Tag Archives: membership

Sex Identification and Your NYSLRS Membership

As of January 1, 2023, when new members are enrolled in NYSLRS, they can choose “x” as their sex identification instead of “male” or “female.”

sex identification

Updating Your Sex Identification With NYSLRS

If you’re already a member or a retiree, you can update your sex identification with us at any time.

Sign in to Retirement Online to check what information we have on file for you. You can find your current sex identifier on your Account Homepage under ‘My Profile Information.’

If you need to change or correct your sex identification, send us a signed letter requesting the change. Please include your NYSLRS ID on the letter. No additional documentation is required to change your sex identifier.

You can send us the letter by attaching it to our secure contact form, or by mailing it to:

NYSLRS
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

We are working to update Retirement Online so members and retirees can sign in and update their sex identification on their own. This feature is expected to be available sometime in 2023. (Need help accessing Retirement Online in the meantime? See our Tools and Tips post for more information.)

Need a Name Change Too?

If you’re changing your last name, you can make the update, and upload copies of the documentation showing the change, in Retirement Online. Sign in to your account, go to the ‘My Profile Information’ section of your Account Homepage and click the “update” link next to your name. A list of acceptable documentation will be provided.

To update your first or last name, send us a Name Change Notice (RS5483) form. You will need to provide original documentation, such as a court order, if the name change is for a reason other than a change in marital status. We can also accept a certified copy of the documentation.

NYSLRS Membership Basics

Whether you just joined or you’re a longtime member, you likely have questions about your NYSLRS membership. What is vesting? What are final average earnings? What tier are you in, and why does it even matter?

NYSLRS Membership

Basic Concepts of NYSLRS Membership

While NYSLRS administers many different retirement plans, the core concepts of our memberships are the same. Your pension will be calculated using a preset formula based on your earnings and years of service. To better understand 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. Generally, 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, because once you’re vested, you’re eligible for a NYSLRS pension when you reach retirement age, even if you leave public service.
  • Final Average Earnings. Final average earnings are the average of your earnings during the period when your pay is highest. It’s another major factor in determining the amount of your pension.

Your NYSLRS Pension and Other Benefits

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

Your NYSLRS membership also provides other important benefits, including:

More Information

We want to make sure you have the information you’ll need to plan for your retirement and make critical decisions about your future. Here are some 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. If you don’t already have one, sign up for a Retirement Online account now.

Explore the NYSLRS website to learn more about your NYSLRS membership. Our Welcome New Members page explains more about the benefits that are available to you. Your retirement plan publication offers a comprehensive overview of your benefits, and you can find it with our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool.

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

Why Your Retirement Plan Publication Is So Important

Your plan publication is an essential resource that you should consult throughout your career. It will help you plan for retirement and guide you when your retirement date draws near.

Reminder: you can use this tool to help you find your retirement plan publication.

Let’s explore the information you’ll find in your plan publication and what it means.

retirement plan publication

About Your Membership

This section has basic information about your membership, including your tier, contributions, when you will be eligible for a pension and how to withdraw your membership if you leave public employment.

Service Credit

Service credit is one of the main factors in determining your pension benefit amount. If you work full-time for the State or a participating municipal employer for 12 months, you’ll earn a year of service credit. If you work part-time, your service credit is prorated.

You’ll also find information about how your service credit is calculated, how to purchase credit for previous public employment or military service, how leaves of absence affect service credit, and how sick leave can be used for extra service credit at retirement.

Final Average Earnings

Final average earnings (FAE) are another major factor in determining the amount of your pension. Your FAE is the average earnings during the set of consecutive years (three or five years, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest.

This section describes what types of payments are used in calculating your FAE and any limitations that may apply.

Service Retirement Benefits

This section describes your retirement eligibility and how your benefit is calculated. If you have questions about how much your pension will be, you should read this section.

Choosing a Pension Payment Option

You can choose from several options for the payment of your pension. Some payment options allow you to provide for your spouse or other beneficiary after you die in exchange for a reduction in your monthly payment. Consider each payment option carefully, as you’ll only have at most 30 days to change it after you retire.

Items That May Affect Your Pension

This section describes factors that can change the amount of your pension. For example, if you retire with an outstanding loan, your pension will be permanently reduced. Also, if you get a divorce, your ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of your benefit.

A cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), on the other hand, would increase your benefit once you become eligible.

Vested Retirement Benefits

If you leave public employment before retirement age but have met the minimum service requirement to receive a pension, you can apply for a vested retirement benefit when you become eligible.

Disability and Death Benefits

Your NYSLRS benefits include more than a pension. If you are no longer able to perform your job because of a medical condition, you may be eligible for a disability retirement. If you die before retirement, your survivors may be eligible for a death benefit.

Receiving Your Benefits

Before you can receive your pension, you must file an application with the Office of the State Comptroller. This section describes the process of applying for your retirement benefits, including information about filing online.

ERS Tier 6 Milestones

If you joined the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) on or after April 1, 2012, you are a Tier 6 member. Let’s look at the milestones you will reach over the course of your public service career and how they will affect your benefits.

Why Milestones Matter

As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit for your paid public employment. Generally, one year of full-time work equals one year of service credit. As you earn service credit, you’ll reach career milestones that will make you eligible for certain benefits or for improvements to your existing benefits. Understanding these milestones and when they occur will help you better plan your career and retirement.

Your milestones depend on your tier and your retirement plan. Most ERS Tier 6 members are in the Article 15 retirement plan (named for a section of the New York State Retirement and Social Security Law). If you see Plan A15 listed in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online account or in your annual statement, you’re in this plan.

ERS Tier 6 milestones

Major Milestones for Tier 6

Here are some important milestones for Tier 6 members in the Article 15 retirement plan:

  • With ten years of service credit, you can 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.
  • 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.
  • Ten years also marks the point when 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, for most Tier 6 members, there would be reductions to your benefit if you retire before age 63.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 63.
  • If you retire with fewer than 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service.
  • If you retire with more than 20 years of service, your benefit will equal 1.75 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
  • Then, for each year of service beyond 20 years, you will receive an additional 2 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. Most members can estimate your pension in Retirement Online and enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit. As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members only need five years of service credit to be vested. If you are a Tier 5 or 6 member with between five and ten years of service credit, you can contact us to request a benefit estimate.

ERS Tier 6 Special Plans

Some public employees, such as corrections officers or deputy sheriffs, are in special retirement plans and can receive a pension after completing 20 or 25 years of service, regardless of age. If you are not in the Article 15 retirement plan described above, you should read your retirement plan publication to learn about your plan’s milestones.

Our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool can help. To use it, you just need to know your retirement plan code. You can find your code in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online account homepage or on the second page of your latest Member Annual Statement. You can also use the new tool to search for your plan publication by retirement system, tier and occupation type (uniformed or non-uniformed).

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

NYSLRS, which administers the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), had 685,450 members as of March 31, 2022. Our members are State government, local government, school district and other public-sector employees from across New York — 650,251 in ERS and 35,199 in PFRS. About 74 percent of our members were active, which means they were on a public payroll as of March 31.

NYSLRS Membership Over Time

A decade ago, more than 80 percent of NYSLRS members were in Tiers 3 and 4. Now, those tiers represent less than 40 percent of our membership. Tier 6, which includes members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012, now has 367,013 members, or 53.5 percent of total membership.

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

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

Tier 1: NYSLRS’ oldest tier, whose members first joined the system before July 1, 1973 (July 31, 1973, for PFRS members), is dwindling. Tier 1 represented only 0.2 percent of our membership. There were only 1,043 Tier 1 ERS members and 17 Tier 1 PFRS members.

Tier 2: With 18,074 members, Tier 2 represented 2.6 percent of membership. Ninety-four percent of Tier 2 members were in PFRS.

Tiers 3 & 4: Tiers 3 and 4, which have similar retirement plans, had 263,734 members, 38.5 percent of the total membership. Tiers 3 and 4 are primarily ERS tiers. There is no Tier 4 in PFRS, and only 173 PFRS members were in Tier 3.

Tier 5: Tier 5 covers members who joined from January 1, 2010, through March 31, 2012. With 35,569 members, Tier 5 represented 5.2 percent of membership.

Tier 6: This tier covers members who joined since April 1, 2012. Its ranks grew by about 13 percent during the last fiscal year.

Why Your Tier Matters

Your tier is an essential component of your NYSLRS membership because it is one of the factors that determines your benefits. You can find out more by reading your retirement plan booklet. Our recent blog posts explain how to find your plan booklet and how to get the most out of it.

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.

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 and vesting status.

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.”

Countdown to Retirement — 18 Months to Go

Thinking about retiring soon? Our Countdown to Retirement series will help you get started and stay on track to hit your retirement date.

Countdown to Retirement 18 months

Review Your Account Information in Retirement Online

As your first step on the road to retirement, you should sign in to your Retirement Online account and review the information we have on file for you. If you don’t have an account, consider signing up for one. It’s an essential retirement tool that will make the retirement process easier.

Make sure your mailing address and email address are current and check other information in your account. In your Retirement Online account, you’ll find:

  • The date you joined NYSLRS;
  • Your tier and membership plan;
  • Your estimated service credit;
  • Your annual earnings for the past five years; and
  • Loan balances and payoff dates.

If you believe information is missing or incorrect in your Retirement Online account, please contact us.

Read Your Retirement Plan Booklet

Your retirement plan booklet provides essential information about your NYSLRS benefits. It shows the formula that NYSLRS will use to calculate your pension and discusses other factors that may affect your pension.

You can find your plan booklet on our Publications page. Read our blog post about retirement plans to figure out which plan is yours. If you’re still not sure, check your Retirement Online account or ask your employer.

Learn How Divorce Can Affect Your Pension

If you’ve been through a divorce since you joined NYSLRS, that may affect your pension.

Retirement benefits are considered marital property and can be divided between you and your ex-spouse. Any division of your benefits must be stated in a domestic relations order (DRO), a legal document that gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be divided.

Read our Divorce and Your Benefits page to learn more.

Other Things to Consider

If you have a NYSLRS loan, you should plan to pay it off before retirement. Your pension will be reduced if you retire with an outstanding loan. You can use Retirement Online to check your balance, make a lump-sum payment or increase your payment amount. For more information, visit our Loans page.

If you are planning to purchase service credit, including military service, you should do that as soon as possible. You can apply for additional credit in Retirement Online or submit a Request to Purchase Service Credit form (RS5042). Our publication Service Credit for Tier 2 Through 6 has more information.

Your Countdown to Retirement

Your planned retirement date will be here before you know it. Watch for future posts in the Countdown to Retirement series for steps to take at 12 months, four-to-six months and one-to-three months before your retirement date.

Retirement Planning: Know Your Membership Milestones

Even if your retirement is years in the future, you should be aware of certain membership milestones that may help you narrow down when to retire.

There are two types of membership milestones: those pertaining to age and those pertaining to service credit. Since most NYSLRS members reach service credit milestones first, we’ll start with them.

Service Credit Milestones

Vesting is a key retirement milestone. Once you become vested, you will be eligible for a NYSLRS pension even if you leave public employment before retirement. Members in Tiers 1-4 with at least five years of credited service are vested. (Most members in these tiers have already reached this milestone.) Tier 5 and 6 members must have ten years of credited service to be vested.

membership milestones - service credit

After reaching 20 years of service, most members will be eligible to have a higher percentage of their final average earnings included in their pension benefit. How that benefit is calculated depends on your retirement plan and tier. You can find more information in your retirement plan booklet.

Members in some special plans can retire with 20 years of service, regardless of their age. Other special plans allow for retirement after 25 years, regardless of age.

At 30 years of service, Tier 2-4 members who are at least 55 years old can retire without a pension reduction.

Age Milestones

Once you reach your full retirement age, you can retire without a pension reduction. For Tiers 2-5, the full retirement age is 62. The full retirement age for Tier 6 members is 63.

membership milestones - age

Members in regular retirement plans can retire as early as age 55, but they may face a pension reduction if they retire before their full retirement age. The closer you are to your full retirement age at retirement, the less the reduction will be.

If you would like to see what your pension would be at different ages, use Retirement Online’s pension benefit estimator.

More About NYSLRS Membership Milestones

For more information about NYSLRS milestones, please see:

Questions About Your NYSLRS Membership? Look Here for Answers

If you have general questions about NYSLRS or your benefits, we have a web page that can help you find the answers.

That’s because the NYSLRS Contact Us page does double duty. It not only lists contact information, it also helps you find answers for many of the common questions we get from members, retirees and beneficiaries. It covers subjects like address changes, loans, pension estimates, direct deposit and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

To get started, go to the Contact Us page and select the Member, Retiree or Beneficiary button to find the questions and answers you need. Each section has categories specific to that member group.

Member

answers
  • Address Change
  • Forms
  • Loans
  • Member Annual Statement
  • Mortgage Letter/Account Verification Letter
  • Pension Estimates
  • Retirement Online
  • Service Credit
  • Withdrawing from NYSLRS

Retiree

answers
  • 1099-R Reprint
  • Address Change
  • Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
  • Direct Deposit
  • Federal Taxes
  • Forms
  • Health Insurance
  • Pension Checks
  • Pension Verification Letters
  • Retirement Online

Beneficiary

answers
  • 1099-R Reprint
  • Address Change
  • Direct Deposit
  • Federal Taxes
  • Forms
  • Pension Checks
  • Pension Verification Letters
  • Reporting a Death
  • Retirement Online
  • Who is a Beneficiary?

Getting Account-Specific Answers

The information on the Contact Us page is general. If you’re looking for information specific to your situation, like your loan balance or a breakdown of your pension payment, sign in to Retirement Online. If you don’t already have a Retirement Online account, sign up today.