Category Archives: Members

News for members of the New York State & Local Retirement System

Supplement Your NYSLRS Pension with Retirement Savings

Your NYSLRS pension can provide a significant portion of your retirement income, but it’s also a good idea to supplement your pension and Social Security with a retirement savings account.

Retirement savings can be an important financial asset when you retire. Savings can enhance your retirement lifestyle and give you the flexibility to do the things you want. Your 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.

Set a Retirement Savings Goal

How much to save is a personal decision, but here are some things to consider.

Financial advisers often recommend saving 10 to 15 percent of your gross earnings throughout your career to retire comfortably. However, that advice is aimed at people with 401(k)-style defined contribution retirement plans as their main source of retirement income.

As a NYSLRS member, you’re part of a defined benefit plan, also known as a traditional pension plan. Your pension, based on your years of service and earnings, will provide a lifetime benefit. You can estimate your pension in Retirement Online to get an idea of the income it will provide in retirement.

Having a pension means you may not need to save as much as someone with only a 401(k). Use a retirement savings calculator to see how much a retirement savings plan could yield over time, or test the results of different savings amounts.

Below you can see potential savings results of someone who invests 50 dollars every two weeks over 30 years. While the stock market can be turbulent over the long term, stock market returns average about 10 percent a year.

Saving for Retirement

As you get closer to retirement, you should develop a plan to withdraw money from your retirement savings. A withdrawal plan will give you a better idea of the income you might expect from your nest egg.

Here is one possible withdrawal strategy, which was designed to provide retirement income for 20 years. Please note, if your retirement is far in the future, the money you withdraw may not have the same value that it has today. However, while inflation has been high recently, it does cycle and has been lower in the past.

Withdrawing from Retirement Savings

If you find you’ll need to save more to meet your goal, you can make adjustments to help ensure you’ll have enough savings in retirement.

Deferred Compensation – A Way to Save

State employees and many municipal employees are eligible to save for retirement through the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan. Once you’ve signed up, your retirement savings, which may be tax-deferred, depending on your plan, will be automatically deducted from your paycheck. (The Deferred Compensation Plan is not affiliated with NYSLRS.)

Check with your employer’s human resources or personnel office to see if they participate in the Deferred Compensation Plan or if they offer other savings options.

Read More About Retirement Savings

You can find more information about saving for retirement in these posts:

Apply for Retirement in Retirement Online

Ready to retire? Retirement Online makes it fast and convenient to apply for retirement. There are no forms to mail in and nothing to have notarized. If you don’t already have an account, sign up today.

As a reminder, you must submit your application 15 – 90 days before your retirement date. Before you apply for retirement, make sure you have proof of your date of birth on hand. If you choose a pension payment option that leaves a lifetime benefit to a beneficiary when you die, we will need proof of their birth date too.

Retirement Online Makes It Fast and Convenient to Apply for Retirement

From there, you’ll go through a series of screens where you’ll be able to:

  • Choose a retirement date;
  • Get an estimate of your pension and the payment options available to you;
  • Select a payment option;
  • Enter federal tax withholding information;
  • Sign up for direct deposit (have your bank account information ready);
  • Upload required documents, such as proof of date of birth;
  • Pay off your NYSLRS loan or service credit purchase; and
  • Review your employment history.

After you click the “Submit” button, make sure you receive a confirmation message that your retirement application has been successfully submitted before closing your browser.

One Exception — Disability Retirement

NYSLRS provides disability benefits for members who are permanently disabled and cannot perform their duties because of a physical or mental condition. Applications for disability retirement can’t be submitted in Retirement Online. Members who wish to apply for a disability retirement need to submit a paper application. Visit our Disability Benefits page for more information.

For Benefit Information, Read Your Retirement Plan Publication

Your service and disability retirement benefits and death benefits are based on your tier, plan, service credit, and other factors. For comprehensive information about your available benefits, find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication.

10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know

Brush up on your Retirement System knowledge! Here are 10 things all NYSLRS members should know.

10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know
  1. Lifetime Retirement Benefit
    You are part of a defined benefit pension plan, which provides a lifetime benefit at retirement based on your earnings and years of service.
  2. Qualify for a Retirement Benefit by Becoming Vested
    Becoming vested is a key milestone in every NYSLRS member’s career. Once you’re vested, you have earned enough service to qualify for a retirement benefit, once you meet the minimum age requirements established by your retirement plan.
  3. Tier Determines Benefits
    Your tier determines your eligibility for benefits under your plan and how those benefits are calculated.
  4. Conduct NYSLRS Business Using Retirement Online
    Retirement Online is the fastest and most convenient way to do business with NYSLRS. It only takes a few minutes to open your account. Use Retirement Online instead of calling or mailing for instant access to benefit information and convenient tools to make account changes.
  5. Estimate Pension Using Retirement Online Calculator
    Most members can use Retirement Online to create benefit estimates based on the most up-to-date information we have on file. You can enter different retirement dates and payment options to see how those choices would affect your benefit.
  6. Use Plan Publication to Learn about Benefits
    Your retirement plan publication is a comprehensive source for information about your benefits.
  7. Pension Calculated Using Highest Earnings
    Your final average earnings (FAE) is another major factor in calculating your NYSLRS pension. When we calculate your pension, we find the set of consecutive years (one, three or five, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest. 
  8. Request Past Service Credit Before Retirement
    Service credit is one of the major factors in calculating your NYSLRS pension. You earn a year of service credit for each year of full-time employment with a participating employer. In some cases, you may also be able to request additional credit for past service.
  9. NYSLRS Membership Includes Death and Disability Benefits
    NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. If you become seriously ill or injured, you may be eligible for a disability benefit. And, you may also be eligible to leave a beneficiary a death benefit if you die while working for a public employer.
  10. Best-Funded, Best-Managed
    The New York State Common Retirement Fund holds and invests the assets of NYSLRS on behalf of members, retirees and their beneficiaries and continues to be one of the best-funded and best-managed public pension funds in the nation. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the administrative head of NYSLRS and trustee of the Common Retirement Fund.

NYSLRS is one of the largest public retirement systems in America, serving more than 1.2 million members, retirees and beneficiaries. Read A Look Inside NYSLRS to learn more about your retirement system.

Vested: Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

Becoming vested is a crucial milestone for NYSLRS members. It means you have earned enough service to qualify for a retirement benefit once you meet the age or service requirements established by your retirement plan. Vesting is automatic — you don’t have to fill out any paperwork to become vested.

Vested: Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

Years of Service Credit to Become Vested

NYSLRS members in Tiers 2 – 6 need five years of service credit to be vested.  

If you work part-time, or if you have an unpaid leave of absence, it will take longer to become vested. For example, if you work half-time, you earn six months of credit toward vesting for each year on the job.

Sign in to your Retirement Online account to check your total estimated service credit and whether you are vested.

If you work for a school district, read our How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit blog post for information about how your service credit is determined. 

Note: Previously, Tier 5 and 6 members needed ten years of service to be eligible for a service retirement benefit. However, as of April 9, 2022, these members only need five years of service credit to be vested. The new law did not change benefit rules such as how long members must contribute, pension benefit calculations, the full retirement age, reductions to retire early or the cost to purchase previous service.

Applying for Retirement

Vesting is automatic, but you will need to apply for retirement to receive your pension — NYSLRS will not pay out your pension benefit unless you apply for it.

Pension eligibility requirements and benefit calculations depend on your tier and retirement plan. To find your tier and retirement plan, sign in to your Retirement Online account and go to the ‘My Account Summary’ section. Once you know your tier and retirement plan, you can find your retirement plan publication for comprehensive information about your benefits and filing instructions.

And when you’re ready, you can apply for a service retirement benefit quickly and easily using Retirement Online.

If you leave public employment, read about the age requirements for filing for a vested retirement benefit as well as other important information that you should know about your NYSLRS membership and benefits.

Transferring Your Membership to NYSLRS

transferring membership

A lot can change in our lives, and sometimes people switch jobs or professions during their career. Perhaps you were a teacher, and you recently began working for New York State. Or maybe you had a job with New York City, and you took a position with a municipality outside of the city. If you are an active member of more than one public retirement system in New York State, you may have the option of transferring that membership to NYSLRS and receiving credit for that service.

Considering Service Credit

Service credit is a factor in calculating a NYSLRS pension benefit, so increasing your service credit will generally increase your pension benefit.

In some cases, transferring membership may not be beneficial. For example, if you are in a retirement plan that allows for retirement after 20 or 25 years of service (regardless of age), your service usually must be in specific job titles to be creditable toward your pension benefit. If you are in one of these plans, find your retirement plan publication to learn what service is creditable.

If you have questions, contact a customer service representative before you apply to transfer a membership. You can message them using our secure contact form.

Transferring Membership

Members who are transferring membership to NYSLRS must:

  • Be on the payroll in a job that is covered by NYSLRS;
  • No longer work in the job that was covered by the other retirement system; and
  • Still be an active member of the other system (off payroll for that job, but your membership in the other system has not been terminated or withdrawn).

To transfer a membership to NYSLRS, you first must submit a transfer request to your other retirement system. When we receive your membership information from the other retirement system, we will compare your date of membership in NYSLRS with your date of membership in the other system. When the transfer is complete, your date of membership will be the earlier of the two dates. If applicable, your tier will change.

If You Need to Transfer to Another System

You can submit an online request to NYSLRS to transfer your membership from NYSLRS to another New York State public retirement system:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • In the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage, under ‘I want to…,’ click the “Transfer My Membership” button.

Whether you are transferring in or out of NYSLRS, the transfer is effective when we receive your application, and it may be permanent.

You can find more information about transferring membership on our website.

National Retirement Security Month

October is National Retirement Security Month, a time to learn more about the importance of saving and your potential sources of income in retirement. Even if your own retirement seems far off in the future, it’s never too early to start developing your plans for retirement.

Retirement Security

NYSLRS and Retirement Security

Check out these blog posts to learn more about how your NYSLRS pension and other sources of retirement income can provide retirement security.

  • What is a Defined Benefit Plan?
    Your NYSLRS pension is a defined benefit retirement plan. When you retire, you’ll receive a guaranteed lifetime benefit based on your earnings and years of service. It will be calculated using a preset formula rather than being limited to your accumulated contributions and your investment returns, as it would be in a 401(k)-style plan.  
  • The 3-Legged Stool: An Approach to Retirement Confidence
    Think of your retirement security as a three-legged stool — each leg represents a different income source that supports you in retirement. The first leg of the stool is your NYSLRS pension, and the second leg is your Social Security benefit. The third leg is your own personal savings, which can give you more flexibility during retirement, helping to ensure that you’ll be able to do the things you want to do.
  • Compounding: A Great Way for Your Money to Grow
    The sooner you can start saving, the better — especially if you have a retirement savings account with compounding interest. When your money is compounded, it increases in value by earning interest on both the principal and accumulated interest. But for your money to make more money, it needs time to grow.
  • Deferred Compensation: Another Source of Retirement Income
    Deferred compensation plans are voluntary retirement savings plans. Your contributions will be automatically deducted from your paycheck, and you can contribute as little as 1 percent of your earnings. It’s a savings vehicle to consider if you want to start saving extra for retirement but aren’t sure where to start.
  • Give Your Retirement Savings a Boost
    Once you’re on your way and saving for retirement, you may want to look at ways to increase how much you save. Even the smallest increase can make a big difference over time, while having a minimal impact on your take-home pay.

Remember, retirement security doesn’t just happen — it takes planning. Visit our Retirement Planning page for more information about your NYSLRS pension, including an overview of how it’s calculated, estimating your amount and how to find a description of the benefits provided by your specific retirement plan.

Where Are Your Important Documents?

We accumulate a lot of important documents over a lifetime — things such as birth certificates, diplomas, deeds, wills, insurance policies and more. If you’re like many people, you may have papers stuffed in drawers, filing cabinets or boxes in the attic. If you need an important document, will you be able to find it? What’s more, when you pass away, will your loved ones be able to find what they need?
where are your important documents?

Organize Your Important Documents

Important documents should be kept in a secure but accessible place in your home. This includes personal documents, such as your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, will and burial instructions. You should also include information about your NYSLRS retirement benefits, income taxes, bank accounts, credit cards and online accounts. Important contact information, such as the names and phone numbers of your attorney, accountant, stockbroker, financial planner, insurance agent and executor of your will should also kept in a secure location.

Our fillable form, Where My Assets Are, can help make organizing your important documents a little easier. It will help you or your loved ones locate these documents when they are needed. It’s a good idea to review and update this information regularly.

Be aware that a safe deposit box may be sealed when you die. Don’t keep burial instructions, power of attorney or your will in a safe deposit box, because these items may not be available until a probate judge orders the box to be opened. However, a joint lessee of the box, or someone authorized by you, would be permitted to open the box to examine and copy your burial instructions.

Review Death Benefits and Beneficiary Designations

Depending on your tier and retirement plan, your beneficiaries may be eligible to receive a death benefit. Visit our member and retiree death benefit pages for more information.

Then, sign in to your Retirement Online account to review your named beneficiaries and update their contact information if needed. From your Account Homepage, click “View and Update My Beneficiaries” to get started.

Please note, when a NYSLRS member or retiree dies, it is important that survivors report the death to NYSLRS as soon as possible. Before any death benefits can be processed or paid, NYSLRS will need an original, certified death certificate.

Crunching the Numbers: A Short Guide to Retirement Calculators

A good estimate of your post-retirement income is essential for effective retirement planning. But gauging your income can be tricky when it comes from multiple sources. Fortunately, there are a variety of online calculators that can help you get started.

online calculators for retirement planning

NYSLRS Benefit Calculator

Most NYSLRS members can quickly create a pension estimate 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 and adjust your earnings or service credit if you anticipate a raise or plan to purchase past service.

Social Security Calculators

The Social Security Administration (SSA) hosts several calculators that you may find helpful. Their Quick Calculator uses information you enter to provide a rough Social Security benefit estimate. Their Retirement Estimator calculates your benefit based on your actual earnings. You’ll need to enter your Social Security number and other personal information to create an SSA account. 

You can also look up when you will be eligible for full Social Security benefits and estimate your life expectancy.

Savings Calculators

If you are saving for retirement, a simple savings calculator can give you an idea of how your money can grow over the years. However, simple calculators like this assume a fixed amount of savings each month. Most people increase their retirement savings as their income grows.

If you have a 457(b) plan like those offered by the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan, you can use their interactive retirement planner to project a hypothetical view of what your retirement may look like based on information you provide

Savings Withdrawal Calculators

Savings withdrawal calculators are designed to help determine how much savings remains after a series of withdrawals. These are especially helpful tools to use when trying to determine how long your retirement savings will last, based on a starting amount, how much you expect to withdraw, how often and some other factors.

How Much Do You Need?

Now that you’ve estimated your potential sources of retirement income, it’s important to understand your anticipated expenses in retirement. Our Income and Expenses Worksheet can help you create a post-retirement budget.

Think of retirement security as a three-legged stool, with your NYSLRS pension, social security benefit and retirement savings working together to provide financial stability. Your NYSLRS pension is a defined benefit, or traditional pension, that will provide you with a monthly payment for the rest of your life. Having a retirement savings account can give you more flexibility to do the things you want to do, or provide a source of cash in case of an emergency. Start saving for retirement if you haven’t already, or give your retirement savings a boost.

Know Your Benefits: What If I Leave Public Employment

It may not come up during your career, but if you leave public employment before you are eligible to retire, you should know what happens with your NYSLRS membership and benefits. Your options will depend on how many years of service you have. It’s also important to keep your account information up to date. If you remain a member of NYSLRS after you leave public employment, you can regularly review your account information and keep it up to date by using Retirement Online.

What Should I Do if I Leave Public Employment

Find Out If You Are Vested

NYSLRS members are vested when they have five years of service credit. Sign in to your Retirement Online account to see your total estimated service credit.

  • If you have 5 or more years of service when you leave public employment, and you leave public employment before you are eligible to retire, you can receive a vested retirement benefit when you become eligible.
  • If you leave with between five and ten years of service, you can either remain a member and receive a vested retirement benefit when you become eligible or terminate your membership and receive a refund of your contributions.
  • If you leave with more than ten years of service, you cannot withdraw your NYSLRS membership and you can receive a vested retirement benefit when you become eligible and apply.
  • If you leave with less than ten years of service, you can end your membership and receive a refund of your contributions.

Keep Your Contact Information Updated

It’s important to make sure we have your current mailing address, phone number and personal email address, and let us know about any future changes. That way, you won’t miss important information from us, such as your Member Annual Statement.

To update your contact information, sign in to Retirement Online. Go to ‘My Profile Information,’ find your address, phone number or email address under ‘My Profile Information’ and click “update.”

Keep Your Beneficiaries Updated

If you leave public employment, your beneficiaries may still be eligible for a death benefit, so you should review your beneficiary designations periodically. Sign in to Retirement Online, go to the ‘My Account Summary’ area of your Account Homepage and click “View and Update My Beneficiaries.” Your beneficiary changes will be considered filed on the day you submit them.

Repay Any NYSLRS Loans

If you leave public employment, you will no longer be able to pay off your NYSLRS loans by payroll deduction. If you have any outstanding NYSLRS loans, you must make payments directly to NYSLRS at least once every three months and repay your loan within five years of when it was issued, or you will default on the loan. Defaulting on a loan may carry considerable tax consequences: You’ll need to pay ordinary income tax and possibly an additional 10 percent penalty on the taxable portion of the loan. You can make loan payments to NYSLRS via Retirement Online.

You aren’t eligible to take a new NYSLRS loan once you are off the public payroll.

Receiving a Vested Retirement Benefit

If you are vested, once you reach retirement age, you can receive a lifetime pension based on your salary and service from when you were working in public employment. It’s your responsibility to apply for retirement — NYSLRS will not pay out your pension benefit unless you apply for it.

The earliest date you can receive your retirement benefit depends on your tier and retirement system.

  • Tier 1 and 2 members are eligible for a vested retirement benefit as early as the first of the month following your 55th birthday.
  • Tier 3, 4 and 5 members and Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6 members are eligible for a vested retirement benefit as early as your 55th birthday.
  • Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Tier 6 members are eligible for a vested retirement benefit on your 63rd birthday.

For most members, however, if you retire before your full retirement age, you would face a permanent early retirement benefit reduction. The full retirement age is 62 for Tier 1 – 5 members, and age 63 for ERS Tier 6 members and off-payroll PFRS Tier 6 members.

Most members can estimate your pension amount using the benefit calculator in Retirement Online. Sign in to your Retirement Online account, go to the ‘My Account Summary’ area of your Account Homepage and click the “Estimate my Pension Benefit” button. You can also apply for your retirement benefit using Retirement Online.

If You Leave Public Employment with Less than Ten Years of Service

With less than ten years of service credit, you can choose to end your membership and request a refund of your contributions. If you withdraw your contributions, however, you will no longer be eligible to receive a pension benefit. You can withdraw by signing in to Retirement Online, going to the ‘My Account Summary’ area of your Account Homepage, and clicking “Withdraw My Membership.”  

You cannot withdraw from NYSLRS once you have ten years of service credit.

(Note: Tier 1 and 2 members and PFRS Tier 3 (Article 11) members covered by a non-contributory retirement plan can make voluntary contributions. These members can withdraw their voluntary contributions without ending their membership. Contact us if you have questions.)

If you have less than five years of service credit (aren’t vested) and don’t withdraw your contributions, they will continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. After seven years off the public payroll, your membership ends automatically, and your contributions will be deposited into a non-interest-bearing account until you withdraw them.

For more information, including tax implications of withdrawing your membership, read Life Changes: What If I Leave Public Employment?.

How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit

school employeesWhile most New York teachers and administrators are in the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, other school employees are members of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). In fact, 1 out of 5 NYSLRS members works for a school district. Usually, their employment is tied to the school year, which is often 10 or 11 months long.

So how do we determine service credit for school employees?

Service Credit for School Employees

As a member, you receive service credit for paid public employment beginning with your date of membership. That credit is based on the number of days you work, which your employer reports to us.

If you’re working full-time, you receive one year of service per school year, even if you only work 10 months of the year.

For part-time work, your employer calculates days worked by dividing the number of hours worked by the hours in a full-time day. The number of hours in a full-time day is set by your employer (between six and eight hours). So, for example, if a 40-hour work week is considered full-time for your employer, and you work 20 hours a week for a given school year, you will receive half a year of service credit.

Calculating Service Credit

Usually, a full-time, 10-month school year is at least 180 days. However, depending on your employer, a full academic year can range from 170 days to 200 days. Whether you work full- or part-time, your service is based on the length of your school year:

For all BOCES and school district employees, as well as
teachers working at New York State schools for the deaf and blind:

Number of days worked ÷ 180 days

For college employees:
Number of days worked ÷ 170 days

For institutional teachers:
Number of days worked ÷ 200 days

Calculating Part-Time Service Credit for School Employees

Check Your Service Credit

You can sign in to Retirement Online and find your current estimated service credit listed on your Account Homepage under ‘My Account Summary.’

If you’re not sure whether you’re earning full-time or part-time service, you can check your most recent Member Annual Statement to see how much service you earned over the past fiscal year. To view your most recent Statement, sign in to Retirement Online. From your Account Homepage, click the “View My Member Annual Statement” button under ‘My Account Summary.’ If you are receiving full-time service, it will say “1.00 Years” for service credited from 4/1/2022 – 3/31/2023. A reminder: the total credited service you will see listed on your Statement was as of March 31, 2023.

For more information about service credit, read our booklet Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6 (VO1854) or find your retirement plan publication.