Retirees should make sure their mailing address is current by December 31 in order to receive important information from NYSLRS in the coming year. We’ll be mailing 1099-R tax documents in late January and Retiree Annual Statements in February.
Remember, if you file an address change order with the Post Office, they will only forward your mail for a limited time.
Retirement Online Makes It Easy to Check and Update Your Contact Information
Retirement Online is the fastest and easiest way to check your mailing address, phone number and email address and update them if needed. If you don’t already have an account, go to the Sign In page and click Sign Up under the Customer Sign In button. (Need help with Retirement Online? See this post for handy tips.)
Other Ways to Update Your Mailing Address
If you don’t have a Retirement Online account, there are other ways to update the mailing address we have on file for you.
By Email If your new address is not a PO box or international address, you can email your address change information using the secure contact form on our website. Be sure to complete all form fields and provide your old and new address.
By Mail You can complete and submit a change of address form by mail (use the form if your new address is a PO box or an international address). Mail your completed form to:
Is it possible you left money in an old bank account? Maybe you lost track of a security deposit, insurance payout, stock dividend or mutual fund? Could there be a distant relative who left bonds in your name? State law requires banks, insurance companies, corporations and the courts to notify the owner of any dormant accounts. Despite these efforts, some funds remain unclaimed and are turned over to the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC). State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli serves as the custodian of unclaimed funds until they’re claimed by the rightful owners.
Every day, our Office of Unclaimed Funds (OUF) returns more than $1.5 million to their rightful owners. In the largest payout to date, one New York State resident received $5.2 million from a stock claim. During State fiscal year 2019-2020, $415 million was paid out.
Yet New York State still holds 42 million unclaimed accounts, including $8 million for an estate. Most unclaimed account amounts are much more modest, with 70 percent of claims being less than $100.
How to Search for Unclaimed Funds
OUF has made it easy to search for money that may belong to you. It takes just a few minutes to search the online Unclaimed Funds database, and it’s free. And if you find some lost money, it would make a great addition to your retirement savings.
Visit OSC’s Unclaimed Funds website, click the “Search Now” button, enter your name and click “search.” If you find your name in the database, you can file your claim online. To protect you from fraud, OUF can’t tell you the amount of your claim until they receive and confirm your proof of ownership.
OUF has been working to improve online services for those seeking to claim funds. Here are some recent improvements:
Claimants can submit requested documents, such as a signed form or legal documents, online.
Claims for deceased owners can be submitted online, cutting processing time in half.
Automatic text messages can be sent to alert customers about the status of their claim.
There is no charge for searching for unclaimed funds or filing a claim. Location service providers have no special access to our database and will not get you your money any faster. These companies may charge a finder’s fee of up to 15 percent for locating unclaimed funds.
NYSLRS, which comprises the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), had 673,336 members as of March 31, 2020. Our members are State government, local government and school district employees from across New York, including 637,746 in ERS and 35,590 in PFRS. Seventy-nine 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, nearly 90 percent of NYSLRS members were in Tiers 3 and 4. Now, those tiers represent less than half of our membership, while Tier 6 members are on the verge of surpassing them. Tier 6, which includes members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012, has 298,633 members, or 44.4 percent of total membership.
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 1,552 Tier 1 ERS members and 24 Tier 1 PFRS members.
Tier 2: With 22,262 members, Tier 2 represented 3.3 percent of membership. Ninety-two percent of Tier 2 members were in PFRS.
Tiers 3 & 4: Tiers 3 and 4, which have similar retirement plans, had 311,213 members, 46.2 percent of the total membership. Tiers 3 and 4 are primarily ERS tiers. There is no Tier 4 in PFRS, and only 228 PFRS members were in Tier 3.
Tier 5: Tier 5 covers members who joined from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012. With 39,652 members, Tier 5 represented 5.9 percent of membership.
Tier 6: This tier covers members who joined since April 1, 2012. Its ranks grew by 15 percent during the last fiscal year.
But NYSLRS is more than just the pension fund. The system had 673,336 members as of March 31, including county workers, professional firefighters and State troopers. Here are some facts about our membership:
530,547 active members (that is, members still on a public payroll) work for 2,962 public employers statewide.
One-third of those active members work for New York State. The rest work for counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and public authorities.
Nearly 94 percent of active members are in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS). The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) accounts for 6 percent of NYSLRS membership.
More than 44 percent of all members are in Tier 6. Fifty-eight percent of PFRS members are in Tier 2 and almost 49 percent of ERS members are in Tiers 3 and 4.
NYSLRS Retirees and Beneficiaries
The average pension for an ERS retiree was $25,105; the average for a PFRS retiree was $54,684. But these pension payments don’t just benefit the system’s retirees and beneficiaries. Because 79 percent of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries live in New York, $10.8 billion worth of benefits stayed in the State. And that money supported local businesses, paid local taxes and generated economic development statewide.
An Award-Winning Publication
Extensive information about NYSLRS members and retirees, the Fund, and Fund investments can be found in the 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). NYSLRS once again received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 2019 CAFR. The Certificate of Achievement is a national award recognizing excellence in the preparation of state and local government financial reports. NYSLRS has won this award for the last 16 years.
If you have general questions about NYSLRS or your benefits, we have a web page that can help you find the answers.
That’s because the NYSLRS Contact Us page does double duty. It not only lists contact information, it also helps you find answers for many of the common questions we get from members, retirees and beneficiaries. It covers subjects like address changes, loans, pension estimates, direct deposit and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).
To get started, go to the Contact Us page and select the Member, Retiree or Beneficiary button to find the questions and answers you need. Each section has categories specific to that member group.
Member Annual Statement
Mortgage Letter/Account Verification Letter
Withdrawing from NYSLRS
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
Pension Verification Letters
Pension Verification Letters
Reporting a Death
Who is a Beneficiary?
Getting Account-Specific Answers
The information on the Contact Us page is general. If you’re looking for information specific to your situation, like your loan balance or a breakdown of your pension payment, sign in to Retirement Online. If you don’t already have a Retirement Online account, sign up today.
Your current health, and your long-term health prospects, should be a factor in selecting your retirement date. If your health is poor, you may want to consider retiring 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 your health is good, 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 increase your savings.
NYSLRS has always encouraged its members to save for retirement as a supplement to their NYSLRS pension and Social Security. Retirement savings are a hedge against inflation, can help in an emergency and allow you to do the things you want to do during retirement.
Having retirement savings gives you more flexibility, and if you have enough saved, that 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 Plan. 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.)
In 2020, you can save up to $19,500 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 2020 is $6,500, for a total limit of $26,000.
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 if you’re working in an office, that’s generally not the case.
But there are other things to consider about your current job. Some members want to retire as soon as they’re eligible to go, but 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 to 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.
But 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. But whether you decide to retire earlier or later, having a plan for retirement can help make it a more satisfying experience.
NYSLRS is actually two retirement systems: The Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).
PFRS, which provides retirement benefits for police officers and paid firefighters, is the smaller of the two systems, with about 35,000 members. Roughly a third of PFRS members work for cities, while 20 percent work for New York State. The remainder work for towns, counties and villages.
There are five tiers in PFRS, reflecting when the members joined the system: Tiers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 (there is no Tier 4). Tier 2, which includes PFRS members who joined the Retirement System from July 31, 1973 through June 30, 2009, is the largest tier, accounting for almost 60 percent of membership. If you joined PFRS on or after April 1, 2012, you are in Tier 6.
The vast majority of PFRS members (98 percent) are in special retirement plans that allow for retirement after 20 or 25 years of creditable service. If you are in one of these plans, once you have the full amount of required service, you can retire at any age.
Some PFRS members are in regular retirement plans, which require a member to reach a certain age before they are eligible for a pension.
As a PFRS member, you’ll pass a series of important milestones throughout your career. Knowing and understanding these milestones will help you better plan for your financial future.
Service credit is a key in determining your eligibility for a pension and other benefits, including the amount of those benefits.
Under most 20- and 25-year plans, not all public employment is creditable. Usually, police and firefighting service can be counted as special-plan service. You may also be able to use military service to help you reach 20 or 25 years. If you have questions about the service that can be used to calculate your pension, please check your retirement plan booklet or contact us.
PFRS Plan Booklets
You can find details about your NYSLRS benefits in your retirement plan booklet.
For the majority of PFRS members, that’s the Special 20- and 25-Year Plans booklet. This booklet is for PFRS Tier 2, 3, 5 and 6 members covered by Sections 384, 384-d and 384-e of the State Retirement and Social Security Law.
Need information about your personal NYSLRS account? You can find answers quickly and easily with Retirement Online.
Many of you know that Retirement Online is the convenient way to do business with NYSLRS. It’s also the fastest way to access account-specific information. Just sign in to your account for the most up-to-date information we have on file for you.
You can find your NYSLRS ID and contact information. Moved recently and not sure we have your current address? Retirement Online allows you to quickly check and update your mailing address, email address and phone number.
Member Information in Retirement Online
If you’re an active member (not yet receiving a NYSLRS pension) you can also find:
Details about your federal tax withholding, including your withholding status, number of exemptions and the amount of any additional withholding; and
Your beneficiary designations.
Sign Up Today
Hours of availability have recently been expanded. Retirement Online is generally available on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 7:00 am to 9:30 pm, and on Tuesday from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, it is available from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm. (Closed for maintenance on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month.)
For some NYSLRS members, your retirement age matters when it comes to receiving your NYSLRS retirement benefits.
Your pension will be based largely on your years of service and final average earnings, but your age at retirement is also a factor. How age plays into the equation depends on your tier and retirement plan.
Members in regular retirement plans can retire as early as age 55, but they may face significant pension reductions if they retire before their full retirement age. The full retirement age for members in most tiers is 62, and it’s 63 for Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6 members and for Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Tier 6 members who leave public employment before retirement age, but have enough service to receive a pension. If you joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012, you are in Tier 6.
Benefit reductions are prorated by month. The closer you are to your full retirement age when you retire, the less the reduction will be. Here are some examples of how that would work.
ERS Tiers 2, 3 and 4, PFRS Tiers 2, 3 (Article 11), 5 and 6:If you retire at age 58 1/2, your pension will be permanently reduced by 16.5 percent.
ERS Tier 5: If you retire at age 58 1/2, your pension will be permanently reduced by 20.83 percent.
ERS Tier 6: If you retire at age 58 1/2, your pension will be permanently reduced by 29.5 percent.
Once you retire with a reduced benefit, the reduction is permanent — it does not end when you reach retirement age.
Retirement Age Exceptions
Tier 1 members can retire at 55 without a benefit reduction. Benefit reductions don’t apply to ERS Tier 2, 3 or 4 members if they retire with 30 years of service. Tier 5 Uniformed Court Officers and Peace Officers employed by the Unified Court System can also retire between 55 and 62 without penalty if they have 30 years of service.
Understanding how age affects your NYSLRS benefits is crucial to retirement planning. To learn more, please review your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page.
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.
Tier 6 members (those who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012) are eligible for a lifetime pension benefit once they’ve earned 10 years of credited service. And that pension can replace a portion of your salary throughout your retirement.
Your NYSLRS pension will be based on your Final Average Earnings (FAE) and the number of years you work in public service. FAE is the average of the five highest-paid consecutive years. For most members, those higher-paid years come at the end of their careers. Since retirement is still some years in the future for most of you, we won’t focus on the dollar amount of your FAE today. But we can look at what percentage of that salary would be replaced by your pension if you continue in the system until retirement age.
For Tier 6 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), the benefit is 1.66 percent of your FAE for each year you work, up to 20 years. (Benefit calculations for members of the Police and Fire Retirement System vary based on plan.) At 20 years, the benefit equals 1.75 percent per year (for a total of 35 percent). After 20 years, the benefit grows to 2 percent per year.
Financial advisers say you will need to replace between 70 to 80 percent of your salary to maintain your lifestyle during retirement. Let’s see how we can get there.
NYSLRS Pension: Say you begin your career at age 30 and work until your full retirement age of 63. That’s 33 years of Service Credit. You’ll get 35 percent of your FAE for the first 20 years, plus 26 percent for the last 13 years, for a total benefit that would replace 61 percent of your salary. If you started at age 25, and continue till 63, you’d get 71 percent of your FAE. If you didn’t start till age 35, you’d still get 51 percent at 63.
Social Security: You also should factor in Social Security. According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security now replaces about 36 percent of the wages of a typical worker who retires at full retirement age. In the future, it’s estimated that Social Security might still replace between 25 and 30 percent of a typical worker’s pay.
Savings: Retirement savings can also replace a portion of your income. How much, of course, depends on how much you save. The key is to start saving early so your money has time to grow. New York State employees and some municipal employees can participate in the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan. If you haven’t already looked into Deferred Compensation, you might consider doing so now.