.

ERS-Tier-6-BenefitsIf you’re an ERS Tier 6 member, you can find your retirement plan publication from the list below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Be on the lookout for the last NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time post next month. Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in the series:

What is Your Net Worth?

Using Financial Literacy to Plan for Retirement

Becoming familiar with your finances is an essential part of retirement planning. By understanding how you spend, save, or invest your money, you can plan ahead and work for the type of lifestyle you want in retirement. Once you’ve retired, you can continue to check your saving and spending to keep making good financial decisions for the future.

One important step you can take is to figure out your net worth. Your net worth shows your current financial status, like reading a report card for your finances. You can see where you’re doing well or where you can improve. Once you have that information, you can get a head start on retirement planning.

“Worth” Noting: According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010, the average net worth per person in America was $182,000. By comparison, according to Forbes, the net worth of Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates was $76.8 billion as of August 27, 2015.

How to Calculate Net Worth

The way to calculate your net worth is simple:

net worth = total assets – total liabilities

Your total assets are items of value that you own. These can be things like:

  • Your house
  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Investments

Total liabilities are money that you owe. If you still owe money on a mortgage, credit cards, or loans, these all add up to your liabilities. (This net worth article from the Wall Street Journal has other assets and liabilities to consider.) If your total liabilities (what you owe) equal more than your total assets (what you own), you’d have a negative net worth.

Why Net Worth Is Important To Retirement Planning

Your net worth will change over the course of your life. A negative net worth might not mean you’re in financial trouble, it just means at that moment in time you have more debts than assets. This means you’d need to start thinking of ways to increase your assets and/or lower your liabilities to work with your financial goals. If you make a habit of checking your net worth, you can start seeing how financially secure you are (and could become) as you plan for retirement.

NYSLRS Retirees Build a Stronger New York

NYSLRS pension benefit can provide security and peace of mind in retirement. What some retirees might not realize about their lifetime benefit is the effect it has on the local economy. During 2014 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $12 billion in economic activity in New York State. By buying local goods and services, NYSLRS retirees help existing companies grow, create opportunities for new businesses, and help foster an environment that helps companies create job opportunities.

NYSLRS Retirees in New York

Of the 430,308 current NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries, 78 percent of them live in New York State. These retirees make up 2.8 percent of the general population, but their impact on the State economy is considerable:

  • Retiree Spending Creates Jobs, Supports Local Business. NYSLRS retirees spend a larger than average share of their income on industries that benefitted local businesses, such as health care, restaurants and entertainment. These industries can expect more growth in the coming decades with NYSLRS retirees as part of their customer base. As a result of this spending, NYSLRS retirees were also responsible for an estimated 60,400 jobs.
  • Retirees Pay Billions in Taxes. In 2014, NYSLRS retirees paid $1.6 billion in real property taxes, which is five percent of the total collected in New York. These taxes help support New York schools, roads and government services. Also, spending by NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries generated an estimated $514 million in state and local sales tax.

After spending their careers working in State and local governments, the university system, public authorities and schools, NYSLRS retirees continue to help New York’s Main Streets grow and develop. The benefits of a NYSLRS pension aren’t just felt by retirees, but also by local businesses and communities. As the number of NYSLRS retirees continues to grow, the investment they make in communities across New York State will also continue to grow.

Visit NYSLRS at the New York State Fair

The Great New York State Fair begins on Thursday, August 27, and runs through Monday, September 7. And for each of those 12 days, you can visit NYSLRS at the Fair.

The Great New York State FairWe’ve been coming to the State Fair and camping out at the Center of Progress Building since 1999. Our information representatives – the same people you meet at our consultation sites – meet with more than 500 members and retirees each day. It’s a great opportunity to stop by and ask any questions you have about retirement or your benefits. One of the most common reasons why members will stop at our booth is to get a benefit projection. The benefit projection gives you an estimate of what your pension benefit could be at retirement.

Our info reps are also available for private one-on-one interviews and consultations. You can also pick up booklets about your retirement plan and membership or take home one of our forms.

Look for Unclaimed Funds at the Great New York State Fair

The Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds booth is another popular stop at the Center of Progress Building. Every day, the Office of Unclaimed Funds returns one million dollars to those who file claims with them. An unclaimed fund is lost or forgotten money (like from old bank or insurance accounts) that gets turned over to the state. New York State has more than $14 billion in lost money, and the Office of Unclaimed Funds is in charge of giving that money back to the correct owner. So far, the Office of Unclaimed Funds has returned almost $289 million in 2015. Keep an eye out for them opposite the NYSLRS booth – a representative will give you hands on help in searching for your lost money. And make sure you click the Unclaimed Funds link above to use the online search tool.

Almost one million people visit the State Fair every year. We hope to see you there!

Tackling Retirement Security for Working Americans


Many Americans are lacking access to employer-sponsored retirement plans.

America is facing a retirement security crisis. The shift away from defined benefit (DB) pensions in favor of defined contribution (DC) plans is considered a common cause. The number of workers with a DB plan decreased pdf-icon (PDF) from 67 percent to 43 percent between 1989 and 1998, while those with a DC plan rose from 33 to 57 percent during that same time. The lack of access to any sort of employer-sponsored retirement plan is another factor: 43.3 million American workers didn’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan in 2013.

The unfortunate truth, though, is that many Americans just aren’t prepared to retire.

A State Solution to the Retirement Crisis?

A few weeks ago, we mentioned how AARP NY called for a state-sponsored retirement savings program to address this problem. According to AARP NY, Americans are 15 times less likely to open a retirement savings plan on their own compared to if their employer offered one. Even more startling, about 3.6 million New Yorkers working in the private sector don’t have access to any kind of employer-sponsored retirement plan.

At the federal level, creating a DC plan with automatic enrollment has been unsuccessful. The president recently asked the Department of Labor to clarify how states can move forward with state-sponsored plans. This could help states manage how to enroll employees into a 401(k), providing workers a chance to start saving for retirement.

Pensions: A Major Part of Retirement Security

Workers will need more than their Social Security and personal savings for a secure retirement. This is where more employer-sponsored retirement plans can help workers. About two thirds of working age Americans aren’t taking part in a retirement plan pdf-icon (PDF) . But even though DC plans are now more common than DB plans, that doesn’t mean they’re the best answer to providing steady retirement income. A DB plan provides a steady source of income for the pensioner’s lifetime. There’s no guarantee a DC plan will provide a retiree with enough or any income during retirement. If too many workers retire without an employer-sponsored plan, they could face levels of poverty in retirement.

Why Corporate Political Disclosure Matters

With the help of Comptroller DiNapoli, the New York State Common Retirement Fund is asking the companies it invests in to be more open about their corporate political spending. When companies spend money toward certain political causes, their shareholders may end up footing the bill. And as a shareholder in many large American companies, the Fund wants to make sure its investments are used wisely.

The Comptroller’s Efforts Toward Transparency

Election-Spending-Trend_2008-2014 Political Disclosure

In the election years from 2008 to 2014, the cost of congressional and presidential races climbed into the billions.

In 2010, the Supreme Court decided that corporations could contribute unlimited amounts of money to independent election efforts. Shareholders of these companies may not realize their money gets put toward these efforts. So, after the ruling, the Comptroller pushed for more transparency from the companies the Fund invests in.

One way he accomplishes this is through shareholder requests. These requests ask companies for a full, public report that lists their spending on:

  • Candidates
  • Political parties
  • Ballot measures
  • Any direct or indirect state and federal lobbying
  • Payments to any trade associations used for political purposes
  • Payments made to any organization that writes and endorses model legislation

This knowledge helps the Fund determine if it will still invest in these companies. Ultimately, the Fund wants to make sure its portfolio companies provide a long-term value on its investments, because that value will get passed on to its members, retirees and beneficiaries. If a company’s political spending puts that investment at risk, the Fund can withdraw as it sees fit.

The Fund’s Progress on Disclosure Agreements

The Fund has asked 52 of its portfolio companies to disclose their corporate political spending, and 26 companies have agreed to do so. Over the last year, the Fund has reached disclosure agreements with:

The Fund has taken a leadership role in corporate political disclosure, and Comptroller DiNapoli will continue to make it a priority.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 1

When you joined the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you were assigned to a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) — so there are many different ways to determine benefits for our members. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier and gives you a quick look at the benefits members are eligible for before and at retirement.

One of our smallest tiers is ERS Tier 1, which represents 0.7 percent of NYSLRS’ total membership. Overall, there are 4,520 ERS Tier 1 members. Today’s post looks at the major Tier 1 retirement plan in ERS – the New Career Plan (Section 75-h or 75-i).
If you’re an ERS Tier 1 member in an alternate plan, you can find your retirement plan publication below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Be on the lookout for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts. Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in the series: