ERS Tier 3 and 4 Milestones

When you join the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), you are assigned a tier based on your date of membership. You are in:

  • Tier 3 if you joined July 27, 1976 through August 31, 1983.
  • Tier 4 if you joined September 1, 1983 through December 31, 2009.

Let’s look at the ERS Tier 3 and 4 milestones and how they affect your benefits.

Why Milestones Matter

As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit for your paid public employment. Generally, one year of full-time work equals one year of service credit. As you earn service credit, you’ll reach career milestones that will make you eligible for certain benefits or for increases to your existing benefits. Understanding these milestones can help you plan for retirement.

Your ERS Tier 3 and 4 milestones and pension calculation depend on your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. Most ERS Tier 3 and 4 members are in the Article 15 retirement plan (named for a section of the New York State Retirement and Social Security Law). If you see Plan A15 listed in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online account, you’re in this plan. For members not covered by the Article 15 retirement plan, visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

Important ERS Tier 3 and 4 Milestones

ERS Tier 3 and 4 member milestones

Here are some additional important milestones for Tier 3 and 4 members in the Article 15 retirement plan:

  • With ten years of service credit, you can apply for a non-job-related disability benefit if you are permanently disabled and cannot perform your duties because of a physical or mental condition.
  • With ten years of service credit, your beneficiaries may be eligible for an out-of-service death benefit if you leave public employment and die before retirement.
  • Ten years also marks the point when you are no longer able to withdraw your membership and receive a refund of your contributions if you leave public employment.
  • You are eligible to retire once you are age 55 and have five years of service credit. However, for most Tier 3 and 4 members, there would be reductions to your benefit if you retire before age 62 with less than 30 years of service credit.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 62.
    • If you retire with less than 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service.
    • If you retire with 20 to 30 years of service, your pension will equal 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
    • For each year of service beyond 30 years, you will receive 1.5 percent of your FAE.

Note: When you retire, your FAE will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings. The law limits the FAE of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Most members can estimate their pension in Retirement Online. You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase.

ERS Tier 5 Milestones

If you joined the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) on or after January 1, 2010, but before April 1, 2012, you are a Tier 5 member. Let’s look at the ERS Tier 5 milestones you will reach over the course of your public service career and how they will affect your benefits.

Why Milestones Matter

As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit for your paid public employment. Generally, one year of full-time work equals one year of service credit. As you earn service credit, you’ll reach career milestones that will make you eligible for certain benefits or for increases to your existing benefits. Understanding these milestones will help you plan for retirement.

Your ERS Tier 5 milestones and pension calculation depend on your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. Most ERS Tier 5 members are in the Article 15 retirement plan (named for a section of the New York State Retirement and Social Security Law). If you see Plan A15 listed in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online account, you’re in this plan. For members not covered by the Article 15 retirement plan, visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

Important ERS Tier 5 Milestones

ERS Tier 5 milestones

Here are some additional important milestones for Tier 5 members in the Article 15 retirement plan:

  • With ten years of service credit, you can apply for a non-job-related disability benefit if you are permanently disabled and cannot perform your duties because of a physical or mental condition.
  • With ten years of service credit, your beneficiaries may be eligible for an out-of-service death benefit if you leave public employment and die before retirement.
  • Ten years also marks the point when you are no longer able to withdraw your membership and receive a refund of your contributions if you leave public employment.
  • You are eligible to retire once you are age 55 and have at least five years of service credit. However, for most Tier 5 members, there would be reductions to your benefit if you retire before age 62.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 62.
    • If you retire with less than 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service.
    • If you retire with 20 to 30 years of service, your pension will equal 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
    • For each year of service beyond 30 years, you will receive 1.5 percent of your FAE.

Note: When you retire, your FAE will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings. The law limits the FAE of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Most members can estimate their pension in Retirement Online. You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase.

PFRS Milestones

The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) covers more than 35,000 police officers and firefighters across New York State. Let’s look at the PFRS milestones you will reach over the course of your public service career and how they will affect your benefits.

Why Milestones Matter

As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit for your paid public employment. Generally, one year of full-time work equals one year of service credit. As you earn service credit, you’ll reach career milestones that will make you eligible for certain benefits or for increases to your existing benefits.

Some milestones are common to most PFRS members; others are shared by members in a particular tier or retirement plan. For example, your plan determines when you would be eligible to apply for a non-job-related disability benefit. Understanding these milestones will help you plan for retirement.

Important PFRS Milestones

PFRS milestones

Special Retirement Plans

Most PFRS members are in special retirement plans, which allow you to retire after 20 or 25 years of service regardless of age.

If you retire at your 20- or 25-year milestone, your pension will be 50 percent of your final average earnings (FAE). Depending on your retirement plan, you may earn 1.66 percent of your FAE for each year you work beyond the 20 or 25 years, however for most PFRS members, a maximum of 32 years of service can be used in your pension calculation.

Final Average Earnings

A new law improves your pension benefits. When you retire, your FAE will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings, the same as members in other tiers. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Eligible Service

PFRS members in special plans should be aware that not all public employment counts towards reaching the 20- or 25-year milestone. Service usually must be in specific job titles to be creditable toward your pension benefit. For example, if you are in the New York State Police Plan, service with a city police department would be creditable, but service as a sheriff’s deputy or corrections officer would not be. PFRS members may be eligible to purchase credit for military service to reach 20 or 25 years.

More Information About Your Benefits

Most members can estimate their pension in Retirement Online. You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase.

Your specific PFRS milestones, along with your eligible service and pension calculation, are determined by your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. You can visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

ERS Tier 6 Milestones

If you joined the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) on or after April 1, 2012, you are a Tier 6 member. Let’s look at the ERS Tier 6 milestones you will reach over the course of your public service career and how they will affect your benefits.

Why Milestones Matter

As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit for your paid public employment. Generally, one year of full-time work equals one year of service credit. As you earn service credit, you’ll reach career milestones that will make you eligible for certain benefits or for increases to your existing benefits. Understanding these milestones will help you plan for retirement.

Your ERS Tier 6 milestones and pension calculation depend on your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. Most ERS Tier 6 members are in the Article 15 retirement plan (named for a section of the New York State Retirement and Social Security Law). If you see Plan A15 listed in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online account, you’re in this plan. For members not covered by the Article 15 retirement plan, visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

Important ERS Tier 6 Milestones

ERS Tier 6 milestones

Here are some additional important milestones for Tier 6 members in the Article 15 retirement plan:

  • With ten years of service credit, you can apply for a non-job-related disability benefit if you are permanently disabled and cannot perform your duties because of a physical or mental condition.
  • With ten years of service credit, your beneficiaries may be eligible for an out-of-service death benefit if you leave public employment and die before retirement.
  • Ten years also marks the point when you are no longer able to withdraw your membership and receive a refund of your contributions if you leave public employment.
  • You are eligible to retire once you are age 55 and have at least five years of service credit. However, for most Tier 6 members, there would be reductions to your benefit if you retire before age 63.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 63.
    • If you retire with less than 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service.
    • If you retire with 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.75 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
    • For each year of service beyond 20 years, you will receive 2 percent of your FAE.

Note: A new law improves your pension benefits. When you retire, your final average earnings (FAE) will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings, the same as members in other tiers. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Most members can estimate their pension in Retirement Online. You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase.

Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded from Tier 6 Contribution Rates

The 2024–25 State Budget included a new law which temporarily excludes overtime pay earned from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024 from the calculation of Tier 6 contribution rates. This may lower contribution rates for some Tier 6 members from April 1, 2024 through March 31, 2026.

For most Tier 6 members with more than three years of service, your contribution rate is based on what you actually earned in public employment two years prior. The minimum rate is 3 percent of your earnings, and the maximum is 6 percent. For more information about how your contribution rate is determined, read our blog post, How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate Can Change, or visit our Member Contributions page.

Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded from Tier 6 Contribution Rates

Who is Affected by the Change to Tier 6 Contribution Rates?

As a Tier 6 member, you may have your contribution rate lowered if:

  • You make mandatory contributions toward your retirement (most Tier 6 members); and
  • You earned overtime from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024.

The rate decrease will not apply if:

  • You already pay the minimum rate of 3 percent;
  • You did not earn overtime from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2024; or
  • You joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2022. Your rate is based on an estimated wage provided by your employer when you were enrolled into NYSLRS rather than your actual earnings.

When Will Tier 6 Contribution Rates Be Updated?

We will work with employers to review your past earnings, determine whether your rate should be lowered and refund contribution overpayments if your rate is lowered.

Tier 6 is now the largest tier in NYSLRS. With more than 400,000 Tier 6 members, it will take several months to collect detailed earnings information from employers and change rates. We thank you for your patience while we make these rate adjustments.

Calculating Your Final Average Earnings

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined benefit plan that provides a lifetime pension when you retire. Your NYSLRS pension benefit amount will be determined by several factors, including your tier, service credit, and final average earnings (FAE).

When we calculate your pension, we find the consecutive years when your earnings were highest. These are usually your years of employment immediately before retirement, but they can be anytime in your career and do not need to match up with calendar years or fiscal years.

Update: Tier 6 Final Average Earnings Based on Highest Three Years

A new law improves the pension benefits of NYSLRS Tier 6 members. When you retire, your FAE will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings, the same as members in other tiers.

These improvements apply to members who retire on or after:

  • April 1, 2024, for Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Tier 6.
  • April 20, 2024, for Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6.

Previously, your FAE was the average of your highest five consecutive years of earnings.

If you recently retired and the change applies to you, we have updated your pension calculation — you don’t need to contact us. The new law does not apply to members who retired before the dates above.

Understanding Final Average Earnings Limits

If your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension.

Your limit depends on whether you’re an ERS or PFRS member and your tier. For most members, if the earnings in any 12-month period in your FAE exceed the average of the previous two years by more than 10 percent, the amount above 10 percent will not be included in your FAE calculation.

Calculating Your Final Average Earnings

For more information, including limits for other tiers, visit our Final Average Earnings page.

Types of Earnings Included in Your FAE

The specific types of earnings included in your FAE calculation depend on your retirement plan and tier. Please check your plan publication for details.

In most cases, your FAE will include the payments listed below, if they are earned in the FAE period. (In some cases, restrictions may apply.)

In most cases, the following payments will not be included in your FAE calculation:

  • Unused sick leave;
  • Payments made as a result of working your vacation;
  • Any form of termination pay;
  • Payments made in anticipation of retirement; and
  • Any payments made for time not worked.

Public Service Recognition Week

This Public Service Recognition Week, we proudly celebrate more than 695,000 members and 470,000 retirees of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) for their service to the people of New York State.

A Brief History of Public Service Recognition Week

This week was created in 1985 to honor those who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees.

Congress officially designated the first full week of May as Public Service Recognition Week. This year, it is being celebrated May 5 through 11.

NYSLRS Members Deliver Critical Services

From the smallest village to our biggest cities, New York public employees like you provide the essential services that improve our quality of life. You work for employers such as:

  • New York State
  • Couties, Towns and Villages
  • School Districts
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Public Libraries
  • Fire and Water Districts

Whether they are protecting public health and safety, driving our children to school or clearing snow from the roads, NYSLRS members deliver the critical services New Yorkers depend on. Many NYSLRS members and retirees also give back to our state by volunteering in their communities or supporting charitable causes.

Public Service Recognition Week

Comptroller DiNapoli’s Faith in Public Service

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the administrator of NYSLRS and trustee of the Common Retirement Fund. His public service career began at 18 years old, when he won his first election to become a trustee on the Mineola Board of Education. That made him the youngest person in New York State history to be elected to public office. He is also the second longest-serving comptroller in New York State history.

Comptroller DiNapoli is understandably proud about the career path he has chosen, and he often speaks about the contributions that New York’s public employees make to their communities and their State. He encourages young people to consider a career in public service. “It’s more than a job,” he says. “It’s a career with purpose.

Federal Tax Withholding and Your Pension

Most NYSLRS pensions are subject to federal income tax. If your last federal tax bill or return was larger than you expected and you want to change the amount withheld from your NYSLRS pension, Retirement Online makes it fast and convenient to update your federal tax withholding. If you haven’t signed up yet, learn more about Retirement Online and click “Register Now” to open your account.

federal tax withholding and your pension

Understanding Your Federal Tax Withholding

NYSLRS calculates the amount withheld from your monthly benefit payment based on the information you provide us on a W-4P form (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments).

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a revised version of their W-4P form, which no longer allows tax filers to adjust their withholding by electing a specific number of allowances. To comply with the IRS’ requirements, NYSLRS updated our tax withholding form. You do not need to submit a new W-4P to NYSLRS unless you want to change the amount of your tax withholding.

Updating Your Withholding

Retirement Online provides an online form that collects the same information as the paper W-4P form, and your updates will be made more quickly if you submit them online.

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • From your Account Homepage, click the green “Update My W-4P Tax Information” button.
  • Follow the steps to update your withholding.

Basic Withholding

Step 1. Select your filing status. If you want your federal withholding to be based only on the benefit amount you receive from NYSLRS, with no adjustments, you can skip steps 2 – 4.

Adjustments to Withholding (Dependents, Tax Credits)

Complete Steps 2 – 4 ONLY if they apply to you.

Step 2. If you have income from a job or more than one pension/annuity, in addition to your NYSLRS pension, or if you’re married filing jointly and your spouse receives income from a job or pension/annuity, you can enter that in Step 2.

Click the ‘View Instructions’ link or see page 2 of the current IRS Form W-4P for examples that may help you with this step.

Step 3. If you need to claim dependents, you can enter that information in Step 3.

Step 4. If you have other adjustments to make — other income, deductions or extra withholding — you can complete Step 4.

Click the ‘View Instructions’ link or see page 3 of the current IRS Form W-4P for instructions and a worksheet that may help you with this step.

If you update your federal withholding online by the middle of the month, your changes will generally be applied that month. We’ll notify you by mail or email (depending on your contact preference) when the update has been completed.

If You Need Help

Our Taxes and Your Pension page has additional information about federal withholding, including what to do if you receive more than one benefit payment from NYSLRS, 1099-R tax form information and more.

If you need assistance completing the form, visit the IRS’ website and read the current revision of the IRS Form W-4P (detailed instructions start on page 2). You can also find phone numbers and online resources on the IRS’ Let Us Help You page.

If you’re not sure whether you need to adjust your federal withholding or if you have other tax questions, you may want to check with a tax preparer.

Working After Retirement: Retiree Earnings Limit

As a NYSLRS retiree, you can work and still receive your pension, but you should be aware there may be a limit on how much you can earn each year without affecting your NYSLRS pension.

Working After Retirement: Retiree Earnings Limit

Working While Receiving a Service Retirement Benefit

An earnings limit of $35,000 generally applies to NYSLRS retirees who:

  • Are under age 65;
  • Receive a service retirement benefit (see disability benefit rules below); and
  • Return to work for a public employer (including contract or consultant work, if you joined NYSLRS on or after May 31, 1973).

2024 Update Regarding the Earnings Limit

The earnings limit for retirees employed by school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) is suspended through June 30, 2025 (April 2024 legislation extended the date from 2024 to 2025). The earnings limit suspension for school employees does not apply to retirees who work for a college, university or charter school.

For most other retirees under the age of 65, the $35,000 limit is in effect and applies to the entire calendar year in 2024.

There is no earnings limit if you are self-employed or if you work for:

  • The federal government;
  • A state or local government in another state; or
  • A private employer.

Also, beginning in the calendar year you turn 65, the earnings limit no longer applies.

Note: Special rules apply to elected officials.

Working While Receiving a Disability Retirement Benefit

Almost all earnings for retirees who are working while receiving a disability retirement benefit are limited whether they work for a public or private employer. The limit is specific to each retiree. To find out your earnings limit, please contact us.

How the Limit Applies

The limit applies to all earnings for the calendar year, including money earned in the calendar year, but paid in a different calendar year (for example earned in December but paid in January).

The limit does not apply to:

  • Payments received after you retire from your employer, such as for vacation or sick time you earned when you were still working; and/or
  • A retroactive payment for a new union contract, if the earnings are for employment before you retired.

Reporting Your Earnings

It is your responsibility to notify NYSLRS if you earn more than the limit. If you know you are going to exceed the limit, contact us at least a month before you do.

You can message us using the secure contact form, or you can fax a letter to 518-402-2498. Be sure to include the name of your employer, the approximate date you expect to exceed the limit and a daytime phone number in case we have questions.

If You Exceed the Earnings Limit

If you earn more than the limit, you must:

  • Pay back NYSLRS for the pension payments you received after the date you reached the limit. If you continue to work, your pension will be suspended for the remainder of the calendar year and resume the following January.

    OR

  • Rejoin NYSLRS, in which case your pension will be suspended until you retire again at some future date. (You’d need to reapply.)

Earnings Limit Waiver

Under Section 211 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, the earnings limit can be waived if your prospective employer gets approval before hiring you. Approval is not automatic; it is based on the employer’s needs and your qualifications. In most cases, the New York State Department of Civil Service would be the approving agency. A Section 211 waiver covers a fixed period, normally up to two years.

For More Information

Before you decide to return to work, please read our publication What If I Work After Retirement? It includes information such as how earnings limits are calculated for retirees receiving a disability retirement benefit, consequences to consider before returning to NYSLRS membership and more. If you have questions, please contact us.