Tag Archives: NYSLRS Basics

NYSLRS Basics: Final Average Salary

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined benefit retirement plan that provides a lifetime pension when you retire. Laws passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor have established the formulas used to calculate these benefits. Your specific benefit will be based on two main factors: service credit and final average salary. You’re probably familiar with service credit — it’s generally the years of service you’ve spent working for a participating employer. But, what is a final average salary (FAS)?

When we calculate your pension, we find the set of years (one, three or five, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest. The average of these earnings is your FAS. Usually your FAS is based on the years right before retirement, but they can come anytime in your career. In fact, the years used to calculate your FAS may not match up to a calendar year or even a fiscal year. For FAS purposes, a “year” is any period during which you earned one full-time year of service credit.

Types of Final Average SalaryNYSLRS Basics: Understanding your Final Average Salary

Your tier and plan determine how your FAS is calculated:

  • Three-year FAS: Members in Tier 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  • Five-year FAS: Members in Tier 6.
  • One-year FAS: Members in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Your employer must choose to offer this benefit. It’s not available to PFRS members covered by Article 14 and generally not available to PFRS Tier 6 members.

Exclusions and Limits

The law limits the FAS of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For example, for most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAS, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension. The specific limits vary by tier; check out your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page for details.

Since 2010, with the creation of Tiers 5 and 6, the Legislature and the Governor have introduced additional limits to the earnings that can be used toward the FAS:

Tier 5

  • Overtime pay is capped — For ERS, $19,571.60 in calendar year 2019 and $20,158.75 in 2020. For PFRS, the cap is 15 percent of earnings.

Tier 6

  • Overtime pay is capped for ERS, $16,779 in calendar year 2019. For PFRS, the cap is 15 percent of earnings.
  • Lump sum vacation pay and wages from more than two employers are no longer included in your FAS.
  • Any earnings above the Governor’s salary are left out of your FAS.

Calculating your FAS at retirement can take time because we must collect salary information from your employer and factor in items such as retroactive payments. This effort is necessary to ensure that your pension calculation is accurate and that you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.

Find out more about how FAS is calculated on our website.

Want to read more NYSLRS Basics? Check out our posts on when you can retire and choosing your pension payment option.

NYSLRS Basics: Pension Payment Options

When you retire, you need to decide how we’ll pay out your retirement benefit. You do that by choosing a pension payment option. Each payment option provides you with a monthly benefit for life. Nine of our payment options let you receive a smaller benefit so you can provide for a beneficiary when you die. There is also an option that pays you the largest amount of your benefit, but pays nothing to a beneficiary.

Read the full descriptions of our payment options on our website.

Payment options

Filing Your Option Election Form

When you’ve decided which payment option you’d like, you need to file an option election form. You must file before the first day of the month following your retirement date. If you file on time, you have 30 days before you receive your first benefit payment to change your payment option. If you miss this deadline, we’re required by law to process your benefit based on the basic retirement benefit listed in your plan. (The Single Life Allowance (Option 0) is the basic retirement benefit for some plans, while the Cash Refund — Contributions (Option ½) is the basic retirement benefit for others. Check your retirement plan publication to see what your options are.)

What To Consider When Choosing A Payment Option

Choosing your payment option is a big decision. Once the 30-day deadline has passed, you can’t change your payment option. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want a payment made to one or more beneficiaries after your death?
  • Do you know about your beneficiary’s future income in retirement? Will your beneficiary receive their own pension? How much will they receive from Social Security benefits or other retirement savings accounts?
  • Do you have life insurance coverage? Life insurance payments could help your beneficiary make ends meet.
  • What are your financial obligations? Will your beneficiary have enough income to cover expenses if you die?

The answers to these questions can help you decide which option meets your needs. If you have any questions, email us from our website.

Would you like to read more NYSLRS Basics posts? Check out our earlier post on when you can retire.

NYSLRS Basics: When Can You Retire?

There are core elements behind each NYSLRS retirement plan that every member should know. Knowing your retirement plan details like what your pension payment options are and how your final average salary (FAS) works is essential. Learning these NYSLRS Basics can give you a good foundation of information and help you prepare for retirement.

When Can I Retire?

This is a popular question we hear from members. Because of the large number of retirement plans we manage, there isn’t one single answer to this question, but we do have answers.

If you’re in a regular retirement plan (the vast majority of members are in regular plans), you can retire any time on or after your 55th birthday. However, some service credit requirements do apply:

  • Tier 1 members, depending on their plan, may need two or five years of service credit if they recently changed employers
  • Tier 2, 3, or 4 members need five or more years of service credit
  • Tier 5 and 6 members need ten or more years of service credit

Note: service credit is defined as the credit you receive for your paid public employment with a NYSLRS participating employer.

If you’re in a special retirement plan (most police officers, firefighters, sheriffs and correction officers are in special plans), you can retire at any age as long as you’ve met the service credit requirement for that plan. Special plan members can retire once they reach 20 or 25 years of service credit, whichever their plan requires.

Retiring at Age 55 vs. Full Retirement Age

Keep in mind that even though you could retire as early as 55, you may receive a benefit reduction* for not waiting until the full retirement age. (Visit our Early Age Reduction page to see the reductions for your tier.) Under NYSLRS regular retirement plans, you can retire with no reduction once you reach your full retirement age.Full_Benefit_Retirement_Age

It’s important to know that if you decide to retire with a reduced benefit, the reduction is permanent – it doesn’t end once you reach your full retirement age. Keep this in mind once you start preparing for retirement.

Knowing what your full retirement age is and when you’re first eligible to retire is just one part of the NYSLRS Basics series. Look out for a future post on retirement option selection.


*There are some exceptions: Tier 1 members can retire at age 55 without a benefit reduction; ERS Tier 2, 3 & 4 members and Tier 5 Uniformed Court Officers and Peace Officers employed by the Unified Court System can retire at age 55 with 30 or more years of service credit without a benefit reduction.