What to Know About ERS Tier 5

Any Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) member who joined NYSLRS on or after January 1, 2010 but before April 1, 2012 is a member of Tier 5. There are currently 53,123 ERS Tier 5 members who make up 8.7 percent of ERS.

ERS Tier 5 Membership Milestones

As a Tier 5 member earns service credit over their career, they become eligible for certain benefits in their retirement plan. Here are some important milestones for Tier 5 members: 

ERS Tier 5 member milestones

ERS Tier 5 Contributions

Most Tier 5 members must contribute 3 percent of their salary for all their years of service, except Uniformed Court and Peace Officers employed by the Unified Court System, who must contribute 4 percent for all their years of public service. State Correction Officers contribute 3 percent for no more than 30 years.

With the exception of those retiring under special retirement plans, Tier 5 members must have 10 or more years of service to be vested (eligible for a retirement benefit). They can retire as early as age 55 with reduced benefits. The full benefit age for Tier 5 is 62.

The Final Average Salary (FAS) Calculation

The retirement benefit for Tier 5 members is 1.66 percent of their final average salary (FAS) for each year of service if the member retires with less than 20 years. FAS is the average of the wages earned in the three highest consecutive years of employment. For Tier 5 members, each year’s compensation used in the FAS calculation is limited to no more than 10 percent above the average of the previous two years.

If a Tier 5 member retires with between 20 and 30 years of service, the benefit is two percent of their FAS for each year of service. If a Tier 5 member retires with more than 30 years of service, the benefit is 1.5 percent of their FAS for each year of service over 30 years.

You can find out more info about Tier 5 retirement benefits on our website.

September COLA Increase for NYSLRS Retirees

In August, we said that eligible NYSLRS retirees could expect a cost of-living adjustment (COLA) increase on September 30. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes.

If you are due a COLA, you should have recently received a letter letting you know how much your 2016 increase is and how much your total benefit will be. If you receive your benefit by direct deposit (electronic fund transfer), you can expect to receive a second letter, which will describe the change to your benefit, before pension payments go out at the end of the month.

The COLA you receive from NYSLRS is not the same as the COLA you might receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

Healthcare in Retirement

There are reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase. NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs for its retirees. For New York State retirees, the New York State Department of Civil Service administers the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP). If you have questions about your health insurance premiums, you can visit the Department of Civil Service’s website or call them at 1-800-833-4344 or 518-457-5754 to learn more.

If you retired from a public employer other than New York State (a county, city, town, village or school district), your former employer’s benefits administrator should be able to answer your health insurance questions.

Visit our website to learn more about COLA and your eligibility.

Visit NYSLRS at the New York State Fair!

The Great New York State Fair runs from August 25 through September 5 this year, and NYSLRS hopes to see you there.

Visit Our NYSLRS Booth

NYS_Fair_logo
Our information representatives have been coming to the fairgrounds for almost 20 years. In recent years, they’ve helped more than 500 members and retirees a day with their retirement planning and pension benefit questions. One of the most common reasons NYSLRS members will stop at our booth is to get a benefit projection. A benefit projection gives you an estimate of what your pension benefit could be at retirement. You can also pick up retirement plan brochures, forms, or have a consultation with one of our information representatives.

You can find our booth in the Center of Progress Building, which is building six on the State Fair map. Once inside, you can find us against the wall on the east side. We’ll be across from the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) Unclaimed Funds booth.

Find Unclaimed Funds at the State Fair

OSC’s Office of Unclaimed Funds booth is another popular stop in the Center of Progress Building. An unclaimed fund is lost or forgotten money (for example, from old bank or insurance accounts) that has been turned over to the State. 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 more than $200 million in 2016.

Special State Fair Days

The State Fair is known for having special theme days. Here is this year’s schedule:

  • Friday, August 26 – Law Enforcement Day
  • Monday, August 29 – Senior Citizen’s Day
  • Tuesday, August 30 – Fire & Rescue Day and Senior Citizen’s Day. This is also the day that Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli will be at the Fair. Comptroller DiNapoli manages NYSLRS and oversees the Common Retirement Fund.
  • Wednesday, August 31 – Women’s Day
  • Thursday, September 1 – Armed Forces Day
  • Friday, September 2 – Student’s Day

No matter what day you attend, we hope you enjoy this 12-day celebration of New York.

A Quick Look at the NYS Common Retirement Fund

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the trustee of the Common Retirement Fund, which is the third largest public pension fund in the country. The Fund’s assets come from three main sources: member contributions, employer contributions, and investment returns. The Fund has two main goals:

  • Provide the means to pay benefits to NYSLRS’ participants; and
  • Minimize employer contributions through an investment program designed to protect and enhance the long-term value of the assets.

Over the last 20 years, 79 percent of benefits have been funded from investment returns. When you retire from NYSLRS, your monthly pension benefit—and the benefits of many others—will be drawn from this fund. Ethical management and a long-term, diversified investment strategy has made NYSLRS one of the best managed and funded plans in the nation.
Common Retirement Fund Assets

Strategic Long-Term Investments

The Fund’s investment program is designed to weather the ups and downs of an increasingly volatile global market. Our long-term target allocation for our investment portfolio is 22 percent in fixed income assets (bonds and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities [TIPS]) and 78 percent in equities, which includes:

  • Domestic and international public equities
  • Real estate
  • Real assets
  • Absolute return strategies
  • Mortgages
  • Private equity investments
  • Opportunistic funds

A diversified investment strategy helps us meet the funding needs for our current and future retirees while also helping to control risk.

The Fund is Well-Managed

An independent review of the Fund commended Comptroller DiNapoli and NYSLRS for strong policies and ethical management. By adhering to the highest standards of accountability and transparency, our members, retirees, and beneficiaries can be confident the Fund is being managed wisely.

NYSLRS Retirees: 1% COLA Increase Coming September 30

If you’re a New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retiree, you may be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) this September. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes. Please note, for most retirees, there are other reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase.

How is the COLA Calculated?

The COLA is calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the fiscal year (on March 31). It cannot be less than 1 percent or greater than 3 percent of your retirement benefit. This year, since the rate of inflation was less than 1 percent, the COLA increase equals 1 percent. The COLA is calculated using the first $18,000 of the annual Single Life Allowance pension (even if you selected a different payment option), or your actual pension, if it’s less than $18,000.

Who Is Eligible for a COLA?

To receive the COLA, you must be:

  • Age 62 or older and retired for five or more years; or
  • Age 55 or older and retired for ten or more years (for uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters and correction officers covered by a special plan that allows for retirement, regardless of age, after a specific number of years); or
  • A disability retiree for five years; or
  • The spouse of a deceased retiree receiving a lifetime benefit under an option elected by the retiree at retirement. (Eligible spouses are entitled to half the COLA amount that would have been paid to the retiree when the retiree was eligible); or
  • A beneficiary receiving the accidental death benefit for five or more years on behalf of a deceased NYSLRS member.

SSA COLA

The NYSLRS COLA is different than the Social Security Administration (SSA) COLA. For 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

If you want to learn more about COLA, read our publication, Permanent COLA.

Protecting Your Identity Online: Tips for Secure Passwords

Secure PasswordsAccording to a report from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), an estimated 17.6 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2014. The good news is that 85 percent of Americans also took actions to prevent identity theft, such as changing passwords on financial accounts.

With so many online apps and services, we can accumulate all kinds of usernames and passwords. Of course, the trouble with passwords is that we can easily forget them. Many people create passwords that are easy to remember, such as their spouse’s name or their child’s birth date. Hackers can easily discover this information and use it to steal your identity and more.

Tips to Keep Passwords Safe and Secure

Here are four helpful tips to keep your passwords safe and secure:

  • Keep your passwords to yourself. While this may seem obvious, it’s important to not share your passwords with other people. If you have to write them down, make sure you store the list in a secret, private place. (That means not on a post-it note under your keyboard!)
  • Create passwords based on easy phrases you can remember. You can use the first letter of each word and substitute symbols for certain words or letters (like ‘@’ for ‘at’ or ‘$’ for ‘s’). If you use the phrase “I got married at city hall in 1975,” your password could look like “Igm@chi1975”. This method can help produce a complex password that’s more secure.
  • Use a different password for each account. If one of your accounts was compromised, at least hackers won’t be able to get to your other accounts.
  • Change your passwords often. Set reminders to change your passwords at least once every 60 days, and don’t reuse them for at least a year.

Remember, a strong, complex password is your first line of defense and may help protect you from a security breach that could cause a major disruption to your life.

More Than One Million Strong: The Growth of NYSLRS

When NYSLRS formed in 1921, it started with a total of 4,721 participants (4,672 members and 43 retirees). Today, NYSLRS provides retirement security to 643,178 members and 430,308 retirees and beneficiaries (the most recent data available).

To say we’ve grown would be an understatement. But no matter how large we get, NYSLRS will continue to provide its members and retirees with lifetime retirement benefits and help them to plan for a financially secure future.

A look back at membership growth through the years.

NYSLRS Membership growth through the years

NYSLRS: Retirement Security Before Social Security

Before NYSLRS began in 1921, many New York public employees who were no longer able to work would fall into poverty. At the time, Social Security didn’t exist to help supplement post-retirement income. While Social Security was created in 1935, it wasn’t made available to public employees until 1950 and didn’t start in New York until 1953.

NYSLRS in 1950

Under State Comptroller Frank C. Moore, NYSLRS was comprised of 161,686 participants in 1950. Of those, 151,326 were Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members and 10,360 were retirees and beneficiaries.

You may have noticed that there were no Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members in 1950. We had police and fire members – a little more than 12,000, in fact – but they were considered ERS members until 1967. On April 1, 1967, ERS split into the two systems you know today: ERS and PFRS.

NYSLRS in 1970

Participation in NYSLRS grew to 525,763 in 1970. Of these, 463,939 were members and 51,824 were retirees and beneficiaries. The State Comptroller at the time was Arthur Levitt Sr. Comptroller Levitt is known for having the longest tenure as State Comptroller, serving a total of 24 years from 1955 to 1978.

The 1970s also saw the creation of a new member group. Tier 2 began on July 1, 1973. The creation of Tier 2, and the other tiers that followed, were designed to provide members equitable benefits at a reasonable cost.

NYSLRS in 1990

From 1979 to 1993, Edward V. “Ned” Regan served as State Comptroller. During his time in office, participation in NYSLRS continued to climb, growing to 882,410 in 1990. Of these, 649,847 were members and 232,563 were retirees and beneficiaries.

NYSLRS in 2010

Between 2006 and 2007, participation in NYSLRS broke the one-million-participant mark. In 2010, during current Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s administration, participation rose to 1,055,020. Of these, 679,217 were members and 375,803 were retirees and beneficiaries.

NYSLRS in 2015

In 2015, overall membership in the System reached 1,073,486. This includes 643,178 members and 430,308 retirees and beneficiaries (the most recent data available). The number of retirees is increasing more quickly than members. For example, in 1995, retirees represented 30 percent of the System’s members. By 2015, that number had increased to approximately 40 percent.

What does 2016 hold for NYSLRS? Keep an eye out in future blog posts for the latest NYSLRS demographics.

Compounding: A Great Way For Your Money to Grow

Financial security just doesn’t happen – it takes planning. When planning for retirement, it’s important to start saving and investing early. After working hard to earn your money, you want your money to work hard for you too. The more time your money has to grow, the better off you’ll be.

Compounding is one way for your money to earn money. When your money is compounded, it increases in value by earning interest on both the principal and accumulated interest. This is a little different from earning simple interest. Let’s see how they both work.

How Simple Interest Works

Simple interest is a return that pays you a certain percentage based on every dollar you put in your account.

Let’s say you opened a savings account with $100 in January. If the bank paid 5 percent annual interest on that deposit, you’d receive five cents for every dollar in your savings account for the whole year. At the end of the year, you’d have $105. That’s $5 more than the principal amount you started with. Any interest you’d earn after the first year would still be based on the principal amount of $100.

How Compounding Interest Works

While you receive some extra money with simple interest, compounded interest can give you more bang for your buck.

Compounding interest

Let’s look at the above example again, but use compounded interest this time. If that $105 remained in your account, and the bank paid out another 5 percent interest, by the end of the second year you’d have $110.25 in your account. That $105 increased by $5.25. Not only did you earn interest on your original $100 in year one, you earned interest on year one’s interest. That’s the great thing about compounding. In just two short years, your money has earned $110.25. If we were still using simple interest, you’d only have $110 after two years.

If you’re thinking about boosting your personal savings for retirement, look into accounts that use compound interest. The sooner you can start saving, the more time your money can grow.

Other Sources:
How to Calculate Simple and Compound Interest

New Law Affects Military Service Credit Requirements

Military Service CreditMilitary service credit legislation amending Article 20 of the Retirement and Social Security Law was signed into law on May 31, 2016. The law removes the requirement that an NYSLRS member must have served during specific periods of hostilities in order to purchase military service credit under Article 20 of the Retirement and Social Security Law. Previously, only NYSLRS members who served in certain conflicts, including World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, were able to purchase service credit.

Under the new law (Chapter 41, Laws of 2016), eligible NYSLRS members may buy up to three years of their military service as long as they:

  • Have at least five years of creditable service in NYSLRS (other than their military service);
  • Have been honorably discharged from active military service; and
  • Have not received credit for this service in any other public retirement system in New York State.

What Will Military Service Credit Cost?

There is a cost for this service credit. If you work full-time, here’s how you can estimate the cost:

  • Tiers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5: The cost will be 3 percent of the compensation you earned during the 12 months of credited service immediately prior to our receipt of your request, times the number of years of military service being claimed.
  • Tier 6: The cost will be 6 percent of the compensation you earned during the 12 months of credited service immediately prior to our receipt of your request, times the number of years of military service being claimed.

How to Apply for Military Service Credit

To apply and request a cost of for military service credit:

  1. Scan and email your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty papers (DD-214) to msunit@osc.state.ny.us and include your name and contact information. You’ll receive an email acknowledging that we received your request;

or

  1. Fax your name, contact information and a copy of your DD-214 to 518-486-6405 or 518-402-7799;

or

  1. Mail your name, contact information and a copy of your DD-214 to:
    Military Service Unit
    110 State Street
    Albany, NY 12244-0001

If you have questions, email us at msunit@osc.state.ny.us. We will be providing additional information on our Military Service Credit page over the coming days.

What to Know When Leaving Public Employment

There may come a time when you leave public employment. Even though you’d no longer work for a New York public employer, you’d still be a NYSLRS member. If you ever leave public employment, you should be aware of the effect it could have on your membership and benefits.

What Happens to My Contributions If I Leave Public Employment?

If you have less than ten years of service credit, you may end your membership and request a refund of your contributions by filing a Withdrawal Application (RS5014) pdf-icon.

If you are not vested (eligible for a retirement benefit) and do not withdraw your contributions, they will continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. After seven years, if you are still off the public payroll, your membership will automatically end and your contributions will be deposited into a non-interest-bearing account. Your contributions will not be automatically refunded.
Leave Public Employment

How Will Leaving Public Employment Affect My Death Benefits?

If you have at least ten years of service credit, 50 percent of your death benefit may still be payable if you die after leaving public employment. If you have less than ten years of service credit, the 50% death benefit is only available to you if you die within one year of leaving public service.

How Can I Pay Back My Outstanding Loans?

If you have any outstanding NYSLRS loans when you leave the public payroll, you must make payments directly to NYSLRS at least once every three months. You must repay your loan within five years of the date it was issued or you will default on the loan. Please note: since you will be required to pay ordinary income tax and possibly an additional 10 percent penalty on the taxable portion of the loan, defaulting on a loan carries considerable tax consequences.You also won’t be eligible to take a NYSLRS loan once you are off the public payroll.

How Can I Stay Informed About My Membership If I Leave Public Employment?

If you leave public employment, but haven’t ended your NYSLRS membership, you’ll still:

You’ll also need to keep your membership information updated. This includes information like:

Read our publication Life Changes: What if I Leave Public Employment? (VO1800) for more information.