Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, let’s look at the top 10 blog posts you shared with friends this past year:

  1. NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 1

    A One Tier at a Time feature that looked at one of our smallest plans in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS): Tier 1.

  2. NYSLRS Retirees: 1% COLA Payment Coming September 30

    An update for eligible NYSLRS retirees about the cost-of-living adjustment they’d receive in September 2015.

  3.  Keeping the Pension Fund Funded

    How NYSLRS plans ahead to maintain the funds it needs to pay current and future benefits.

  4. Protecting the Pension System

    How Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli defends NYSLRS against the abuse of public funds.

  5. NYSLRS – One Tier At a Time: PFRS Tier 1

    Tier 1 may be the smallest tier in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), but it was the third most popular One Tier at a Time post to share.

  6. The NYSLRS Member Annual Statement

    Each summer, we mail out approximately 700,000 Member Annual Statements filled with personalized benefit information you need to know.

  7. NYSLRS Basics: Understanding Your Final Average Salary

    A NYSLRS Basics feature that looks at what your final average salary is and the part it plays in your pension calculation.

  8.  NYSLRS Basics: Pension Payment Options

    Choosing how we’ll pay your retirement benefit is a big decision. Which payment option best meets your needs?

  9. NYSLRS Retirees Help Power New York’s Economy

    Comptroller DiNapoli spoke to a retiree group about how the pension money paid to retirees flows directly back into our communities, stimulating and growing our local economies.

    …and, the most shared post of 2015 is:

  10. NYSLRS – One Tier At a Time: ERS Tiers 3 & 4

    Our most shared blog post is also our first One Tier at a Time post, featuring Tiers 3 & 4 in ERS.

Thanks for sharing, and Happy New Year!

Spending Budgets Change in Retirement

What are some of the changes you can expect in retirement? Sleeping in past 8 a.m.? Shopping during regular business hours? Retirement can bring many changes, but one you should be aware of is how your spending could change.

According to an Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study, average spending goes down in retirement, but not for everyone. Some households’ expenses stayed the same while others increased. In the first two years of retirement, almost 46 percent of households spent more than what they had spent just before retirement. EBRI offered a suggestion for this trend – people may want to splurge on hobbies or vacations during the first few years of retirement.

Keep in mind, the EBRI study is meant to understand trends in retiree spending, but it brings up a good question. Have you thought about how you’ll spend money in retirement?

Prepare a Post-Retirement Budget

As you get closer to retirement, you may be saving and investing more to meet your financial goals. Making the switch from saving to spending in retirement can be easy if you plan ahead. By looking at how you spend your money now, you can get an idea of how to spend your money in retirement.

When you set a post-retirement budget, look at what your expenses currently are. Don’t forget to include periodic expenses, like car insurance payments or property/school taxes. Track how you spend your money over a month or two. Then, consider your current monthly income and your post-retirement income. Your current monthly income should cover your current expenses, so estimate what your post-retirement income will be. If your post-retirement income is less than your current income, you might want to adjust your expenses or even your retirement plans.

These worksheets can help you prepare a budget and list out your post-retirement income sources. Print them out and start planning ahead for post-retirement spending.

Monthly budgeting worksheets (PDF)

Monthly Worksheets (PDF)

NYSLRS Basics: Final Average Salary

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined-benefit retirement plan that provides a lifetime pension when you retire. Laws passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor have established the formulas used to calculate these benefits. Your specific benefit will be based on two main factors: service credit and final average salary. You’re probably familiar with service credit — it’s generally the years of service you’ve spent working for a participating employer. But, what is a final average salary (FAS)?

When we calculate your pension, we find the set of years (one, three or five, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest. The average of these earnings is your FAS. Usually your FAS is based on the years right before retirement, but they can come anytime in your career. In fact, the years used to calculate your FAS may not match up to a calendar year or even a fiscal year. For FAS purposes, a “year” is any period during which you earned one full-time year of service credit.

Types of Final Average SalaryNYSLRS Basics: Understanding your Final Average Salary

Your tier and plan determine how your FAS is calculated:

  • Three-year FAS: Members in Tier 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  • Five-year FAS: Members in Tier 6.
  • One-year FAS: Members in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Your employer must choose to offer this benefit. It’s not available to PFRS members covered by Article 14 and generally not available to PFRS Tier 6 members.

Exclusions and Limits

The law limits the FAS of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For example, for most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAS, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension. The specific limits vary by tier; check out your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page for details.

Since 2010, with the creation of Tiers 5 and 6, the Legislature and the Governor have introduced additional limits to the earnings that can be used toward the FAS:

Tier 5

  • Overtime pay is capped — $18,448.11 in calendar year 2017 and $19,001.55 in 2018.

Tier 6

  • Overtime pay is capped — $15,721 in fiscal year 2017 and $16,048 in 2018.
  • Lump sum vacation pay and wages from more than two employers are no longer included in your FAS.
  • Any earnings beyond the Governor’s salary — currently $179,000 — are left out of your FAS.

Find out more about how FAS are calculated on our website.

Want to read more NYSLRS Basics? Check out our posts on when you can retire and choosing your pension payment option.

Tier 6 Member Milestones

Understanding Your Benefits Can Help You Plan Ahead

If you’re a Tier 6 member, meaning you joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012, it’s important to start learning about your benefits. Even though retirement seems far off, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead. You can start planning your path to retirement by finding out what milestones you’ll reach on the way.

Your Tier 6 member milestones are markers for when you earn a certain amount of service credit. You can reach some milestones within your first few months of membership. You reach others once you’ve earned 10 or more years of service credit.

Common Tier 6 Member Milestones

When you join NYSLRS, you reach your first milestone on the first day of your membership. This milestone covers you for certain job-related death and disability benefits. (You can learn more about them in your Tier 6 retirement plan publication.)

Once you reach 10 years of service credit, you hit another milestone: you become vested. This means that you will be eligible for a retirement benefit even if you leave public employment before age 55, although the benefit is reduced if it’s collected before age 63. Tier 6 members in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) are eligible to receive the full vested benefit at age 55. Tier 6 members in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) are eligible at age 63.

Later on, the other milestones you’ll reach will focus more on retirement.

ERS Membership Milestones

For Tier 6 members in regular plans, the biggest milestone will be when you reach 20 years of service credit. This is when you’ll have enough service credit to retire with a full benefit. As noted above, if you retire before age 63, the benefit is reduced (you must be at least 55 to apply for the vested benefit). For Tier 6 correction officers, you’ll reach this milestone when you reach 25 years of service credit. Check out some of the other milestones for ERS Tier 6 members using the graphic below, or visit our website for a more detailed listing of ERS member milestones.

ERS Tier 6 Member Milestones

PFRS Membership Milestones

Some of the milestones for PFRS Tier 6 members are similar to ERS milestones, but some milestones vary based on what retirement plan you have. Check out the graphic below, or visit our website for a more detailed listing of PFRS member milestones.

PFRS Tier 6 Member Milestones

If you have any questions about Tier 6 membership milestones or the milestones for other tiers, please email us.

Who Are Financial Planners?

When you’re preparing for retirement, you want to avoid costly mistakes. And while hiring an attorney or accountant may help, think about hiring a financial planner too. A financial planner can help you develop a practical plan to help you meet your retirement goals.

What Do Financial Planners Do?

Financial planners do not manage your money. According to the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts, financial planners assess your current financial health. They examine your assets, liabilities, income, and more. They help you develop a realistic plan to meet your goals by looking at your financial weaknesses and strengths. With their help, you can put your plan into action and keep track of its progress. If your goals change over time, they can also help you adjust your plan.

Choosing a Financial Planner

Retirement-Savings_5-Rules-to-RememberIf a financial planner has a CFP next to his or her name, that means they are a certified financial planner. Certified financial planners have passed a national test given by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The certification test covers:

  • Insurance
  • Investments
  • Taxation
  • Employee benefits
  • Retirement and estate planning

Certified financial planners must also abide by a code of ethics.

Do Your Research

Choosing a financial planner is like hiring any other professional. Make sure you do your research so you can make a well-founded decision. While we can’t offer specific advice about hiring a financial planner, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Check credentials, educational background and experience.
  • Find out if he or she is a member of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
  • Get referrals from people you trust – ask friends, relatives and business associates.
  • And finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions:
    • Do they research the financial products they recommend?
    • Do they offer a free consultation?
    • Are they paid by fee, commission, or salary?