When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. This post looks at Tier 2 members of the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).
Your tier determines such things as your eligibility for benefits, the calculation of those benefits, death benefit coverage and whether you need to contribute toward your benefits.
PFRS has five tiers. Almost half of PFRS members are in Tier 2, which began on July 31, 1973, and ended on June 30, 2009. Most are in special retirement plans that allow for retirement after 20 or 25 years, regardless of age, without penalty.
The special plans that cover most police officers and firefighters fall under Sections 384, 384(f), 384-d, and 384-e of Retirement and Social Security Law. You can sign in to Retirement Online to find your benefit plan, which is listed under ‘My Account Summary.’
Where to Find PFRS Tier 2 Information
Whether you’re in one of the retirement plans described in this post or another retirement plan, we encourage you to visit our website to find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication. It’s a comprehensive description of the benefits you’re entitled to receive as a PFRS member.
You can check your service credit total and estimate your pension using Retirement Online. Most members can use our online pension calculator to create an estimate based on the salary and service information NYSLRS has on file for them. You can enter different retirement dates to see how your choices would affect your potential benefit.
Members may not be able to use the Retirement Online calculator in certain circumstances, for example, if they have recently transferred a membership to NYSLRS, if they are a Tier 6 member with between five and ten years of service, or if they have worked for multiple employers and were covered by different retirement plans. These members can contact us to request an estimate or use the “Quick Calculator” on our website. The Quick Calculator generates estimates based on information you provide.
NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. For most members, if you die while in active service, your beneficiary may be eligible to receive a death benefit. Here is an overview of member death benefits. If you are retired, visit our Death Benefit page for retirees to learn about your available benefits.
Types of Death Benefits
Most members who die while they’re still working will leave their beneficiaries what’s called an “ordinary death benefit.” This is a lump sum payment that’s usually equal to one year of your earnings per year of service, up to a maximum of three years.
Generally, to leave your beneficiaries this death benefit, you must have at least one year of service credit and your death must occur while you are on the public payroll.
Some members who die because of an on-the-job accident (not due to their own willful negligence) may leave their beneficiary an accidental death benefit. The accidental death benefit is a pension payable to your spouse. Other beneficiaries, as specified by law, may be eligible if there is no spouse.
For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 4, 5 and 6 members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your earnings from your last year of service.
For most other members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your final average earnings (less any workers’ compensation benefit).
There is no minimum service credit requirement to leave an accidental death benefit.
The specific death benefits that may be available to your beneficiaries depend on your tier and retirement plan. Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication and check it for specific benefit amount and eligibility information.
You should periodically review your beneficiary designations. Life circumstances sometimes change, and the beneficiary you may have named before might not be the one you would choose today. You should also make sure your beneficiary’s contact information is up to date so we can find them when needed.
Retirement Online is the best way to manage your beneficiary information. Sign in to Retirement Online today and click “View and Update My Beneficiaries” to review your named beneficiaries, and update them if needed.
Reporting a Death
NYSLRS cannot pay out death benefits until after we are notified of a member’s death and have a certified copy of the death certificate. The fastest way for survivors to report a member’s death to NYSLRS is using our online form on our website. Survivors can also upload a copy of the certified death certificate, which enables us to start reaching out to the beneficiary. It’s important to talk with your family about your benefits and how to report your death to NYSLRS.
Payment of Death Benefits
NYSLRS will reach out to your beneficiaries on file and send them the application and instructions for receiving benefits. NYSLRS can pay death benefits once it receives the required documentation.
If your last federal tax bill was larger than you expected, or if you received a hefty refund, it might be time to review how much federal tax withholding comes out of your NYSLRS pension. If you’re not sure whether you need to adjust your federal withholding, you may want to check with a tax preparer.
Remember, NYSLRS only withholds federal income tax. New York State doesn’t tax your NYSLRS pension, and we can’t withhold for income tax for other states.
New W-4P Federal Tax Withholding Form
The IRS released a new version of their W-4P federal income tax withholding form. For 2023, NYSLRS was required to update our tax withholding form as well.
The new form no longer allows tax filers to adjust their withholding by electing a specific number of withholding allowances. Instead, the W-4P form has fields for increasing or decreasing the amount of withholding, including fields for tax credits and deductions.
You do not need to submit the new W-4P unless you want to change the amount of your tax withholding.
To Change Your Withholding
Retirement Online makes it fast and convenient to view your current federal withholding information and make changes using our online form that collects the same information as the paper form. You can check your current withholding by signing in to Retirement Online and viewing your most recent pension pay stub. To change your federal tax withholding, click the green “Update My W-4P Tax Information” button on your Account Homepage.
If you update your withholding online by the middle of the month, your changes will generally be applied that month. We’ll notify you by mail or email (depending on your contact preference) when the update has been completed.
Completing the Form
Step 1. Select your filing status. If you want your federal withholding to be based only on the benefit amount you receive from NYSLRS, with no adjustments, you can skip steps 2 – 4.
Adjustments to Withholding (Dependents, Tax Credits)
Complete Steps 2 – 4 ONLY if they apply to you.
Step 2. If you have income from a job or more than one pension/annuity, in addition to your NYSLRS pension, or if you’re married filing jointly and your spouse receives income from a job or pension/annuity, you can enter that in Step 2.
If you prefer to send in a paper form, you can print, complete and submit our W-4P Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments form to update your withholding information, however paper forms take longer to process. Please be sure you are using the new form (revised 12/22), because NYSLRS will no longer accept previous versions of the W‑4P form.
If You Receive More Than One Benefit Payment from NYSLRS
NYSLRS administers two retirement systems — the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). It is possible to receive more than one benefit from one or both systems — as a retiree, a beneficiary or an ex-spouse who is receiving a benefit under a domestic relations order.
Generally, your withholding is tied to the retirement system. So, if your benefits are from the same system, you only need to submit your withholding information once and your preferences will be applied to all benefit payments you receive from that system. However, if you receive a benefit from both ERS and PFRS, you’ll need to submit a W-4P form for each system.
Your benefit payment pay stub will list whether the payment is from ERS or PFRS.
For More Information
Our Taxes and Your Pension page has additional information about withholding, including 1099-R tax form information, how to submit a paper W-4P form, what to do if you receive more than one benefit payment from NYSLRS and more.
If you need help completing the W-4P form, you can find phone numbers and online resources on the IRS Let Us Help You page.
Please note: Effective January 1, 2023, NYSLRS does not withhold federal income tax from benefits that are not subject to tax reporting.
As a NYSLRS retiree, you can work and still receive your pension, but if you are working after retirement, there may be a limit on how much you can earn each year without affecting your NYSLRS pension.
The rules and restrictions differ depending on:
The type of retirement benefit you are receiving (service or disability);
The employer you will be working for (New York State public employer, private employer, yourself, etc.);
Your date of membership and tier; and
New York public employers include the State, its political subdivisions (cities, counties, etc.), school districts, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), public authorities, public benefit corporations and entities that participate in any of the State’s public retirement systems.
Temporary Suspensions of the Earnings Limit
Under a series of executive orders, the Governor had suspended the earnings limit. The last executive order expired on June 22, 2023. Pay from a public employer earned from June 23, 2023 through December 31, 2023 will count toward a retiree’s annual earnings limit.
Also, the Legislature has suspended the earnings limit for retirees employed by school districts and BOCES through June 30, 2024. You can find more information, as well as updates about any future developments, in our Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit blog post.
Working While Receiving a Service Retirement Benefit
As a service retiree (retired under a regular service retirement, not a disability retirement), your earnings are unlimited if you work for a private employer, a state other than New York State or the federal government.
If you return to work in the public sector, two sections of New York State Retirement and Social Security Law (RSSL) regulate post-retirement employment.
Section 212: Earnings Limited to $35,000 per Calendar Year
Section 212 of the RSSL allows retirees to earn up to $35,000 from public employment in a calendar year. There is generally no earnings restriction beginning in the calendar year you turn 65. (Special rules apply to elected officials.) If you’re under 65 and earn more than the Section 212 limit, you must:
Pay back NYSLRS for the pension payments you received after the date you reached the limit. If you continue to work, your pension will be suspended for the remainder of the calendar year and resume the following January.
Rejoin NYSLRS, in which case your pension will be suspended until you retire again at some future date (you’d need to reapply).
Section 211: Your Employer Can Seek a Waiver of the Earnings Limit
Under Section 211, the earnings limit can be waived if your prospective employer gets prior approval. In most cases, the New York State Department of Civil Service would be the approving agency.
Section 211 approvals cover a fixed period, normally up to two years. Approval is not automatic; it is based on the employer’s needs and your qualifications.
Working While Receiving a Disability Retirement Benefit
Earnings for retirees who are working while receiving a disability retirement benefit are limited whether they work for a public or private employer. The limit is specific to each retiree. To find out your earnings limit, please contact us.
Reporting Your Earnings
It is your responsibility to notify NYSLRS if you earn more than the limit. If you know you are going to exceed the limit, contact us at least a month before you go over the limit.
You can message us using the secure contact form or you can fax a letter to 518-402-2498. Be sure to include the name of your employer, the approximate date that you expect to exceed the limit and a daytime phone number in case we have questions.
For More Information
Before you decide to return to work, please read our publication, What If I Work After Retirement? It includes information such as how earnings limits are calculated for retirees receiving a disability retirement benefit, consequences to consider before returning to NYSLRS membership and more. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us.
NYSLRS must have an approved Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file to pay benefits to the ex-spouse of a member. The DRO is a court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, that gives NYSLRS specific instructions on how your benefits should be split.
Ordinary Death Benefit
A DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of your ordinary death benefit. This is the death benefit that would be payable to your beneficiaries if you die in active service (before retiring) so you should file the DRO with NYSLRS as soon as it’s officially accepted by the court. Be sure to choose additional beneficiaries for any remainder of the benefit and submit your changes to NYSLRS. (If your designations conflict with the terms of the DRO, the DRO will take precedence over any other beneficiary designations.)
Post-Retirement Death Benefit
Most Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) are covered by a post-retirement death benefit. A DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of the benefit.
Accidental Death Benefit
Your accidental death benefit becomes available to specific beneficiaries if you die as a result of an on-the-job accident. Those beneficiaries are designated by law, and only those beneficiaries may receive this benefit — even if there is a DRO.
NYSLRS members who meet eligibility requirements can borrow a certain percentage of their contribution balance. DROs may be written to prohibit members from taking future loans.
Outstanding loan balances at retirement reduce retirees’ pension benefits. The ex-spouse’s share of the pension will also be reduced unless the DRO specifically provides that the ex-spouse’s share be calculated without reference to outstanding loans.
Occasionally, NYSLRS may refund a member’s contributions because of a tier reinstatement, membership withdrawal or membership transfer. Some members are eligible to make voluntary contributions and withdraw them as excess contributions. Generally, if a DRO doesn’t mention a contribution refund, the member will receive the full amount.
Divorce, Annulments, Separation and Your Beneficiaries
As of July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain death benefits are automatically revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. If you are divorced, it is especially important to review your beneficiary designations to ensure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes and your divorce agreement.
Looking for some summer reading to add to your e-reader? Check out these publications from NYSLRS for important retirement information.
1. Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 6 Members (Article 15)
Are you one of more than 350,000 Tier 6 Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members covered by Article 15? Your retirement plan publication explains some of the benefits and the services available to you, including service retirement, disability retirement, death benefits and more. Read it now.
2. Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members (Articles 14 and 15)
If you’re not in Tier 6, you’re likely among more than 260,000 Tier 3 and 4 ERS members covered by Article 14 and 15. Check out your publication to find out about the benefits and the services available to you. Read it now.
3. Service Credit for Tiers 2 Through 6
The service credit you earn as a NYSLRS member is an important factor in the calculation of your pension. This publication explains the service you can earn credit for and how you can request to purchase credit for additional public employment or military service. Read it now.
4. What If I Leave Public Employment?
While we hope you stay a NYSLRS member throughout your working career, we understand that circumstances can change. If you leave public employment, this publication explains what you’ll need to do and what happens to your NYSLRS membership. Spoiler: It depends on how much service you have. Read it now.
5. What If I Work After Retirement?
Generally, NYSLRS retirees under age 65 can earn up to $35,000 per calendar year from public employers in New York State without affecting their NYSLRS pension. However, you should be aware of the laws governing post-retirement employment and how working after retirement may impact your retirement benefits. If you are considering working while collecting your pension, you should read this publication. If you already work in public employment as a NYSLRS retiree, read our Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit blog post for information about recent legislation and Governor’s executive orders that affect the limit.
These days, a 55-year-old man can expect to live for another 27.4 years, to about 82. A 55-year-old woman can expect to live for more than 30 years. These figures, derived from the Social Security life expectancy calculator, are only averages. They don’t account for factors such as health, lifestyle or family medical history.
Here are some other statistics worth considering as you plan for retirement (as of the State fiscal year that ended March 31, 2022):
More than 37,000 NYSLRS retirees were over 85 years old;
More than 3,500 had passed the 95-year mark; and
401 NYSLRS’ retirees were 101 or older.
Considering that many public employees can retire as early as 55, it’s possible that a fair number of them could have retirements that last 45 years or more.
Saving for a Long Retirement
Your NYSLRS pension is one source of income that you can depend on however long your retirement lasts. Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members who retired in fiscal year 2022 are receiving an average monthly pension of $2,748. Social Security is another long-term source. The average Social Security benefit for a retired worker was $1,837 a month, as of June 2023.
Your retirement savings is a crucial asset that can supplement your pension and Social Security. In a long retirement, savings can help with rising costs and provide a source of cash in an emergency.
It is never too late to start saving for retirement. The New York State Deferred Compensation Plan is one easy way to get started. It’s a program created for New York State employees and employees of participating public agencies. If you’re a municipal employee, ask your employer if you’re eligible for the Deferred Compensation Plan or another retirement savings plan. (The New York State Deferred Compensation Plan is not affiliated with NYSLRS.)
You should also visit our Start Saving for Retirement page. You’ll find an example of how much you can save over a 30-year period, and a sample withdrawal strategy designed to provide retirement income for 20 years.
From fraudulent mobile apps to phony text messages, imposters continue to find new ways to steal your money or personal data. While it can be alarming when they impersonate a government agency, such as NYSLRS or the Social Security Administration, you can learn to recognize and protect yourself from scams.
How Scams Work
Imposters pretend to be an agency or organization you already know to gain your trust. They use similar logos or imagery in correspondence. They may contact you from an email address that mimics — but isn’t identical to — those used by employees of the actual organization. Some can even make a real agency’s phone number appear on caller ID (known as spoofing).
Usually, once they contact you, they claim there is a problem (or prize or new benefit available) that requires your immediate attention. But here’s the catch: to fix the problem or receive the reward, the imposter needs you to pay them a fee or provide personal data, such as your Social Security number or bank account information. They may even threaten you with legal action, a suspension of your benefits or arrest if you fail to act in time.
If someone contacts you and you notice these signs of a scam, remain calm. Feel free to hang up the phone or delete the message if you feel like something is off. It’s the easiest way to avoid accidentally giving away personal information.
If you suspect someone is posing as a NYSLRS representative, notify us immediately using our secure contact form or by calling us toll-free at 866-805-0990.
Communicating With NYSLRS
Generally, NYSLRS will only call you if we are following up on a previous communication from you, such as a phone call, secure email message, Retirement Online request, form or letter. For security, you can use your NYSLRS ID to identify yourself instead of providing your Social Security number. Find your NYSLRS ID in Retirement Online or on your annual statement or other correspondence from NYSLRS.
Retirement Online, the convenient and secure way to do business with NYSLRS, is only available from the NYSLRS website. There is no mobile app available from NYSLRS. If you have a Retirement Online account, keep your username and password in a safe place and don’t share them with anyone. (Need help with using or signing up for Retirement Online? Read our tips and tricks blog post.)
It’s important to review the communications you receive from NYSLRS. We send you letters or emails (depending on your delivery preference in Retirement Online) whenever you update your Retirement Online account or benefit information. However, if you receive a notification of an account change you did not make, contact us immediately.
New York Retirement News is dedicated to keeping NYSLRS members and retirees informed about developments that may affect their benefits. In case you missed them, or just want to take another look, here are some of our most popular blog posts from the past year.
Becoming Vested Becoming vested is a crucial milestone in your NYSLRS membership. Under legislation enacted in April 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members are now vested after five years of service. Previously, these members needed ten years of service credit to be eligible for a service retirement benefit.
Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit Normally, most NYSLRS retirees who return to work for a public employer are limited in how much they can earn before their pension would be suspended. The limit is $35,000 per calendar year, however, executive orders from the Governor and legislation temporarily suspended this limit. Read the blog post for current information.
Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims Survivors of NYSLRS members who contract COVID-19 on the job may be entitled to an enhanced death benefit if the member dies as a result of the disease. This accidental death benefit covers eligible deaths through December 31, 2024.
Find Your Retirement Plan Publication Your retirement plan publication is an essential resource that provides comprehensive information about your NYSLRS benefits. It explains 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. Our new tool can help you find your plan publication.
What is a Defined Benefit Plan? As a NYSLRS member, you are part of a defined benefit plan, also known as a traditional pension plan. Defined benefit plans are often confused with defined contribution plans, but there are major differences between the two types of plans.
Service credit is one of the major factors in calculating your NYSLRS pension. You earn a year of service credit for each year of full-time employment with a participating employer. In some cases, you may also be able to request additional credit for past service, which could increase your pension amount.
You can request credit for past service if you:
Worked for a participating employer before joining NYSLRS;
Worked for a public employer that later participated in NYSLRS; or
Received an honorable discharge from active military duty.
In most cases, you have to pay to receive additional service credit. The sooner you purchase your credit, the less it will generally cost. You must apply for any additional service credit that you wish to receive before you retire. After you apply, we’ll determine whether you’re eligible for the credit and how much it would be.
Credit for Previous Public Employment
Additional service credit includes work for an employer who later joined NYSLRS, or for public employment before you became a NYSLRS member.
Example: You worked at the town library while going to school and, as a part-time employee, you chose not to join NYSLRS. When you graduated and took a full-time job at the Town Supervisor’s office, you were required to join. You can request credit for the part-time service at the library.
When you apply, you’ll be asked for the name of the employer and the approximate dates you worked there. We encourage you to submit any proof you may have of your previous service. We will also reach out to your former employer, but you may be able to expedite the process by providing payroll records such as W-2 forms or pay stubs to NYSLRS when you apply.
You must earn two years of service credit as a member before additional service can be credited to you.
Military Service Credit
If you served in the U.S. armed forces, you may be eligible to purchase credit toward your retirement for your military service, regardless of whether your military service was before or after you joined NYSLRS.
There are different sections of the law that allow credit for military service. The amount of military service credit you can receive, and the cost (if any), will vary depending on which section of the law allows the credit. Reserve and National Guard service may qualify if it’s considered active duty.
For certain military service, you must have five years of member service credit before you can apply.
How to Request Additional Service Credit
You can apply for additional service credit and military service credit in Retirement Online. Sign in to your account, scroll down to the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage and click the “Manage My Service Purchases” button, then click “Request Additional Service Credit.” If you are applying for military service credit, select “Article 20 Military” when asked for your employer.
There may be other ways to increase your retirement service credit. If you had a previous membership in a New York State public retirement system and it was terminated, you may be able to reinstate your membership. If you still have an active membership in another public retirement system, but you are no longer working for the employer that participates in that retirement system, you may be able to transfer that membership to NYSLRS.
A word of caution — there are certain situations where purchasing additional service credit will not increase your pension. For example, special retirement plans for police officers and firefighters allow retirement after 20 or 25 years of service regardless of age, but not all types of public employment count toward the 20 or 25 years in these plans. Contact us if you have questions.
For more information about purchasing additional credit: