Normally, most NYSLRS retirees who return to work for a public employer face an earnings limit. Under Section 212 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, most NYSLRS retirees under age 65 who return to work for a public employer can earn up to $35,000 per calendar year without penalty. The limit includes all earnings for the calendar year, including money or retroactive payments earned in the calendar year but paid in a different calendar year. If a retiree exceeds the earnings limit and continues to work, their pension benefits are suspended for the remainder of the year.
However, executive orders and new legislation have temporarily suspended the earnings limit for retirees who returned to work.
Earnings Limit Suspended through June 30, 2023 for School Districts and BOCES
The state budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 included legislation that temporarily suspends the earnings limit for retirees employed by school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). Under this legislation, post-retirement earnings with a school district or BOCES will not count toward a retiree’s annual earnings limit through June 30, 2023.
The new law means that for retirees working for school districts or BOCES, the limit is eliminated through the end of the school year 2022-23. This extension does not apply to universities, colleges or charter schools.
Earnings Limit Suspended through October 27, 2022 for Other Public Employers
The Governor has issued an executive order temporarily suspending the retiree earnings limit. Under the executive order, post-retirement earnings with a public employer will not count toward a retiree’s annual earnings limit during the following time periods:
January 1, 2022 through October 27, 2022.
January 1, 2021 through June 24, 2021, and September 27, 2021 through December 31, 2021.
March 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
If the order is extended beyond October 27, 2022 we will update this blog post. For general information about post-retirement employment, please read What If I Work After Retirement.
Recent legislation temporarily changes how Tier 6 contribution rates are 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 law removed overtime that was earned from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022 from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation. The earnings from this time period determine the contribution rates that you pay from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024.
Removing overtime earnings may result in lower 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 their pensionable earnings. 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.
When Will Rates be Recalculated?
We are working 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 is lowered, it will be retroactive to April 1, 2022. If you are entitled to a credit of overpaid contributions, you will be notified and your refund will be paid to you by your employer.
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 does 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.
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).
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.”