Tag Archives: members

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

When a NYSLRS member or retiree dies, it is important that survivors report the death to NYSLRS as soon as possible.

How Survivors Can Report a Death

Survivors can find the report a death form on the NYSLRS website.

The form has two parts: The first section is for the person reporting the death to enter information about themselves. They should be sure to include a phone number in case we need to contact them. In the second part, they should enter information about the deceased member or retiree. If they know the deceased’s NYSLRS ID or the last four digits of their Social Security number, they should enter that too.

reporting a death

Survivors can upload a photocopy of the death certificate so NYSLRS can begin identifying any benefits that may be payable. (Note: we will still need an original death certificate before any benefits are paid – see below.) The form is transmitted over a secure network.

Survivors can also report a death by calling our toll-free number at 1-866-805-0990 (or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area), weekdays from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. Once they reach the call menu, they should press 3, then 1. The call will be transferred to a customer service representative, who will ask for:

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

We may also ask for the addresses and phone numbers of immediate family members who may be beneficiaries. Please note: Our customer service representatives cannot release the identities of a member’s or retiree’s beneficiaries over the phone.

Mailing a Death Certificate

Before any death benefits can be processed or paid, NYSLRS will need an original, certified death certificate, even if a photocopy has already been submitted. The death certificate (and the sender’s contact information) should be mailed to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Survivor Services
110 State St
Albany, NY 12244

We recommend that death certificates be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

What Happens Next

Once we receive the death certificate, we will send named beneficiaries or their certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits and, if applicable, information about any continuing pension benefits and death benefits that may be payable based on the member or retiree’s tier and retirement plan. We will also send named beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

It could take several months from the date we are notified of a death to the date that any death benefit is paid. This is the average time necessary to recover any pension payments made after the retiree’s death and calculate any death benefit that may be due, as well as receive a certified copy of the death certificate, tax withholding forms and notarized forms from the named beneficiaries. Our top priority is paying a continuing pension benefit as soon as possible.

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

Talk to Your Loved Ones

If you’re a NYSLRS member or retiree, 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 will 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.

See You at the New York State Fair

If you’re visiting the Great New York State Fair, stop by and see us.

The celebration of everything New York begins Wednesday, August 24 and runs through Monday, September 5 (Labor Day). Our information representatives will be at the fairgrounds in Syracuse to help members and retirees with their retirement planning and benefit questions. You’ll also be able to pick up retirement plan brochures and forms, request an estimate that will be mailed to you and get help registering for a Retirement Online account.

The NYSLRS booth will be in the Center of Progress Building, building 6 on the State Fair map, near the Main Gate.

New York State Fair

Find Unclaimed Funds at the State Fair

OSC’s Office of Unclaimed Funds booth will also be in the Center of Progress building. An unclaimed fund is lost or forgotten money, perhaps in an old bank account or insurance policy, that has been turned over to the State. See if any of that money is yours. So far this year, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the Office of Unclaimed Funds have returned more than $248 million.

Special Fair Days

Wednesday, August 24

  • Opening Day

Friday, August 26

  • Pride Day – The LGBTQIA+ event includes a morning flag-raising ceremony at the main gate

Monday, August 29

  • Law Enforcement Day — Free admission for active and retired law enforcement and corrections personnel

Tuesday, August 30

  • Fire & Rescue Day — Free admission for active and retired members of fire departments and emergency services organizations
  • Comptroller DiNapoli Visits the Fair — He is the trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund and is the administrator of NYSLRS. He’ll be stopping by the NYSLRS booth during the day.

Wednesday, August 31

  • Women’s Day

Thursday, September 1

  • Armed Forces Day — Free admission for active duty or veterans

Monday, September 5

  • Labor Day – Show your support for working women and men at the Fair’s Labor Day rally

Note: ID required for free admissions listed above. For details, check out the complete schedule of Special Fair Days.

Supplement Your NYSLRS Pension With Retirement Savings

Do you have a retirement savings account? If you’re a new NYSLRS member, your future pension could provide a significant portion of your retirement income, but it’s also a good idea to save for retirement to supplement your pension and Social Security.

Why Should You Save for Retirement?

Retirement savings can be an important financial asset when you retire. Savings can enhance your retirement lifestyle and give you the flexibility to do the things you want.

Your savings can provide money for traveling, continuing your education, pursuing a hobby or starting a business. The money you set aside can be a resource in case of an emergency, act as a hedge against inflation and boost your retirement confidence.

Setting a Retirement Savings Goal

How much to save is a personal decision, but here are some things to consider.

Financial advisers recommend that people save 10 to 15 percent of their gross earnings throughout their careers to be able to retire comfortably. But that advice is aimed at people with defined contribution retirement plans, such as a 401(k), as their main source of retirement income.

As a NYSLRS member, you’re part of a defined benefit plan, also known as a traditional pension plan. Your pension, based on your years of service and earnings, will provide a lifetime benefit. That benefit could replace a substantial portion of your earnings during retirement.

Having a pension means you may not need to save as much as someone with only a 401(k). If you’re just starting out in your career, you may want to pick a savings amount (or percentage of your earnings) you’re comfortable with. Use a retirement savings calculator to see how much your savings plan could yield over time or test the results of different savings amounts.

Here you can see potential savings results of someone who invests 50 dollars every two weeks over 30 years. While the stock market has been turbulent lately, stock values tend to rise. Over the long term, stock market returns average about 10 percent a year.

retirement savings

As you get closer to retirement, you should develop a plan to withdraw money from your retirement savings. A withdrawal plan will give you a better grasp of the income you can expect from your nest egg.

Here is one possible withdrawal strategy, which was designed to provide retirement income for 20 years. Please note, if your retirement is far in the future, the money you withdraw may not have the same value that it has today. However, while inflation has been high in recent months, it does cycle and has been much lower in the past.

COLA coming soon

If you find you’ll need to save more to meet your goal, you can start making adjustments to help ensure you’ll have enough savings in retirement.

How To Get Started

State employees and many municipal employees are eligible to save for retirement through the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan. Once you’ve signed up for the plan, your retirement savings (which may be tax-deferred, depending on your plan) will be automatically deducted from your paycheck. (The Deferred Compensation Plan is not affiliated with NYSLRS.)

Find out if your employer participates in the Deferred Compensation Plan. If they don’t, check with your employer’s human resources (personnel) office about other savings options you may be eligible for.

More Information About Retirement Savings

You can find more information about saving for retirement in these recent posts:

PFRS Member Milestones

The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) covers nearly 32,000 police officers and firefighters across New York State. As a PFRS member, you’ll pass a series of important milestones throughout your career. Knowing and understanding these milestones will help you better plan for your financial future.

Some milestones are common to most PFRS members; others are shared by members in a particular tier or retirement plan. For example, your plan determines when you would be eligible to apply for a non-job-related disability benefit.

A recent amendment to Retirement law changed a milestone for some members. As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members are now vested after earning five years of service credit. Previously, members in these tiers needed ten years of service to become vested. Being vested means you are entitled to a NYSLRS pension, even if you leave public employment before retirement age.

Member Milestones to Remember

PFRS member milestones

Most PFRS members are in special plans that allow them to retire with full benefits, regardless of age, after 20 or 25 years of service. If you are in a special plan, only certain job titles would give you creditable service toward a 20- or 25-year milestone. For example, if you are in the State Police plan, service with a city police department would be creditable, but service as a sheriff’s deputy or corrections officer would not be.

PFRS members in regular plans can retire as early as age 55, but may face a benefit reduction if they retire before their full retirement age.

Your specific milestones, along with your pension calculation, are determined by your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. You can find information about your milestones in your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page. Not sure which retirement booklet is yours? Your retirement plan is listed in your Retirement Online account or you can ask your employer. You can also read our recent blog post for tips on finding your plan booklet.

Retroactive Payments and Your NYSLRS Pension

Retroactive payments are lump sum payments you receive from your employer. These payments can be from new union contracts, arbitration awards or legal settlements that took place while you were on your employer’s payroll.

If you receive a retroactive payment from your employer, it could affect your pension benefit calculation.

How Retroactive Payments Can Affect Your Benefit

Retroactive Payments

Your final average earnings (FAE) are a major factor in your pension benefit calculation. It’s the average of your three (five for Tier 6 members) highest consecutive years of earnings. For most people, their highest years of earnings come at the end of their careers.

Retroactive payments are applied to the pay periods when they were earned, not when they were paid. So, retroactive payments can increase your FAE, and therefore your pension benefit, as long as the time period in which you earned that money is part of the time period your FAE is based on.

However, please be aware that the law limits the FAE of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be able to be used toward your pension. You can find information about earnings limitations by tier, including examples, on the Final Average Earnings page on our website. If your FAE has already been affected by these earnings limits, your retroactive payment will not increase your pension benefit.

Payments Received Before Retirement. If you receive a retroactive payment from your employer before you retire, your employer will report your earnings to us through their regular reporting process. You do not need to notify us of payments you receive.

Payments Received After Retirement (State Employees). If you retired from New York State and you receive a retroactive payment after you retire, we will recalculate your pension automatically. NYSLRS receives State payroll information automatically and you do not need to notify us. You will receive correspondence from us explaining any change in your pension benefit.

Payments Received After Retirement (Non-State Employees). If you retired from a non-State employer and you receive a retroactive payment after you retire, send a letter to our Recalculation Unit in the Benefit Calculations & Disbursement Services Bureau. Please include a copy of your check stub and any correspondence you received from your employer related to the payment. Mail it to:

NYSLRS
Attn: BCDS – Recalculation Unit
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

You can also email and upload this information to the Retirement System through our secure contact form.

Your Pension Recalculation Will Be Completed

We continue to receive a record number of pension recalculations and are working diligently to address them. If you are currently waiting for your pension amount to be recalculated, please rest assured that we will get to it. Once we complete your recalculation, you will receive payment of all the money you are owed, and a letter explaining the change in your pension amount.

Recent PEF Retroactive Payments

If you were a Public Employees Federation (PEF) member before retiring from State service, you may have recently received a retroactive payment. The current PEF contract, covering employment from April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2021, was ratified last summer. If you were a PEF member, worked during these dates and have not received your retroactive payment, please check with your previous employer.

If you retired recently and your FAE included earnings from on or after April 1, 2019, your NYSLRS pension will be increased automatically. You do not need to notify us that you received a retroactive payment.

CSEA Contract Negotiations

If you were a member of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) before you retired, your contract and any retroactive payment is currently being negotiated. Contact CSEA if you have questions.

Making Loan Payments When You Leave Public Employment

To repay a NYSLRS loan, you make loan payments automatically through payroll deductions. But what happens if you go off the public payroll before the loan is paid off?

The answer is…it depends. If you leave your job because you’re retiring, then your pension will be reduced. (Employees’ Retirement System members may repay their loan after retiring, but they must pay the full balance in a single payment.)

However, if you leave public employment for any other reason, you must make loan payments directly to NYSLRS at least quarterly and pay off your loan balance within five years from the date the loan was issued. If you fail to meet either of these conditions, your loan will go into default.

You will still need to repay the outstanding balance to NYSLRS, and the loan will continue to accrue interest and insurance charges until it’s paid in full.

loan payments when you leave public employment

What Happens If My Loan Defaults?

If your loan defaults, NYSLRS will report your outstanding balance, minus any previously taxed amount, to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a distribution to you. You must also include the loan on your federal income tax return for the year it defaults. (If it was taxable before default, you will not be re-taxed on that portion of the loan.)

If you’re younger than 59½ in the year the loan defaults, the IRS will charge an additional 10 percent penalty on the taxable portion of the loan. (There are no New York State or local taxes due on the distribution.)

We also cannot issue a new loan until the defaulted loan has been repaid.

Managing Your Loan Payments

If you leave public employment, contact us as soon as possible. We’ll tell you the exact amount you’ll need to repay each quarter to avoid defaulting.

Retirement Online offers a convenient way to manage your NYSLRS loan. Sign in to check your balance. You can also use Retirement Online to make quarterly loan payments or pay off the balance. If you don’t have an account, sign up today.

If you mail your loan payments by check, be sure to write “loan payment” on your check and include your NYSLRS ID number so we can apply it to the correct account. Mail payments to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Accounts Receivable
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

Member Milestones for ERS Tier 3 and 4

Knowing your member milestones can help you plan for your retirement. Most Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 3 and Tier 4 members (unless they are in special retirement plans) retire under the Article 15 retirement plan. If you’re covered by this retirement plan, you have a set of member milestones that affect how your pension is calculated and how much you’ll receive at retirement.

ERS Tier 3 and 4 member milestones

Here are some important Tier 3 and 4 milestones:

  • With ten years of service credit, you would be eligible to apply for a non-job-related disability benefit if you are permanently disabled and cannot perform your duties because of a physical or mental condition.
  • Also with ten years of service credit, your beneficiaries may be eligible for an out-of-service death benefit if you leave public employment and die before retirement.
  • With ten years of service credit, you are no longer able to withdraw your membership and receive a refund of your contributions if you leave public employment.
  • You are eligible to retire once you are age 55 and have five years of service credit. However, there would be reductions to your benefit if you retire before age 62 with less than 30 years of service credit.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 62.
  • If you retire with less than 20 years of service credit, the benefit is 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service.
  • If you retire with 20 to 30 years of service credit, the benefit is 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
  • If you retire with more than 30 years of service credit, the benefit is 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service up to 30. For each year of service beyond 30, you will receive 1.5 percent of your FAE.

Note: 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 during the years used in your FAE, it’s possible that some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension. The specific limits vary by tier. Visit our Final Average Earnings page for more information.

The amount of your pension also depends on several factors, including your years of service credit and your age when you retire. Read our blog post, Tier 3 & 4 Members: When Is The Right Time To Retire?, for information to consider. You can also estimate your pension in Retirement Online and enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit.

What is Your Net Worth?

When it comes to understanding your finances, a good place to start is by calculating your net worth.

Net worth is the total value of everything you own, minus the money you owe. It is a measure of your wealth and an indicator of your financial condition. It can also provide you with valuable insight as you start developing your financial plan for retirement.

How to Calculate Net Worth

The formula for calculating your net worth is simple:

net worth formula

Assets and Liabilities

Your assets are items of value that you own, including:

  • Your house
  • Other real estate (a vacation home, rental property)
  • Money in checking and saving accounts
  • Retirement savings, such as a 401(k) or Deferred Compensation account
  • Stocks, bonds and other investments
  • Your car and other vehicles
  • Jewelry, furniture and household items

Your liabilities are your debts. Your mortgage, credit card debts and loan balances factor into your total liabilities.

If you owe more than the value of your total assets, you have a negative net worth. A negative net worth may not necessarily mean you’re in financial trouble — it just means that at the moment you have more debts than assets.

If you’re just beginning your career and still have student loans, you may find yourself in negative territory. But your net worth is likely to increase over time as you pay down debts and save money.

Knowing Your Net Worth Can Help You Get a Handle on Your Finances

Your net worth shows your current financial status. When you know where you stand, you’ll be better prepared to make decisions about spending, saving and investing, which will help you achieve your short- and long-term financial goals. Your net worth can show you where you’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement. For example, it may indicate a need to curb your spending or reduce your credit card debt.

Your net worth is likely to change over time, so it’s a good idea to calculate it periodically. With this updated financial information, you’ll be able to track trends and make adjustments if necessary.

To learn more about net worth and what it means, you may wish to read What’s Your Net Worth Telling You?

NYSLRS Basics: Special Beneficiary Designations

What makes special beneficiary designations so special?

As a NYSLRS member, it’s important for you to name beneficiaries. Your beneficiaries may be eligible to receive a death benefit upon your death.

You can choose anyone you wish to receive your death benefit; it does not have to be a family member. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a person. You can name your estate, a charity or a trust.

But before we talk more about these special beneficiary designations, let’s quickly go over the two main types of beneficiaries. These are important to know as some special designations may affect who you can designate.

About Primary and Contingent Beneficiaries

A primary beneficiary is someone you choose to receive your benefit if you die. A contingent beneficiary would only receive the benefit if the primary beneficiary dies before you. If a beneficiary dies before you, you should update your beneficiary information to ensure that your benefit is distributed according to your wishes.

As a reminder, Retirement Online is the convenient and secure way to view and update your beneficiaries. If you don’t already have an online account, you can learn more on our website.

About Special Beneficiary Designations

Here are some examples of special beneficiary designations and the rules for each one:

special beneficiary designations

Estates

You may name your estate as the primary or contingent beneficiary of your death benefit. If you name your estate as your primary beneficiary, you cannot name a contingent. If a benefit is payable, the executor of your estate will distribute it according to the terms of your will.

Trusts

If you have executed a trust agreement or provided for a trust in your will, your trust can be your primary or contingent beneficiary. To name a trust, sign in to Retirement Online or use our Trust with Contingent Beneficiaries form (RS5127-T). We’ll need a copy of your trust document, which you can mail to NYSLRS or upload using Retirement Online.

With this type of designation, the trust is the beneficiary, not the individuals who will receive the trust. If you revoke the trust or it expires, you will want to make new beneficiary designations as soon as possible to ensure benefits are paid according to your wishes.

You should talk to an attorney if you’d like more information on trust agreements.

Entities

You may name any charitable, civic, religious, educational or health-related organization as a primary or contingent beneficiary. Be sure to include the organization’s full name and address in your designation.

Minor Children

If your beneficiary is under age 18 at the time of your death, your benefit will be paid to the child’s court-appointed guardian. You may instead choose a custodian to receive the benefit on the child’s behalf under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Custodians can be designated in Retirement Online. Before making this type of designation, please contact us for more information.

More Information

Please note that some of these beneficiary designations will be subject to a NYSLRS legal review.

For more information, please read our publication “Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary?” You can find your current NYSLRS beneficiaries listed in Retirement Online, or in your most recent Member Annual Statement.

ERS Tier 6 Benefits – A Closer Look

Financial advisers say you will need to replace between 70 and 80 percent of your salary to maintain your lifestyle after retirement. Your NYSLRS pension could go a long way in helping you reach that goal, especially when combined with your Social Security benefit and your own retirement savings. Here’s a look at how Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members in Tier 6 (who are vested once they’ve earned five years of credited service), can reach that goal. Members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012 are in Tier 6.

formula for a financially secure retirement

Calculating an ERS Tier 6 Member’s Pension

Your NYSLRS pension will be based on your Final Average Earnings (FAE) and the number of years you work in public service. FAE is the average of the five highest-paid consecutive years. Note: The law limits the FAE 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.  

Although ERS members can generally retire as early as age 55 with reduced benefits, the full retirement age for Tier 6 members is age 63.

For ERS Tier 6 members in regular plans (Article 15), the benefit is 1.66 percent of your FAE for each full year you work, up to 20 years. At 20 years, the benefit equals 1.75 percent per year for a total of 35 percent. After 20 years, the benefit grows to 2 percent per year for each additional year of service. (Benefit calculations for members of the Police and Fire Retirement System and ERS members in special plans vary based on plan.)

Say you begin your career at age 28 and work full-time until your full retirement age of 63. That’s 35 years of service credit. You’d get 35 percent of your FAE for the first 20 years, plus 30 percent for the last 15 years, for a total benefit that would replace 65 percent of your salary. If you didn’t start until age 38, you’d get 45 percent of your FAE at 63.

Examples of ERS Tier 6 Pension Calculation

So, that’s how your NYSLRS pension can help you get started with your post-retirement income. Now, let’s look at what the addition of Social Security and your own savings can do to help you reach your retirement goal.

Other Sources of Post-Retirement Income

Social Security: According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security currently replaces about 40 percent of the wages of a typical worker who retires at full retirement age. In the future, these percentages may change, but you should still factor it in to your post-retirement income.

Your Savings: Retirement savings can also replace a portion of your income. How much, of course, depends on how much you save. The key is to start saving early so your money has time to grow. New York State employees and some municipal employees can participate in the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan. If you haven’t already looked into Deferred Compensation, you might consider doing so now.