State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is administrative head of NYSLRS and trustee of the Fund. Over the past century, the Fund has provided retirement security for generations of public employees in New York, and today it is widely recognized as one of the best-managed and best-funded public retirement funds in the nation.
But NYSLRS is more than just the pension fund. The system had 675,519 members as of March 31. Here are some facts about our membership:
501,890 active members (that is, members still on a public payroll) work for 2,967 public employers statewide.
About one-third of those active members work for New York State. The rest work for counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and public authorities.
Nearly 94 percent of total active members are in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS). The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) accounts for 6 percent of total active membership.
More than 48 percent of all Retirement System members are in Tier 6.
Nearly 54 percent of PFRS members are in Tier 2, while about 40 percent are in Tier 6.
In ERS, 48.6 percent of members are in Tier 6, while 45.2 percent are in Tiers 3 and 4.
NYSLRS Retirees and Beneficiaries
The average pension for an ERS retiree was $25,783 as of March 31, 2021; the average for a PFRS retiree was $56,695. But these pension payments don’t just benefit the System’s retirees and beneficiaries. Because 79 percent of our retirees and beneficiaries live in New York, most of the pension benefits stayed in the State. And that money supported local businesses, paid local taxes and generated economic development statewide.
Learn More About NYSLRS
Extensive information about our members and retirees, the Fund and Fund investments can be found in the 2021 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This report includes detailed information about the Fund’s investments, strategies and financial position. It also provides details about NYSLRS’ 1.1 million members, retirees and beneficiaries. For example, the report shows where retirees live across the State, across the nation and around the world.
In 1921, NYSLRS’ pension fund held several million dollars and provided benefits to just a few dozen State employees. Today, the Common Retirement Fund (Fund) provides more than a billion dollars per month to hundreds of thousands of retirees and beneficiaries.
The System’s founders showed foresight in establishing the framework for a sustainable retirement system capable of providing long-term pension security for its members and retirees. Today, one hundred years later, we are considered one of the strongest public pension funds in the country, thanks in large part to the stewardship of Comptroller DiNapoli, trustee of the Common Retirement Fund and administrator of NYSLRS for the past 14 years.
Comptroller DiNapoli’s diligent efforts to maintain the financial well-being of the Fund, the fact that NYSLRS’ participating employers contribute their share into the Fund, and New York’s constitutional requirement that lifetime pension benefits be guaranteed to all NYSLRS retirees — all these elements combine to ensure that NYSLRS retirees will enjoy secure benefits for generations to come.
The Common Retirement Fund has been widely recognized as one the best-funded and best-managed public pension fund’s in the nation. (In June 2020, the Pew Charitable Trusts ranked NYSLRS as the second-best-funded public retirement system in the nation, based on 2018 data.) The cornerstone of the Fund’s reputation is its sound investment policies. At the direction of Comptroller DiNapoli, Fund managers use a long-term investment strategy designed to take advantage of growth opportunities during good economic times, while helping the Fund weather economic downturns.
The Comptroller seeks the input of a wide range of internal and external advisors, consultants and legal counsel who help to determine the best investment choices and allocation of assets for the Fund. These advisors provide independent advice and oversight of all investment decisions, serve as part of the chain of approval on all investment decisions before they reach the Comptroller for final approval and participate on advisory committees that meet periodically throughout the year.
Fund assets are invested in a diversified portfolio. About 55 percent of the assets are invested in publicly traded stocks. Other investments include bonds, mortgages, real estate and private equity.
The Fund is also strengthened by a forward-looking approach to addressing climate change-related investment risks and capitalizing on the opportunities created by the transition to a low-carbon economy. Comptroller DiNapoli recognizes that climate change poses an enormous threat to the global economy and to the Fund’s investment portfolio. Recently, he announced plans to transition the Fund’s portfolio to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. This process will include a review of investments in energy companies and, where consistent with his fiduciary responsibility to maintain the long-term financial health of the Fund for NYSLRS members, divestment of companies that don’t meet minimum standards. This policy will help ensure that the Fund adapts to a changing global economy and maintains its growth in coming decades.
The Common Retirement Fund’s Impact on New York Businesses
The Common Retirement Fund’s In-State Private Equity Program invests in new and expanding New York companies and makes capital available to qualifying small businesses. As of March 31, 2020, the Fund’s private equity portfolio included investments in over 330 New York businesses with a total value of $1.9 billion. These investments boost the State’s economy while at the same time generating significant returns for the Fund.
As the Common Retirement Fund’s assets have grown over the years, so have its obligations. As of March 31, 2020, there were 487,407 NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries, who were paid $13.4 billion in benefits over the previous year. That’s up from 67,689 retirees and beneficiaries, who were paid $194 million in benefits in 1971. Roughly a third of NYSLRS members are expected to retire over the coming decade.
Comptroller DiNapoli’s focus on continuing the Fund’s record of strong growth ensures that the Retirement System will be ready to meet the challenges of the future. The New York State Common Retirement Fund’s estimated overall investment return was 33.55 percent for the State fiscal year that ended March 31, 2021, reflecting the financial markets’ dramatic rebound from lows reached during the COVID-19 pandemic. The return on investments increased the Fund’s value to an estimated $254.8 billion. More than 1.1 million NYSLRS members, retirees and beneficiaries can continue to rely on the Retirement System for their retirement security.
You probably have a lot on your mind right now, but one thing you don’t need to worry about is your NYSLRS pension. Despite the turmoil in the financial markets, your retirement benefits are secure.
want to assure the more than one million men and women who rely on the State
pension fund for retirement security that we are well-positioned to weather the
ongoing volatility,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “To
our retirees, your pensions are safe and we will continue to pay your benefits
The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which holds and invests NYSLRS assets, has long been recognized as one of best managed and best funded public pension plans in the nation. The strength of the Fund puts NYSLRS in a good position as we navigate through the current economic turmoil.
Fund’s professional managers take a conservative approach to investing and
focus on sustained, long-term results. This approach allows the Fund to capitalize
on investment opportunities in good times and cushions it against market ups
and downs. In recent months, as they recognized increased volatility in the
market, Fund managers began making adjustments to the Fund’s investment
portfolio to prepare for an expected downturn in the economy. They are actively
managing the Fund through these difficult times and are confident the markets
will ultimately recover.
Independent studies regularly confirm the financial soundness of NYSLRS. Just this year, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts ranked NYSLRS among the best-funded state retirement systems. In fact, a new State fiscal year 2018 report from our actuary ranks NYSLRS at 98 percent funded, which puts us well above the national average of 66 percent funded.
Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the Fund, credits the growth to a long term, diversified investment strategy and solid market growth through most of the fiscal year, despite a volatile fourth quarter
Investing for Retirement Security
The Fund is the country’s third-largest public pension fund. NYSLRS provides retirement security to more than 1 million active state and local government employees, retirees and their beneficiaries. During the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2018, NYSLRS paid out $11.45 billion in retirement and death benefits. More than $9.8 billion of that went to residents of New York State, which generated local spending and provided economic support to New York businesses and communities.
While successfully providing financial security for New York’s government workers and retirees, Comptroller DiNapoli’s has also put investment dollars to work helping New York businesses grow and addressing the long-term threat of climate change.
The In-State Private Equity Program invests in New York-based business ventures, companies and other programs that spur economic growth and create and retain jobs. Recently, Comptroller DiNapoli raised the program’s total commitments to $1.6 billion. Since 2000, it has returned $863 million on $583 million invested in 139 transactions.
And recently, the Asset Owners Disclosure Project once again named the Fund as the number one U.S. pension fund — and the third globally — for its work to address climate risk. The Fund’s portfolio includes $7 billion dedicated to sustainable investments, including $4 billion in a low emissions index that shifts stock holdings away from the biggest carbon emitters.