Tag Archives: retirement benefits

Apply for Retirement in Retirement Online

Ready to retire? Retirement Online makes it fast and convenient to apply for retirement. There are no forms to mail in and nothing to have notarized. If you don’t already have an account, sign up today.

As a reminder, you must submit your application 15 – 90 days before your retirement date. Before you apply for retirement, make sure you have proof of your date of birth on hand. If you choose a pension payment option that leaves a lifetime benefit to a beneficiary when you die, we will need proof of their birth date too.

Retirement Online Makes It Fast and Convenient to Apply for Retirement

From there, you’ll go through a series of screens where you’ll be able to:

  • Choose a retirement date;
  • Get an estimate of your pension and the payment options available to you;
  • Select a payment option;
  • Enter federal tax withholding information;
  • Sign up for direct deposit (have your bank account information ready);
  • Upload required documents, such as proof of date of birth;
  • Pay off your NYSLRS loan or service credit purchase; and
  • Review your employment history.

After you click the “Submit” button, make sure you receive a confirmation message that your retirement application has been successfully submitted before closing your browser.

One Exception — Disability Retirement

NYSLRS provides disability benefits for members who are permanently disabled and cannot perform their duties because of a physical or mental condition. Applications for disability retirement can’t be submitted in Retirement Online. Members who wish to apply for a disability retirement need to submit a paper application. Visit our Disability Benefits page for more information.

For Benefit Information, Read Your Retirement Plan Publication

Your service and disability retirement benefits and death benefits are based on your tier, plan, service credit, and other factors. For comprehensive information about your available benefits, find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication.

10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know

Brush up on your Retirement System knowledge! Here are 10 things all NYSLRS members should know.

10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know
  1. Lifetime Retirement Benefit
    You are part of a defined benefit pension plan, which provides a lifetime benefit at retirement based on your earnings and years of service.
  2. Qualify for a Retirement Benefit by Becoming Vested
    Becoming vested is a key milestone in every NYSLRS member’s career. Once you’re vested, you have earned enough service to qualify for a retirement benefit, once you meet the minimum age requirements established by your retirement plan.
  3. Tier Determines Benefits
    Your tier determines your eligibility for benefits under your plan and how those benefits are calculated.
  4. Conduct NYSLRS Business Using Retirement Online
    Retirement Online is the fastest and most convenient way to do business with NYSLRS. It only takes a few minutes to open your account. Use Retirement Online instead of calling or mailing for instant access to benefit information and convenient tools to make account changes.
  5. Estimate Pension Using Retirement Online Calculator
    Most members can use Retirement Online to create benefit estimates based on the most up-to-date information we have on file. You can enter different retirement dates and payment options to see how those choices would affect your benefit.
  6. Use Plan Publication to Learn about Benefits
    Your retirement plan publication is a comprehensive source for information about your benefits.
  7. Pension Calculated Using Highest Earnings
    Your final average earnings (FAE) is another major factor in calculating your NYSLRS pension. When we calculate your pension, we find the set of consecutive years (one, three or five, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest. 
  8. Request Past Service Credit Before Retirement
    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.
  9. NYSLRS Membership Includes Death and Disability Benefits
    NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. If you become seriously ill or injured, you may be eligible for a disability benefit. And, you may also be eligible to leave a beneficiary a death benefit if you die while working for a public employer.
  10. Best-Funded, Best-Managed
    The New York State Common Retirement Fund holds and invests the assets of NYSLRS on behalf of members, retirees and their beneficiaries and continues to be one of the best-funded and best-managed public pension funds in the nation. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the administrative head of NYSLRS and trustee of the Common Retirement Fund.

NYSLRS is one of the largest public retirement systems in America, serving more than 1.2 million members, retirees and beneficiaries. Read A Look Inside NYSLRS to learn more about your retirement system.

COLA Coming in September

Eligible NYSLRS retirees will see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in their monthly pension payments at the end of September 2023. This is a permanent annual increase to your retirement benefit that is based on the cost-of-living index and a formula set by State law. For upcoming pension payment dates, check our pension payment calendar.

COLA Coming Soon

How the COLA is Determined

The COLA is based on the rate of inflation, as reflected in the consumer price index published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The law requires that COLA payments be calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, as measured at the end of the State fiscal year (March 31). Once you are eligible, your annual increase will be at least 1 percent, but no more than 3 percent.

The percentage is applied to the first $18,000 of your benefit as if you had chosen the Single Life Allowance pension payment option, even if you selected a different option at retirement. Using the Single Life Allowance gives you the highest COLA amount possible, since this option pays the highest benefit. Once your COLA payments begin, you will automatically receive an increase to your monthly benefit each September.

The September 2023 COLA is 2.5 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $450.00, or $37.50 per month before taxes.

COLA Eligibility

When Will You See the Increase?

Eligible retirees will see the annual 2023 COLA in their end-of-September pension payment, which will be available to those with direct deposit on September 29, 2023. If you receive a paper check, your COLA will be included in the check mailed on September 28, 2023.

Viewing Your Benefit Payment

You can view your benefit payment pay stubs, including your current COLA amount, in Retirement Online. At the end of September, if you are eligible for the increase, you’ll be able to view a breakdown of your September payment with your new COLA amount.

To view your pension payments, sign in to Retirement Online. From the top of your Account Homepage, in the ‘I want to’ section, click the “View Pension Check” link. Then select the date of the pension payment that you want to view. You’ll see a list of payments you received beginning with your January 2023 payment and going forward. If you have direct deposit, you will also receive a notification of the net change in your monthly payment amount at the end of September.

Popular Blog Posts You May Have Missed

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.

popular blog posts
 
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Other Popular Blog Posts

Our blog covers a variety of topics, including supplementing your NYSLRS pension with retirement savings, new retirement online features for retirees and age milestones for retirement planning. We also busted some common retirement myths. Keep reading for more posts on NYSLRS benefits, legislation updates and other retirement information. If you haven’t already subscribed to New York Retirement News, fill out our Subscribe form now to receive an email when we publish new posts.

Thank you for reading New York Retirement News!

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.

Tier 6 contribution rate

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.

Recently enacted legislation removed overtime earned from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022, from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation. For some Tier 6 members, this means lower contribution rates for up to two years, including this coming State fiscal year. Read about it in our blog post, Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded From Tier 6 Contribution Rates.

How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate is Calculated

Tier 6 contribution rates are based on what you earn during a State fiscal year, from April 1 through March 31. The minimum rate is 3 percent of your earnings, and the maximum is 6 percent. Your contribution rate is calculated by NYSLRS based on the earnings reported by your employer.

If you are a Tier 6 member with three or more years of membership in NYSLRS, your rates are based on your earnings from the last completed fiscal year. We provide rates to your employer in March, a few weeks before they need to apply any rate changes for the Tier 6 employees at your organization. For example, the contribution rate being provided to your employer in March 2023 is based on earnings for the fiscal year that ended March 2022 (so, what you earned from April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022).

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

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.

Learn More

The amount you contribute to the Retirement System will 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 your pension by reading your retirement plan publication. Use our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool to find yours.

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).

The Police and Fire Retirement System

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 32,000 active members. A third of PFRS members work for cities, while almost 19 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 in PFRS). 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 55 percent of PFRS membership.

If you joined PFRS on or after April 1, 2012, you are in Tier 6.

Ninety-eight percent of PFRS members 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.

police and fire infographic

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

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.

If you are a PFRS member who works for New York State, your booklet is based on your specific job. There are separate booklets for State PoliceForest RangersRegional State Park PoliceState University Police and EnCon Police.

If you are not covered by one of the plan booklets listed above, you can find your booklet on our Publications page. If you’re not sure what retirement plan you’re in, you can find that information in the My Account Summary section of your Retirement Online account. You can also check your Member Annual Statement, ask your employer or email us using our secure contact form.

Power of Attorney

Under normal circumstances, NYSLRS won’t release your benefit information – even to close family members­ – without your permission. However, if we have an approved copy of your power of attorney (POA) form on record, we can discuss your information with the person you named as your agent in your POA.

For example, your agent could ask for details about your pension payments, get help completing a loan application or call us for clarification if you don’t understand a letter you received.

father and son discuss power of attorney

Your agent could be your spouse, another family member or a trusted friend. You may designate more than one person as your agent, and you may authorize those agents to act together or separately. You may also designate “successor agents” to act on your behalf if the primary agent is unable or unwilling to serve.

A POA form may be filed with NYSLRS at any time, so there’s no need to wait until a “life event” happens to file. With a POA already on record, the designated agent can act immediately in case of emergency, hospitalization or unexpected illness.

What Can Agents Do?

The agent named in your POA is authorized to act on your behalf and conduct business with NYSLRS for you.

Agents can file applications and forms, such as service or disability retirement applications. They can get account-specific benefit information, request copies of retirement documents, update addresses and phone numbers, and take out loans. For retirees, agents can change the amount withheld from your pension for taxes.

The NYSLRS POA Form

NYSLRS provides a Special Durable Power of Attorney form that is specific to retirement transactions and meets all New York State legal requirements.

If you use the NYSLRS POA form, and your agent or successor agent is your spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, they have “self-gifting authority.” That means they can designate themselves as a beneficiary of your pension benefits or, if you are not yet retired, choose a retirement payment option that provides for a beneficiary after your death and designate themselves as a beneficiary for that benefit.

If your agent or successor agent is not your spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, they do not automatically have self-gifting authority. If you want them to be able to designate themselves as beneficiaries, you should indicate that in the Modifications section of the POA. You should identify your agent by name and specify the authority you want granted to them.

It’s important to note that the NYSLRS POA form only covers Retirement System transactions. It does not authorize an agent to make health care decisions or changes to a Deferred Compensation plan.

Changes to the POA Law

The law governing POA requirements was changed effective June 13, 2021. Any POA executed on or after that date must comply with the following requirements (the NYSLRS form complies with the requirements):

  • All POAs must be signed by two disinterested witnesses (witnesses who are not listed as an agent in the POA or named in the POA as a person who can receive gifts).
  • The use of a Statutory Gift Rider to grant gifting authority has been eliminated. If you do not use the NYSLRS POA form and instead submit a separately prepared Statutory POA form, gifting authority, even for a close family member, must be granted in the Modifications section of the POA. (See our Power of Attorney page for details.)

If you have an approved POA on file with NYSLRS, you do not need to send a new one. POAs executed before June 13, 2021, will be reviewed in accordance with the laws in effect at the time. POAs executed on or after June 13, 2021, that use an old POA form or do not comply with other requirements of the new law will not be valid.

How to Submit a POA Form

You can scan and email a copy of your POA to NYSLRS using our secure email form.

You can also mail your POA (original or photocopy). You may wish to mail it certified mail, return-receipt requested, so you know when NYSLRS receives it. Mail it to:

NYSLRS
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001.

Find Out More

A power of attorney is a powerful document. Once you appoint someone, that person may act on your behalf with or without your consent. We strongly urge you to consult an attorney before you execute this document.

You may revoke your POA at any time by sending us a signed, notarized statement.

Please read the Power of Attorney page on our website for additional information.

A Century of Security and Stability

A century after its creation, the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) is widely recognized as one of the best-managed and best-funded public pension systems in the nation. Comptroller DiNapoli recently announced that the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund), which holds and invests the assets of NYSLRS, had an estimated value of $268.3 billion as of June 30, 2021. The security and stability of NYSLRS and the Fund are due, in large part, to the stewardship of Comptroller DiNapoli, as well as a long line of State Comptrollers that came before him. The System has also been bolstered by some key events along the way.

NYSLRS History - key events contributing to the security and stability of the Retirement System and the Fund

In the Beginning

NYSLRS’ security and stability were built in at the start. In 1918, the State Legislature created the Commission on Pensions and charged it with recommending a pension system for State workers.

After surveying pension plans in New York and other states, the Pension Commission recognized the need to calculate the cost of the pension plan through actuarial calculations, which take into account such things as employees’ salaries and how long they are expected to be retired. They also saw the need to make provisions to cover those costs through contributions and other income. They recommended a plan supported by the contributions of employers (New York State and, eventually, local governments) and employees. The improved actuarial calculations the System uses today helps to ensure that member contributions and employer annual contributions are sufficient to keep the System adequately funded.

The Pension Commission also recommended a service retirement benefit be made available to workers who reached a certain age, based on average earnings and years of service. Though they didn’t use the term, their pension plan was very similar to the defined-benefit plan NYSLRS members have now.

Unlike the 401k-style defined-contribution plans common in the private sector today, a defined-benefit plan provides a guaranteed, lifetime benefit. With a defined-benefit plan, you don’t have to worry about your money running out during retirement, and your employer has an excellent tool for recruiting and retaining workers.

Constitutional Protection

In 1938, New York voters approved several amendments to the State Constitution, including Article 5, Section 7, which guarantees that a public pension benefit cannot be “diminished or impaired.” This constitutional language protects the interests of the Fund and its members and beneficiaries, ensuring that the money the Fund holds will be there to pay the pensions for all current and future retirees. The courts have upheld this constitutional provision to protect the Fund several times over the years.

For NYSLRS members and retirees, that means the retirement benefits you were promised when you started your public service career cannot be reduced or taken away.

Sound Investments

Sound investments are crucial to the health of the Fund, but in some cases changes in the law were needed to give Fund managers the flexibility to make the best investments. In 1961, the Fund was allowed to invest in the stock market, opening up the door for growth opportunities. Roughly half of the Fund’s assets are currently invested in stocks.

In 2005, the Legislature expanded the types of investments the Fund could make, allowing the Fund to increase investments in real estate, international stocks and other sectors that had been providing high returns.

Today, under Comptroller DiNapoli’s leadership, the Fund’s investment returns cover the majority of the cost of retirement benefits. After suffering a drop in value at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the Fund had its best year in history, with estimated investment returns of 33.55 percent for fiscal year 2021.

NYSLRS is well-positioned to face the challenges of the future and provide retirement security for more than 1.1 million members, retirees and beneficiaries.

Your Contributions to NYSLRS

Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to the Retirement System. Over time, those contributions, with interest, can add up to a tidy sum. But what happens to that money? Will you get your contributions back when you retire? The answer to that question is “no.” Let’s look at what happens to your NYSLRS contributions.

How NYSLRS Retirement Plans Work

NYSLRS plans are defined benefit pension plans. Once you’re vested, you’re entitled to a lifetime benefit that will be based on your years of service and final average earnings. The amount of your contributions does not determine the amount of your pension. (Use Retirement Online to estimate your pension.)

Your NYSLRS plan differs from defined contribution plans, such as a 401-k plan, which are essentially retirement savings plans. In those plans, a worker, their employer, or both contribute to an individual retirement account. The money is invested and hopefully accumulates investment returns over time. This type of plan does not provide a guaranteed lifetime benefit and there is the risk that the money will run out during the worker’s retirement years. Experts recommend that workers who have defined contribution plans contribute anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of their income to their plan. NYSLRS members, in contrast, contribute between 3 and 6 percent of their income, depending on their tier and retirement plan.

Where Your Contributions Go

When you retire, your contributions go into the New York State Common Retirement Fund. The Fund is the pool of money that is invested and used to pay retirement benefits for you and other NYSLRS members.

contributions

Your Contribution Balance

You can find your current contribution balance in Retirement Online. But if your contributions don’t determine your pension, what difference does it make what the balance is? For one thing, your contribution balance helps determine the amount you can borrow if you decide to take a loan from NYSLRS. Also, you may be able to withdraw your contributions, with interest, if you leave the public workforce before retirement age.

Withdrawing Your Contributions

You cannot withdraw your contributions while you are still working for a public employer in New York State. If you leave public employment with less than ten years of service, you can withdraw your contributions, plus interest. If you withdraw, you will not be eligible for a NYSLRS retirement benefit.

If you have more than ten years of service, you cannot withdraw, but you will be entitled to a pension when you reach retirement age. But remember, you will not receive this pension automatically; you must file a retirement application before you can receive any benefit.