Tag Archives: members

NYSLRS Membership Basics

Whether you’re a new member or have been part of the Retirement System for years, you’re sure to have questions about your NYSLRS membership. What is vesting? Final average earnings? Maybe you’re wondering what tier you’re in or why that even matters. While NYSLRS administers many different retirement plans, the core concepts of a NYSLRS membership remain the same. Here are the basics.

Your NYSLRS Membership Basics

Four Things to Understand About Your NYSLRS Membership

When learning about your NYSLRS benefits, you should become familiar with these four basic concepts:

  • Tier. Your tier is based on the date you joined NYSLRS and helps determine the benefits available to you. If you’re a new NYSLRS member, you’re likely in Tier 6. Tier 6 members joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012.
  • Service Credit. You earn a year of service credit for each year you work for a participating NYSLRS employer. Part-time work is prorated. Your total service credit at retirement is a major factor in determining the amount of your pension.
  • Vesting. You become vested after you earn five years of service credit. It’s a significant milestone to reach because once you become vested, you’ll be eligible for a NYSLRS pension when you reach retirement age, even if you leave public service.
  • Final Average Earnings. Final average earnings is the average of your earnings during a period when your pay is highest. It’s another major factor in determining the amount of your pension.

Once you understand these basics, it can make learning more about your NYSLRS membership and benefits easier and help you get ahead on your retirement planning.

Your NYSLRS Pension and Other Benefits

Being a NYSLRS member means you are part of a defined benefit retirement plan. This means your NYSLRS pension will be a lifetime benefit, and it will be based on your final average earnings and service credit, not the contributions you make toward your retirement.

NYSLRS also provides other important benefits for its members, including:

Where to Get More Information

We want to provide you with the information you’ll need to plan for your retirement and make critical decisions about your future. Here are the resources available to you:

Retirement Online is the quickest way to access account information such as your tier, retirement plan and estimated total service credit. Sign up for a Retirement Online account if you don’t already have one.

If you have questions about your NYSLRS membership or benefits, you can find answers on our NYSLRS website. You can find different webpages, such as our Understanding Your NYSLRS Benefits page, that explain what benefits and services are available to you. Reading your retirement plan publication is a great way to get a comprehensive understanding of your benefits. Go to our Publications page to find your retirement plan and other helpful information.

If you have questions about your account or your NYSLRS benefits, please email us using our secure contact form.

Prepare Your Affairs and Survivors

After you’re gone, will your loved ones know how to handle your affairs? Will they know where to find your important documents, such as your will? Will they be able to make sense of your finances? Putting these affairs in order now can better prepare your survivors during an already difficult time.

prepare your affairs and survivors

Organize Your Documents

The first step to putting your affairs in order is collecting assorted records, certificates and other paperwork in a secure place. You’ll also want to write down names and phone numbers for any friends or business associates who could be helpful (like your attorney, accountant, insurance agent and the executor of your will).

To help your survivors find these important documents, fill out a Where My Assets Are (VO1848) form. Review this list and update it as needed.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

You may not feel comfortable discussing your death, but all your preparation won’t do any good if you keep your wishes a secret. Once you’ve collected your files and put together a list, let your potential survivors know where your documents are and provide them with copies of your asset list.

Discuss your finances with your loved ones, including your children, if any of the money matters involve them. Explain your NYSLRS benefits (such as your death benefits) and let them know how to report your death to NYSLRS. They can complete the NYSLRS Report a Death Form or call us at 866-805-0990. Death benefits cannot be paid until we have a certified death certificate.

Be sure to also discuss your funeral and burial preferences and let your family know about any arrangements you have already made.

Other Steps to Take When Organizing Your Affairs

You may have already taken care of some of these steps as part of your estate planning, but it never hurts to go back and check to make sure they still reflect your wishes.

  • Work with an attorney to prepare a will or trust.
  • Review your beneficiary information in Retirement Online and make sure we have the correct contact information for your beneficiaries.
  • Consider advance directives, such as a durable power of attorney, living will, health care proxy or do-not-resuscitate order. If you have minor children, you may wish to name a guardian for them. If you have a child with a disability, consult a professional who can help you navigate Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Keep your loved ones apprised of any changes to your situation that may affect them.

Read Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors and share this publication with your potential survivors. The second half provides information for your survivors and explains what to do and who to contact if a loved one dies.

NYSLRS Loans and Retirement Online

Planning on taking out a NYSLRS loan? Applying online offers speed and convenience.

NYSLRS loan eligibility is based on your tier, but generally, you’ll need to be on the payroll of a participating employer, have at least one year of service and have a certain amount of contributions in your account. Retirement Online will provide the eligibility information you need as you step through the application process. (Note: retirees are not eligible for NYSLRS loans.)

Use Retirement Online to apply for a NYSLRS loan

Getting Started

Retirement Online is the fastest way to apply for a NYSLRS loan. It’s also an easy way to check your current loan balance, the amount you are eligible to borrow and more.

­­If you don’t already have an account, go to the Sign In page and click “Sign Up” under the “Customer Sign In” button. (Need help with Retirement OnlineSee this post for handy tips.)

The Application Process

Once you’ve signed in, scroll down to ‘My Account Summary.’ Under ‘I want to…’ click the green “Apply for a Loan” button and follow the prompts.

As you work your way through the online application, you’ll see:

  • How much you can borrow;
  • The minimum repayment amount;
  • The expected payoff date; and
  • How much you can borrow without tax implications.

A service charge of $45 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 in some cases – 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. 

If you already have a loan and you want to take another loan, you can either take multiple loans or refinance your existing loan. Taking a new loan (the multiple-loan option) minimizes your potential tax consequences. Your minimum payment will be higher, but you will pay off your loans faster than you would by refinancing. Refinancing adds the new loan amount to your existing balance and spreads the entire balance over a new five-year term. Your payment will be lower but your tax consequences may be significantly higher.

Repaying Your NYSLRS Loan

Loan payments will be deducted from your paycheck. You can choose the minimum payroll deduction, which would pay off your loan in five years, or you can pay more to pay off your loan sooner. The payment calculator in Retirement Online will provide your expected payoff date if you enter an amount higher than the minimum.

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.

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. Following your full repayment, your pension benefit will be increased from that point going forward, but it will not be adjusted retroactively back to your date of retirement. 

More Information

For more information about NYSLRS loans, visit our Loans page. If you need help with the Retirement Online loan application, click “Help” at the top of your account page, then click next to ‘Requesting a Loan’ and select the step-by-step guide that best fits your situation.

Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded From Tier 6 Contribution Rates

New legislation temporarily changes how Tier 6 contribution rates will be calculated.

Usually, Tier 6 contribution rates are calculated using a member’s base pay, which includes regular earnings, holiday pay and longevity pay. Overtime pay (up to a certain limit) is also included in the calculation of the contribution rate.

The new legislation removes overtime pay from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation, if it was earned from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022. The earnings for this time period were used to determine contribution rates that you were set to pay from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024.

Removing overtime earnings may result in a change in a Tier 6 member’s contribution rates effective April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024. Although Tier 6 contribution percentage rates for those years will be calculated only on annual base wages, Tier 6 members must pay the applicable contribution rate on all of their pensionable earnings in those years. This video helps explain how your contribution rate is determined.

Note: Tier 6 members are those who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012.

Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded From Tier 6 Contribution Rates

When Will Rates be Recalculated?

We will work with employers to review your past earnings to determine whether your rate should be lowered.

Tier 6 is now the largest tier in NYSLRS. With more than 325,000 Tier 6 members, it will take some time to collect detailed earnings information from employers and change rates. Once information for all Tier 6 members is received and processed, if your rate should be lower, you will receive a credit of overpaid contributions through your employer that will be retroactive to April 1, 2022.

Who is Affected by the Rate Change?

Tier 6 members who make mandatory contributions toward their retirement and earned overtime from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022 may have their contribution rates lowered.

The rate decrease will not apply to:

  • Members who are already paying the minimum rate of 3 percent;
  • Members who did not earn overtime during the COVID pandemic; and
  • Members who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2020. Your rates are based on an estimated wage provided by your employer when you were enrolled into NYSLRS rather than your actual earnings.

More About Tier 6 Contribution Rates

Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to help fund pension benefits. For Tier 6 members, that percentage, or contribution rate, is based on earnings and can vary from year to year. The minimum rate is 3 percent and the maximum rate is 6 percent.

For more information about how Tier 6 contribution rates are calculated, read our blog post, How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate Can Change.

Becoming Vested

Becoming vested is a crucial milestone in your NYSLRS membership.

You become vested after you earn enough years of service credit. Once you’re vested, you have earned the right to receive a retirement benefit, even if you leave public employment before retirement.

New Legislation Changes Vesting Requirements for Tier 5 and 6 Members

As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members only need five years of service credit to be vested. This affects members of both the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Previously, Tier 5 and 6 members needed 10 years of service to be eligible for a service retirement benefit (the new legislation does not change eligibility for disability retirement benefits that are established by your retirement plan).

Becoming Vested - New Legislation Changes Requirements for Tier 5 and 6 Members

You can sign in to your Retirement Online account to view your total estimated service credit. Over the next few months, we will update members’ accounts to reflect any changes to vesting status as a result of these new vesting requirements. If your total estimated service credit in Retirement Online is more than five years, rest assured, you are considered vested and your vesting status will be changed to “Yes.” This will be done by NYSLRS and there is no need to contact us.

In addition, we are working to update the pension estimate tool in Retirement Online. Until vesting status updates are made to the tool, pension estimates produced in Retirement Online will not accurately reflect the vesting status of members impacted by the new legislation.

Effective immediately, if you are a Tier 5 or 6 member with five or more years of service and you meet the minimum age requirements for your retirement plan, you can apply for a service retirement benefit if you wish. We are updating our online services to enable Tier 5 and 6 members to apply for retirement through Retirement Online. In the meantime, you may file for retirement using our paper application. If you have between five and 10 years of service credit and you have questions about filing for retirement, please contact us.

This legislation did not change Tier 5 or 6 benefit rules such as how long you must contribute, your pension benefit calculation, your full retirement age, reductions to retire early or the cost to purchase previous service. However, additional new legislation may affect contribution rates for some Tier 6 members. Information about this legislation will be posted on our blog when it becomes available.

Tier 5 and 6 members who left public employment with five or more years of service and did not withdraw their membership are now considered to be vested.

Tier 5 and 6 members who leave public employment with more than five years of service but less than 10 years, as of April 9, 2022, now have the option to either apply for a retirement benefit once you reach retirement age or withdraw your contributions. You cannot withdraw your contributions once you have 10 years of service. As a reminder, once you withdraw your contributions, you end your membership with NYSLRS and are no longer eligible for a retirement benefit.

If you were a Tier 5 or 6 member and have been off the payroll for more than seven years prior to April 9, 2022, your membership is considered withdrawn and terminated. You would need to return to payroll and reinstate your withdrawn membership in order to be eligible for five-year vesting.

All Members — When Will I Be Vested?

NYSLRS members in Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 need five years of service credit to be vested.

If you work part-time, it will take you longer to become vested. For example, if you work half-time, you earn six months of credit toward vesting for each year on the job.

If you purchase credit for previous service or military service, that credit can be used toward vesting.

What You Need to Do

Vesting is automatic. You do not need to file any paperwork to become vested. To find out if you’re vested, you can sign in to your Retirement Online account and find your total estimated service credit in the ‘My Account Summary’ section. Again, if your total estimated service credit in Retirement Online is listed as more than five years, you are considered vested.

Vested members will need to apply for a service retirement benefit in order to receive a pension. Applications must be submitted within 15 – 90 days before the date you wish to retire (you must be eligible to retire on the date you choose).

Most NYSLRS members are eligible to collect a pension as early as age 55, but, depending on your tier and retirement plan, benefits may be reduced if you retire before your full retirement age.

You can estimate your pension benefit based on the salary and service information we have on file for you. From your Retirement Online account, under ‘My Account Summary’ click “Estimate my Pension Benefit.”

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: PFRS Tier 5

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation.

Our series, NYSLRS — One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS. Today’s post looks at PFRS Tier 5. Anyone who joined PFRS from January 9, 2010 through March 31, 2012 is in Tier 5. There were 1,967 PFRS Tier 5 members as of March 31, 2021, making up 5.6 percent of PFRS membership.

About Special Plans

Under a regular plan, you need to reach certain age and service requirements to receive your NYSLRS pension. If you’re covered by a special plan, there is no age requirement, and you can receive your pension after completing 20 or 25 years of service.

Nearly 80 percent of PFRS members are in plans covered under Sections 384, 384-d, 384-e or 384-f of the Retirement and Social Security Law. Read our Police and Fire Retirement System blog post for information about different PFRS plans.

Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for PFRS Tier 5.

PFRS Tier 5

If you’re a PFRS Tier 5 member, you can find detailed information about your benefits in the retirement plan booklets listed below:

For special plans under miscellaneous titles, please visit our Publications page.

Check out other posts in the PFRS series:

Know Your Benefits: Death Benefits

If you die while still on the job, your beneficiary may be eligible to receive a death benefit. Here is an overview of member death benefits.  

(If you are retired, visit our Death Benefit page for retirees to learn about available benefits.)

Know your death benefits

Types of Death Benefits

Most members who die while they’re still working will leave their beneficiaries what’s called an ordinary death benefit. The benefit is a lump sum payment usually equal to one year of your earnings per year of service, up to a maximum of three years, but the calculation of the death benefit can be different if you’re in a special retirement plan. Please visit our Death Benefits page to see which calculation applies to you. Generally, to qualify for the ordinary benefit, you must have at least one year of service credit and your death must occur while you are on the public payroll. Check your retirement plan booklet for other qualifying circumstances.

Some members who die because of an on-the-job accident (not due to their own willful negligence) may leave their beneficiary an accidental death benefit. If paid to a surviving spouse or dependent parent, the benefit is a lifetime pension. For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 4, 5 and 6 members, the benefit is 50 percent of your earnings from your last year of service. For a majority of other members, the benefit is 50 percent of your final average earnings (less any workers’ compensation benefit). There is no minimum service credit requirement to qualify for the accidental benefit.

Death benefits vary by tier and retirement plan, so check your retirement plan for specific benefit and eligibility information and contact us if you have questions.

Reporting a Death

NYSLRS cannot pay out any death benefits until after we are notified of a member’s death and have a certified copy of the member’s death certificate. That’s why it’s so important to talk with your family now about your benefits and how to report your death to NYSLRS. Survivors can report a member’s death using our online form.

Update Your Beneficiaries

In most cases (unless beneficiaries are determined by law, as in the case of accidental death benefits), your death benefit will be paid to the last beneficiaries you designated, so it’s important to be sure yours are up to date. Your beneficiaries are listed in your Retirement Online account and on your Member Annual Statement. You can update your beneficiary information using Retirement Online.

Retirement Planning: Questions to Ask Yourself

retirement planning - things to think aboutAfter months or years of retirement planning, you’re probably looking forward to the day when you apply for your NYSLRS pension. But before you retire, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. After all, by filing for retirement, you’re making critical decisions about your financial future. And once you’ve retired, some of those decisions will be irrevocable. Whether your planned retirement date is just around the corner or a few years off, asking these questions now could help you avoid costly mistakes.

Do I have all the service credit I think I have?

Under some retirement plans, service milestones (20 years, 30 years, reaching full retirement age) can have a big impact on the amount of your benefit. If you’re aiming for one of these milestones, but retire just short of reaching it, your pension will be less than you might be expecting. To make sure you have enough service credit on your planned retirement date, sign in to Retirement Online to check the most up-to-date estimate of your total service credit.

Do I have previous service credit I want to purchase?

You may be able to buy credit for previous public employment or military service, which in most cases would increase your pension.  

If you are planning to purchase service credit, including military service, you should do that as soon as possible, especially since you can’t purchase service credit after you retire. You can apply for additional credit in Retirement Online or by submitting a Request to Purchase Service Credit form (RS5042). You may also wish to read our publication Service Credit for Tier 2 Through 6.

Do I have a balance on a NYSLRS loan?

If you have an outstanding balance on a NYSLRS loan, you should pay it off before you retire. If you retire with an outstanding loan, your pension will be permanently reduced.

While Employees’ Retirement System members may repay their loan after retiring, they must pay back the full amount of the outstanding balance that was due at retirement in one lump-sum payment. Once the loan has been repaid, their pension benefit will be increased from that point going forward, but it will not be adjusted retroactively back to their date of retirement.

You can use your Retirement Online account to check your loan balance, make a lump-sum payment or increase your payment amount. For more information, visit our Loans page.

Retirement Planning Resources

The more you know about retirement and the retirement process, the better off you’ll be. Here are some resources that can help with your retirement planning:

How Full-Time and Part-Time Service Credit Works

Service credit plays a vital part in your pension calculation and your eligibility for other NYSLRS benefits. As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit by working for an employer who participates in the Retirement System. Your paid public employment is creditable. You would not, however, earn credit for any period when you are not receiving a salary, such as an unpaid leave of absence. You would earn credit for both full-time and part-time employment, but if you work part-time, the service you earn is pro-rated.

Earning Service Credit When You Work Full Time

When you work on a full-time, continuous basis throughout your career, we’ll calculate your total service credit from your date of employment up until the date you leave paid employment. Most full-time workers earn a year of service credit for working 260 workdays a year. For a full-time, 12-month employee, 260 workdays equal a full year. (If you work in an educational setting, you can read about earning service credit in our blog post, How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit.)

Earning Service Credit When You Work Part Time

Your service credit is prorated if you work part time. Part-time employment is credited as the lesser of:

the number of days worked ÷ 260 days

or

your reported annual salary ÷ (the State’s hourly minimum wage × 2,000)

You can think of it like this: let’s say you work 130 days in a year. If a year’s worth of service credit is earned for working 260 days full time, you’d earn half a year (0.5) of service credit for your part-time work.

How Part-Time Service Credit Works

Check Your Service Credit in Retirement Online

Retirement Online is the fastest way to check your current total estimated service credit. Once you sign in, go to the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage and look under “Account Information.”

You can also use Retirement Online to request credit for public employment from before you joined NYSLRS. If you’re eligible to purchase previous service credit, it’s a good idea to file your request as early in your career as possible because:

  • Records we need to verify your service will be more readily available.
  • If there is a cost, it will be less expensive than if you wait to purchase credit before retirement.
  • Your retirement benefit will be processed more quickly if your service credit request has been reviewed or processed prior to retirement.

For more information, please read our publication Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6. You may also wish to refer to your specific retirement plan booklet, available on our Publications page.