Retirement Planning — Start Thinking Outside The Box

Even though your retirement planning is helping you get ready for your last day of work, take the time to start thinking about what your life will be like after retirement. Will your financial situation be stable once you start receiving your pension, or will you need to supplement your income with your personal savings or Social Security? What will your health insurance situation be like when you are no longer working? These are important questions to ask before you file for retirement, and it’s the perfect time to start finding answers.

Preparing for Retirement: Part Four – Plan Outside the Box

The Preparing for Retirement 7-part video series discusses the main aspects of retirement planning to help NYSLRS members nearing retirement make good, informed decisions for the future. In Part Four – Plan Outside the Box, you’ll hear about other aspects of retirement planning you may be overlooking. By making sure your post-retirement financial situation is secure, you can be better prepared for the future.

Important Links for Retirement Planning

Where to Find More Retirement Planning Information

If you are close to retirement and have more questions, consider scheduling an appointment to meet with an information representative at one of NYSLRS’ consultation sites in New York State. Don’t forget to check back for the rest of the Preparing for Retirement video series, which includes retirement planning topics like:

Countdown To Retirement — The Last 18 Months

After taking the time to plan and get informed about your NYSLRS retirement benefits, you’ve decided you’re ready to retire. There are important things you need to do in the final months leading up to your retirement date. Our Countdown to Retirement series will help you remember what to do and when.

At 18 Months Out

When you are within 18 months of your planned retirement date, you should request a NYSLRS retirement estimate. This estimate contains information about your retirement benefits and the approximate amount of what your retirement benefit could be under different payment options.

To get your NYSLRS retirement estimate, send us a completed Request for Estimate form. Make sure you include the following on the form:

  • Planned retirement date
  • Name and birth date of your intended beneficiary
  • Public employment history

Your NYSLRS Retirement Estimate

When you receive your NYSLRS retirement estimate, you can expect to see your:

Having your NYSLRS retirement estimate also allows you to see how your pension could be affected by an outstanding loan balance or if you purchase additional service credit. By finding this information out now, you can avoid any surprises when you finally retire.

The NYSLRS retirement estimate is based on the information we have on file for you, so once you receive your estimate, make sure that it’s accurate and report any errors to us as soon as possible. Also keep in mind that if you receive your estimate, and decide that you are not ready to retire, you can request a new one whenever your situation changes.

Counting Down

Your planned retirement date will be around the corner before you know it. Check back for more Countdown to Retirement posts on pre-retirement issues, reviewing other retirement income, and preparing a post-retirement budget.

The New York Common Retirement Fund – A Long Term Track Record of Investment Success

The New York State Common Retirement Fund (the Fund), has a solid track record of exceptional long-term market performance. The Fund’s historical success is principally due to a sound investment strategy that is based on the Fund’s asset allocation and diversification.

The objective of the Fund, which is the third largest public pension fund in the country, is to achieve long-term growth, while meeting the cash flow needs to pay benefits to the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS)’s 422,405 retirees and beneficiaries and to meet the needs of future retirees. To accomplish this, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has implemented a diversified investment strategy designed to meet current funding needs and future growth requirements while controlling risk.

How Pensions are Funded

The Fund’s assets come from three main sources: member contributions, employer contributions and investment earnings. Over the last 20 years, from April 1, 1993 through March 31, 2013, 80 cents of every dollar paid in benefits has come from investment earnings.

The Fund’s Investment Strategy Is The Key

Investments are made in a well-balanced variety of assets classes, which include global equity, domestic equity, core fixed income, real estate, private equity and absolute return strategies portfolios as well as Treasury Inflation Protected Securities.

The sound investment framework provided by the Fund’s asset allocation and diversification strategy enabled it to generate a 13.02 percent rate of return on its investments during the 2013-14 fiscal year. As of March 31, 2014, the Fund was valued at $176.2 billion. Since 2009, the Fund has seen five consecutive years of investment earnings growth. Prior to the recession, in fiscal year 2006-07, the value of the Fund was $154.6 billion.

For more detailed information on the Fund, visit the Division of Pension Investment and Cash Management.

Comptroller DiNapoli Addresses America’s Retirement Security Crisis

Many Americans At Risk of Retiring With a Lower Standard of Living

Depending on the household, Americans face a “staggering” national retirement savings shortfall that’s between $6.8 and $14 trillion. That was the message New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli delivered during a June 17 Retirement Summit at The New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. As Comptroller DiNapoli notes in this video, retirement insecurity is among the most important and pressing social and economic challenges Americans now face.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, now valued at $176.2 billion, is one of the best funded State retirement plans in the country. At the summit, Comptroller DiNapoli reiterated that well-funded and well-managed defined benefit plans like those of the New York State & Local Retirement System are affordable and sustainable for the long term and serve as an example of how a good pension plan can work, and not just for public employees. Americans nonetheless face what he calls a “staggering” crisis of retirement insecurity.

Retirement Statistics Tell The Story

Comptroller DiNapoli pointed out the following sobering statistics:

How to Address A Complex and Growing Problem?

According to the Comptroller, though recently proposed initiatives, such as Senator Tom Harkin’s Retirement Fund s Act and President Barack Obama’s MyRA, are encouraging, it’s unlikely that any comprehensive federal legislation is going to be passed anytime soon. Comptroller DiNapoli believes that any proposed solution to this problem, whether at the state or federal level, must include a vehicle that provides ease of enrollment, protects principal, has low cost fees and provides for some level of guaranteed income in retirement. “The one thing we can’t do,” he stressed, “is stand still.”

Retirement Planning – Getting Your NYSLRS Retirement Estimate

When it comes to retirement planning, it’s vital to get informed about your NYSLRS retirement plan, but also to make sure your records with NYSLRS are up to date. Keeping your records current, like your public employment history or who your beneficiary should be, helps us provide you with more accurate information about your retirement benefit. One way we do this is with a NYSLRS retirement estimate, an essential step of retirement planning. The NYSLRS retirement estimate provides you with an estimation of what your pension could be based on a retirement date of your choosing and the information we have on file for you.

Preparing for Retirement: Part Three – Request a NYSLRS Retirement Estimate

The Preparing for Retirement 7-part video series discusses the main aspects of retirement planning to help NYSLRS members nearing retirement make good, informed decisions for the future. In Part Three – Request an Estimate, you’ll learn what form you need to fill out to request a NYSLRS retirement estimate and what information you’ll receive about your estimated benefits. As you’ll see in the following video, having a NYSLRS retirement estimate can help you decide how ready you are retirement.

Important Links for Retirement Planning

Where to Find More Retirement Planning Information

If you are close to retirement and have more questions, consider scheduling an appointment to meet with an information representative at one of NYSLRS’ consultation sites in New York State. Don’t forget to check back for the rest of the Preparing for Retirement video series, which includes retirement planning topics like:

  • Personal financial planning during retirement
  • How divorce may affect your pension
  • Filing your retirement application
  • Choosing the option of how your pension will be paid

How Divorce Affects Your NYSLRS Benefit

If you get divorced you should be aware that, in a decision called Majauskas v. Majauskas, the New York State Court of Appeals determined that retirement benefits earned during a marriage are marital property, which means that, in the event of a divorce, your ex-spouse may be entitled to a share of your benefit.

Here are some ways the division of your retirement benefit can take place:

  • Your ex-spouse could receive a portion of your pension
  • Your ex-spouse could be named a beneficiary of any pre-retirement death benefit payable
  • You may need to choose a retirement option that on your death, provides a monthly benefit to your ex-spouse
  • Your ex-spouse could receive a portion of your Cost-of-Living Adjustment

However, the division of your retirement benefit needs to be in the form of a domestic relations order (DRO ) — a court order that gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be distributed. Once we approve your DRO, it must be signed by a trial court judge and entered with the appropriate court clerk. We require a certified copy of the signed DRO and a copy of your judgment of divorce prior to implementing the terms of the DRO. Payments will start when your retirement benefit is calculated and finalized, and will be retroactive to your date of retirement if we receive the DRO and judgment of divorce before your retirement benefit is finalized.

Remember — a DRO is not to be confused with a judgment of divorce or separation agreement. It is not the same. The DRO is a separate court document which, once accepted by NYSLRS, is legally binding on us. Please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders before you finalize your divorce.

Significantly, the DRO won’t distribute any portion of your pension until you actually retire, die or terminate your NYSLRS membership.

Drafting Your NYSLRS DRO

The parties may draft their own DRO or create one using our DRO template. Submissions received using the NYSLRS’ template are given priority review. Please fill out the template completely. Once you have created a proposed DRO, please print a copy and submit it, along with a copy of your judgment of divorce, to our NYSLRS Matrimonial Bureau for review.

Our Matrimonial Bureau will provide an interpretation of your proposed DRO before you submit the draft DRO to the court. If the DRO cannot be implemented by NYSLRS, you will have a chance to make revisions.

Still have some questions? Our Divorce and Your Benefits FAQs may be helpful. Otherwise, you can always email usdro@osc.state.ny.us.

The Top 5 Retirement Myths And Their Impact On Your Benefit

NYSLRS Members Would Be Wise to Avoid These Misconceptions

Retirement laws and procedures can be confusing. Sometimes even a small misunderstanding can have a big impact on your benefit. That’s why we feel it’s important to correct certain misconceptions that NYSLRS members have had over the years. The following are five of the most common myths:


Myth #1 My NYSLRS loan has gone into default and I have already paid taxes on it, so that means my loan has been satisfied and I no longer need to repay it.

Fact Not only does your loan still need to be repaid, but it continues to accrue interest. Since you cannot pay off your loan once you retire, an outstanding loan at retirement will permanently reduce your benefit. However, it does not prohibit you from filing for or receiving your pension.


Myth #2 I am required to contribute toward my pension. When I retire, my benefit will be based on what I have contributed to NYSLRS.

Fact Your member contributions are not a factor in the calculation of your pension. Your pension is based primarily on your service credit and the salary you earned when you were an active member. Other factors that may play a role in the calculation include your retirement plan and your age at retirement. In addition, if you have any outstanding loan balance when you retire, it will permanently reduce your retirement benefit.


Myth #3 I cannot collect my pension until I start receiving Social Security.

Fact You can collect your pension as soon as you meet the eligibility requirements of your retirement plan. Most members in regular retirement plans can retire as early as age 55. You should check the eligibility requirements for your tier when planning for your retirement.


Myth #4 If I am vested, off payroll and no longer working for a public employer, NYSLRS will automatically start paying me my pension as soon as I meet eligibility requirements.

Fact Since only you can decide when retirement is right for you, in order to begin collecting your pension benefits, you must file an Application for Service Retirement (RS6037).


Myth #5 I recently applied for retirement by giving my employer the paperwork.

Fact Giving your employer your retirement paperwork does not mean that you have filed for retirement and will receive your benefits. To apply for your NYSLRS benefits, you must file your retirement application form with the Office of the State Comptroller. For a form to be considered as “filed with the Comptroller,” it must be received by our Albany office, one of our consultation sites, or another office of the State Comptroller.


Have a concern that wasn’t covered? You can always email us from the Contact Us page of our website.

The Fund – Strength Through Strategy

The New York State Common Retirement Fund (the Fund) holds assets in trust for all NYSLRS members and retirees. As trustee, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is accountable for the performance and management of the Fund and ensures that investment policies and practices adhere to the highest levels of ethical conduct and transparency. Comptroller DiNapoli seeks the input of a wide-range of internal and external advisors to determine the best allocation of assets and investment choices for the Fund.

The Fund also relies on an extensive network of outside advisors, consultants and legal counsel to provide the Comptroller with independent advice and oversight of all investment decisions. Outside advisors and internal investment staff are part of the chain of approval that must sign off on all investment decisions before they reach the Comptroller for final approval.

An independent review released in February 2013 found that the Fund is one of the most transparently and ethically managed public pension funds in the country. The review also found that the Fund is well run, invests effectively on behalf of its members and operates with industry-leading openness.

Vicki Fuller is the Chief Investment Officer of the Fund, and as she notes in this video, the Fund has remained strong for the NYSLRS members and retirees who depend on it. The consistent performance of the Fund can be attributed to a long-term investment strategy and asset allocation policy that balances a maximum level of return with an appropriate level of investment risk.

For more detailed information on the Fund, visit the Division of Pension Investment and Cash Management.

For extensive historical data and detailed information about how the Fund is managed, visit the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports section of our website.

Retirement Planning – Start Planning Ahead

In our first Preparing for Retirement post, we talked about finding the information you need to start your retirement planning. Now that you’ve researched more about your retirement plan, it’s important to spend the last few years of your public employment career making sure your records with the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) are up to date and that you’ll be able to retire within your timeframe. It’s best to take care of these matters now instead of at the last minute.

Preparing for Retirement: Part Two – Repaying Your Retirement System Loans

The Preparing for Retirement 7-part video series discusses the main aspects of retirement planning to help NYSLRS members nearing retirement make good, informed decisions for the future. In Part Two – Repaying Your Retirement System Loans, you’ll learn how having an outstanding NYSLRS loan balance at retirement can impact your pension benefit. As you’ll see in the following video, it’s crucial to repay any NYSLRS loans you may have before you file for retirement.

Important Links for Retirement Planning

Where to Find More Retirement Planning Information

If you are close to retirement and have more questions, consider scheduling an appointment to meet with an information representative at one of NYSLRS’ consultation sites in New York State. Don’t forget to check back for the rest of the Preparing for Retirement video series, which includes retirement planning topics like:

  • Requesting a retirement benefit estimate
  • Personal financial planning during retirement
  • How divorce may affect your pension
  • Filing your retirement application
  • Choosing the option of how your pension will be paid

The Member Annual Statement: An Important NYSLRS Membership Resource

Every year between May and July, NYSLRS sends out an essential document to its members—the Member Annual Statement (MAS). Your Member Annual Statement contains important information about your NYSLRS membership, and is a valuable resource for new and current members, and for members thinking about retirement.

Using the Member Annual Statement to Learn About Your NYSLRS Membership

Your Member Annual Statement provides you with a clear picture of your NYSLRS membership. Here are some key sections you should pay attention to:

  • Your Information – This section includes your personal NYSLRS membership information, including your name, membership tier, date of birth, date of membership (i.e. the date you last joined NYSLRS), and date of first credited service (i.e. the date you started earning service credit).
  • Your Account – This section shows any contributions you’ve made to your account over the past fiscal year.
  • Your Service Credit – You earn service credit for your employment with a participating employer. This section shows the amount of service credit you’ve earned during the past fiscal year, and estimates how much service credit you’ve earned since you first became a member.
  • Your Beneficiaries – When you became a NYSLRS member, you designated a beneficiary to receive a benefit upon your death. This section lists any beneficiaries we currently have on file for you. It’s important to review this section, especially if you are thinking about revising your beneficiaries.

Your Member Annual Statement also includes a Member Identification Card which contains the unique registration number you’ve been assigned within NYSLRS. Be sure to save your Member Identification Card and secure it in a safe, accessible place. Please use this number, rather than your Social Security number, to help protect your personal information whenever you contact us.

How the Member Annual Statement Helps With Retirement Planning

In most cases, your Member Annual Statement includes a projection of your retirement benefits at different ages based on the payment options available to you. These projected retirement benefits are calculated using current information we have on file for you, including:

You can also learn about the retirement options. Each option comes with a description of how your monthly retirement benefit would be paid out to you upon retirement, and can help you plan ahead on how you would like to receive your pension upon retirement.

Understanding Your Member Annual Statement

MAS Tutorial

This MAS Tutorial requires Adobe Flash Player and will not be viewable on mobile devices.

Have questions about your 2014 Member Annual Statement? There are a few ways you can find answers:

  • Use your desktop computer to watch our MAS Tutorial (right). This interactive presentation offers page-by-page information about your Member Annual Statement.
  • Visit our website and check out our MAS Frequently Asked Questions.

The mailing of the 2014 Member Annual Statements began May 9 and will take approximately six to eight weeks to complete. Most members will receive their Statements sometime in July.

Your Member Annual Statement is a valuable resource to keep you informed about your NYSLRS membership and help plan for your future. If you have more questions, or want to find out more detailed information about the benefits discussed in your Member Annual Statement, please feel free to contact us.