Monthly Archives: July 2015

Gen X Struggling with Retirement Security

Generation X turns 50 this year and according to a survey by AARP, they may be more anxious about retirement than Baby Boomers. Gen X has been feeling the pinch for a while. They’ve seen the rise of 401(k)s replacing traditional pension plans and have the added burden of taking care of their children and aging parents. Even though Gen Xers have “more time” to plan, the biggest concern among them is not saving enough for retirement. The survey, High Anxiety: Gen X and Boomers Struggle with Stress, Savings and Security, looked at New York voters from age 35 to 69. And as the survey shows, anxiety is running high in Generation X: This lack of retirement confidence could stem from several reasons. In New York, 20 percent of working Gen Xers don’t have access to a workplace retirement savings plan. Because of this, 31 percent of Gen Xers without access aren’t confident they’ll ever retire. If their employer offered a plan, 80 percent stated they’d be likely to use it. But even out of those with access, 37 percent aren’t saving for retirement through a workplace plan. Many Gen Xers also cite their current expenses as an obstacle to saving for retirement:

  • 59 percent say they have no money left after paying for bills.
  • 56 percent are paying for their children’s education.
  • 44 percent have lost a job or taken a pay cut.
  • 44 percent have too much debt to pay off.
  • 37 percent are caring for an elderly parent or relative.

AARP Proposes State-Run Retirement Savings Program

In May, AARP reported on the findings of this survey at a retirement readiness event in Albany. “We know Boomers are worried, but the fact that Generation Xers are even more worried is cause for alarm and reflection,” said Beth Finkel, the state director of AARP in New York. “Since an uncertain financial future for New Yorkers is an uncertain financial future for the state, it is vital that these worries be addressed.” Americans are 15 times less likely to open a retirement savings plan on their own compared to if their employer offered one. To help address this and other concerns, AARP is calling for a state-sponsored retirement savings program. Deputy Comptroller Thomas Nitido represented NYSLRS at the event. He agreed that such an system could be useful, but workers would still face the challenge of finding extra money to put aside after paying bills. He also said that New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli would prefer to see a federal solution to the retirement issue. However, that was “unlikely” given the political mood of the U.S. Congress.

Keeping the Pension Fund Funded

People are living longer, which means that recent retirees are spending more time in retirement than in previous generations. This also means that they are collecting a benefit for a longer period of time. That’s why Comptroller DiNapoli, administrator of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), ensures that the most accurate and current data available is used to project how long our members and retirees are expected to live. In doing so, NYSLRS lessens the risks of underfunding the benefits of its current and future retirees.

How the Pension Fund Plans Ahead

The pension fund’s assets come from member contributions, investment income, and employer contributions. Each year, NYSLRS calculates the funds it needs to pay current and future benefits. NYSLRS can’t know for certain how long a member will pay into the pension fund before retiring or how long a retiree will receive a pension. What NYSLRS can do, though, is make assumptions about each of these scenarios.

In this case, an assumption helps NYSLRS predict the expected future payments over the lifespan of its members and retirees based on their age and gender. By estimating how long NYSLRS can expect to pay its retirees, it can plan ahead and determine how much money the pension fund will need.

A New Direction on Assumptions

In August of 2014, NYSLRS’ actuary recommended a change in our mortality assumptions (pdf-icon PDF) based on the completion of a much anticipated study and report from the Society of Actuaries. This new approach to creating these assumptions considers the age and gender of members and retirees, and also their birth year. Birth years provide a more accurate way of looking at life expectancy as not all generational groups share the same life expectancy. A baby boomer who retires at age 62 may live until a certain age, but that doesn’t mean a millennial retiring at 62 will live until the same age. Using more realistic models of life expectancy gives NYSLRS a better understanding of what benefits to pay out over time.

NYSLRS can expect to pay out more benefits in the future as its retirees live longer, but it won’t come as a surprise. By planning ahead, NYSLRS is making sure the benefits you worked for will be there for you during retirement.

New Report Questions Retirement Readiness of U.S. Workforce

Fewer Americans are participating in employer-sponsored defined benefit and defined contribution plans. In fact, according to a recent report from the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, from 1999 through 2011, 53 percent of working Americans were not enrolled in a retirement plan at work — down from 61 percent. When you add in people who did not participate in a plan offered to them or who were not working, 68 percent of working-age people (25-64) did not participate in an employer-sponsored plan.

According to the report, because of these low retirement plan enrollment numbers, 55% of U.S. households nearing retirement may have to rely on Social Security income exclusively for financial survival in retirement.

The Dwindling Number of Defined Benefit Plan Participants Fare Best

The report, entitled Are U.S. Workers Ready for Retirement? Trends in Plan Sponsorship, Participation and Preparedness, was released in April and co-authored by Theresa Ghilarducci, a nationally recognized expert in retirement security. It found that of working-age Americans with an employer-sponsored retirement plan available to them, only 16 percent had a defined benefit plan, while 63 percent had a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k).

In a comparison of net worth, the households who are enrolled in a defined benefit pension plan fare the best, with a median net worth of $116,973, compared to $107,250 for those in a defined contribution plan, and $4,450 for those without an employer-sponsored plan of any kind.

Regrettably, as bleak and discouraging as this picture is, things could still be worse.

Too Many Future Retirees Face the Possibility of Poverty

According to the report, 33 percent of current workers aged 55 to 64 are likely to be poor or near-poor in retirement based on their current levels of retirement savings and total assets. While a sizable share of the retiree population will be at risk of living in poverty in all states, workers in Massachusetts and Virginia are more likely to enjoy a secure retirement than their counterparts nationally, with only 22 percent of workers 55 to 64 likely to be at-risk for a poor standard of living in retirement.

It’s a much more troubling story here in New York where 32 percent of near-retirement workers may experience poverty or near-poverty in retirement based on their current savings levels.

Comptroller DiNapoli’s Position On Retirement Security

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the administrator of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), has long addressed the topic of retirement security and said that policy makers and the community-at-large should be directing their energies to ensure retirement security for everyone, including workers in the private sector.

Comptroller DiNapoli discusses this issue in remarks he delivered last June during a Retirement Summit at the Schwartz Center.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 2

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.

NYSLRS created Tier 2 on July 1, 1973, marking the first time NYSLRS created any new member group. Today’s post looks at one of the major Tier 2 retirement plans in ERS. ERS Tier 2 as a whole represents less than one percent of NYSLRS’ total membership.

ERS-Tier-2-Benefits_001aIf you’re an ERS Tier 2 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. Next time, we’ll take a look at another ERS tier. Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in the series:

Retirees: Know Your Post-Retirement Earnings Limit

forjuly1As a New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retiree, it’s possible to work a public job after retirement and receive your pension, but there are limits to your post-retirement earnings. If you’re self-employed, work for a private employer, work for another state, or work for the federal government, you don’t have to worry about post-retirement earnings. You can earn as much as you want in your new job and still collect your full NYSLRS benefit.

But if you collect a NYSLRS pension and want to return to work in the public sector, there are two sections of the Retirement & Social Security Law (RSSL) you have to comply with that deal with post-retirement earnings.

Section 212

Under Section 212 of the RSSL, you may earn up to the annual amount set by law. The limit for 2015 is $30,000. Typically, your earnings are not limited in the year you reach age 65.

However, if you are under the age of 65 and earn more than the Section 212 limit during a calendar year, you may:

  • Pay back NYSLRS an amount equal to the retirement benefit you received after you reached the mandated limit. If you continue to work, your retirement benefit will be suspended.

OR

  • Rejoin NYSLRS, in which case your retirement benefit will stop.

Section 211

If you return to work and earn more than the Section 212 limit, your pension will be suspended unless your public employer requests a Section 211 approval for you. This will allow you to continue receiving your retirement benefit without reduction.

Section 211 approvals are given for a fixed period of time, normally up to two years.

If you earn more than the Section 212 limit and do not get Section 211 approval, your benefit will be reduced or suspended.

If you have questions about working after retirement, please read our publication, What If I Work After Retirement? (VO1648).