Tag Archives: New York State and Local Retirement System

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).

Left Public Employment? Don’t Forget to File for Retirement

If you expect to leave public employment before retirement age, or if you’ve already left, take note of this important information about your NYSLRS pension.

Once you become a vested NYSLRS member, you’re eligible for a NYSLRS pension even if you leave public employment before retirement age. Vesting is automatic but receiving retirement benefits is not. You’ll need to apply for your pension. But when should you apply?

Filing for Retirement If You Have Left Public Employment

Most NYSLRS members can begin collecting their pension as early as age 55. If you file for your retirement benefit between age 55 and your full NYSLRS retirement age, you may face a permanent benefit reduction. Full retirement age for a NYSLRS pension is 62 or 63, depending on your plan and tier.

retirement age for full benefits if you left public employment

Waiting longer than your full retirement age, however, could cost you a lot of money.

If you aren’t working for a NYSLRS participating employer, your NYSLRS pension will not increase after your full retirement age. Pension benefits are not retroactive, and you will not be able to recover the monthly pension payments that you would have received if you retired at full retirement age.

How Social Security and NYSLRS Rules Differ

NYSLRS and Social Security are different systems with different milestones. You can collect Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. If you delay taking Social Security, your benefit amount will continue to increase 8 percent per year until you reach age 70 (for those born in 1943 or later).

But if you wait until you’re 70 to apply for your NYSLRS pension, you’ll miss out on years of NYSLRS benefit payments.

The information above applies only to members who leave public employment before their full retirement age.

(In most cases, if you are still working for a participating public employer in New York State, your pension amount will continue to increase, even if you work past your retirement age.)

Steps You Can Take

Your retirement may be years or even decades in the future. Here are a few steps you can take to help you keep track of your NYSLRS pension if you leave public employment:

  • Estimate your NYSLRS pension at different ages using the benefit calculator in Retirement Online.
  • Create a plan for retirement, taking into account the milestones above.
  • Review your plan periodically and update it as necessary.
  • Keep your contact information up to date using Retirement Online.
  • Contact NYSLRS if you have questions about your benefits.

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.

Public Pensions Give Economic Boost to Small Towns, Rural Areas

Small towns and rural areas in New York and across the United States get an important economic boost from public pensions, a recent study concludes.

Public Pensions Give Economic Boost to Small Towns and Rural Areas Across New York

Why Public Pensions Give an Economic Boost

Because of their smaller economies, less-populated counties benefit more from pension dollars than larger, urban counties, according to Fortifying Main Street: The Economic Benefit Of Public Pension Dollars In Rural America.

In many small towns and rural communities, the report notes, school districts and local governments are the largest employers. Those public employees typically remain in their communities after retirement, and the authors attribute the economic boosts they found to pension dollars spent locally on goods and services.

Across New York State, public pensions were responsible for 1.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. (GDP, the total value of goods and services produced during a specific period, is a common gauge of economic activity.) However, during the same period:

  • Wyoming County in western New York, where a handful of villages dot a rural landscape, saw public pensions generate 4.6 percent of GDP.
  • Hamilton County, with fewer than 5,000 people, received an economic boost from public pensions that accounted for 6.3 percent of GDP.

The study’s findings are in line with data showing the impact NYSLRS retirees have on local economies and other studies about the economic benefits of pensions.

Notes on the Data

Fortifying Main Street, which was released in July by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), examines pension data from 2,922 counties in 43 states. Based on criteria used by the federal Office of Budget Management, it divides counties into three main categories: metropolitan, small-town (or micropolitan) and rural. The study also analyzes data from counties that are home to the state capital, because these places tend to have higher numbers of public retirees. In Albany County, public pensions generated 2.7 percent of GDP.

Hamilton County is the only county in New York defined as rural in the study, but 16 counties, including Wyoming County, fit the “small town” criteria. You can read the full report on the NIRS website.

The study uses pensions paid by NYSLRS, the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, the Teachers’ Retirement System of New York City and the New York City Employees’ Retirement System in its data for New York State.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

How much will your pension be?

Fortunately, it is now easier than ever to find out. Most NYSLRS members can create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online.

Retirement Online estimate is 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 Your Pension Estimate

Before you can use the pension calculator, you will need a Retirement Online account. Once you sign in, go to the My Account Summary section of your account homepage and click the “Estimate my Pension Benefit” button.

You can enter an estimated retirement date (or retirement age), your current salary and expected annual salary increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase and anticipated lump sum payment for unused vacation. If you add the birthdate for a beneficiary, you’ll also see the estimated monthly payment you would receive if you were to choose a pension payment option that provides a benefit for a survivor.

Any pension estimate you generate with the online calculator would be an approximation of your potential benefit; it is not a guarantee that you’ll receive a certain amount when you retire.

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.

Alternative Ways to Get an Estimate

While more than 90 percent of NYSLRS members (most Tier 3 through 6 members) can use the benefit calculator, some members should have NYSLRS generate their benefit estimate. For example, if you recently transferred your membership to NYSLRS or are covered under certain special plans, it would be better if NYSLRS created an estimate for you.

The system will notify you if your estimate cannot be completed using Retirement Online’s estimate tool. Please contact us to request a pension estimate if you receive this notification. Also, if you are in Tiers 1 through 4, you can still use the Quick Calculator on the NYSLRS website. The Quick Calculator generates estimates based on information you provide.

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.

Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit

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.

retiree earnings limit

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 February 21, 2023 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 the annual calendar-year earnings limit during the following time periods:

  • January 1, 2023 through February 21, 2023.
  • January 1, 2022 through December 31, 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 February 21, 2023 we will update this blog post. For general information about post-retirement employment, please read What If I Work After Retirement.

What to Consider When Choosing Your Retirement Date

Before you pin down a retirement date, there are several factors you should consider.

Your Retirement Date

NYSLRS has made it a lot easier for you to determine the best time to retire. Most members can now use our online pension calculator to estimate what your benefit would be at different retirement dates and ages. Just sign in to your Retirement Online account and click the “Estimate my Pension” button to get started.

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 five or more years of service credit you can contact us to request a benefit estimate.

choosing your retirement date

Your Health

Your current health and long-term health prospects should be a factor in choosing your retirement date. If your health is poor, you may want to retire earlier to give yourself more time to enjoy retirement. On the other hand, if you anticipate significant out-of-pocket health costs, working longer might give you more time to save for those costs.

If you are in good health, your retirement may last longer than average. In most cases, staying on the job a little longer will increase your NYSLRS pension and provide an opportunity to build your savings.

Your Savings

It’s always a good idea for members to plan to supplement their NYSLRS pension and Social Security with savings. Retirement savings are a hedge against inflation, can help in an emergency and give you more freedom to do the things you want to do in retirement.

Having retirement savings gives you more flexibility and — if you have enough saved — may offset any penalty if you decide to retire early. On the other hand, if you have no savings or are short of what you’d like to have, working a little longer offers a chance to save more.

State employees and some municipal employees can take advantage of the New York State Deferred Compensation PlanIn 2022, you can save up to $20,500 per year in a Deferred Compensation account, under Internal Revenue Service rules. Starting in the year you turn 50, you can save an additional catch-up amount. The age 50-plus catch-up amount for 2022 is $6,500.

If you don’t work for New York State, check with your employer to see if you are eligible. If you are not eligible, your employer may be able to direct you to an alternative retirement savings program. (The Deferred Compensation Plan is not affiliated with NYSLRS.)

Your Current Job

The type of work you do is an important factor in determining when to retire. A physically demanding job can get even harder as you age.

But there are other things to consider about your current job. Some members want to retire as soon as they’re eligible to go. However, if your job gives you satisfaction and a sense of purpose, are you ready to walk away from it? Do you look forward to social interactions with your coworkers? Will you miss your job more than you enjoy being retired?

Your Plans for Retirement

Is retirement the end of something or the beginning of something new? Answering that question could go a long way toward determining your ideal retirement date. If you have dreams of starting your own business or going mountain climbing in Spain, you may not want to delay retirement.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a plan to fill the long hours of retirement, you risk becoming bored or depressed. For some, that risk is a reason to keep working. Whether you decide to retire earlier or later, having a plan for retirement can help make it a more satisfying experience.

How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit

There are non-teachers earning NYSLRS service credit.While most New York teachers and administrators are in the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, other school employees are members of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). In fact, 1 out of 5 NYSLRS members works for a school district. Most work according to the school year, which could be only 10 or 11 months long. So how do we determine service credit for them?

Earning NYSLRS Service Credit When School Employees Work Full-Time

If you’re a school employee who works full-time, you receive one year of service per school year. Generally, a full-time 10-month school year requires at least 180 days worked in any school year. Depending on your employer, a full academic year can range from 170 to 200 days.

Earning NYSLRS Service Credit When School Employees Work Part-Time

The number of hours in a full-time day is set by your employer (between six and eight hours). If you work part-time, your employer divides the number of hours you worked by the hours in a full-time day. This tells them how many equivalent full-time days you worked. Then, your employer reports that number to us, and those days worked are plugged into the formulas below.

Whether you work full- or part-time, depending on the length of your school year, your service is credited in the following ways:

For all BOCES and school district employees, as well as
teachers working at New York State schools for the deaf and blind:

Number of days worked ÷ 180 days

For college employees:
Number of days worked ÷ 170 days

For institutional teachers:
Number of days worked ÷ 200 days

how to calculate part-time service credit for school employees

Check Your Service Credit

You can check your Retirement Online account to find your current estimated service credit total.

You can also check your Member Annual Statement, which is provided every summer. For most members, your statement will show how much service credit you’ve earned for the past fiscal year (April 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022). It will also show your total service credit as of March 31, 2022.

For more information about service credit, read our booklet Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6 (VO1854) or your own retirement plan publication.