Tag Archives: vesting

What Unused Sick Leave Might Mean For You at Retirement

If you’ve accumulated unused, unpaid sick leave, you may be able to use it toward your NYSLRS pension benefit.

New York State employees are eligible for this benefit. You also may be eligible if your employer has adopted Section 41(j) for the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), or 341(j) for the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), of Retirement and Social Security Law. Not sure? Ask your employer or check your Member Annual Statement.

Here’s How It Works

Your additional service credit is determined by dividing your total unused, unpaid sick leave days by 260. Most ERS members can get credit for up to 165 days (7½ months) of unused sick leave. The benefit is capped at 100 days (4½ months) for most Tier 6 members. State employees in certain negotiating units may be able to use 200 days (about nine months). Those extra “months” would be used in calculating your retirement benefit.

Also, depending on your employer, your unused sick leave may be used to cover some health insurance costs during your retirement. Please check with your employer for information about health insurance.

Restrictions

Unused sick leave cannot be used to reach NYSLRS retirement milestones. Let’s say you have 19½ years of service credit. At 20 years, your pension calculation would improve substantially. You also have 130 days of unused sick leave. Can you add the six months of sick leave credit to get you to 20 years? No. Retirement law does not permit it. You’ll have to work those extra six months to get the 20-year benefit rate, though sick leave credits can still be used in your final pension calculation.

Also, credit for unused sick can’t be used to:

  • Qualify for vesting
  • Reach a minimum retirement age
  • Increase your pension beyond the maximum allowed under your retirement plan
  • Meet the service credit requirement for a special 20- or 25-year plan

Check your retirement plan booklet for more information.

Tier 6 Benefits – A Closer Look

Tier 6 members (those who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012) are eligible for a lifetime pension benefit with 10 years of credited service. And that pension can replace a portion of your salary throughout your retirement.

Your NYSLRS pension will be based on your Final Average Salary (FAS) and the number of years you work in public service. FAS is the average of the five highest-paid consecutive years. For most members, those higher-paid years come at the end of their careers. Since retirement is still some years in the future for most of you, we won’t focus on the dollar amount of your FAS today. But we can look at what percentage of that salary would be replaced by your pension if you continue in the system until retirement age.

For Tier 6 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), the benefit is 1.66 percent of your FAS for each year you work, up to 20 years. (Benefit calculations for members of the Police and Fire Retirement System vary based on plan.) At 20 years, the benefit equals 1.75 percent per year (for a total of 35 percent). After 20 years, the benefit grows by 2 percent per year.

Financial advisers say you will need to replace between 70 to 80 percent of your salary to maintain your lifestyle during retirement. Let’s see how we can get there.
Tier 6 Salary Replacement
NYSLRS Pension: Say you begin your career at age 30 and work until your full retirement age of 63. That’s 33 years of Service Credit. You’ll get 35 percent of your FAS for the first 20 years, plus 26 percent for the last 13 years, for a total benefit that would replace 61 percent of your salary. If you started at age 25, and continue till 63, you’d get 71 percent of your FAS. If you didn’t start till age 35, you’d still get 51 percent at 63.

Social Security: You also should factor in Social Security. We know, you may have heard that Social Security might not be there for you, but the situation isn’t that dire. According to the Social Security Administration, under current law, payroll taxes will cover about 79 percent of benefits by 2034. Social Security now replaces about 36 percent of the wages of a typical worker who retires at full retirement age. So even if benefits take a hit – and that’s a big IF – Social Security might still replace around 25 to 30 percent of a typical worker’s pay.

Savings: Retirement savings can also replace a portion of your income. How much, of course, depends on how much you save. The key is to start saving early so your money has time to grow. If you haven’t already looked into the New York State Deferred Compensation Program, please consider doing so now.

Tier 3 & 4 Members: When Is The Right Time To Retire?

Tier 3 and 4 members qualify for retirement benefits after they’ve earned five years of credited service. Once you’re vested, you have a right to a NYSLRS retirement benefit — even if you leave public employment. Though guaranteed, the size of that benefit can vary.

Three Reasons to Keep Working

  1. Age 55 is the earliest that Tier 3 and 4 members can claim their benefits. However, unless you have 30 years of service, a significant penalty for such an early retirement is imposed — a 27-percent reduction. The longer you wait to retire, the greater your benefit will be. At age 62, you can retire with your full benefits.
  2. Your final average salary (FAS) is a significant factor in the calculation of your pension benefit. Since working longer usually means a higher FAS, continued public employment can increase your pension.
  3. The other part of your retirement calculation is your service credit. More service credit obviously earns you a larger pension benefit, but after 20 years, it also gets you a better pension formula. For Tier 3 and 4 members, the formula for the first 20 years is FAS × 1.66% × years of service; between 20 and 30 years, the formula becomes FAS × 2.00% × years of service.

When is the Right Time to Retire?

If You’re Not Working, Here’s Something to Consider

Everyone’s situation is unique. For example, if you’re vested, you no longer work for a public employer and you don’t think you will again, retiring at 55 might make sense. When you do the math, full benefits at age 62 will take 19 years to match the money you’d have received retiring at age 55 — even with the reduction.

Tools To Help Make Your Decision

Here are two ways to decide what makes sense for you:

  1. Our online retirement benefit calculator allows most members to estimate their benefit with different retirement dates, FAS and service credit totals. By changing each variable, you can see the impact it may have on your benefit.
  2. If you’re a Tier 3 or 4 member with five or more years of service credit, you can request an estimate based on your actual salary and service reported to date. If you’re age 50 or older, we can include additional, projected service credit based on a date of retirement up to five years in the future.

To request your estimate, contact our Call Center toll-free at 1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area. You can also send us a Request for Estimate (RS6030) form.

This post has focused on Tier 3 and 4 members. To see how early retirement affects members in other tiers, visit our About Benefit Reductions page.

What to Know About ERS Tier 6

Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members who join NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012 are in Tier 6. There are currently 129,359 ERS Tier 6 members who make up 21.1 percent of ERS membership.

ERS Tier 6 Membership Milestones

ERS Tier 6 members need 10 years of service credit to be vested. That means they are eligible to receive a service retirement benefit as early as age 55. The full retirement benefit age is 63, but they can retire between 55 and 63, with a reduced benefit. Tier 6 correction officers, however, can retire with 25 years of service, regardless of age.
ERS Tier 6 benefits

The Final Average Salary (FAS) Calculation

A member’s final average salary is the average of the wages earned in the five highest consecutive years of employment. For ERS Tier 6 members, each year’s compensation used in the final average salary calculation is limited to no more than 10 percent above the average of the previous four years.

Tier 6 Service Retirement Benefit

Generally, the benefit is 1.66 percent of their final average salary for each year of service if the member retires with less than 20 years. If a member retires with 20 years of service, the benefit is 1.75 percent of their final average salary for each year of service, or 35 percent.

If a member retires with more than 20 years of service, they receive 35 percent for the first 20 years, plus 2 percent of their final average salary for each year of service over 20 years.

If you’re an ERS Tier 6 member, you can find out more about your benefits by reading one of the plan publications listed below:

Retirement Milestones for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members

Knowing your member milestones can help you plan ahead for your retirement. Most Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 3 and Tier 4 members (unless they retire under special retirement plans) retire under the Article 15 retirement plan. If you’re covered by this retirement plan, you have a set of milestones that affects how your pension benefit is calculated. This also means it affects how much you’ll receive at retirement.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • You are eligible to retire once you are age 55 and have five years of service credit. There may be reductions to your benefit if certain age requirements aren’t met.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 62. However, if you are age 55 or older with 30 or more years of service credit, you can also retire with full benefits.
  • If you retire with less than 20 years of service credit, your benefit equals 1.66 percent of your final average salary (FAS) for each year of service.
  • If you retire and have 20 to 30 years of service credit, the benefit is 2 percent of your FAS for each year of service.
  • If you retire with more than 30 years of service credit, the benefit is 2 percent of your FAS for each year of service up to 30. For each year beyond 30, you will receive 1.5 percent of your FAS.

Retirement Milestones for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members
Please visit our website for more information about ERS member milestones and retirement plans.

NYSLRS Basics: Becoming Vested

What does it mean to be a vested NYSLRS member? If you’re vested, you’ve reached a major milestone in your membership. Being vested means that you’ve earned enough service credit to qualify for a pension benefit, even if you leave public employment. If you leave public employment after becoming vested, at a later date you can apply for and receive what we call a vested retirement benefit. The vested benefit is based on the service and salary earned when you were an active member with NYSLRS.

When Do I Become Vested?

The amount of service credit you need to be vested is based on what tier you’re in. If you’re a Tier 5 or 6 member, you need ten years of service to be vested. If you’re in another tier (Tier 1, 2, 3 or 4), you’re vested once you earn five years of service credit.

Applying for the Vested Benefit

For most vested members, if you leave the payroll before age 55, you’ll be eligible for a retirement benefit when you reach age 55. Tier 1 and Tier 2 members are eligible for a benefit on the first of the month following their 55th birthday. Tier 3, 4, 5 are eligible for a benefit on their 55th birthday. Employees’ Retirement System Tier 6 members are also eligible on their 55th birthday, but Police and Fire Retirement System Tier 6 members are eligible on their 63rd birthday.

Please note these are the earliest ages that you become eligible for the vested benefit. An early age reduction may apply under certain plans. Please review your retirement plan booklet to see if early age reductions apply.

Becoming Vested

Receiving your vested retirement benefit is not automatic. You must file a retirement application when you become eligible and wish to receive your benefit.

Visit our website to learn more about vesting.

Want to read more in our NYSLRS Basics series? Check out past posts on:

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.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: PFRS Tier 5

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned 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). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation. Our series, NYSLRS — One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS.

Today’s final post in our series looks at Tier 5 in the Police and Fire Retirement System. Anyone who joined PFRS from January 9, 2010 through March 31, 2012­ is in Tier 5. There are 1,731 PFRS Tier 5 members as of March 31, 2015, making them the third largest tier group in PFRS.PFRS Tier 5If you’re a PFRS Tier 5 member, you can find your retirement plan publication from the list below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in this series:

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 6

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned 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). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS.

Today’s post looks at ERS Tier 6, which includes anyone who joined ERS since April 1, 2012. There were 166,532 ERS Tier 6 members as of March 31, 2017, making them the second largest tier group in ERS.

The graphic below illustrates basic retirement information for Tier 6 members.

ERS Tier 6

Where to Find More ERS Tier 6 Information

ERS Tier 6 members can find more details about their benefits in the publications listed below:

For benefit information about special plans for other job titles, please visit our Publications page.

Stay tuned for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts. Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in the series: