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A Look Inside NYSLRS

Want an inside view of NYSLRS and the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund)? Curious about how the Fund is managed and how well its investments are performing? Then check out the latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

The 2017 CAFR, which covers the state fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2017, is chock full of facts and figures that offer a detailed look at the Retirement System and the Fund. The biggest story is the financial health of the Fund. The Fund’s assets were valued at $192.4 billion at the end of the fiscal year (and continued to grow in the first quarter of new fiscal year). The average return on Fund investments was 11.48 percent, well above the long-term expected rate of return of 7 percent.

The soundness of NYSLRS was confirmed by several recent independent studies, which concluded that the New York State’s pension system is one of the best-funded public pension systems in the nation. And that means NYSLRS’ 652,324 members and 452,455 retirees and beneficiaries can rest assured their pensions will be there for them in retirement.

A Look Inside NYSLRS

The average pension for an Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) retiree was $23,026; the average for a Police and Fire Retirement System was $49,123. In all, NYSLRS paid out $11.3 billion in benefits during the fiscal year. (Fund investment earnings covered 75 percent of the cost of these benefits.) But NYSLRS pension payments don’t just benefit the system’s retirees and beneficiaries. Because 78 percent of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries live in New York, $9.1 billion worth of benefits stayed in the State. And that money supported local businesses, paid local taxes and generated economic development statewide.

An Award-Winning Publication

NYSLRS received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 2016 CAFR. The Certificate of Achievement is a national award recognizing excellence in the preparation of state and local government financial reports. NYSLRS has won this award for the last 13 years.

How NYSLRS Retirees Contribute to New York’s Economy

Public pensions play an important role in our state’s economic health. The pensions NYSLRS retirees earn flow back into their communities in the form of property and sales tax payments, and local purchases. When public retirees stay in New York, they help stimulate and grow local economies.

NYSLRS Retirees Who Call New York Home

As of March 31, 2016, there are 440,943 NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. Seventy-eight percent of them – 345,643 – continue to live in New York. Suffolk County is home to the largest number of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. More than $1 billion in pension benefits went to the 33,290 individuals who live there. Erie County has the second largest number of benefit recipients (29,029), who received $701.5 million.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute

The Economic Impact of NYSLRS Retirees

NYSLRS retirees are patrons of local business and services, and they pay state and local taxes. By spending their retirement income locally, they help fuel the economic engines of their communities. In fact, a study by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) found that state and local pensions in New York State supported 215,867 jobs, driving $35.3 billion in total economic output and $8.1 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

New York mirrored the NIRS report’s results across the rest of America. Nationally, retiree spending of pension benefits in 2014 generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output, supporting some 7.1 million jobs across the U.S.

The NIRS report suggests that a stable and secure pension benefit that won’t run out enables retirees to pay for their basic needs like housing, food, medicine and clothing. It’s good for the economy when retirees are self-sufficient and regularly spend their pension income. They spend that money on goods and services in the local community. They purchase food, clothing, and medicine at local stores, pay housing costs, and may even make larger purchases like computer equipment or a car. These purchases combine to create a steady economic ripple effect. Retirees with inadequate 401(k) savings who might be fearful of running out of savings tend to hold back on spending. This reduced spending stunts economic growth, which already is predicted to drop by one-third as the U.S. population ages.

NYSLRS Retirees Pay Their Share of Taxes

NYSLRS retirees live throughout the different regions of New York, but they only make up 2.9 percent of the general population. In some cases, they pay a larger share of property taxes. For instance, in the Capital District, retirees make up 5 percent of the population yet they pay 8.7 percent of the property taxes, which totals $218 million. In the North Country, retirees make up 4.3 percent of the population and pay 6.8 percent of the property taxes ($55 million). 

Retirees Build a Strong New York

After a career in public service, NYSLRS retirees continue to contribute to their communities and the State. Their pensions are a sound investment in New York’s future. Public pensions don’t just benefit those who receive them, but they pay dividends to local businesses, support local communities, and create jobs. As the number of NYSLRS retirees grows, it’s likely they will continue to help build a strong 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.

The Common Retirement Fund: Invested In New York

As the third largest public pension fund in the country, the New York Common Retirement Fund (Fund) is in an excellent position to help strengthen the New York economy. One way it accomplishes this is by investing in New York businesses. Like all of the Fund’s investments, businesses are evaluated on their potential to earn a solid return for the Fund. Under New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s direction, the Fund uses several programs to invest in New York businesses:

  • The In-State Private Equity Investment Program
  • The New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC)
  • The New York Credit Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Fund

By making money available through these programs, the Fund supports local businesses and creates jobs across the state.
The Fund—Invested in New York

The In-State Private Equity Investment Program

With the In-State Program, the Fund looks for companies in need of expansion capital. Businesses use the Fund’s investment to expand their operations and hire workers. The Fund has invested $820 million in over 300 New York businesses, with almost $325 million returned on exited investments. The companies in the In-State Program have also created or kept more than 4,500 jobs around the state.

The New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC)

The Fund works with NYBDC to provide loans to small businesses in New York. These loans help small businesses buy property and equipment, expand, or start up. They also help create or retain almost 9,000 jobs each year. By borrowing from NYBDC, small businesses can receive lending terms that are often more favorable than other lending terms. Since the Fund partnered with NYBDC, they’ve loaned $362 million to 1,082 small businesses.

Invested in New York — Comptroller DiNapoli at Versa-Tel

Since teaming up with New York Business Development Corporation in 2007 to offer small business loans to returning military veterans, the New York State Common Retirement Fund has made nearly $1.5 million in loans to military veterans. On Veterans Day, Comptroller DiNapoli visited Versa-Tel, a veteran-owned telecommunications company based in Long Island, which received one of those loans.

The New York Credit Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Fund

Last week, State Comptroller DiNapoli introduced a program that will make $200 million available for in-state investing. The SBIC fund offers credit financing to eligible New York companies, which provides another way to help smaller businesses expand their operations. The Fund is one of the first public funds to offer state-focused credit financing.

The Fund has New York’s best interests in mind by investing in local businesses and the result is two-fold: New York businesses receive the financing they need to succeed, and the Fund receives solid returns that get passed on to its members and retirees.

NYSLRS Retirees Help Power New York’s Economy

At the 2015 annual meeting of the Retired Public Employees Association of New York, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli told association members that “a public pension is not only good for you and your family, it’s good for New York State.” He added that “you are part of the economic engine in many of our communities.”

The administrator of the New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) and trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, State Comptroller DiNapoli also noted that, of NYSLRS’ 430,308 retirees, 78 percent of them — 337,406 — have chosen to live in New York.

NYSLRS-Retirees-Build-a-Stronger-NY

Click for full-sized version (PDF)

This is important, the State Comptroller explained, because the pension money paid to retired state and local public employees’ flows directly back into our communities, stimulating and growing our local economies.

During calendar year 2014, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $12 billion in economic activity in New York State.

NYSLRS Retirees Build a Stronger New York

NYSLRS pension benefit can provide security and peace of mind in retirement. What some retirees might not realize about their lifetime benefit is the effect it has on the local economy. During 2014 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $12 billion in economic activity in New York State. By buying local goods and services, NYSLRS retirees help existing companies grow, create opportunities for new businesses, and help foster an environment that helps companies create job opportunities.

NYSLRS Retirees in New York

Of the 430,308 current NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries, 78 percent of them live in New York State. These retirees make up 2.8 percent of the general population, but their impact on the State economy is considerable:

  • Retiree Spending Creates Jobs, Supports Local Business. NYSLRS retirees spend a larger than average share of their income on industries that benefitted local businesses, such as health care, restaurants and entertainment. These industries can expect more growth in the coming decades with NYSLRS retirees as part of their customer base. As a result of this spending, NYSLRS retirees were also responsible for an estimated 60,400 jobs.
  • Retirees Pay Billions in Taxes. In 2014, NYSLRS retirees paid $1.6 billion in real property taxes, which is five percent of the total collected in New York. These taxes help support New York schools, roads and government services. Also, spending by NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries generated an estimated $514 million in state and local sales tax.

After spending their careers working in State and local governments, the university system, public authorities and schools, NYSLRS retirees continue to help New York’s Main Streets grow and develop. The benefits of a NYSLRS pension aren’t just felt by retirees, but also by local businesses and communities. As the number of NYSLRS retirees continues to grow, the investment they make in communities across New York State will also continue to grow.

Why Corporate Political Disclosure Matters

With the help of Comptroller DiNapoli, the New York State Common Retirement Fund is asking the companies it invests in to be more open about their corporate political spending. When companies spend money toward certain political causes, their shareholders may end up footing the bill. And as a shareholder in many large American companies, the Fund wants to make sure its investments are used wisely.

The Comptroller’s Efforts Toward Transparency

Election-Spending-Trend_2008-2014 Political Disclosure

In the election years from 2008 to 2014, the cost of congressional and presidential races climbed into the billions.

In 2010, the Supreme Court decided that corporations could contribute unlimited amounts of money to independent election efforts. Shareholders of these companies may not realize their money gets put toward these efforts. So, after the ruling, the Comptroller pushed for more transparency from the companies the Fund invests in.

One way he accomplishes this is through shareholder requests. These requests ask companies for a full, public report that lists their spending on:

  • Candidates
  • Political parties
  • Ballot measures
  • Any direct or indirect state and federal lobbying
  • Payments to any trade associations used for political purposes
  • Payments made to any organization that writes and endorses model legislation

This knowledge helps the Fund determine if it will still invest in these companies. Ultimately, the Fund wants to make sure its portfolio companies provide a long-term value on its investments, because that value will get passed on to its members, retirees and beneficiaries. If a company’s political spending puts that investment at risk, the Fund can withdraw as it sees fit.

The Fund’s Progress on Disclosure Agreements

The Fund has asked 52 of its portfolio companies to disclose their corporate political spending, and 26 companies have agreed to do so. Over the last year, the Fund has reached disclosure agreements with:

The Fund has taken a leadership role in corporate political disclosure, and Comptroller DiNapoli will continue to make it a priority.

Income Inequality and Pension Reform

Is the shift away from defined benefit pension plans hurting more than helping?

Today’s pension reform means increasing employee contributions, cutting pension benefits, and switching from defined benefit (DB) plans to defined contribution (DC) plans. In fact, according to a new study from the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), 15 million additional workers would have defined benefit plans if there had not been a trend over the past 30 years to convert pensions into defined contribution (DC) plans. However, there may be a hidden cost to this approach. As these reforms negatively affect plan participants and beneficiaries, income inequality appears to increase.

In the study, NCPERS looks at the growing debate between DB and DC plans. Those in favor of DC plans claim that DB public pension plans aren’t sustainable and taxpayers can’t afford to pay them. Others defend DB pensions, arguing the pension benefits are a type of deferred compensation and not the responsibility of taxpayers. Regardless of what side of the debate you’re on, here’s the hard reality:

  • In a DB plan, the employee receives a lifetime benefit based on years of service and salary.
  • In a DC plan, there’s no guarantee the employee will have enough or any retirement income upon retirement.

Income Inequality Worsening for Seniors

Despite the positive aspects of DB pensions, the trend against them continues, and the effects could be damaging. Several studies mentioned by NCPERS point out the reduction of retirement benefits and the shift away from DB pensions increase income inequality—even poverty—in the elderly. One study from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) found that poverty rates in senior citizen households without pensions were almost nine times higher than those with pensions.Income Inequality: The Elderly Poverty Rate is 9 times greater with no defined benefit income

The Economic Impact of NYSLRS Retirees

These are startling findings, considering the important role of pensions and retiree spending in the economy. In the US, retirees spend almost $838 billion each year, which employs millions of Americans and tens of millions indirectly. For every dollar paid in pension benefits, there’s $2.37 in economic output. In New York, retirees play an important role in the state economy. New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retirees generate $11.3 billion in economic activity by spending $9.6 billion in the state. The pension benefits earned by NYSLRS retirees flows directly back into the local communities and economies.

As more negative changes affect DB pension plans and retiree benefits, the decrease in retiree spending will be felt throughout the economy.

“Personal income loss has a ripple effect, and everyone suffers when income inequality rises and economic growth weakens,” said NCPERS President Mel Aaronson. “Spending by retirees is vital to communities, yet local spending can easily be undermined by shortsighted changes to defined benefit pension plans.”

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Administrator of NYSLRS and sole trustee of the Common Retirement Fund, has often said that DC plans would put more people at risk in their retirement years. During an editorial board meeting of The Syracuse Post Standard last October 20, he also maintained that switching to a defined contribution plan won’t change the state’s obligation to provide a pension to the 1 million people already in the system. “A 401(k) was never meant to be the substitute for a pension,” DiNapoli said.

Study Finds Retiree Spending a Big Supporter Of The Economy

retirees-in-NYS_top-10-countiesA recent National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) study reveals that pension benefit payments provide important support to the economy, generating more than $943 billion in total economic activity and 6.2 million jobs in the United States.

The NIRS study reports on the national economic impacts of public and private pension plans, as well as the impact of state and local plans on a state-by-state basis. It measures the ripple effect of the pension benefit income spent by retirees in 2012 – about $228.5 billion paid to 9 million retired employees of state and local government and their beneficiaries. Retiree spending helped to support labor income, paying nearly $307 billion, and also generated $135 billion in tax revenue at the local, state and federal levels.

New York Retirees Contribute Their Fair Share

At the time of the NIRS study, NYSLRS retirees* were responsible for more than $11 billion worth of economic activity in New York State. The pension benefits they received stimulated our local economies in a number of ways:

  • NYSLRS Retirees Stayed in New York: Seventy-eight percent of NYSLRS’ 413,436 pensioners – 302,954 retirees and beneficiaries – chose to live in New York in 2012. They made up 2.7 percent of the general population, but in some areas of the State, they accounted for nearly five percent of the residents.
  • NYSLRS Retirees Paid New York Taxes: In 2012-2013, NYSLRS retirees paid $1.4 billion in real property taxes – that’s 4.6 percent of the total collected in the entire State. Additionally, NYSLRS retirees paid an estimated $488 million in state and local sales tax in 2012.
  • NYSLRS Retirees Created Jobs: NYSLRS retirees were responsible for the creation of an estimated 61,000 jobs.

Public Pensions Are A Sound Investment In Our Future

The pensions earned by public service retirees don’t just benefit those who receive them, but they pay dividends to local businesses, build strong communities and create jobs. And, as the number of retired public service employees in New York grows, we can look forward to their help in building a stronger New York.

*Read Retirees Contribute (PDF) to see the latest numbers on how NYSLRS retirees have affected the state economy.

New York State Common Retirement Fund’s Emerging Manager Program

The New York State Common Retirement Fund (the Fund) can owe much of its high performance to its investment strategy, but another lesser-known investment approach that helps the Fund is its Emerging Manager Program. This program gives newer and smaller investment managers – people or firms who make investments on behalf of clients – the opportunity to invest for the Fund. And as you’ll see in this video, The Fund’s emerging managers deliver solid results.

8/7/14 Correction to video: We misstated the company name for interviewee Thurman White. Thurman White is from Progress Investment Management Co., not Program Investment Management Co.

The Emerging Manager Program: A Diverse Approach to Investing

The Fund’s Emerging Manager program started 20 years ago, when it granted almost $50 million to the public equity Emerging Manager platform. Today, in 2014, the Fund has provided $1.6 billion to that platform. The Fund is one of the few state pension funds in the country that features an emerging manager program across all major asset classes (private equity, public equity, hedge funds and real estate).

The goal of the program is to invest some of the Fund’s assets with smaller, newer managers, most of which are minority- and women-owned firms. By investing with emerging managers, who tend to focus on the smaller ends of the market, the Fund’s investment portfolio becomes more diverse, and ultimately, more sustainable. In turn, the emerging managers gain the capital and experience they need to become larger, best-in-class investment managers.

At this year’s emerging manager conference, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli summed up the benefit of the Fund’s Emerging Manager Program. “When you look at our program, and the success of it, and the overall strength of the Fund, it’s proof that expanding opportunities and access, to women-owned firms, to firms of color, to emerging managers – it’s not only the right approach, but it’s certainly the best approach.”

Visit the Division of Pension Investment & Cash Management on our website for more information on the Fund and the Emerging Manager Program.