NYSLRS Membership by Tier

NYSLRS, which comprises the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), had 658,176 members as of March 31, 2019. Our members are State government, local government and school district employees from across New York, including 623,090 in ERS and 35,086 in PFRS. Eighty-one percent of our members are active, which means they were on a public payroll as of March 31.

NYSLRS Membership Over Time

A decade ago, nearly 90 percent of NYSLRS members were in Tiers 3 and 4. Now, those tiers represent roughly half of our membership, while Tier 6 members are close to surpassing them in numbers. Tier 6, which includes members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012, has 253,633 members, or 38.5 percent of total membership. As new public employees come on board and more Tier 3 and 4 members retire, Tier 6 is expected to represent the bulk of NYSLRS membership soon.

Here’s a look at our NYSLRS membership by tier, as of March 31:

NYSLRS Membership
Tier 1: NYSLRS’ oldest tier, whose members first joined the system before July 1, 1973 (July 31, 1973 for PFRS members). Tier 1 now represents only 0.3 percent of our membership. There are only 27 Tier 1 PFRS members.

Tier 2: With 24,216 members, Tier 2 represents 3.7 percent of membership. More than 90 percent of Tier 2 members are in PFRS.

Tier 3 & 4: Tiers 3 and 4, which have similar retirement plans, have 334,836 members, 50.9 percent of the total. (There is no Tier 4 in PFRS.)

Tier 5: Tier 5 covers members who joined from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012. With 43,527 members, Tier 5 now represents 6.6 percent of membership.

Tier 6: This tier covers both ERS and PFRS members who joined since April 1, 2012. Its ranks have grown by 18 percent over the past year.

18 thoughts on “NYSLRS Membership by Tier

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      The New York State Constitution protects your NYSLRS pension benefit from being diminished or impaired. Your pension can only be reduced if the Constitution is amended, and one way to do that is through a constitutional convention.

      Every 20 years, a question appears on the ballot asking voters if there should be a convention to revise and amend the constitution. This question will be on the November 7, 2017, general election ballot. If voters approve the convention, delegates would be elected the following November, and the convention would begin in April 2019. Any constitutional changes proposed by the delegates must be approved by the voters in the following general election.

      Although there’s no guarantee that a convention would result in changes to public pension benefits, your pension, along with other protections provided by the constitution, could possibly be affected. That is one of several reasons why Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is opposed to the constitutional convention.

  1. Karen

    Why has the Comptroller or the Legislature made no effort to equalize the benefit changed in 2002 when members stopped contributing after 10 years of service? At that time, I believe Tier 1 & 2 members were given extra service credit while Tier 3 & 4 members who had already contributed more than 10 years (some as many as 25 years or more) received no credit, no reimbursement or no compensation for the extra contributions they made. When will this inequity be fixed?????

    1. NYSLRS

      When the Legislature created Tier 3 in 1976 and Tier 4 in 1983, it provided that membership would be contributory. Subsequently, the Legislature approved a bill, which became Chapter 126 of the Laws of 2000, which eliminated contributions for Tier 3 and 4 members after ten years of credited service or ten years of membership on or after October 1, 2000. There was no provision in the legislation to refund contributions before that date.

      Since Tier 3 had been established in 1976, there are some members who had contributed for more than the 10 years. There has been legislation proposed since 2000 to either refund or provide additional benefits for those members who contributed for more than ten years. However, such legislation has not been enacted into law.

      1. Richard Lenaghen

        I was a tier 3 member and contributed over 12 years into the retirement system. Tier 3’s should all let their voices be heard ! If you are a tier 3 member and paid into the retirement past 10 years , we are owed a refund plus accrued interest for the extra we paid into the retirement system.

  2. Michael Rock

    I was a tier 3 member ( now retired as a tier 4) that paid 20 years into the system. For the life of me I could never understand the logic behind compensating Tier1 and Tier 2 member’s (who never contributed) with an extra 2 years service credit for shutting off the contributions for tier 3 and tier 4 at 10 years while offering no compensation or service credit for those that contributed over 10 years. Right, Tier 3 member should make their voices heard, we should receive a refund for the extra years paid or additional service time added to our pension commensurate with the overpayment.

  3. Karen Clark

    I am a Retired State employee with 32.5 years of service combined County and State years.
    I retired as a Tier 3 having “contributed” for 1 payperiod short of 20 years when the law changed to stop contributions after 10 years. I have received NOTHING for my additional close to 10 years of extra contributions. I have complained to everyone – my coworkers, my PEF stewards, my legistlators. I get the same answer all the time – there’s nothing we can do about it. Except for 1 steward who let me know that PEF did have something on the Legal committee to work for a compensation of added service time for us in this position – yet they continue to NOT make it a priority AND I recall the compensation was still less than what Tier 1 & 2 received for NEVER contributing at all. I’m guessing they’re waiting for all of us to die off or retire and then only apply it those who are still working and retire after they get their act together and finally pass something. They claim it is too much of a burden on our Retirement System – yet the System is stronger than ever with yearly earnings in the double digits.

    It’s well over due for us Tier 3 to get compensated for our over-contributions and in my view it should be equal to what they gave Tier 1 & 2 .
    If anyone knows who else could help to bring this issue to the fore front, please share. I know there are people who are likely in the same boat as I or even worse.

  4. Matthew Harper

    Tier 6 should be abolished especially when it was a political grab for our pensions and rewarded certain folks with pension rights. No governor nor legislature should ever have the ability to affect our pensions with further demands of added tiers unless it is incapable of sustaining growth over consecutive years. We have one of the best pension systems out there that Democrats And Republicans keep trying to steal from us. Thank you for your dedication to keeping their hands off of it Mr. Tom Dinapoli.

  5. stephen kuroczka

    I am also a tier 3 member who contributed well past my 10 years. I agree that something should be done to compensate those of us affected. It’s only fair. As a veteran, I also lost out in buying back credit for my service because I didn’t receive the expeditionary medal during my service time. Thank you New York State.

  6. Paul

    What ever happened to efforts to equalize disability retirements for civilian workers who were injured as a result of service at the World Trade Center with the uniformed workers? Civilian workers receive only a fraction of the benefit.

    1. NYSLRS

      The decision on whether to adopt benefit enhancements or pass new legislation comes from the State Legislature and the Governor. The retirement system (NYSLRS) administers legislation and programs that are signed into law. You may want to contact your local legislative representatives.

  7. Jim Hennessey

    In addition, they should let us return to service to increase our time in service without having to pay back all of our previous pension benefits. Moreover, the pension inflation adjuster should be increased to whole pension and not just the first $18,000 of it. Finally, pensioners should receive the entire cost of living increase not just 1/2 the cost of inflation.

    1. NYSLRS

      The decision on whether to adopt benefit enhancements or pass new legislation comes from the State Legislature and the Governor. The retirement system (NYSLRS) administers legislation and programs that are signed into law.

  8. Anton

    I am a Tier 6 member. I really look forward to Tier 7, so that I can then begin to like my Tier, just like those in Tiers 1-5 like their tiers compared to Tier 6. It is sad to see a system that was designed to be unsustainable from the start, most likely being the result of short-term political maneuvering rather than long-term vision and planning. As a result subsequent tiers see lower benefit amounts and higher contribution rates in order to sustain the preceding tiers, in absolute terms (not to mention inflation). Some day my tier will look so awesome compared to Tier 10 that I will chuckle all the way to the bank. For now my tier only brings tears. How did we get here? Very simply: those who negotiate each new contract are in Tiers that already exist, rather than Tiers they are negotiating to create. To solve this issue, there should be a rule that all members of the latest current tier must be migrated to the next tier which the legislature adopts. For example, all Tier 6 members must be moved to Tier 7 when it is adopted. This way there will be vested interest (no pun intended) to keep future tiers as good or better than the latest tier, not worse. Who in Tier 6 agrees with me? If you do, call your legislator!

  9. Samantha Mairson

    Well said, Anton. I’m just starting to look into all this, but your statement was powerfully put – and is drawing my attention to all the issues to unpack here. Another Tier 6-er here.

  10. Gail Slotnick

    I am also Tier 6 and tried to use the online benefit projection calculator–was unable to do this: “The benefit projection calculator cannot project benefits for ERS Tier 5 and 6 members…” I called and sent an email to request this info but was informed that “they” were unable to give me provide a Benefit Projection. I am planning for my retirement and really need to know how much my monthly benefit will be! Please advise.

    1. NYSLRS

      In the coming months, NYSLRS plans to introduce an online benefit calculator that members in all tiers can use. The new benefit calculator will be available in Retirement Online (if you don’t already have an account, you can register).

      In the meantime, you can find information about your pension calculation in your plan booklet, which is available on our Publications page.


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