Category Archives: Members

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

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 milestones depend on your tier and your retirement 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.

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 fewer 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 more than 20 years of service, your benefit will equal 1.75 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
    • Then, for each year of service beyond 20 years, you will receive an additional 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 will automatically update 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.

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.