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.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

Here is an important retirement planning tip — most members can create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. Your estimate will be based on the most up-to-date account information we have on file for you. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit. When you’re done, you can print your pension estimate or save it for future reference.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

How to Create a Pension Estimate

To get started:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • Click the ‘Estimate my Pension Benefit’ button to access the pension calculator.
  • Enter the date (or age) you plan to retire.

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. If you add the birthdate for a beneficiary, you’ll see the estimated monthly payment amounts under the pension payment options that provide a benefit for a survivor.

Remember, the pension amounts you’ll see are just an estimate; it is not a guarantee of what you’ll receive when you retire.

Most Tier 2 through 6 members (more than 90 percent of all NYSLRS members) can use the Retirement Online pension calculator. However, some members may not be able to because of their circumstances — for example, members who recently transferred to NYSLRS, some PFRS members, or Tier 6 members with between five and ten years of service. The system will notify you if your estimate cannot be completed using the Retirement Online pension calculator. Please contact us to request a pension estimate if you receive this notification.

Do More With Retirement Online

In Retirement Online, you can view your date of membership, tier, retirement plan, estimated total service credit and more. Purchase previous service credit well before retirement and save on interest costs. Check out what else members can do in Retirement Online.

If you don’t already have an account, learn more and register for one today. If you need help with Retirement Online, read our Retirement Online Tools and Tips blog post.

Financial Literacy and Retirement

April is National Financial Literacy Month, a time dedicated to helping people make informed financial decisions and manage money effectively. Financial literacy means understanding and using skills such as budgeting, investing and managing your personal finances.  

Greater financial literacy generally translates into greater financial well-being, according to a recent report from the TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index. TIAA’s research also finds a connection between financial literacy and saving for retirement.

Financial Literacy and Retirement

Financial Literacy and Planning for Retirement

Increase your financial literacy and make a good plan for retirement by understanding your NYSLRS benefits, your other sources of retirement income and your current financial situation. Once you know where you stand, you’ll be in a better position to plan.

Understand Your NYSLRS Benefits

As a NYSLRS member, you are enrolled in a defined benefit plan, also known as a traditional pension plan. If you are vested and retire from NYSLRS, you will receive a monthly pension payment for the rest of your life. Your pension will be calculated using a formula based on your earnings and years of service, your retirement plan, and your tier. 

Find your retirement plan publication for comprehensive information about the benefits you are entitled to receive as a member of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) or the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).

Depending on your tier and retirement plan, certain membership milestones will affect how your pension is calculated and how much you’ll receive at retirement. Read our milestones blog posts for general information about the retirement plans that cover most NYSLRS members:

Consider Other Sources of Retirement Income

Your pension will provide you with monthly payments for the rest of your life. But there is more to a financially secure retirement than having a pension. Understanding your potential sources of income will help you plan for your future and boost your retirement confidence. Think of retirement security as a three-legged stool. Each leg is a source of income to help support you when your working days are done.

The formula for a financially secure retirement

Retirement savings can be an important financial asset when you retire. Savings can provide money for you to travel, continue your education, pursue a hobby or start a business. The money you set aside can also be a resource in case of an emergency, act as a hedge against inflation and boost your retirement confidence.

Evaluate Your Current Financial Situation

Estimate Your Retirement Income

An estimate of your NYSLRS pension benefit is essential for effective retirement planning. Most members can create their own estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. Your estimate will be based on the most up-to-date account information we have on file for you. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit.

There are also a variety of online calculators that can help you estimate the retirement income you might expect from Social Security or personal retirement savings.

Create a Budget

Use our Monthly Income & Expenses Worksheets to help you track your current spending habits and project your future needs. Remember to account for non-monthly expenses, such as car insurance, property taxes and school taxes.

Pay Down Your Debt

If you’re planning to retire soon, it’s a good idea to take inventory of any debt you owe. Debt is not necessarily bad but paying it down can give you more flexibility to enjoy the type of retirement you want.

Overtime Limits for Tier 5 and 6 Members

Tier 5 and 6 members are subject to limits on the amount of overtime that can be included in their pension. You can earn overtime pay beyond the overtime limit, but it won’t be factored into your pension calculation. And you don’t pay member contributions on overtime pay that is above the limit.

Overtime Limits for Tier 5 and 6 Members

Tier 5 Overtime Limits

The overtime limit for Tier 5 Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members increases each calendar year by 3 percent. In 2024, the limit for Tier 5 ERS members is $22,688.85.

For Tier 5 Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members, the overtime limit is 15 percent of your regular earnings each calendar year.

For more information, visit our Overtime Limits for Tier 5 page.

Tier 6 Overtime Limits

The overtime limit for Tier 6 ERS members increases each calendar year based on the annual increase of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 2024, the limit for Tier 6 ERS members is $20,459.

For Tier 6 PFRS members, the overtime limit is 15 percent of your regular earnings each calendar year.

For more information, visit our Overtime and Earnings Limits for Tier 6 page.

Your Pension Benefit Calculation

Your NYSLRS pension will be based on your service credit and final average earnings (FAE). Your FAE is the average annual earnings you receive during the period when your earnings are highest (36 consecutive months for Tier 5 and 60 consecutive months for Tier 6). Your FAE will include overtime pay you earned up to each annual limit.

Your FAE may be limited in other ways. For example, for most members, if your earnings increase significantly in the years used for your FAE, some of those earnings might not count toward your pension. The specific limits depend on your tier. Visit our Final Average Earnings page for more information about this limit.

For Tier 6 members, the earnings that can be used toward your pension are also limited to the Governor’s salary.

Read Your Plan Publication

Your retirement plan publication provides specific information about the earnings that will be used to calculate your pension. Visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

Most members can create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit. Sign in to Retirement Online and click the “Estimate my Pension Benefit” button to try it.

Applying for a NYSLRS Loan in Retirement Online

Planning on taking out a NYSLRS loan? Applying through Retirement Online is fast and convenient.

Eligibility for a NYSLRS loan is based on your tier. Generally, you’ll need to be on the payroll of a participating employer, have at least one year of service and have sufficient contributions in your account. (Note: Retirees are not eligible for NYSLRS loans.)

Applying for a NYSLRS Loan in Retirement Online

Retirement Online is the Fastest Way to Apply

When you use Retirement Online, NYSLRS receives your application immediately and can process your loan more quickly. It’s also an easy way to check the amount you are eligible to borrow, your balance on any outstanding loans, and more.

To apply:

As you work your way through the online application, you’ll see:

  • How much you are eligible to borrow;
  • The minimum repayment amount;
  • The expected payoff date; and
  • How much you can borrow without tax implications.

If you apply for a loan and you already have an existing loan (or loans), you’ll choose one of two options:

  1. Multiple loans: With multiple loans, you are taking a new loan, and each of your outstanding loans has a separate five-year due date and minimum payment. The minimum payments for each of your loans are added together for one total minimum payment. This combined minimum payment amount is higher than the minimum would be if you choose a refinanced loan, but with multiple loans, as each loan is paid off, your total minimum payment goes down.
  2. Refinance your existing loan: Refinancing your loan adds your new loan amount to your existing balance and consolidates the entire amount as one loan instead of taking separate loans. Minimum payment amounts for refinanced loans are lower than the minimum for multiple loans because when you refinance, we combine your existing loan balance with your new loan and spread out the repayment over a new five-year term. However, this increases the portion of your loan that may be considered a taxable distribution, and federal withholding can significantly reduce the loan amount that you receive.

There is a service charge of $45 that will be deducted from your loan check when it is issued. The current interest rate is 5 percent. The interest rate will remain fixed for the term of your loan.

NYSLRS loans are exempt from New York State and local income taxes. But the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may consider all or part of a NYSLRS loan taxable – for instance, if you borrow above certain limits. The Retirement Online loan application will show you the maximum amount you can borrow without tax implications.

When Will I Receive My Loan Check?

Loan checks are mailed out from NYSLRS once a week. To check the status of your loan application:

You will also receive a confirmation letter when your loan case has been completed. You can find it in your Retirement Online account under “View Documents.”

Repaying Your NYSLRS Loan

Loan payments are deducted from your paycheck. If you choose to repay the minimum amount, your payroll deduction may be increased periodically to ensure your loan will be repaid within the required five-year repayment term. You can increase your payroll deduction amount, make additional payments or pay your loan in full at any time with no prepayment penalties. Retirement Online is the easiest way to manage your loan payments. Sign in to your account and select “Manage my Loans.”

Retiring With an Outstanding NYSLRS Loan

If you retire with an outstanding loan, your pension will be reduced. You will also need to report at least a portion of the loan balance as ordinary income (subject to federal income tax) to the IRS. If you retire before age 59½, the IRS may charge an additional 10 percent penalty. If you are nearing retirement, be sure to check your loan balance. If you are not on track to repay your loan before you retire, you can increase your loan payments, make additional lump sum payments or both in Retirement Online.

Note: Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members may repay their loan after retiring, but they must pay the full amount (that is, the amount that was due on their retirement date) in a single lump-sum payment. Once you do, your pension benefit will increase from that point on, but it will not be adjusted retroactively back to your date of retirement.

Visit Our Website for More Information

For more information about NYSLRS loans, including what happens if you go off payroll or default on your loan, visit our Loans page. Need help with Retirement Online? See our Tools and Tips blog post.

Your Death Benefit Beneficiaries

NYSLRS retirement plans provide death benefits for beneficiaries of eligible members who die before retiring. If you are retired, your beneficiaries may be entitled to a post-retirement death benefit.

It’s important to name beneficiaries and review them periodically. Life circumstances sometimes change, and the beneficiary you named before might not be the one you would choose today. For example, if you just married, you may want to update your NYSLRS account information to name your new spouse as your beneficiary.

2 Types of Beneficiaries

  • Your primary beneficiary will receive your death benefit. You can list more than one primary beneficiary. If you do, they will share the benefit equally. Or you can choose different percentages for each beneficiary to total 100 percent. (Example: John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent.)
  • A contingent beneficiary will only receive a benefit if all your primary beneficiaries die before you do. If you list multiple contingent beneficiaries, they will share the benefit equally unless you choose different percentages.

Special Beneficiary Designations

Your beneficiary doesn’t have to be a person. You can name a charity, a trust or your estate as your beneficiary.

Special Beneficiary Designations for Your NYSLRS Death Benefit
  • Estate. When you die, your estate is the money and property you owned. Your death benefit will be given to the executor of your estate to be distributed according to the terms of your will. You can name your estate as the primary or contingent beneficiary of your death benefit. If you name your estate as the primary beneficiary, do not name a contingent beneficiary.
  • Trust. You can name a trust as a primary or contingent beneficiary if you have a trust agreement or provided for a trust in your will. The trust itself would be your beneficiary, not the individuals for whom you established the trust. (Speak with your attorney if you’re thinking about making your trust a beneficiary.)
  • Entity. You can also name any charitable, civic, religious, educational or health-related organization as a beneficiary.
  • Minor children. If your beneficiary is under the age of 18 at the time of your death, your benefit will be paid to the child’s court-appointed guardian. You may instead choose a custodian to receive the benefit on the child’s behalf under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Custodians can be designated in Retirement Online or you can contact us for more information and the appropriate form before making this type of designation.

Keep Your Beneficiaries Up to Date

You can change your beneficiaries at any time. In addition to adding or removing them to reflect your current wishes, you should review the contact information for your named beneficiaries so we can find them when needed.

The fastest way to view or update your beneficiaries is in Retirement Online.

Find More Information

If you are not yet retired, you can read more about beneficiary designations in Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary?

If you are retired, you may wish to read our Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire? blog post.

How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate Can Change

Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to help fund pension benefits. For Tier 6 members (those who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012), that percentage, or contribution rate, can change from year to year based on your earnings. The minimum rate is 3 percent of your earnings, and the maximum is 6 percent.

Tier 6 contribution rates

When Tier 6 Contribution Rates are Determined

A Tier 6 member’s contribution rate is calculated annually. New rates become effective on April 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year. Once your rate is determined for a given fiscal year, it doesn’t change for the rest of that fiscal year. We provide rates to your employer in March, a few weeks before they need to apply any rate changes.

How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate is Calculated

If you are a new NYSLRS member, during your first three years of membership your contribution rate is based on an estimated annual wage that your employer provided when you were enrolled as a new member.

If you have been a member for three or more years, NYSLRS calculates your rate using the earnings reported to us by your employer from the last completed fiscal year, April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023.

Rates are calculated using your base pay, which includes:

Update for 2024: Overtime is no longer excluded from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation.

Legislation enacted during the COVID-19 emergency temporarily removed overtime from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation. For some Tier 6 members, this meant lower contribution rates for up to two years, from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024.

Beginning April 1, 2024, overtime will be included in the calculation of contribution rates.

This video will help explain how your contribution rate is determined:

How Your NYSLRS Pension Works

The amount you contribute to the Retirement System does not affect the amount of your pension. A NYSLRS pension is a defined-benefit plan. Under this type of plan, once you are eligible for a pension and apply for retirement, you will receive a monthly payment for the rest of your life. The amount of your pension will be calculated using a formula based on your retirement plan, years of service and final average earnings.

You can learn more about how your pension will be calculated by reading your retirement plan publication. Use our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool to find yours.