NYSLRS, which administers the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), had 685,450 members as of March 31, 2022. Our members are State government, local government, school district and other public-sector employees from across New York — 650,251 in ERS and 35,199 in PFRS. About 74 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, more than 80 percent of NYSLRS members were in Tiers 3 and 4. Now, those tiers represent less than 40 percent of our membership. Tier 6, which includes members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012, now has 367,013 members, or 53.5 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 1,043 Tier 1 ERS members and 17 Tier 1 PFRS members.
Tier 2: With 18,074 members, Tier 2 represented 2.6 percent of membership. Ninety-four percent of Tier 2 members were in PFRS.
Tiers 3 & 4: Tiers 3 and 4, which have similar retirement plans, had 263,734 members, 38.5 percent of the total membership. Tiers 3 and 4 are primarily ERS tiers. There is no Tier 4 in PFRS, and only 173 PFRS members were in Tier 3.
Tier 5: Tier 5 covers members who joined from January 1, 2010, through March 31, 2012. With 35,569 members, Tier 5 represented 5.2 percent of membership.
Tier 6: This tier covers members who joined since April 1, 2012. Its ranks grew by about 13 percent during the last fiscal year.
Becoming vested is a crucial milestone in your NYSLRS membership.
You become vested after you earn enough years of service credit. Once you’re vested, you have earned the right to receive a retirement benefit, even if you leave public employment before retirement.
New Legislation Changes Vesting Requirements for Tier 5 and 6 Members
As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members only need five years of service credit to be vested. This affects members of both the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Previously, Tier 5 and 6 members needed 10 years of service to be eligible for a service retirement benefit (the new legislation does not change eligibility for disability retirement benefits that are established by your retirement plan).
We are working to update the pension estimate tool in Retirement Online. Until vesting status updates are made to the tool, pension estimates produced in Retirement Online will not accurately reflect the vesting status of members impacted by the new legislation.
Effective immediately, if you are a Tier 5 or 6 member with five or more years of service and you meet the minimum age requirements for your retirement plan, you can apply for a service retirement benefit if you wish. We are updating our online services to enable Tier 5 and 6 members to apply for retirement through Retirement Online. In the meantime, you may file for retirement using our paper application. If you have between five and 10 years of service credit and you have questions about filing for retirement, please contact us.
This legislation did not change Tier 5 or 6 benefit rules such as how long you must contribute, your pension benefit calculation, your full retirement age, reductions to retire early or the cost to purchase previous service. However, additional new legislation may affect contribution rates for some Tier 6 members. Information about this legislation will be posted on our blog when it becomes available.
Tier 5 and 6 members who left public employment with five or more years of service and did not withdraw their membership are now considered to be vested.
Tier 5 and 6 members who leave public employment with more than five years of service but less than 10 years, as of April 9, 2022, now have the option to either apply for a retirement benefit once you reach retirement age or withdraw your contributions. You cannot withdraw your contributions once you have 10 years of service. As a reminder, once you withdraw your contributions, you end your membership with NYSLRS and are no longer eligible for a retirement benefit.
If you were a Tier 5 or 6 member and have been off the payroll for more than seven years prior to April 9, 2022, your membership is considered withdrawn and terminated. You would need to return to payroll and reinstate your withdrawn membership in order to be eligible for five-year vesting.
All Members — When Will I Be Vested?
NYSLRS members in Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 need five years of service credit to be vested.
If you work part-time, it will take you longer to become vested. For example, if you work half-time, you earn six months of credit toward vesting for each year on the job.
If you purchase credit for previous service or military service, that credit can be used toward vesting.
What You Need to Do
Vesting is automatic. You do not need to file any paperwork to become vested. To find out if you’re vested, you can sign in to your Retirement Online account and find your total estimated service credit in the ‘My Account Summary’ section. Again, if your total estimated service credit in Retirement Online is listed as more than five years, you are considered vested.
Vested members will need to apply for a service retirement benefit in order to receive a pension. Applications must be submitted within 15 – 90 days before the date you wish to retire (you must be eligible to retire on the date you choose).
Most NYSLRS members are eligible to collect a pension as early as age 55, but, depending on your tier and retirement plan, benefits may be reduced if you retire before your full retirement age.
You can estimate your pension benefit based on the salary and service information we have on file for you. From your Retirement Online account, under ‘My Account Summary’ click “Estimate my Pension Benefit.”
When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation.
Our series, NYSLRS — One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS. Today’s post looks at PFRS Tier 5. Anyone who joined PFRS from January 9, 2010 through March 31, 2012 is in Tier 5. There were 1,967 PFRS Tier 5 members as of March 31, 2021, making up 5.6 percent of PFRS membership.
About Special Plans
Under a regular plan, you need to reach certain age and service requirements to receive your NYSLRS pension. If you’re covered by a special plan, there is no age requirement, and you can receive your pension after completing 20 or 25 years of service.
Nearly 80 percent of PFRS members are in plans covered under Sections 384, 384-d, 384-e or 384-f of the Retirement and Social Security Law. Read our Police and Fire Retirement System blog post for information about different PFRS plans.
Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for PFRS Tier 5.
If you’re a PFRS Tier 5 member, you can find detailed information about your benefits in the retirement plan booklets listed below:
The formula used to calculate a NYSLRS pension varies by tier and plan, but your credited service and final average earnings (FAE) are the main factors. You earn service credit for paid service with participating employers, and you also may purchase credit for previous public employment. Your FAE is the average wage you earned during the period when your earnings were highest (36 consecutive months for Tier 5 and 60 consecutive months for Tier 6).
Your FAE can include overtime pay you earn during that period, but for Tier 5 and 6 members there are limits to how much overtime can be used to calculate your pension.
You can still earn overtime pay beyond the limit — it just won’t be used in your FAE. Members also aren’t required to make contributions on overtime pay that is above the limit.
When you joined the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you were assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by State Law. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS.
Today’s post looks at ERS Tier 5, which covers ERS members who joined from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012. There were 37,114 ERS Tier 5 members — 5.8 percent of all ERS members — as of March 31, 2021.
ERS Tier 5 Membership Milestones
ERS Tier 5 members need ten years of service credit to become vested, which means they’ll be eligible for a lifetime pension when they retire.
When a Tier 5 member can retire is based on whether they are in the regular retirement plan (Article 15) or a special plan. Most Tier 5 members are in the regular plan, which means they can retire as early as age 55, but if they retire before age 62, their benefit will be reduced.
Tier 5 members in special plans, such as sheriffs and correction officers, can retire with 20 or 25 years of service (depending on their retirement plan), regardless of age, without penalty.
See your plan booklet (listed below) for details.
The Final Average Earnings (FAE)
An ERS Tier 5 member’s final average earnings is the average of their earnings in the three highest-paid consecutive years of employment. Earnings in any year included in the period cannot exceed the average earnings of the previous two years by more than 10 percent.
Tier 5 Service Retirement Benefit
If an ERS Tier 5 member retires with less than 20 years, the benefit is 1.66 percent of their FAE for each year of service.
If a Tier 5 member in a regular plan retires with 20 to 30 years of service, the benefit is 2 percent of their FAE for each year of service. For each year of service beyond 30 years, they will receive 1.5 percent of their FAE. For example, a Tier 5 member with 35 years of service can retire at 62 with 67.5 percent of their FAE.
For Tier 5 members in special plans, the benefit is generally 50 percent of their FAE with 20 or 25 years of service, depending on their retirement plan.
Where to Find More Information
ERS Tier 5 members can find more details about their benefits in the publications listed below:
Looking for some summer reading? Why not check out these publications from NYSLRS? They’re light on colorful characters and exotic settings, but what they lack in plot intrigue, they make up for in important retirement information.
1. Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members (Articles 14 and 15)
More than 250,000 Tier 3 and 4 members of the Employee’s Retirement System (ERS) are covered by this plan. The publication explains some of the benefits and the services available to you, including a service retirement, a vested retirement, a disability retirement, death benefits and more. Read it now.
2. Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 5 Members (Article 15)
If you joined ERS from January 1, 2010 through March 30, 2012, you are in Tier 5. This booklet describes benefits for Tier 5 members in regular retirement plans. Read it now.
3. Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 6 Members (Article 15)
More than 178,000 Tier 6 ERS members are covered by this Plan. The publication explains some of the benefits and the services available to you, including a service retirement, a vested retirement, a disability retirement, death benefits and more. Read it now.
4. Life Changes: A Guide for Retirees
Already retired? As a NYSLRS retiree, you know that you will receive a monthly retirement benefit for life. However there may be other benefits available to you, as well as services that we provide retirees. This guide will answer many of the questions you may have and explain your responsibilities as a retiree. Read it now.
5. What If I Work After Retirement?
In most cases, NYSLRS retirees under 65 can earn up to $35,000 per calendar year in a public-sector job, but there are no restrictions if you work for a private-sector employer. If you plan to work while collecting your pension, you should read this booklet. Read it now.
Other Plan Booklets
Not covered by the retirement plans above? Maybe you’re a police officer, a firefighter, a sheriff or a correctional officer. You can still find you plan booklet on our Publications page. They’re great reading any time of year. If you’re not sure which plan covers your benefits, you can ask your employer or Contact Us.
If you became an Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 5 member when the tier began in 2010, you’ve crossed one of many milestones in your public service career. You are now vested, which means you are guaranteed a NYSLRS pension even if you leave public employment at a later date.
So, what are milestones, and how do they affect NYSLRS members
throughout their career?
Why Milestones Matter
As a NYSLRS member, you’ll cross a series of thresholds throughout
your career. These member milestones occur when you earn a certain amount of service credit. Because these milestones affect how your
pension will be calculated, a better understanding of them will help you plan
You can find
these milestones on the Membership Milestones page and in your retirement plan booklet. Most
members ERS Tier 5 members will retire under the Article 15 retirement plan. (This booklet
does not cover ERS Tier 5 members in special plans, such as deputy sheriffs and
state corrections officers, but they can also find information on the
Membership Milestones page.)
Milestones for Tier 5
The day you joined NYSLRS, you were automatically covered
by certain job-related death and disability benefits. This is the first
milestone for ERS Tier 5 members. After your first year of service, you became
eligible to borrow from your retirement contributions, and after two years you
became eligible to purchase credit for previous public service.
After becoming vested at ten years, the next big
milestone is 20 years, when your retirement benefit improves. If you retire
with less 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.66 percent of your
final average salary (FAS) for each year of service. But with 20 to 30
years of service credit, your benefit will equal 2 percent of your FAS,
multiplied by your years of service.
For each year of service beyond 30 years, you will receive
1.5 percent of FAS.
Any Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) member who joined NYSLRS on or after January 1, 2010 but before April 1, 2012 is a member of Tier 5. There are currently 53,123 ERS Tier 5 members who make up 8.7 percent of ERS.
ERS Tier 5 Membership Milestones
As a Tier 5 member earns service credit over their career, they become eligible for certain benefits in their retirement plan. Here are some important milestones for Tier 5 members:
ERS Tier 5 Contributions
Most Tier 5 members must contribute 3 percent of their salary for all their years of service, except Uniformed Court and Peace Officers employed by the Unified Court System, who must contribute 4 percent for all their years of public service. State Correction Officers contribute 3 percent for no more than 30 years.
With the exception of those retiring under special retirement plans, Tier 5 members must have 10 or more years of service to be vested (eligible for a retirement benefit). They can retire as early as age 55 with reduced benefits. The full benefit age for Tier 5 is 62.
The Final Average Salary (FAS) Calculation
The retirement benefit for Tier 5 members is 1.66 percent of their final average salary (FAS) for each year of service if the member retires with less than 20 years. FAS is the average of the wages earned in the three highest consecutive years of employment. For Tier 5 members, each year’s compensation used in the FAS calculation is limited to no more than 10 percent above the average of the previous two years.
If a Tier 5 member retires with between 20 and 30 years of service, the benefit is two percent of their FAS for each year of service. If a Tier 5 member retires with more than 30 years of service, the benefit is 1.5 percent of their FAS for each year of service over 30 years.
We base your NYSLRS pension on your years of credited service and your final average salary (FAS). FAS is the average of the wages you earned during 36 consecutive months (60 consecutive months for Tier 6 members) when your earnings were highest. The calculation of your FAS can include overtime pay that you’ve earned during the FAS period.
Tier 5 and Tier 6 members have limits on how much overtime can be included in their FAS calculation. Overtime pay that exceeds these limits cannot be used in a Tier 5 or 6 member’s FAS calculation. Therefore, members and employers are not required to make pension contributions on overtime pay that exceeds the annual limit.
Your employer should not report any overtime pay in excess of this cap to NYSLRS as it cannot be used in a member’s final average salary calculation. Each year, NYSLRS publishes the maximum overtime pay that should be reported and reminds employers not to report overtime earnings that exceed the limit.
Tier 5 Overtime Limits
The overtime limit for Tier 5 began in 2010 at $15,000 and increases each calendar year by three percent. This year, the overtime limit for ERS Tier 5 members is $17,910.78. In 2017, the overtime limit for ERS Tier 5 members will be $18,448.11. For PFRS Tier 5 members, overtime is limited to 15 percent of a member’s regular earnings.
Tier 6 Overtime Limits
For ERS Tier 6 members, the overtime limit is based on the State’s fiscal year (April 1 – March 31). From April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2016, the overtime limit for ERS Tier 6 members is $15,608. From April 1, 2016 – March 31, 2017, that limit will increase to $15,721. The fiscal year limit is adjusted for inflation based on the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI). The overtime limit for PFRS Tier 6 members is limited to 15 percent of a member’s regular earnings.
For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Tier 5 members and PFRS Tier 6 members, the OT limit is based on the calendar year; for ERS Tier 6 members, the limit is based on the State’s fiscal year (April 1 – March 31).
ERS Tier 5 OT Limit
The OT limit for ERS Tier 5 began in 2010 at $15,000 and increases by 3 percent each year. This year (calendar year 2015), the OT limit is $17,389.11.
PFRS Tier 5 OT Limit
In PFRS Tier 5, any overtime paid to a member in excess of 15 percent of their regular annual wages can’t be included in their final average salary calculation. This percentage doesn’t vary.
ERS Tier 6 OT Limit
The OT limit for ERS Tier 6 began in State fiscal year 2012-13 at $15,000. The limit increases each fiscal year, and is based on the Consumer Price Index on December 31 of the previous year. This fiscal year (2015-16), the OT limit is $15,608.
PFRS Tier 6 OT Limit
In PFRS Tier 6, any overtime paid to a member in excess of 15 percent of their regular annual wages can’t be included in their final average salary calculation. This percentage doesn’t vary.
If you’d like to know more about what can or can’t be included in your retirement calculation, find your retirement plan publication on our Publications Page. If you have questions about overtime and the overtime limit, please contact us.