Tag Archives: New York State and Local Retirement System

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 ERS Tier 5 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 ERS Tier 5 milestones and pension calculation depend on your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. Most ERS Tier 5 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. For members not covered by the Article 15 retirement plan, visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

Important ERS Tier 5 Milestones

ERS Tier 5 milestones

Here are some additional 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 at least 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 less 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 20 to 30 years of service, your pension will equal 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
    • For each year of service beyond 30 years, you will receive 1.5 percent of your FAE.

Note: When you retire, your FAE will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings. The law limits the FAE of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. 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.

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 ERS Tier 6 milestones and pension calculation depend on your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your 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. For members not covered by the Article 15 retirement plan, visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

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 less 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 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.75 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
    • For each year of service beyond 20 years, you will receive 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.

Calculating Your Final Average Earnings

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined benefit plan that provides a lifetime pension when you retire. Your NYSLRS pension benefit amount will be determined by several factors, including your tier, service credit, and final average earnings (FAE).

When we calculate your pension, we find the consecutive years when your earnings were highest. These are usually your years of employment immediately before retirement, but they can be anytime in your career and do not need to match up with calendar years or fiscal years.

Update: Tier 6 Final Average Earnings Based on Highest Three Years

A new law improves the pension benefits of NYSLRS Tier 6 members. 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.

These improvements apply to members who retire on or after:

  • April 1, 2024, for Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Tier 6.
  • April 20, 2024, for Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6.

Previously, your FAE was the average of your highest five consecutive years of earnings.

If you recently retired and the change applies to you, we will automatically update your pension calculation — you don’t need to contact us. The new law does not apply to members who retired before the dates above.

Understanding Final Average Earnings Limits

If your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension.

Your limit depends on whether you’re an ERS or PFRS member and your tier. For most members, if the earnings in any 12-month period in your FAE exceed the average of the previous two years by more than 10 percent, the amount above 10 percent will not be included in your FAE calculation.

Calculating Your Final Average Earnings

For more information, including limits for other tiers, visit our Final Average Earnings page.

Types of Earnings Included in Your FAE

The specific types of earnings included in your FAE calculation depend on your retirement plan and tier. Please check your plan publication for details.

In most cases, your FAE will include the payments listed below, if they are earned in the FAE period. (In some cases, restrictions may apply.)

In most cases, the following payments will not be included in your FAE calculation:

  • Unused sick leave;
  • Payments made as a result of working your vacation;
  • Any form of termination pay;
  • Payments made in anticipation of retirement; and
  • Any payments made for time not worked.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

Here is an important retirement planning tip — most members can create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. Your estimate will be based on the most up-to-date account information we have on file for you. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit. When you’re done, you can print your pension estimate or save it for future reference.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

How to Create a Pension Estimate

To get started:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • Click the ‘Estimate my Pension Benefit’ button to access the pension calculator.
  • Enter the date (or age) you plan to retire.

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. If you add the birthdate for a beneficiary, you’ll see the estimated monthly payment amounts under the pension payment options that provide a benefit for a survivor.

Remember, the pension amounts you’ll see are just an estimate; it is not a guarantee of what you’ll receive when you retire.

Most Tier 2 through 6 members (more than 90 percent of all NYSLRS members) can use the Retirement Online pension calculator. However, some members may not be able to because of their circumstances — for example, members who recently transferred to NYSLRS, some PFRS members, or Tier 6 members with between five and ten years of service. The system will notify you if your estimate cannot be completed using the Retirement Online pension calculator. Please contact us to request a pension estimate if you receive this notification.

Do More With Retirement Online

In Retirement Online, you can view your date of membership, tier, retirement plan, estimated total service credit and more. Purchase previous service credit well before retirement and save on interest costs. Check out what else members can do in Retirement Online.

If you don’t already have an account, learn more and register for one today. If you need help with Retirement Online, read our Retirement Online Tools and Tips blog post.

Financial Literacy and Retirement

April is National Financial Literacy Month, a time dedicated to helping people make informed financial decisions and manage money effectively. Financial literacy means understanding and using skills such as budgeting, investing and managing your personal finances.  

Greater financial literacy generally translates into greater financial well-being, according to a recent report from the TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index. TIAA’s research also finds a connection between financial literacy and saving for retirement.

Financial Literacy and Retirement

Financial Literacy and Planning for Retirement

Increase your financial literacy and make a good plan for retirement by understanding your NYSLRS benefits, your other sources of retirement income and your current financial situation. Once you know where you stand, you’ll be in a better position to plan.

Understand Your NYSLRS Benefits

As a NYSLRS member, you are enrolled in a defined benefit plan, also known as a traditional pension plan. If you are vested and retire from NYSLRS, you will receive a monthly pension payment for the rest of your life. Your pension will be calculated using a formula based on your earnings and years of service, your retirement plan, and your tier. 

Find your retirement plan publication for comprehensive information about the benefits you are entitled to receive as a member of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) or the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).

Depending on your tier and retirement plan, certain membership milestones will affect how your pension is calculated and how much you’ll receive at retirement. Read our milestones blog posts for general information about the retirement plans that cover most NYSLRS members:

Consider Other Sources of Retirement Income

Your pension will provide you with monthly payments for the rest of your life. But there is more to a financially secure retirement than having a pension. Understanding your potential sources of income will help you plan for your future and boost your retirement confidence. Think of retirement security as a three-legged stool. Each leg is a source of income to help support you when your working days are done.

The formula for a financially secure retirement

Retirement savings can be an important financial asset when you retire. Savings can provide money for you to travel, continue your education, pursue a hobby or start a business. The money you set aside can also be a resource in case of an emergency, act as a hedge against inflation and boost your retirement confidence.

Evaluate Your Current Financial Situation

Estimate Your Retirement Income

An estimate of your NYSLRS pension benefit is essential for effective retirement planning. Most members can create their own estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. Your estimate will be based on the most up-to-date account information we have on file for you. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit.

There are also a variety of online calculators that can help you estimate the retirement income you might expect from Social Security or personal retirement savings.

Create a Budget

Use our Monthly Income & Expenses Worksheets to help you track your current spending habits and project your future needs. Remember to account for non-monthly expenses, such as car insurance, property taxes and school taxes.

Pay Down Your Debt

If you’re planning to retire soon, it’s a good idea to take inventory of any debt you owe. Debt is not necessarily bad but paying it down can give you more flexibility to enjoy the type of retirement you want.

How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate Can Change

Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to help fund pension benefits. For Tier 6 members (those who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012), that percentage, or contribution rate, can change from year to year based on your earnings. The minimum rate is 3 percent of your earnings, and the maximum is 6 percent.

Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded from Tier 6 Contribution Rates

The 2024–25 State budget included a new law which temporarily excludes overtime pay from the calculation of Tier 6 contribution rates. This may lower contribution rates for some Tier 6 members from April 1, 2024 through March 31, 2026.

For more information, read our blog post, Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded from Tier 6 Contribution Rates.

Tier 6 contribution rates

When Tier 6 Contribution Rates are Determined

A Tier 6 member’s contribution rate is calculated annually. New rates become effective on April 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year. Once your rate is determined for a given fiscal year, it doesn’t change for the rest of that fiscal year. We provide rates to your employer in March, a few weeks before they need to apply any rate changes.

How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate is Calculated

If you are a new NYSLRS member, during your first three years of membership your contribution rate is based on an estimated annual wage that your employer provided when you were enrolled as a new member.

If you have been a member for three or more years, NYSLRS calculates your rate using the earnings reported to us by your employer from the last completed fiscal year, April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023.

Rates are calculated using your base pay, which includes:

This video will help explain how your contribution rate is determined:

How Your NYSLRS Pension Works

The amount you contribute to the Retirement System does not affect the amount of your pension. A NYSLRS pension is a defined-benefit plan. Under this type of plan, once you are eligible for a pension and apply for retirement, you will receive a monthly payment for the rest of your life. The amount of your pension will be calculated using a formula based on your retirement plan, years of service and final average earnings.

You can learn more about how your pension will be calculated by reading your retirement plan publication. Use our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool to find yours.

Make Sure You Receive Your Member Annual Statement

Member Annual Statements are distributed to NYSLRS members each spring. Don’t wait for a mailed copy — get your Statement online instead! You can update your delivery preference in Retirement Online to receive an email when your Statement is available.

(Note: Retiree Annual Statements were made available online in February.)

Get Your Member Annual Statement Sooner

You’ll receive your Member Annual Statement sooner if you choose to receive it through Retirement Online.

To update your delivery preference:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • From your Account Homepage, click “update” next to ‘Member Annual Statement by.’
  • Choose “Email” from the dropdown.
Get Your Member Annual Statement Faster with Retirement Online

Check and Update Your Contact Information

Retirement Online is the fastest way to check your contact information and update it if needed. If you don’t already have an email address on file, please provide it so that we can contact you quickly if we need to notify you about important information such as a change to your benefits. Use a personal email address you will have access to before and after you retire, rather than a work email address. You should also make sure your mailing address and phone number are current.

To update your contact information, click “update” next to your email address, mailing address or phone number to make corrections.

Use Retirement Online to Stay Informed

Your annual Statement is a snapshot of your NYSLRS account as of March 31. For the most up-to-date information year-round, sign in to your Retirement Online account.

In Retirement Online, you can view your date of membership, tier, retirement plan, estimated total service credit and more. Check out what else members can do in Retirement Online.

If you don’t already have an account, learn more and register for one today. If you need help with Retirement Online, read our Retirement Online Tools and Tips blog post.

Supplement Your NYSLRS Pension with Retirement Savings

Your NYSLRS pension can provide a significant portion of your retirement income, but it’s also a good idea to supplement your pension and Social Security with a retirement savings account.

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 you to travel, continue your education, pursue a hobby or start a business. The money you set aside can also be a resource in case of an emergency, act as a hedge against inflation and boost your retirement confidence.

Set a Retirement Savings Goal

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

Financial advisers often recommend saving 10 to 15 percent of your gross earnings throughout your career to retire comfortably. However, that advice is aimed at people with 401(k)-style defined contribution retirement plans 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. You can estimate your pension in Retirement Online to get an idea of the income it will provide in retirement.

Having a pension means you may not need to save as much as someone with only a 401(k). Use a retirement savings calculator to see how much a retirement savings plan could yield over time, or test the results of different savings amounts.

Below you can see potential savings results of someone who invests 50 dollars every two weeks over 30 years. While the stock market can be turbulent over the long term, stock market returns average about 10 percent a year.

Saving for Retirement

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 idea of the income you might 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 recently, it does cycle and has been lower in the past.

Withdrawing from Retirement Savings

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

Deferred Compensation – A Way to Save

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, 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.)

Check with your employer’s human resources or personnel office to see if they participate in the Deferred Compensation Plan or if they offer other savings options.

Read More About Retirement Savings

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