Tag Archives: Social Security

ERS Tier 6 Benefits – A Closer Look

Financial advisers say you will need to replace between 70 and 80 percent of your salary to maintain your lifestyle after retirement. Your NYSLRS pension could go a long way in helping you reach that goal, especially when combined with your Social Security benefit and your own retirement savings. Here’s a look at how Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members in Tier 6 (who are vested once they’ve earned five years of credited service), can reach that goal. Members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012 are in Tier 6.

formula for a financially secure retirement

Calculating an ERS Tier 6 Member’s Pension

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. Note: The law limits the FAE 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 FAE, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension.  

Although ERS members can generally retire as early as age 55 with reduced benefits, the full retirement age for Tier 6 members is age 63.

For ERS Tier 6 members in regular plans (Article 15), the benefit is 1.66 percent of your FAE for each full year you work, up to 20 years. 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 for each additional year of service. (Benefit calculations for members of the Police and Fire Retirement System and ERS members in special plans vary based on plan.)

Say you begin your career at age 28 and work full-time until your full retirement age of 63. That’s 35 years of service credit. You’d get 35 percent of your FAE for the first 20 years, plus 30 percent for the last 15 years, for a total benefit that would replace 65 percent of your salary. If you didn’t start until age 38, you’d get 45 percent of your FAE at 63.

Examples of ERS Tier 6 Pension Calculation

So, that’s how your NYSLRS pension can help you get started with your post-retirement income. Now, let’s look at what the addition of Social Security and your own savings can do to help you reach your retirement goal.

Other Sources of Post-Retirement Income

Social Security: According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security currently replaces about 40 percent of the wages of a typical worker who retires at full retirement age. In the future, these percentages may change, but you should still factor it in to your post-retirement income.

Your 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.

Taxes After Retirement

Estimating your post-retirement expenses is crucial to effective retirement planning, and it’s important to remember that taxes are also part of that equation. Most retirees pay less in taxes than when they were working, partly because their incomes are lower. But there are other reasons why your tax burden may be lighter after you stop working.

taxes after retirement

New York State Taxes

As a NYSLRS retiree, your pension will not be subject to New York State or local income tax. New York doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, either.

You may also get a tax break on any distributions from retirement savings, such as deferred compensation, and benefits from a private-sector pension. Find out more on the Department of Taxation and Finance website.

Be aware that you could lose these tax breaks if you move out of New York. Many states tax pensions, and some tax Social Security. For information on tax laws in other states, visit the website of the Retired Public Employees Association.

Federal Taxes

Unfortunately, most of your retirement income will be subject to federal taxes, but there are some bright spots here.

Your Social Security benefits are likely to be taxed, but at most, you’ll only pay taxes on a portion of your benefits. You can find information about it on the Social Security Administration website. (If you’re already retired, use the Social Security Benefits Worksheet in the Form 1040 instructions to see if any of your benefits are taxable.)

Throughout your working years, you’ve paid payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. For most workers, that’s 6.2 percent (Social Security) and 1.45 percent (Medicare) of your gross earnings out of every paycheck. But Social Security and Medicare taxes are only withheld from earned income, such as wages. Pensions, Social Security benefits and retirement savings distributions are exempt from Social Security taxes. Of course, if you get a paying job after retirement, Social Security and Medicare taxes will be deducted from your paycheck.

Once you turn 65, you may be able to claim a larger standard deduction on your federal tax return.

To better understand how your retirement income will be taxed, it may be helpful to speak with a tax adviser.

Crunching the Numbers: A Short Guide to Retirement Calculators

A good estimate of your post-retirement income is essential to retirement planning. But estimating your income becomes a little tricky when you need to calculate income from several sources. Fortunately, there are retirement calculators available to help you.

online calculators

NYSLRS Benefit Calculator

A good place to start is with the NYSLRS online benefit calculator. Most members can create a pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. A 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.

Social Security Calculators

The Social Security Administration (SSA) hosts a variety of calculators that you may find helpful. The SSA’s Quick Calculator, which uses information you enter, provides a rough estimate of your Social Security benefit. The Retirement Estimator, which estimates your benefit based on your actual Social Security earnings record, is more refined, but you’ll need to enter your Social Security number and other personal information.  

You can also calculate when you will be eligible for full Social Security benefits and estimate your life expectancy.

Savings Calculators

If you are saving for retirement, a simple savings calculator can show you how your money can grow over the years. But simple calculators assume a fixed amount of savings each month. In reality, most people increase their retirement savings as their income grows. With more sophisticated calculators, like this 401k Retirement Calculator, you can account for salary increases over time. (Note: The 401k Retirement Calculator works with other types of retirement savings plans, including 457(b) plans like the ones offered by the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan.)

Savings Withdrawal Calculators

Savings withdrawal calculators like this one are designed to help determine how much savings remains after a series of withdrawals. These are especially helpful tools to use when trying to determine how long your retirement savings will last. Enter the starting amount, how much to withdraw and how often, and an expected final balance will be calculated.

While the calculators mentioned above are great planning tools for before and after retirement, remember that their results are only estimates.

The 3-Legged Stool: An Approach to Retirement Confidence

Most American workers believe they will have enough money to live comfortably after they retire, but do you share their retirement confidence?

As a NYSLRS member with a defined benefit pension plan, you have reason to be optimistic about retirement. But there is more to a financially secure retirement than having a pension. Think of retirement security as a three-legged stool, with three parts working together to provide financial stability when your working days are over. Understanding each of these sources of income will help you better plan for your future and boost your retirement confidence.

retirement confidence

Leg 1: Your NYSLRS Pension

At retirement, vested NYSLRS members are eligible for a pension based on their final average earnings and the number of years they’ve worked in public service. Your pension is a lifetime benefit, which means you’ll receive a monthly payment for the rest of your life, no matter how long you live. Unlike workers who rely on a 401(k)-style retirement plan, you won’t have to worry about your money running out.

Most members can use Retirement Online to estimate how much their pension will be. But if you’re a long way from retirement, it may be better to think in terms of earnings replacement. Financial advisers estimate you’ll need to replace 70 to 80 percent of your income to retire with financial confidence. Your pension can help get you there. For example, if you retire with 30 years of service, your NYSLRS pension could replace more than half of your earnings. (Replacement percentages vary among retirement plans. You can find out more in your retirement plan booklet.)

Leg 2: Social Security

Less than half of Americans believe Social Security will be there for them when they retire, according to a recent poll, and younger workers are even more pessimistic about Social Security’s future. While there’s no denying that Social Security faces challenges, things aren’t as bleak as some people think.

Social Security trustees estimate that Social Security reserves will be depleted by 2035 and they will only be able to pay about 76 percent of scheduled retirement benefits. But consider this: Social Security now replaces about 36 percent of the wages of a typical worker who retires at full retirement age. In the future, even if it only replaces 25 to 30 percent of pre-retirement earnings, it would still be a significant source of retirement income.

But these are worse case scenarios. The truth is that lawmakers have many policy options that could reduce or eliminate the long-term financing shortfalls in Social Security. It seems likely those options will be explored.

Leg 3: Retirement Savings

Having a secure, lifetime pension will be a substantial financial asset, but it’s still important to save money for retirement. A retirement nest egg can help in case of an emergency, act as a hedge against inflation and boost your retirement confidence.

Saving is the retirement factor you have the most control over. You decide when to start, how much to save and how your money will be invested. The key is to start saving early, so your money has time to grow, even if you can only afford to save a small amount in the beginning.

With the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan, you can start out by saving as little as $10 per pay period. That money would be automatically deducted from your paycheck, so you won’t even have to think about it. The money is tax-deferred, which means you don’t pay income taxes on your Plan account contributions or earnings until you begin to take payments from your account. This may lower your taxable income now and in retirement. The Deferred Compensation plan is not affiliated with NYSLRS, but New York State employees and some municipal employees can participate. If you’re a municipal employee, ask your employer if you’re eligible for the Deferred Compensation Plan or another retirement savings plan.

Planning for an Unplanned Retirement

Retirement comes too soon for some people. Poor health, an injury, family situations, layoffs and other unforeseen circumstances could force you into an unplanned retirement.

unplanned retirement

You may already have a plan based on the date you would like to retire, but do you have a backup plan if that date comes a few years earlier than expected?

Know Your Benefits

As a NYSLRS member, you’re entitled to benefits that may help. Most vested members can begin collecting a lifetime pension as early as age 55, though your benefit may be permanently reduced if you retire before full retirement age. (Full retirement age for NYSLRS members is either 62 or 63, depending on your tier. Full retirement age for Social Security benefits depends on your year of birth.)

If you can no longer do your job because of a physical and mental condition, you may be eligible for a Social Security Disability, or a NYSLRS disability benefit if your disability is permanent.

You may also want to look into Workers’ Compensation if you are injured on the job or Unemployment Insurance if you have been laid off from a position.

Other Ways to Plan for the Unexpected

Doing your homework is important. The more you understand the potential benefits available to you, the better you can estimate your income if you are forced to retire early. Unfortunately, the numbers you come up with may not be enough when dealing with an unplanned retirement.

But one potential source of income can make a big difference: retirement savings. Your savings could help you get by until you are eligible to collect your NYSLRS pension or another retirement benefit. If you are not saving for retirement, consider starting now. And if you are saving, consider increasing your savings. It could become a lifeline if the unexpected happens.

New York State employees and some municipal employees can also save for retirement through the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan. Ask your employer if you are eligible.

For more information about the benefits offered by your NYSLRS retirement plan, visit our website to read your plan publication.

Generational Attitudes about Retirement

Attitudes about retirement vary from one generation to the next.

That stands to reason. For Millennials (those born from 1979–2000), retirement is a long way off. For Generation X (born 1965–1978), retirement isn’t too far down the road, while millions of Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964) are already retired.

Generational Attitudes on RetirementA number of recent studies have tracked generational differences concerning retirement, but they also show a substantial amount of agreement among the generations. Surveys show that a majority of workers, regardless of generation, are saving for retirement. But Millennials appear to be outperforming members of the older generations on that count. They tend to start saving early and are on track to outpace Boomers and Gen Xers in building retirement nest eggs.

Concerns about Social Security are high across generations, with many fearing that it won’t be there for them when it comes time for them to retire. (That fear is reasonable, though perhaps exaggerated, based on Social Security Administration projections.)

Social Security’s troubles, plus the general decline of defined-benefit pensions, has left many feeling that they are on their own. According to one report, two-thirds of both Millennials and Gen-Xers expect their retirement savings accounts to be their primary source of income after they stop working.

The take away for NYSLRS members? The cross-generational anxiety about retirement underscore the important role that a defined-benefit retirement plan, such as your NYSLRS retirement plan, plays in securing your financial future. It also reinforces the importance of saving for retirement.

More Than One Million Strong: The Growth of NYSLRS

When NYSLRS formed in 1921, it started with a total of 4,721 participants (4,672 members and 43 retirees). Today, NYSLRS provides retirement security to 643,178 members and 430,308 retirees and beneficiaries (the most recent data available).

To say we’ve grown would be an understatement. But no matter how large we get, NYSLRS will continue to provide its members and retirees with lifetime retirement benefits and help them to plan for a financially secure future.

A look back at membership growth through the years.

NYSLRS Membership growth through the years

NYSLRS: Retirement Security Before Social Security

Before NYSLRS began in 1921, many New York public employees who were no longer able to work would fall into poverty. At the time, Social Security didn’t exist to help supplement post-retirement income. While Social Security was created in 1935, it wasn’t made available to public employees until 1950 and didn’t start in New York until 1953.

NYSLRS in 1950

Under State Comptroller Frank C. Moore, NYSLRS was comprised of 161,686 participants in 1950. Of those, 151,326 were Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members and 10,360 were retirees and beneficiaries.

You may have noticed that there were no Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members in 1950. We had police and fire members – a little more than 12,000, in fact – but they were considered ERS members until 1967. On April 1, 1967, ERS split into the two systems you know today: ERS and PFRS.

NYSLRS in 1970

Participation in NYSLRS grew to 525,763 in 1970. Of these, 463,939 were members and 51,824 were retirees and beneficiaries. The State Comptroller at the time was Arthur Levitt Sr. Comptroller Levitt is known for having the longest tenure as State Comptroller, serving a total of 24 years from 1955 to 1978.

The 1970s also saw the creation of a new member group. Tier 2 began on July 1, 1973. The creation of Tier 2, and the other tiers that followed, were designed to provide members equitable benefits at a reasonable cost.

NYSLRS in 1990

From 1979 to 1993, Edward V. “Ned” Regan served as State Comptroller. During his time in office, participation in NYSLRS continued to climb, growing to 882,410 in 1990. Of these, 649,847 were members and 232,563 were retirees and beneficiaries.

NYSLRS in 2010

Between 2006 and 2007, participation in NYSLRS broke the one-million-participant mark. In 2010, during current Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s administration, participation rose to 1,055,020. Of these, 679,217 were members and 375,803 were retirees and beneficiaries.

NYSLRS in 2015

In 2015, overall membership in the System reached 1,073,486. This includes 643,178 members and 430,308 retirees and beneficiaries (the most recent data available). The number of retirees is increasing more quickly than members. For example, in 1995, retirees represented 30 percent of the System’s members. By 2015, that number had increased to approximately 40 percent.

What does 2016 hold for NYSLRS? Keep an eye out in future blog posts for the latest NYSLRS demographics.

NYSLRS’ Top Five Retirement Myths from 2015

Retirement Myths vs FactsFrom the day you become a NYSLRS member to the day you retire, you’re exposed to all sorts of retirement information. Unfortunately, sometimes what you learn can get jumbled along the way. We want to help clear up some common misconceptions we’ve heard from members and retirees over the past year. Here are the top five retirement myths from 2015:


Myth #1 “I’ll receive the full amount of my monthly retirement benefit when my payments start.”

Fact For the first few months of retirement, most NYSLRS retirees will receive partial payments while we finish calculating their final benefit. (We need to collect information on final payments and pensionable leave credits from their employers, a process that can take some time.) The partial payments are based on their most recent NYSLRS retirement estimate and usually make up 90 – 95 percent of their final benefit. Partial payments are paid by check and mailed to the address we have on file for the retiree.


Myth #2 “Family members always receive death benefits.”

Fact With the exception of accidental death benefits, NYSLRS members may name any person, trust, or organization as their beneficiary to receive death benefits. It doesn’t have to be a family member. Accidental death benefit recipients are outlined in the law.


Myth #3 “I can’t collect my pension until I start receiving Social Security.”

Fact Members can apply for retirement as soon as they meet the eligibility requirements of their retirement plan.


Myth #4 “NYSLRS manages my retiree health insurance.”

Fact NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs for its retirees. We deduct premiums from a retiree’s monthly retirement benefit to pay for their health insurance if we’re told to do so by their former employer.

(If you have questions about your health insurance coverage or premium deductions, please contact your former employer. If you retired from a New York State agency, you can contact the New York State Department of Civil Service.)


Myth #5 “NYSLRS decides when there’s a retirement incentive.”

Fact This isn’t the case. The New York State Legislature (not NYSLRS) enacts retirement incentive programs. Incentives are approved by both houses and signed into law by the Governor. NYSLRS administers programs that are signed into law.


Check out your plan publication to learn more about your benefits. You can also visit our website for more information.

New Report Questions Retirement Readiness of U.S. Workforce

Fewer Americans are participating in employer-sponsored defined benefit and defined contribution plans. In fact, according to a recent report from the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, from 1999 through 2011, 53 percent of working Americans were not enrolled in a retirement plan at work — down from 61 percent. When you add in people who did not participate in a plan offered to them or who were not working, 68 percent of working-age people (25-64) did not participate in an employer-sponsored plan.

According to the report, because of these low retirement plan enrollment numbers, 55% of U.S. households nearing retirement may have to rely on Social Security income exclusively for financial survival in retirement.

The Dwindling Number of Defined Benefit Plan Participants Fare Best

The report, entitled Are U.S. Workers Ready for Retirement? Trends in Plan Sponsorship, Participation and Preparedness, was released in April and co-authored by Theresa Ghilarducci, a nationally recognized expert in retirement security. It found that of working-age Americans with an employer-sponsored retirement plan available to them, only 16 percent had a defined benefit plan, while 63 percent had a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k).

In a comparison of net worth, the households who are enrolled in a defined benefit pension plan fare the best, with a median net worth of $116,973, compared to $107,250 for those in a defined contribution plan, and $4,450 for those without an employer-sponsored plan of any kind.

Regrettably, as bleak and discouraging as this picture is, things could still be worse.

Too Many Future Retirees Face the Possibility of Poverty

According to the report, 33 percent of current workers aged 55 to 64 are likely to be poor or near-poor in retirement based on their current levels of retirement savings and total assets. While a sizable share of the retiree population will be at risk of living in poverty in all states, workers in Massachusetts and Virginia are more likely to enjoy a secure retirement than their counterparts nationally, with only 22 percent of workers 55 to 64 likely to be at-risk for a poor standard of living in retirement.

It’s a much more troubling story here in New York where 32 percent of near-retirement workers may experience poverty or near-poverty in retirement based on their current savings levels.

Comptroller DiNapoli’s Position On Retirement Security

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the administrator of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), has long addressed the topic of retirement security and said that policy makers and the community-at-large should be directing their energies to ensure retirement security for everyone, including workers in the private sector.

Comptroller DiNapoli discusses this issue in remarks he delivered last June during a Retirement Summit at the Schwartz Center.