Category Archives: NYSLRS Retirees

Sunshine on the Retirement Savings Horizon

Headlines in recent years offer a stormy retirement forecast: “Americans Get a Grade C in Retirement Readiness,” “More Than Four in Ten Households Wrong About Retirement Readiness,” “The Shockingly Small Amount Americans Have in Retirement Savings.”

Unfortunately, research and statistics tend to back up these dire warnings. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, a significant portion of Americans — 42 percent — lack access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b). Among those whose employers do offer a plan, only 49 percent actually participate.

In fact, research from the Federal Reserve suggests that 28 percent of people who haven’t retired yet have no retirement savings whatsoever. So, it’s not surprising that a report from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis predicts that the “number of 65-year-olds per year who are poor or near poor will increase by 146 percent between 2013 and 2022.”

The Good News

There is promising news about retirement, though, if you look for it. Americans — particularly Millennials (those born 1979 through 1996) — are starting to save for retirement much sooner than previous generations. According to the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies, Millennials begin to put away for retirement at a median age of 22. Generation X workers waited until 27, and Baby Boomers didn’t start until age 35.

Sunshine on the Retirement Savings Horizon

Perhaps this earlier focus on saving is responsible for other good news. For example, Fidelity Investments reports record 401(k) balances in 2016: $92,500 at the end of the fourth quarter, which is up $4,300 from 2015. And, earlier this year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 55.4 percent of investors — more than ever before — are maxing out their individual retirement account (IRA) contributions.

That said …

Americans do have a retirement problem. New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli speaks regularly about the need for policies at the state and federal levels of government to ensure retirement security for everyone, including workers in the private sector.

As individuals, the solution is simple: We need to save, and we need to start early. NYSLRS members have the rare advantage of a well-funded, defined-benefit pension. However, your pension and Social Security benefits are only part of a well-rounded financial plan. Consider contributing to a New York State Deferred Compensation Plan (NYSDCP) account. NYSDCP is a voluntary retirement savings plan — similar to private sector 401(k) or 403(b) plans — created for employees of New York State and other participating employers. If you work for a local government employer, please check with your human resources administrator to find out what savings plans are available to you.

The Economic Power of NYSLRS Retirees

Before they leave the workforce, NYSLRS retirees build careers based — at least in part — on serving the people of New York. They are police officers, firefighters and nurses. They are the countless civil servants working each day to keep government services functioning. Their value doesn’t end with retirement. In fact, NYSLRS retirees and their pensions contribute significantly to the communities where they live.

Seventy-eight percent of NYSLRS retirees (440,943 as of March 2016) stay right here in New York. They live throughout the state — from Long Island to the North Country, from the Capital District to Western New York and down to the Southern Tier. Altogether, they’re 2.9 percent of our state’s population, but in some areas, they account for more than 5 percent of the residents.

This large population with steady sources of income has a significant and positive impact on our state and local economies. In 2015 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $11.7 billion in economic activity in New York State:

  • Property taxes. In 2015, retirees paid $1.7 billion in real property taxes. That’s 5 percent of the total collected for the entire state.
  • State and local sales taxes. NYSLRS retirees paid an estimated $550 million in state and local sales tax in 2015.
  • Job creators. Some retirees do go on to start small businesses as a second act. However, all NYSLRS retirees spend at least some of their income to the benefit of local businesses, and they are responsible for an estimated 66,100 jobs as a result.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute infographic

Remember: 75 percent of the pension benefits that make all of this possible comes from the investment earnings of the Common Retirement Fund (CRF), not from taxpayers.

Are these statistics impressive? Yes. Surprising? They shouldn’t be. According to research from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), defined benefit pensions, like those provided by NYSLRS, are responsible for substantial economic gains throughout the U.S. — an incredible $1.2 trillion in total economic output nationwide.

Pensions give retirees a stable source of income, and, in return, retirees support our national and local economies with jobs, incomes, and tax revenue.

Federal Withholding and Your Pension

Federal Withholding and your Pension

Getting hit every year with a larger than expected federal tax bill? You may want to increase the federal withholding from your NYSLRS pension. Or maybe you’re getting a hefty tax refund every year. If you have too much withheld, you’re basically giving the government an interest-free loan. Maybe you need to adjust your withholding due to recent changes to the tax law for 2018 (if you’re not sure, you can check with your tax preparer, or you can use this Internal Revenue Service Withholding Calculator.)

But whatever your situation, you can adjust the amount we withhold from your retirement benefit at any time. Just follow these Step-By-Step instructions.

  1. Print our NYSLRS Form W-4P (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments) from our website. (This is a fillable form, so you can type in the information before you print it out.)
  2. Fill in the top of the form with your name, address, last four digits of your Social Security number and Registration number (if known).
  3. Complete one of the three numbered sections. (Do not complete more than one section.)
    • Complete Section 1 if you do not wish to have any federal income tax withheld.
    • Complete Section 2 if you want us to withhold based on current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax tables, your marital status and the number of federal exemptions you claim. To see how much that would be, use our tax withholding calculator. You can also have an additional amount withheld.
    • Complete Section 3 if you know how much you want withheld. Remember, the amount you should include here is the total amount you want withheld from your pension, not the amount you want to add or subtract from your current withholding.
  4. Print the completed form.
  5. Date and sign the form.
  6. Mail or fax your form to NYSLRS. Our address and fax number are at the top of the W-4P form.

Visit our website for other resources, including an interactive Understanding your W-4P Form tutorial, and more information about Taxes and Your Pension.

How NYSLRS Retirees Contribute to New York’s Economy

Public pensions play an important role in our state’s economic health. The pensions NYSLRS retirees earn flow back into their communities in the form of property and sales tax payments, and local purchases. When public retirees stay in New York, they help stimulate and grow local economies.

NYSLRS Retirees Who Call New York Home

As of March 31, 2016, there are 440,943 NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. Seventy-eight percent of them – 345,643 – continue to live in New York. Suffolk County is home to the largest number of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. More than $1 billion in pension benefits went to the 33,290 individuals who live there. Erie County has the second largest number of benefit recipients (29,029), who received $701.5 million.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute

The Economic Impact of NYSLRS Retirees

NYSLRS retirees are patrons of local business and services, and they pay state and local taxes. By spending their retirement income locally, they help fuel the economic engines of their communities. In fact, a study by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) found that state and local pensions in New York State supported 215,867 jobs, driving $35.3 billion in total economic output and $8.1 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

New York mirrored the NIRS report’s results across the rest of America. Nationally, retiree spending of pension benefits in 2014 generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output, supporting some 7.1 million jobs across the U.S.

The NIRS report suggests that a stable and secure pension benefit that won’t run out enables retirees to pay for their basic needs like housing, food, medicine and clothing. It’s good for the economy when retirees are self-sufficient and regularly spend their pension income. They spend that money on goods and services in the local community. They purchase food, clothing, and medicine at local stores, pay housing costs, and may even make larger purchases like computer equipment or a car. These purchases combine to create a steady economic ripple effect. Retirees with inadequate 401(k) savings who might be fearful of running out of savings tend to hold back on spending. This reduced spending stunts economic growth, which already is predicted to drop by one-third as the U.S. population ages.

NYSLRS Retirees Pay Their Share of Taxes

NYSLRS retirees live throughout the different regions of New York, but they only make up 2.9 percent of the general population. In some cases, they pay a larger share of property taxes. For instance, in the Capital District, retirees make up 5 percent of the population yet they pay 8.7 percent of the property taxes, which totals $218 million. In the North Country, retirees make up 4.3 percent of the population and pay 6.8 percent of the property taxes ($55 million). 

Retirees Build a Strong New York

After a career in public service, NYSLRS retirees continue to contribute to their communities and the State. Their pensions are a sound investment in New York’s future. Public pensions don’t just benefit those who receive them, but they pay dividends to local businesses, support local communities, and create jobs. As the number of NYSLRS retirees grows, it’s likely they will continue to help build a strong New York.

September COLA Increase for NYSLRS Retirees

In August, we said that eligible NYSLRS retirees could expect a cost of-living adjustment (COLA) increase on September 30. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes.

If you are due a COLA, you should have recently received a letter letting you know how much your 2016 increase is and how much your total benefit will be. If you receive your benefit by direct deposit (electronic fund transfer), you can expect to receive a second letter, which will describe the change to your benefit, before pension payments go out at the end of the month.

The COLA you receive from NYSLRS is not the same as the COLA you might receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

Healthcare in Retirement

There are reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase. NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs for its retirees. For New York State retirees, the New York State Department of Civil Service administers the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP). If you have questions about your health insurance premiums, you can visit the Department of Civil Service’s website or call them at 1-800-833-4344 or 518-457-5754 to learn more.

If you retired from a public employer other than New York State (a county, city, town, village or school district), your former employer’s benefits administrator should be able to answer your health insurance questions.

Visit our website to learn more about COLA and your eligibility.

NYSLRS Retirees: 1% COLA Increase Coming September 30

If you’re a New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retiree, you may be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) this September. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes. Please note, for most retirees, there are other reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase.

How is the COLA Calculated?

The COLA is calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the fiscal year (on March 31). It cannot be less than 1 percent or greater than 3 percent of your retirement benefit. This year, since the rate of inflation was less than 1 percent, the COLA increase equals 1 percent. The COLA is calculated using the first $18,000 of the annual Single Life Allowance pension (even if you selected a different payment option), or your actual pension, if it’s less than $18,000.

Who Is Eligible for a COLA?

To receive the COLA, you must be:

  • Age 62 or older and retired for five or more years; or
  • Age 55 or older and retired for ten or more years (for uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters and correction officers covered by a special plan that allows for retirement, regardless of age, after a specific number of years); or
  • A disability retiree for five years; or
  • The spouse of a deceased retiree receiving a lifetime benefit under an option elected by the retiree at retirement. (Eligible spouses are entitled to half the COLA amount that would have been paid to the retiree when the retiree was eligible); or
  • A beneficiary receiving the accidental death benefit for five or more years on behalf of a deceased NYSLRS member.

SSA COLA

The NYSLRS COLA is different than the Social Security Administration (SSA) COLA. For 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

If you want to learn more about COLA, read our publication, Permanent COLA.

Reporting a Member’s or Retiree’s Death to NYSLRS

When a NYSLRS member dies, whether before or after retirement, it’s important that survivors report a member’s or retiree’s death to NYSLRS as soon as possible.

But long before that happens, you should talk to your loved ones and provide them with the information they’ll need when the time comes. Let them know your wishes, where to find important papers and what steps they need to take. And if your documents are organized and accessible, it will make things that much easier.

Our publication, Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors, provides step-by-step guidance about what should be done now and after a member’s or retiree’s death.

Survivors can report a death by email, phone or mail. They will need to send us an original certified copy of the member’s death certificate regardless of how they notify us.

How Survivors Can Report a Death

To report a death by phone, survivors can call toll-free at 1-866-805-0990 (518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area). Once they reach the call menu, they should press “2” to report the death and then press “1.” Their call will be transferred to a customer service representative, who will ask for:

  • The deceased member’s retirement, registration or Social Security number.
  • The date of death.

Please note: Our customer service representatives cannot release the identities of a member’s or retiree’s beneficiaries over the phone.

Survivors can also use our secure email form to report a member’s death. They should enter:

  • The deceased member’s NYSLRS information into the required fields. (If they don’t know the retirement or registration number, we will accept a Social Security number.)
  • The deceased member’s date of death in the Comment field of the form.
  • Their own address and daytime phone number in the Comment section in case we need to reach them for more information.

To report a death by mail, survivors should send us a completed Notification of Death (RS6082) form.

What Happens Next

Once we receive the death certificate, we will send beneficiaries or their certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits and, if applicable, information about continuing monthly retirement benefits. We will also send them forms to complete. Beneficiaries should be aware that it could take three months from the date we are notified of the death before any death benefit is paid or any monthly benefit payment begins.

If a member is retired when he or she dies, we will stop payment of any outgoing pension benefits. Survivors should be aware that any uncashed pension checks in a deceased retiree’s name must be returned to us. We will automatically reclaim any direct deposit payments that went out after a member’s death.

Death Benefits For ERS Members

Among the most important benefits a NYSLRS membership provides are death benefits. When you’re covered by a death benefit, your beneficiary may receive a payment on your behalf at your death.

Death benefits can vary by tier and retirement plan, so for the purpose of today’s post, let’s focus our attention on the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 members in regular plans. (If you’re in a special 20- or 25-year plan or are a Tier 1 member, please review your plan publication to learn more about your death benefits.)

The Ordinary Death Benefit

You’re eligible for the ordinary death benefit when you have one year of service credit. Your beneficiary would receive this benefit if you died while working for a public employer.

  • After one year of service, the ordinary death benefit is equal to your last year’s salary.
  • After two years of service, the benefit equals two times your last year’s salary.
  • After three or more years of service, the benefit equals three times your last year’s salary.

Post Retirement Death Benefits ERS Regular-Plans

The Post-Retirement Death Benefit

Your beneficiary may also be eligible for a post-retirement death benefit if you retire directly from your employer’s payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment.

  • During your first year of retirement, the post-retirement death benefit is 50 percent of your ordinary death benefit payable at retirement.
  • During your second year of retirement, the benefit is 25 percent of your ordinary death benefit.
  • During your third year and thereafter, the benefit is 10 percent of the ordinary death benefit that would have been payable at age 60 (if any) or at retirement, whichever was earlier.

There may be other death benefits available in your retirement plan. Please read the Death Benefit section in your plan publication for more information. If you have any questions about death benefits, please email us using our secure email form.

NYSLRS Retirees Help Power New York’s Economy

At the 2015 annual meeting of the Retired Public Employees Association of New York, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli told association members that “a public pension is not only good for you and your family, it’s good for New York State.” He added that “you are part of the economic engine in many of our communities.”

The administrator of the New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) and trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, State Comptroller DiNapoli also noted that, of NYSLRS’ 430,308 retirees, 78 percent of them — 337,406 — have chosen to live in New York.

NYSLRS-Retirees-Build-a-Stronger-NY

Click for full-sized version (PDF)

This is important, the State Comptroller explained, because the pension money paid to retired state and local public employees’ flows directly back into our communities, stimulating and growing our local economies.

During calendar year 2014, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $12 billion in economic activity in New York State.

NYSLRS Retirees Build a Stronger New York

NYSLRS pension benefit can provide security and peace of mind in retirement. What some retirees might not realize about their lifetime benefit is the effect it has on the local economy. During 2014 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $12 billion in economic activity in New York State. By buying local goods and services, NYSLRS retirees help existing companies grow, create opportunities for new businesses, and help foster an environment that helps companies create job opportunities.

NYSLRS Retirees in New York

Of the 430,308 current NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries, 78 percent of them live in New York State. These retirees make up 2.8 percent of the general population, but their impact on the State economy is considerable:

  • Retiree Spending Creates Jobs, Supports Local Business. NYSLRS retirees spend a larger than average share of their income on industries that benefitted local businesses, such as health care, restaurants and entertainment. These industries can expect more growth in the coming decades with NYSLRS retirees as part of their customer base. As a result of this spending, NYSLRS retirees were also responsible for an estimated 60,400 jobs.
  • Retirees Pay Billions in Taxes. In 2014, NYSLRS retirees paid $1.6 billion in real property taxes, which is five percent of the total collected in New York. These taxes help support New York schools, roads and government services. Also, spending by NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries generated an estimated $514 million in state and local sales tax.

After spending their careers working in State and local governments, the university system, public authorities and schools, NYSLRS retirees continue to help New York’s Main Streets grow and develop. The benefits of a NYSLRS pension aren’t just felt by retirees, but also by local businesses and communities. As the number of NYSLRS retirees continues to grow, the investment they make in communities across New York State will also continue to grow.