Tag Archives: Loans

Retirement on the Horizon? Here Are a Few Things to Think About

Things to think aboutYou’re probably looking forward to the day when you file your application for a NYSLRS pension. But before you retire, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. After all, by filing for retirement, you’re making critical decisions about your financial future. And once you’ve retired, some of those decisions will be irrevocable. Whether your planned retirement date is just around the corner or a few years off, this checklist could help you avoid costly mistakes.

Do I have all the service credit I think I have?
Under some retirement plans, service milestones (20 years, 30 years, full retirement age) can have a big impact on the amount of your benefit. If you’re aiming for one of these milestones, but retire just short of reaching it, your pension will take a big hit. To make sure you have enough service credit on your planned retirement date, sign in to Retirement Online to see how much service credit you currently have. You can also file a Request for Estimate form or talk with an information representative at our Contact Center (1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area).

Do I have previous service credit I want to purchase?
You may be able to buy credit for previous public employment or military service, which in most cases would increase your pension. But you can’t purchase service credit after you retire. You can use the “Information about Your Public Employment” section of the Request for Estimate form to request credit for previous public and military service. Read our booklet, Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6, for more information.

Do you have a balance on a NYSLRS loan?
You cannot pay off your NYSLRS loan after you retire. If you retire with an outstanding balance, your pension will be permanently reduced. You can check your loan balance with Retirement Online or through our automated phone system. Call the toll-free number (above), then press 3 for members, 1 or 2 for the Employees’ Retirement System or the Police and Fire Retirement System, and 1 for loan services. If your retirement is still a few years away, you can increase your payroll deductions or send in extra payments to pay off your loan.

Am I ready to retire?
Are you really ready? The fact that you can retire doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Am I financially prepared? Am I psychologically ready for retirement? These are questions you’ll have to answer for yourself, but there are resources available:

Know Your Benefits: Leaving Public Employment

It may never come up, but, you should know what would happen with your NYSLRS membership and benefits if you ever leave public employment. Even if you no longer work for a New York public employer, you’d still be a NYSLRS member. Depending on your circumstances, that membership may come with certain benefits and responsibilities.

What Happens to My Contributions If I Leave Public Employment?

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

If you have not earned enough service credit to be vested (eligible for a retirement benefit) and don’t withdraw your contributions, they will continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. At that point, if you are still off the public payroll, by law, your membership ends automatically, and your contributions will be deposited into a non-interest-bearing account. (Your contributions are not automatically refunded.)

If you are vested, your contributions will remain on deposit with NYSLRS, and when you reach retirement age, you’ll be eligible to apply for a retirement benefit.

Leaving Public Employment

How Will Leaving Public Employment Affect My Death Benefits?

If you have at least ten years of service credit before you leave, 50 percent of your death benefit may still be payable when you die. With less than ten years of service credit, the 50 percent death benefit is only payable if you die within one year of leaving public service.

How Can I Pay Back My Outstanding Loans?

If you have an outstanding NYSLRS loan, you must still 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. Defaulting on a loan may carry considerable tax consequences: You’ll need to pay ordinary income tax and possibly an additional 10 percent penalty on the taxable portion of the loan. Once you’ve left public employment, you aren’t eligible to take a NYSLRS loan.

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:

Beyond staying informed, you’ll need to keep your membership information up to date:

  • Keep your beneficiary information current, and
  • Let us know about any name or address changes (for either you or your beneficiaries).

Finally, it’s your responsibility to file an Application for Service Retirement (RS6037) when you are eligible to retire — we will not pay out a retirement benefit unless you apply for it.

For more information, read our Life Changes: What if I Leave Public Employment? (VO1800) publication.

Debt and Retirement

If you’re planning to retire in the near future, it’s a good idea to take inventory of the debts you owe. Why start your next life chapter burdened with debt and interest payments?

A high priority should be any loans you have taken from NYSLRS. You cannot pay off your loan after you retire. If you have an outstanding balance when you retire, it will permanently reduce your pension. For example, if a 60-year-old Tier 3 or 4 member of the Employees’ Retirement System retires this year owing $10,000, the annual reduction would be $560.50. And that reduction would continue even if the total reduction exceeds the amount owed. What’s more, at least part of the balance would be subject to federal taxes. Learn more about paying of a NYSLRS loan.
Debt and Retirement — How a NYSLRS Loan could affect your retirement
Another priority is paying off credit cards. The average American household with credit card debt owes more than $16,000 and pays about $1,300 a year in interest, according to a recent analysis of federal data.

Fortunately, getting a handle on your credit card debt has gotten easier. A recent federal law requires credit card statements to carry a “Minimum Payment Warning.” This tells you how long it will take, and how much it will cost, to pay off your balance if you only make minimum payments. It also tells you how much you need to pay each month to pay off the balance in three years.

If you have more than one credit card balance, most financial advisers recommend you pay as much as you can on the card with the highest interest. Pay at least the minimum, preferably more, on lower-interest cards until the high-interest card is paid off. But some advisers say it might be better to pay off the card with the smallest balance first. That will give you a sense of accomplishment, which could make the process seem less daunting.

Mortgage balances make up two-thirds of the $12.6 trillion in U.S. household debt. But should you strive to pay off your mortgage before you retire? Financial advisers differ on that question, so do your research to consider all the factors.

Read more about debt and retirement in our publication Straight Talk About Financial Planning For Your Retirement.

NYSLRS’ Top Five Retirement Myths from 2016

Retirement Myths vs FactsWith two retirement systems, six tiers and 346 retirement plan combinations, it’s quite possible that the NYSLRS benefit information your coworker is talking about may not apply to you. That’s why, periodically, we like to clear up some common misconceptions we hear from members and retirees. Here are our top five retirement myths from 2016.


Myth #1  “NYSLRS can change the rules determining pension contributions and retirement benefits.

Fact  We can’t. The contributions you make and the benefits you enjoy are dictated by law — as passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. NYSLRS administers these programs.

This is also true for retirement incentives; the decision to offer an incentive comes from the Legislature and the Governor. Individual employers, like your town or police department, may decide to offer their own incentives to employees, but these do not affect a member’s NYSLRS pension benefits.


Myth #2  “Your final average salary (FAS) is based on the years immediately preceding your retirement

Fact  While the number of years used to calculate your FAS varies by tier and plan, they aren’t limited to your final years of employment. We look at your entire employment history while you were a member of NYSLRS to find the consecutive years when you earned the most, and those years are used in the calculation for your FAS. For more information, visit our website.


Myth #3  “NYSLRS membership ends when you stop working for a NYSLRS participating employer.

Fact  Even when you leave public employment before you’re eligible to retire, you’re still a NYSLRS member. If you’re vested, you will be eligible for a pension benefit once you reach the retirement age specified by your plan. If you’re not vested, your contributions stay with NYSLRS and continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. If you leave public employment with less than 10 years of service, you can end your NYSLRS membership and request a refund of your retirement contributions.

What else happens when you leave public employment? Check out your plan publication to learn more about your benefits. You can also visit our website for more information.


Myth #4  “You can’t make extra payments to pay off a NYSLRS loan faster.

Fact  You can make additional payments or pay your loan in full at any time, with no prepayment penalties. For the payoff balance on your loan, call our automated phone service (1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area and press 3 for members; then 1 or 2 for the Employees’ Retirement System or the Police and Fire Retirement System; and then 1 for loan services). For more information, visit Loans: Getting One and Paying it Back.


Myth #5  “If Call Center lines are busy, there’s no way to get benefit information.

Fact  Even when the Call Center phone lines are busy, our automated phone system can help members and retirees with a number of tasks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Press 3 for Member Services, which includes current loan balance and application status information.

Press 4 for Retiree/Beneficiary Services, which includes COLA eligibility and federal tax withholding information.

Press 6 for Other Services, which includes requesting forms by fax.

Another way to get benefit information is to visit the Contact Us page on our website, which has answers to many commonly asked questions. You can also email us using our secure email form.


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How an Unpaid NYSLRS Loan Can Affect Your Pension

As a NYSLRS member, if you have contributions on file with us, you may be able to take out a loan against them. However, you need to be cautious about this decision. If you retire with an outstanding loan balance, you cannot pay off your loan after you retire. In order to recover the funds that weren’t paid back before you retired, your pension benefit will be permanently reduced.

The amount of your pension reduction is based on three things:

  • Your age at retirement
  • Your loan balance at retirement
  • The type of your retirement (regular service or disability)

Outstanding Loan Balances & Permanent Pension Reductions for 2016

The permanent reduction you receive will be based on your retirement date. So, if you had retired in 2015 with an outstanding loan balance, the permanent reduction would be different than if you retire in 2016. Here are some loan reduction examples if you retire in 2016 with an outstanding loan:
2016 Unpaid Loan Reductions

How to Avoid a Permanent Pension Benefit Reduction

To avoid a permanent reduction, you can increase the amount of your loan payments so your loan is paid in full before you retire. Though loans are repaid through regular payroll deductions, you can make additional payments or pay your loan in full at any time. There are no prepayment penalties. You can also pay off your loan in a lump sum when you retire (before your effective date of retirement). If you wish to pay off your loan, we will tell you what the payoff will be at that time.

Make your check or money order payable to NYSLRS, write “loan payment” and your retirement registration number or the last four digits of your Social Security number on your check, and include your contact information in your cover letter to us. We will apply the payment to your loan and send you an acknowledgment letter. Payments should be mailed to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Accounts Receivable Unit
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244

If you have any questions about loans or reductions, please visit our Loans page.

NYSLRS Tax Overview

Tax season is ramping up, so it’s a good time to talk about the tax information related to your NYSLRS pension benefit.

1099-Rs

NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries who receive a taxable benefit from NYSLRS are sent a 1099-R form each year. Certain NYSLRS members may also receive a 1099-R tax form if, for example, you borrow a taxable NYSLRS loan, default on a NYSLRS loan, or if you end your membership and withdraw your contributions. The 1099-R is a statement that shows:

  • The total benefit paid to you in a calendar year.
  • The taxable amount of your benefit.
  • The amount of taxes withheld from your benefit.

We mail out all 1099-R forms — more than 500,000 — by January 31, so if you haven’t already received your form, be sure to check your mail over the next few days.

If you lose your 1099-R, you can request a reprint from us starting the second week of February. Once reprints are available, we’ll process requests each night and mail them out the next day. This year, reprints will be available for calendar years 2013, 2014, and 2015.

1099-R Interactive Tutorial

1099-r tax form tutorial screenshot

Understanding your 1099-R Tutorial

We feature an interactive tutorial about the 1099-R form on our website. It walks you through a sample 1099-R, and offers a short explanation of specific boxes on the form.

Changing Your Federal Tax Withholdings

Your NYSLRS pension benefit is subject to federal taxes. You can change your federal tax withholding status at any time by sending us a W-4P form. (A handy tutorial about the W-4P form that walks you through the steps on filling it out is available on our website.)

W4-P Tax form tutorial screenshot

Understanding your W-4P Form Tutorial

We also offer a federal tax withholding calculator on our website to help you estimate how much should be withheld.

If you have other tax-related questions about your benefit, please visit our Tax FAQs.

What Happens if You Have a NYSLRS Loan and Go Off Payroll?

Borrowing against your contributions is just one of the services available to eligible members of The New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). But what happens if you have an outstanding loan, go off the payroll and your automatic loan payments are discontinued before the loan is paid off?

The answer is….it depends. If you leave your job because you’re retiring, then your benefit will be permanently reduced – you can’t pay off your loan once you’re retired. However, if you leave work for any other reason, you are required to make direct payment at least quarterly and complete repayment within five years from the date the loan was issued. If you fail to meet either of these conditions, your loan will default.

What Happens If My Loan Defaults?

If your loan defaults:

  • We must report your outstanding balance, minus any previously taxed amount, to the IRS as a distribution to you.
  • You must include the loan on your federal income tax return for the year it defaults. (If it was taxable prior to default, you will not be re-taxed on that portion of the loan.)
  • If you’re under age 59½, you will be subject to an additional 10 percent penalty on the taxable portion of the loan. (There are no New York State or local taxes due on the distribution.)
  • You still owe the balance to the Retirement System and the loan continues to accrue interest and insurance charges until it’s paid in full.
  • We cannot issue a new loan until the defaulted loan has been repaid.

Take the Proper Precautions

If you leave public employment, contact us as soon as possible. We’ll tell you the exact amount you need to repay to avoid defaulting. When making a payment, be sure to write “loan payment” on your check and include your member registration number so we can apply it to the correct account. Mail payments to us at the following address:

New York State and Local Retirement System
Attention: Accounts Receivable
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244

For more information about loans, you can contact us using our secure email form: www.emailNYSLRS.com. One of our representatives will respond back to you within 3 to 5 business days.

NYSLRS Loans: What You Need To Know

If you’ve taken a loan against your New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) contributions, please remember to pay it back before you retire. An outstanding NYSLRS loan balance at retirement will permanently reduce your retirement benefit. You can’t make loan payments after you retire, and the reduction doesn’t go away after we recover the funds.

Loan Reduction Examples

Here are some loan reduction examples you might find helpful:

Loan Reduction Amount at Retirement (ERS Tiers 3, 4, 5 and 6)

At Age Outstanding Loan Balance Annual Pension Reduction
55 $1,000 $53.18
$5,000 $265.90
$10,000 $531.80
60 $1,000 $59.35
$5,000 $296.74
$10,000 $593.47
62 $1,000 $62.35
$5,000 $311.74
$10,000 $623.48
65 $1,000 $67.59
$5,000 $337.95
$10,000 $675.90
70 $1,000 $79.12
$5,000 $395.60
$10,000 $791.20

Loan Reduction Amount at Retirement (PFRS Tiers 3, 5 and 6)

At Age Outstanding Loan Balance Annual Pension Reduction
45 $1,000 $45.02
$5,000 $225.11
$10,000 $450.23
50 $1,000 $49.06
$5,000 $245.31
$10,000 $490.63
55 $1,000 $54.46
$5,000 $272.30
$10,000 $544.60
60 $1,000 $61.70
$5,000 $308.49
$10,000 $616.98
62 $1,000 $65.25
$5,000 $326.26
$10,000 $652.53
65 $1,000 $71.45
$5,000 $367.27
$10,000 $714.54

Tax Implications

Members who retire with outstanding NYSLRS loans that exceed the federal limit for non-taxable loans may face significant tax consequences. Part or all of your loan balance may be considered taxable funds that were credited to your account and would be subject to federal income tax in the year that you retire. Also, if you’re under age 59½ at the time your loan becomes reportable, you may be subject to an additional 10 percent penalty tax.

Contact Us

For the payoff balance on your NYSLRS loan, call our automated phone service toll-free at 1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 within the Albany, New York area. For information on how to make additional payments or increase your loan payment amount, please visit our Loans: Getting One and Paying it Back page.

Retirement Planning – Start Planning Ahead

This post was originally published on May 21, 2014. The video was updated on 6/8/16 to include 2016 loan reduction amounts.

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