Tag Archives: tier

PFRS Member Milestones

The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) covers nearly 32,000 police officers and firefighters across New York State. 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.

Some milestones are common to most PFRS members; others are shared by members in a particular tier or retirement plan. For example, your plan determines when you would be eligible to apply for a non-job-related disability benefit.

A recent amendment to Retirement law changed a milestone for some members. As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members are now vested after earning five years of service credit. Previously, members in these tiers needed ten years of service to become vested. Being vested means you are entitled to a NYSLRS pension, even if you leave public employment before retirement age.

Member Milestones to Remember

PFRS member milestones

Most PFRS members are in special plans that allow them to retire with full benefits, regardless of age, after 20 or 25 years of service. If you are in a special plan, only certain job titles would give you creditable service toward a 20- or 25-year milestone. For example, if you are in the State Police plan, service with a city police department would be creditable, but service as a sheriff’s deputy or corrections officer would not be.

PFRS members in regular plans can retire as early as age 55, but may face a benefit reduction if they retire before their full retirement age.

Your specific milestones, along with your pension calculation, are determined by your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. You can find information about your milestones in your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page. Not sure which retirement booklet is yours? Your retirement plan is listed in your Retirement Online account or you can ask your employer. You can also read our recent blog post for tips on finding your plan booklet.

NYSLRS Membership Basics

Whether you’re a new member or have been part of the Retirement System for years, you’re sure to have questions about your NYSLRS membership. What is vesting? Final average earnings? Maybe you’re wondering what tier you’re in or why that even matters. While NYSLRS administers many different retirement plans, the core concepts of a NYSLRS membership remain the same. Here are the basics.

Your NYSLRS Membership Basics

Four Things to Understand About Your NYSLRS Membership

When learning about your NYSLRS benefits, you should become familiar with these four basic concepts:

  • Tier. Your tier is based on the date you joined NYSLRS and helps determine the benefits available to you. If you’re a new NYSLRS member, you’re likely in Tier 6. Tier 6 members joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012.
  • Service Credit. You earn a year of service credit for each year you work for a participating NYSLRS employer. Part-time work is prorated. Your total service credit at retirement is a major factor in determining the amount of your pension.
  • Vesting. You become vested after you earn five years of service credit. It’s a significant milestone to reach because once you become vested, you’ll be eligible for a NYSLRS pension when you reach retirement age, even if you leave public service.
  • Final Average Earnings. Final average earnings is the average of your earnings during a period when your pay is highest. It’s another major factor in determining the amount of your pension.

Once you understand these basics, it can make learning more about your NYSLRS membership and benefits easier and help you get ahead on your retirement planning.

Your NYSLRS Pension and Other Benefits

Being a NYSLRS member means you are part of a defined benefit retirement plan. This means your NYSLRS pension will be a lifetime benefit, and it will be based on your final average earnings and service credit, not the contributions you make toward your retirement.

NYSLRS also provides other important benefits for its members, including:

Where to Get More Information

We want to provide you with the information you’ll need to plan for your retirement and make critical decisions about your future. Here are the resources available to you:

Retirement Online is the quickest way to access account information such as your tier, retirement plan and estimated total service credit. Sign up for a Retirement Online account if you don’t already have one.

If you have questions about your NYSLRS membership or benefits, you can find answers on our NYSLRS website. You can find different webpages, such as our Understanding Your NYSLRS Benefits page, that explain what benefits and services are available to you. Reading your retirement plan publication is a great way to get a comprehensive understanding of your benefits. Go to our Publications page to find your retirement plan and other helpful information.

If you have questions about your account or your NYSLRS benefits, please email us using our secure contact form.

Ten Things Every NYSLRS Member Should Know

There’s a lot to know about being a NYSLRS member, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming learning about your retirement benefits when you join or when you’re getting ready to retire. That’s why we’d like to focus on ten things that are important to all our members.

NYSLRS member
  1. Your retirement benefits are guaranteed by the State Constitution. Under Article 5, Section 7, your pension cannot be “diminished or impaired.”
  2. You are part of a defined benefit pension plan. A defined benefit plan provides a lifetime benefit at retirement based on earnings and years of service.
  3. The Pension Fund, the pool of money your retirement benefits will be paid from, is safe and secure. It has been widely recognized as one of the best-funded and best-managed public pension funds in the nation.
  4. Your retirement plan booklet contains a wealth of information about your benefits.
  5. Your tier determines your eligibility for benefits and how those benefits are calculated.
  6. Becoming vested is a key milestone in every NYSLRS member’s career. Once you’re vested, you’ll be eligible for a pension even if you leave public employment before retirement age.
  7. Your final average earnings (FAE) is a major factor in calculating your NYSLRS pension, rather than being dependent on the contributions you make toward retirement.
  8. You can estimate your pension online. Most members can use Retirement Online to create a benefit estimate based on information we have on file for them. (And if you can’t use this calculator, we have alternatives for you.)
  9. You can stay informed about your benefits with Retirement Online. Creating an account is easy, and in many cases, you can use Retirement Online instead of sending in forms or calling NYSLRS.
  10. Retirement savings can supplement your pension and Social Security and give you more flexibility in retirement. The sooner you start, the more time you have to grow your savings.

Already retired? Read our blog post, Ten Things Every NYSLRS Retiree Should Know.

Knowing Your Retirement Plan is the Key to Retirement Planning

Information is the key to being fully prepared for your retirement years. The single most important thing you can do to achieve this goal is to know what NYSLRS retirement plan you’re in. Once you know that, the next thing you must do is understand the benefits your plan provides.

Your retirement plan booklet covers things like how long you’ll need to work in order to receive a pension, how your pension amount is determined, and what kind of death and disability benefits may be available to you. You can find a copy of your plan booklet on our website’s Publications page.

But here’s the challenge: NYSLRS manages 335 retirement plan combinations, which are described in 51 plan booklets. How do you figure out which is yours? The information below should help.

Retirement plan booklet infographic

Two Key Questions

To get started, you need to answer two questions.

Question One: Which retirement system are you in? NYSLRS is made up of two different systems:

  • The Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), which is for public employees in non-teaching positions. It also includes some law enforcement personnel, such as correction officers, sheriffs and sheriffs’ deputies.
  • The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), which is for paid firefighters and police officers, including SUNY police, State Park police, Encon officers and State Forest Rangers.

Question Two: Which tier are you in? There are six tiers in ERS and five tiers in PFRS. Your tier, based on when you joined NYSLRS, determines such things as when you become eligible for benefits and how much you contribute. You can find your tier by checking your Account Information in Retirement Online or by checking the NYSLRS website.

For many members, knowing your retirement system and tier are enough. But for other members, especially those in law enforcement, it may help to have your retirement plan number as well. The plan number indicates the section of Retirement and Social Security Law the plan is based on. For example, Plan A15 indicates that you are covered by Article 15. You can find your plan number in the Account Information section of Retirement Online.

Roughly three-quarters of all ERS members are covered by Article 15; they just need to know their tier to find the correct booklet.

State policeSUNY policeState Encon OfficersState Park Police and Forest Rangers each have their own plan booklet, which can be found in the PFRS section of the Publications page. That’s also where you’ll find the Special 20- and 25-Year Plans, which cover officers in most municipal police departments. (Members in these special plans should see 384, 384-d or 384-e listed in Retirement Online.)

If you are still unsure which retirement plan booklet covers your benefits, you can send us an email using our secure contact form, or you can ask your employer.

Take the Time to Understand Your Retirement Plan

It cannot be stated enough how important it is to read your plan publication to learn all you can about your benefits. It is the key to solid retirement planning. Remember, no one has a more vested stake in your retirement than you do.

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

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.

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

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.

Why Your Tier Matters

Your tier is an essential component of your NYSLRS membership because it is one of the factors that determines your benefits. You can find out more by reading your retirement plan booklet. Our recent blog posts explain how to find your plan booklet and how to interpret it.

Tier 6 FAS Limits (ERS)

 

 

First, a year of earnings in the FAS period can’t exceed the average of the previous four year’s earnings by more than 10 percent. Anything beyond that will not be included in the pension calculation.

Additionally, several types of payments will not be part of the FAS calculation for ERS Tier 6 members:

  • Lump-sum vacation pay,
  • Wages from more than two employers,
  • Payment for unused sick leave,
  • Payments for working during a vacation,
  • Any payments that cause your annual salary to exceed that of the Governor (currently $179,000),
  • Termination pay,
  • Payments made in anticipation of retirement,
  • Lump-sum payments for deferred compensation and
  • Any payments made for time not worked.

Generally speaking, here’s what an ERS Tier 6 FAS will include: regular salary, holiday pay, overtime pay (regular and noncompensatory) earned in the FAS period and up to one longevity payment per year, if earned in the FAS period.

Overtime Limits

While overtime pay generally is part of an ERS Tier 6 FAS, the amount that can be included is limited. The limit is adjusted for inflation each year based on the change in the Consumer Price Index over the one-year period ending September 30 of the previous year. Under a new law, beginning January 1, 2018, the Tier 6 limit will be updated on a calendar year basis instead of on a fiscal year basis.

The 2018 calendar year overtime limit for Tier 6 members is $16,406.

For more information about the Tier 6 FAS, find your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page, or check out our Final Average Salary and Overtime Limits for Tier 6 pages.

Transferring Your Membership

People make a lot of moves during their working lives. New towns, new jobs and, in some cases, new retirement systems.

Perhaps you were a teacher, but recently began working for New York State. Or maybe you had a job with New York City, but took a position with a municipality outside of the city. If you’ve recently joined NYSLRS and are still an active member of another public retirement system in New York State, you may be able to transfer that membership to NYSLRS.

Transferring to NYSLRS

To request a transfer to NYSLRS, contact the other system while you are still an active or vested member of that system. If you are still employed in a position covered by the other retirement system, or your membership in the other system has been terminated or withdrawn, you are not eligible to transfer.

When we receive your request to transfer from the other retirement system, we will compare your date of membership in NYSLRS with your date of membership in the other system. When the transfer is completed, your date of membership will be the earlier of the two dates. If applicable, your tier will also change.

Transferring from NYSLRS to Another Retirement System

To transfer from NYSLRS to another public pension system in New York State, you must complete and submit an Application for Transfer of Membership (RS5223).

Under certain circumstances, it may not be beneficial to transfer your membership to another retirement system. If you have any questions concerning your transfer, or if you are covered by a special plan, you should contact our Call Center toll-free at 1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area before completing the application.

Whether you are transferring in or out of NYSLRS, the transfer is effective upon receipt of your application and may be irrevocable.

You can find more information about transferring membership on our website.

NYSLRS Basics: When Can You Retire?

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

When Can I Retire?

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

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

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

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

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

Retiring at Age 55 vs. Full Retirement Age

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

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

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


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

NYSLRS Loans: What You Need To Know

If you’ve taken a loan against your New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) contributions, please remember to pay it back before you retire. An outstanding NYSLRS loan balance at retirement will permanently reduce your retirement benefit. You can’t make loan payments after you retire, and the reduction doesn’t go away after we recover the funds.

Loan Reduction Examples

Here are some loan reduction examples you might find helpful:

Loan Reduction Amount at Retirement (ERS Tiers 3, 4, 5 and 6)

At Age Outstanding Loan Balance Annual Pension Reduction
55 $1,000 $53.18
$5,000 $265.90
$10,000 $531.80
60 $1,000 $59.35
$5,000 $296.74
$10,000 $593.47
62 $1,000 $62.35
$5,000 $311.74
$10,000 $623.48
65 $1,000 $67.59
$5,000 $337.95
$10,000 $675.90
70 $1,000 $79.12
$5,000 $395.60
$10,000 $791.20

Loan Reduction Amount at Retirement (PFRS Tiers 3, 5 and 6)

At Age Outstanding Loan Balance Annual Pension Reduction
45 $1,000 $45.02
$5,000 $225.11
$10,000 $450.23
50 $1,000 $49.06
$5,000 $245.31
$10,000 $490.63
55 $1,000 $54.46
$5,000 $272.30
$10,000 $544.60
60 $1,000 $61.70
$5,000 $308.49
$10,000 $616.98
62 $1,000 $65.25
$5,000 $326.26
$10,000 $652.53
65 $1,000 $71.45
$5,000 $367.27
$10,000 $714.54

Tax Implications

Members who retire with outstanding NYSLRS loans that exceed the federal limit for non-taxable loans may face significant tax consequences. Part or all of your loan balance may be considered taxable funds that were credited to your account and would be subject to federal income tax in the year that you retire. Also, if you’re under age 59½ at the time your loan becomes reportable, you may be subject to an additional 10 percent penalty tax.

Contact Us

For the payoff balance on your NYSLRS loan, call our automated phone service toll-free at 1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 within the Albany, New York area. For information on how to make additional payments or increase your loan payment amount, please visit our Loans: Getting One and Paying it Back page.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tiers 3 and 4

(We know that’s two, but let us explain)

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) – so there are many different ways to determine benefits for our members. Our ongoing series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier and gives you a quick look at the benefits the members are eligible for before and at retirement.

Today’s post looks at Tiers 3 and 4 in the Employees’ Retirement System. Now, we know these are technically two tiers, but many of the members in these tiers are eligible to retire under the same retirement plan: Article 14 (for Tier 3 members) or Article 15 (for Tier 3 and 4 members). Of our current 637,746 ERS members, 310,985 are in Tiers 3 and 4, representing 48.8 of ERS membership.

Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for Tier 3 and 4 members.

Employees' Retirement System Tiers 3 and 4

If you’re an ERS Tier 3 or 4 member, find your retirement plan publication from the list below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Look for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts.