Tag Archives: Milestones

PFRS Milestones

The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) covers more than 35,000 police officers and firefighters across New York State. Let’s look at the PFRS 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 increases to your existing benefits.

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. Understanding these milestones will help you plan for retirement.

Important PFRS Milestones

PFRS milestones

Special Retirement Plans

Most PFRS members are in special retirement plans, which allow you to retire after 20 or 25 years of service regardless of age.

If you retire at your 20- or 25-year milestone, your pension will be 50 percent of your final average earnings (FAE). Depending on your retirement plan, you may earn 1.66 percent of your FAE for each year you work beyond the 20 or 25 years, however for most PFRS members, a maximum of 32 years of service can be used in your pension calculation.

Final Average Earnings

A new law improves your pension benefits. When you retire, your FAE will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings, the same as members in other tiers. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Eligible Service

PFRS members in special plans should be aware that not all public employment counts towards reaching the 20- or 25-year milestone. Service usually must be in specific job titles to be creditable toward your pension benefit. For example, if you are in the New York 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 may be eligible to purchase credit for military service to reach 20 or 25 years.

More Information About Your Benefits

Most members can estimate their pension in Retirement Online. You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase.

Your specific PFRS milestones, along with your eligible service and pension calculation, are determined by your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. You can visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

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 ERS Tier 6 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 increases to your existing benefits. Understanding these milestones will help you plan for 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, you’re in this plan.

Important ERS Tier 6 Milestones

ERS Tier 6 milestones

Here are some additional 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 at least 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: A new law improves your pension benefits. When you retire, your final average earnings (FAE) will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings, the same as members in other tiers. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Most members can estimate their pension in Retirement Online. You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase.

Vested: Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

Becoming vested is a crucial milestone for NYSLRS members. It means you have earned enough service to qualify for a retirement benefit once you meet the age or service requirements established by your retirement plan. Vesting is automatic — you don’t have to fill out any paperwork to become vested.

Vested: Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

Years of Service Credit to Become Vested

NYSLRS members in Tiers 2 – 6 need five years of service credit to be vested.  

If you work part-time, or if you have an unpaid leave of absence, it will take 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.

Sign in to your Retirement Online account to check your total estimated service credit and whether you are vested.

If you work for a school district, read our How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit blog post for information about how your service credit is determined. 

Note: Previously, Tier 5 and 6 members needed ten years of service to be eligible for a service retirement benefit. However, as of April 9, 2022, these members only need five years of service credit to be vested. The new law did not change benefit rules such as how long members must contribute, pension benefit calculations, the full retirement age, reductions to retire early or the cost to purchase previous service.

Applying for Retirement

Vesting is automatic, but you will need to apply for retirement to receive your pension — NYSLRS will not pay out your pension benefit unless you apply for it.

Pension eligibility requirements and benefit calculations depend on your tier and retirement plan. To find your tier and retirement plan, sign in to your Retirement Online account and go to the ‘My Account Summary’ section. Once you know your tier and retirement plan, you can find your retirement plan publication for comprehensive information about your benefits and filing instructions.

And when you’re ready, you can apply for a service retirement benefit quickly and easily using Retirement Online.

If you leave public employment, read about the age requirements for filing for a vested retirement benefit as well as other important information that you should know about your NYSLRS membership and benefits.

Age Milestones for Retirement Planning

age milestones

Whether you’re 22 or 52, you should be planning for retirement. Your NYSLRS retirement benefits will be based on your tier, years of service and final average earnings. For most members, age is also an important factor in your NYSLRS benefits and it’s a factor for Social Security and retirement savings strategies as well. So, as you plan for retirement, consider these age milestones.

Age Milestones

Under 50: It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. Even modest savings can add up over time as investment returns grow and interest compounds.

50: The Age 50 and Over Catch-Up provision allows you to save more pre-tax dollars in a retirement account starting in the calendar year in which you turn 50.

55: The earliest age most NYSLRS members can begin collecting a service retirement benefit. (This does not apply to members in special retirement plans.) Your pension may be permanently reduced if you retire before your full retirement age.

59½: The age you can start withdrawing money from a tax-deferred retirement savings plan, such as an IRA, without facing a potential federal tax penalty. (The penalty does not apply to New York State Deferred Compensation Plan savings if you are retired or have left public service.)

62: Full retirement age for your NYSLRS benefit if you are in Tier 2, 3, 4 and 5 or PFRS Tier 6. Earliest age you can begin collecting a Social Security pension, but the benefit would be reduced. For more information about Social Security, read When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.

63: Full retirement age for your NYSLRS benefit if you are in ERS Tier 6.

65: Age most people are eligible for Medicare benefits.

66: Full retirement age for Social Security if you were born from 1943 through 1954. Add two months for each year from 1955 through 1959.

67: Full retirement age for Social Security if you were born in 1960 or later.

70: If you do not take your Social Security benefit, your benefit will increase each year until you reach age 70. Delaying Social Security after 70 will not increase your benefit.

73: Generally, if you have tax-deferred retirement savings and are no longer working, you must begin withdrawing some of this money when you reach a certain age. Under a recent change in federal law, you must start taking “minimum required distributions” at age 73. The minimum age had been 72, and the change does not affect those who turned 72 before the end of 2022. This age milestone will increase to 75 in 2033. Required minimum distributions do not apply to your NYSLRS retirement benefits.

One Last Number: Having a rough idea of your life expectancy is essential to retirement planning.

Find Your Retirement Plan Publication

Your retirement plan publication is an essential resource that explains your NYSLRS benefits in detail — how long you’ll need to work to receive a pension, how your benefit is determined, what death and disability benefits may be available and more. You should consult it throughout your career, but it’s especially important to read as you prepare for retirement.

finding your retirement plan publication

Finding Your Retirement Plan Publication

NYSLRS administers two retirement systems, six membership tiers and many retirement plans that are described in dozens of retirement plan publications. We want to make sure you find the specific retirement plan information that pertains to you, which is why we have a new tool to help you Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication. 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 check the second page of your latest Member Annual Statement. You also can also use the new tool to search for your plan publication by retirement system, tier and occupation type (uniformed or non-uniformed).

Looking Up Your Plan Milestones

Once you have found your publication, check to see what minimum age or service milestones you’ll need to reach to receive your pension. Most retirement plans allow for full pension benefits at 62 (63 for Tier 6 members) or a reduced benefit starting at age 55. Members in some plans can apply for their pension once they reach 20 or 25 years of service credit, regardless of age.

The years of service credit you earn may also change the calculation of your pension. For example, the percentage of earnings used to determine your retirement benefit may increase once you reach certain milestones — such as when you have 20 years of credited service — but that depends on what retirement plan you are in.

Knowing your plan-specific age and service requirements can help you decide when to retire and anticipate the income your benefit would provide in retirement. If you want to work until a certain age or need to earn a specific amount of service, now you can set that goal and prepare accordingly.  

For more detailed information on what you can find in your plan publication, check out our blog post, How to Read Your Retirement Plan Booklet.

Help for New Members

New NYSLRS members may also be interested in our New Member webpage. This page collects several resources that can help you understand your NYSLRS membership and pension.

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.

ERS Tier 5 Milestones

If you joined the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) on or after January 1, 2010, but before April 1, 2012, you are a Tier 5 member. Let’s look at the milestones you will pass over the course of your public service career and how they will affect your benefits.

ERS Tier 5 milestones

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. Certain amounts of service are milestones because they affect the benefits you receive and how your pension will be calculated. A better understanding of when they occur and how they change your benefits will help you plan for retirement.

Your milestones depend on your tier and your retirement plan. Most ERS Tier 5 members will retire under the Article 15 retirement plan. Some ERS Tier 5 members, such as deputy sheriffs and state corrections officers, are in special plans. You can find information for the Article 15 plan and other Tier 5 plans in your NYSLRS retirement plan publication.

Major Milestones for Tier 5

Here are some important milestones for Tier 5 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 5 members, there would be reductions to your benefit if you retire before age 62.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 62.
  • 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.
  • With 20 to 30 years of service credit, your benefit will equal 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
  • Then, for each year of service beyond 30 years, 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. 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.