Tag Archives: Earnings

How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate Can Change

Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to help fund pension benefits. For Tier 6 members (those who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012), that percentage, or contribution rate, can change from year to year.

Tier 6 contribution rate

When Tier 6 Contribution Rates are Determined

A Tier 6 member’s contribution rate is calculated annually. New rates become effective on April 1, the beginning of the State’s fiscal year. Once your rate is determined for a given fiscal year, it doesn’t change for the rest of that fiscal year.

Recently enacted legislation removed overtime earned from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022, from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation. For some Tier 6 members, this means lower contribution rates for up to two years, including this coming State fiscal year. Read about it in our blog post, Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded From Tier 6 Contribution Rates.

How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate is Calculated

Tier 6 contribution rates are based on what you earn during a State fiscal year, from April 1 through March 31. The minimum rate is 3 percent of your earnings, and the maximum is 6 percent. Your contribution rate is calculated by NYSLRS based on the earnings reported by your employer.

If you are a Tier 6 member with three or more years of membership in NYSLRS, your rates are based on your earnings from the last completed fiscal year. We provide rates to your employer in March, a few weeks before they need to apply any rate changes for the Tier 6 employees at your organization. For example, the contribution rate being provided to your employer in March 2023 is based on earnings for the fiscal year that ended March 2022 (so, what you earned from April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022).

This video will help explain how your contribution rate is determined:

If you are a new NYSLRS member, during your first three years of membership your contribution rate is based on an estimated annual wage that your employer provided when you were enrolled as a new member.

Learn More

The amount you contribute to the Retirement System will not affect the amount of your pension. A NYSLRS pension is a defined-benefit plan. Under this type of plan, once you are eligible for a pension and apply for retirement, you will receive a monthly payment for the rest of your life. The amount of your pension will be calculated using a formula based on your retirement plan, years of service and final average earnings. You can learn more about your pension by reading your retirement plan publication. Use our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool to find yours.

Final Average Earnings

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined benefit retirement plan that provides a lifetime pension when you retire. The formula used to calculate these benefits is based on two main factors: service credit and final average earnings. You’re probably familiar with service credit — it’s generally the years you’ve spent working for a participating employer. But what are final average earnings (FAE)?

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. The average of these earnings is your FAE. Usually your FAE is based on the years right before retirement, but they can come anytime in your career. The years used in determining your FAE do not necessarily correspond to a calendar year. For FAE purposes, a “year” is any period when you earned one full-time year of service credit.

Types of Final Average Earnings

Your tier and plan determine how your final average earnings is calculated:

  • Three-year FAE: Members in Tier 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  • Five-year FAE: Members in Tier 6.
  • One-year FAE: Members in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Your employer must choose to offer this benefit. It’s not available to PFRS members covered by Article 14 and generally not available to PFRS Tier 6 members.

If you are not sure what retirement plan you are in, you may want to read our recent blog post.

Exclusions and Limits

The law limits the final average earnings of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For example, for most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension. The specific limits vary by tier; check your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page for details.

final average earnings

Since 2010, with the creation of Tiers 5 and 6, the Legislature and the Governor have introduced additional limits to the earnings that can be used toward the FAE:

Tier 5

  • Overtime pay is capped — For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), $20,763.51 in 2021. For PFRS, the cap is 15 percent of earnings.

Tier 6

  • Overtime pay is capped – For ERS, $17,301 in 2021. For PFRS, the cap is 15 percent of earnings.
  • Lump sum vacation pay and wages from more than two employers are no longer included in your FAE.
  • Any earnings above the Governor’s salary cannot be included in your FAE.

Calculating Your Final Average Earnings

Your final average earnings is based on money earned during the period used to calculate your pension. This may include payments you receive after you retire, such as retroactive pay from a contract negotiation or pay for unused vacation days.

Calculating your FAE at retirement can take time because we must collect salary information from your employer(s) and factor in items such as retroactive payments and earnings you receive after your date of retirement. This is necessary to ensure that your pension calculation is accurate and that you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.

Find out more about how FAE is calculated on our website.