Category Archives: NYSLRS Retirees

After You Retire

We’ve written a lot about preparing for retirement — how you should purchase any credit for past service, get a pension estimate, prepare a retirement budget, and more. But, what about after you retire? “So long, NYSLRS! Just keep the monthly payments coming.” Is that it?

Not exactly.

Sign Up for Retirement Online

We recently launched the new Retirement Online, a secure site that allows you to check important NYSLRS information, like the deductions from your latest payment and a summary of your benefits. You can also view or update beneficiaries and generate income verification letters right from your computer.

To access Retirement Online, visit the NYSLRS home page, then click “Register” or “Sign In.”

If You Move, Let Us Know

The United States Postal Service usually won’t forward pension checks to another address. (You may want to sign up for our direct deposit program.) But, pension payments aside, there are other things you’ll want from us once you retire. If we have your correct address on file, you’ll be sure to receive:

  • Your 1099-R form. Your pension isn’t taxed by New York State, but it is subject to federal income tax.
  • Your Retiree Annual Statement. It’s a helpful reference that spells out the benefits, credits and deductions you receive each year.
  • Any official notifications.
  • Your Retiree Notes

The fastest way to update your address is through Retirement Online. You can also mail a signed letter (with your name, old address, new address, date of change and retirement registration number) to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Pension Services
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

Keep Your Beneficiaries Current

Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is important. By keeping them up to date, you ensure that any post-retirement death benefit will be distributed to your loved ones according to your wishes. You can use Retirement Online to change your death benefit beneficiaries at any time. Or, contact our Call Center, and we will send you the necessary form. If you aren’t retired yet, submit a Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127).

Keep Your Loved Ones Informed

Your family or friends have to know to notify us when you die, so we can pay out any benefits to your designated beneficiaries. They can phone our Call Center or notify us by mail. Either way, we will also need a certified copy of your death certificate. You and your loved ones can find more information in our Getting Your Affairs in Order and a Guide for Survivors (VO1874) publication.

Life Changes: A Guide for Retirees (VO1705)

Check out this publication for information about other benefits you may be entitled to and the services we offer retirees.

Four Facts about Divorce and Your Pension

Courts consider pensions marital property. So, if you file for divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension or other NYSLRS benefits. The process for dividing retirement assets after a divorce can be complex. Here are four things you need to know:

1. NYSLRS Requires a DRO

To divide your NYSLRS benefits, we need a domestic relations order (DRO). This court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be distributed. NYSLRS provides on online fillable DRO that complies with the plan’s requirements for implementation. You are not required to use the online form; however, the System will give priority review to these DROs since the language is pre-approved.

2. A Judge has to Approve Your DRO

Before we can implement a DRO, a trial court judge must review and sign it, and you need to file it with the appropriate County Clerk’s Office. That can be a lengthy process; our Matrimonial Bureau can check your DRO for compliance with the law before you submit the draft order to the court. This way, if the DRO does not meet the requirements, you will have a chance to make revisions.

Once a judge does sign off, we’ll need a certified copy of the DRO and your judgment of divorce. We start payments to your ex-spouse once we’ve calculated and finalized your retirement benefit. If we receive the DRO and judgment before we finalize your retirement benefit, we’ll make retroactive payments back to your date of retirement.

3. Some Beneficiary Designations are Revoked

Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is always important, but after a divorce, it’s essential to make sure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes. As of July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain benefits are revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. Please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders and review our DRO FAQs before you finalize your divorce.

4. Contact an Attorney with DRO Experience

This last one is not a fact, but it’s a good idea. A lawyer, who’s worked with DROs previously, can help ensure the DRO you submit to the court fairly represents the intentions of both parties.

How Can NYSLRS Help?

We developed an online template  that makes it easier to create a properly formatted DRO. Just enter your tier, plan and employment status, and answer the questions that follow.

To submit your proposed DRO for review, email it, along with scanned copies of your judgment of divorce, to our Matrimonial Bureau at dro@osc.state.ny.us. For DRO proposals prepared using our online worksheet, the review process is simplified and we can complete our review faster.

If you have any questions about divorce and your benefits, please contact our Hearing Administration and Matrimonial Bureau staff.

Email: dro@osc.state.ny.us

Address:
NYSLRS 110 State Street
Mail Drop 7-9
Albany, New York 12244

Sunshine on the Retirement Savings Horizon

Headlines in recent years offer a stormy retirement forecast: “Americans Get a Grade C in Retirement Readiness,” “More Than Four in Ten Households Wrong About Retirement Readiness,” “The Shockingly Small Amount Americans Have in Retirement Savings.”

Unfortunately, research and statistics tend to back up these dire warnings. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, a significant portion of Americans — 42 percent — lack access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b). Among those whose employers do offer a plan, only 49 percent actually participate.

In fact, research from the Federal Reserve suggests that 28 percent of people who haven’t retired yet have no retirement savings whatsoever. So, it’s not surprising that a report from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis predicts that the “number of 65-year-olds per year who are poor or near poor will increase by 146 percent between 2013 and 2022.”

The Good News

There is promising news about retirement, though, if you look for it. Americans — particularly Millennials (those born 1979 through 1996) — are starting to save for retirement much sooner than previous generations. According to the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies, Millennials begin to put away for retirement at a median age of 22. Generation X workers waited until 27, and Baby Boomers didn’t start until age 35.

Sunshine on the Retirement Savings Horizon

Perhaps this earlier focus on saving is responsible for other good news. For example, Fidelity Investments reports record 401(k) balances in 2016: $92,500 at the end of the fourth quarter, which is up $4,300 from 2015. And, earlier this year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 55.4 percent of investors — more than ever before — are maxing out their individual retirement account (IRA) contributions.

That said …

Americans do have a retirement problem. New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli speaks regularly about the need for policies at the state and federal levels of government to ensure retirement security for everyone, including workers in the private sector.

As individuals, the solution is simple: We need to save, and we need to start early. NYSLRS members have the rare advantage of a well-funded, defined-benefit pension. However, your pension and Social Security benefits are only part of a well-rounded financial plan. Consider contributing to a New York State Deferred Compensation Plan (NYSDCP) account. NYSDCP is a voluntary retirement savings plan — similar to private sector 401(k) or 403(b) plans — created for employees of New York State and other participating employers. If you work for a local government employer, please check with your human resources administrator to find out what savings plans are available to you.

The Economic Power of NYSLRS Retirees

Before they leave the workforce, NYSLRS retirees build careers based — at least in part — on serving the people of New York. They are police officers, firefighters and nurses. They are the countless civil servants working each day to keep government services functioning. Their value doesn’t end with retirement. In fact, NYSLRS retirees and their pensions contribute significantly to the communities where they live.

Seventy-eight percent of NYSLRS retirees (440,943 as of March 2016) stay right here in New York. They live throughout the state — from Long Island to the North Country, from the Capital District to Western New York and down to the Southern Tier. Altogether, they’re 2.9 percent of our state’s population, but in some areas, they account for more than 5 percent of the residents.

This large population with steady sources of income has a significant and positive impact on our state and local economies. In 2015 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $11.7 billion in economic activity in New York State:

  • Property taxes. In 2015, retirees paid $1.7 billion in real property taxes. That’s 5 percent of the total collected for the entire state.
  • State and local sales taxes. NYSLRS retirees paid an estimated $550 million in state and local sales tax in 2015.
  • Job creators. Some retirees do go on to start small businesses as a second act. However, all NYSLRS retirees spend at least some of their income to the benefit of local businesses, and they are responsible for an estimated 66,100 jobs as a result.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute infographic

Remember: 75 percent of the pension benefits that make all of this possible comes from the investment earnings of the Common Retirement Fund (CRF), not from taxpayers.

Are these statistics impressive? Yes. Surprising? They shouldn’t be. According to research from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), defined benefit pensions, like those provided by NYSLRS, are responsible for substantial economic gains throughout the U.S. — an incredible $1.2 trillion in total economic output nationwide.

Pensions give retirees a stable source of income, and, in return, retirees support our national and local economies with jobs, incomes, and tax revenue.

Federal Withholding and Your Pension

Federal Withholding and your PensionGetting hit every year with a big federal tax bill? You may want to increase the federal withholding from your NYSLRS pension. Or maybe you’re getting a big tax refund every year. If you have too much withheld, you’re basically giving the government an interest-free loan. But whatever your situation, you can adjust the amount we withhold from your retirement benefit at any time. Just follow these Step-By-Step instructions.

  1. Print a Form W-4P (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments) from our website. (This is a fillable form, so you can type in the information before your print it out.)
  2. Fill in the top of the form with your name, address, last four digits of your Social Security number and Registration number (if known).
  3. Complete one of the three numbered sections. (Do not complete more than one section.)
    • Complete Section 1 if you do not wish to have any federal income tax withheld.
    • Complete Section 2 if you want us to figure how much to withhold, based on your marital status and number of federal exemptions. You can also have an additional amount withheld.
    • Complete Section 3 if you know how much you want withheld. Remember, the amount you should include here is the total amount you want withheld from your pension, not the amount you want to add or subtract from your current withholding.
  4. Print the completed form.
  5. Date and sign the form.
  6. Mail or fax your form to NYSLRS. Our address and fax number are at the top of the W-4P form.

To find out how much we would withhold from your NYSLRS pension benefit based on your marital status and number of exemptions (if you’re completing Section 2 of the W-4P form), you can use our Federal Tax Withholding Calculator. You can also visit our website for other resources and more information about Taxes and Your Pension.

How NYSLRS Retirees Contribute to New York’s Economy

Public pensions play an important role in our state’s economic health. The pensions NYSLRS retirees earn flow back into their communities in the form of property and sales tax payments, and local purchases. When public retirees stay in New York, they help stimulate and grow local economies.

NYSLRS Retirees Who Call New York Home

As of March 31, 2016, there are 440,943 NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. Seventy-eight percent of them – 345,643 – continue to live in New York. Suffolk County is home to the largest number of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. More than $1 billion in pension benefits went to the 33,290 individuals who live there. Erie County has the second largest number of benefit recipients (29,029), who received $701.5 million.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute

The Economic Impact of NYSLRS Retirees

NYSLRS retirees are patrons of local business and services, and they pay state and local taxes. By spending their retirement income locally, they help fuel the economic engines of their communities. In fact, a study by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) found that state and local pensions in New York State supported 215,867 jobs, driving $35.3 billion in total economic output and $8.1 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

New York mirrored the NIRS report’s results across the rest of America. Nationally, retiree spending of pension benefits in 2014 generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output, supporting some 7.1 million jobs across the U.S.

The NIRS report suggests that a stable and secure pension benefit that won’t run out enables retirees to pay for their basic needs like housing, food, medicine and clothing. It’s good for the economy when retirees are self-sufficient and regularly spend their pension income. They spend that money on goods and services in the local community. They purchase food, clothing, and medicine at local stores, pay housing costs, and may even make larger purchases like computer equipment or a car. These purchases combine to create a steady economic ripple effect. Retirees with inadequate 401(k) savings who might be fearful of running out of savings tend to hold back on spending. This reduced spending stunts economic growth, which already is predicted to drop by one-third as the U.S. population ages.

NYSLRS Retirees Pay Their Share of Taxes

NYSLRS retirees live throughout the different regions of New York, but they only make up 2.9 percent of the general population. In some cases, they pay a larger share of property taxes. For instance, in the Capital District, retirees make up 5 percent of the population yet they pay 8.7 percent of the property taxes, which totals $218 million. In the North Country, retirees make up 4.3 percent of the population and pay 6.8 percent of the property taxes ($55 million). 

Retirees Build a Strong New York

After a career in public service, NYSLRS retirees continue to contribute to their communities and the State. Their pensions are a sound investment in New York’s future. Public pensions don’t just benefit those who receive them, but they pay dividends to local businesses, support local communities, and create jobs. As the number of NYSLRS retirees grows, it’s likely they will continue to help build a strong New York.

September COLA Increase for NYSLRS Retirees

In August, we said that eligible NYSLRS retirees could expect a cost of-living adjustment (COLA) increase on September 30. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes.

If you are due a COLA, you should have recently received a letter letting you know how much your 2016 increase is and how much your total benefit will be. If you receive your benefit by direct deposit (electronic fund transfer), you can expect to receive a second letter, which will describe the change to your benefit, before pension payments go out at the end of the month.

The COLA you receive from NYSLRS is not the same as the COLA you might receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

Healthcare in Retirement

There are reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase. NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs for its retirees. For New York State retirees, the New York State Department of Civil Service administers the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP). If you have questions about your health insurance premiums, you can visit the Department of Civil Service’s website or call them at 1-800-833-4344 or 518-457-5754 to learn more.

If you retired from a public employer other than New York State (a county, city, town, village or school district), your former employer’s benefits administrator should be able to answer your health insurance questions.

Visit our website to learn more about COLA and your eligibility.

NYSLRS Retirees: 1% COLA Increase Coming September 30

If you’re a New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retiree, you may be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) this September. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes. Please note, for most retirees, there are other reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase.

How is the COLA Calculated?

The COLA is calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the fiscal year (on March 31). It cannot be less than 1 percent or greater than 3 percent of your retirement benefit. This year, since the rate of inflation was less than 1 percent, the COLA increase equals 1 percent. The COLA is calculated using the first $18,000 of the annual Single Life Allowance pension (even if you selected a different payment option), or your actual pension, if it’s less than $18,000.

Who Is Eligible for a COLA?

To receive the COLA, you must be:

  • Age 62 or older and retired for five or more years; or
  • Age 55 or older and retired for ten or more years (for uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters and correction officers covered by a special plan that allows for retirement, regardless of age, after a specific number of years); or
  • A disability retiree for five years; or
  • The spouse of a deceased retiree receiving a lifetime benefit under an option elected by the retiree at retirement. (Eligible spouses are entitled to half the COLA amount that would have been paid to the retiree when the retiree was eligible); or
  • A beneficiary receiving the accidental death benefit for five or more years on behalf of a deceased NYSLRS member.

SSA COLA

The NYSLRS COLA is different than the Social Security Administration (SSA) COLA. For 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

If you want to learn more about COLA, read our publication, Permanent COLA.

Reporting a Member’s or Retiree’s Death to NYSLRS

If a NYSLRS member dies, whether it’s before or after retirement, the member’s survivors will need to report the death to us as soon as possible. The sooner we receive this information, the sooner we can begin the process of paying out potential benefits to beneficiaries. Survivors can report a death to us by email, by mail or by phone. They will need to send us a certified copy of the member’s death certificate regardless of how they notify us.

How Survivors Can Report A Death

Survivors can use our secure email form to report a member’s death. When filling out the required fields in the form, they should:

  • Enter the deceased member’s NYSLRS information into the required fields of the form. (If they don’t know the retirement or registration number, we will accept a Social Security number.)
  • Enter their own address and daytime phone number in the Comment section in case we need to reach them for more information.

To report a death by mail, survivors should send us a completed Notification of Death (RS6082) form.

Reporting a Member or Retiree’s DeathTo report a death by phone, survivors can call us toll-free at 1-866-805-0990, or locally within the Albany, NY area at 518-474-7736. Once they reach the call menu of our automated call service, they’ll press “3” to report the death of a member or retiree, and then press “1.” Their call will be transferred to a customer service representative. Survivors will be asked for the following information when they call:

  • The deceased member’s retirement, registration, or Social Security number
  • The date of death

What Happens Next

Once we receive a death certificate, we will send beneficiaries or certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits or continuing retirement benefits. We will also send them forms to complete. Beneficiaries should be aware that it could take 11 to 13 weeks for us to receive a certified copy of the death certificate and to process required forms.

We can accept reports of a member’s or retiree’s death from anyone, but we can only mail information about death benefits and continuing retirement benefits to named beneficiaries or their certified representatives.

If a member is retired when he or she dies, we will stop the payment of any outgoing pension benefits. Survivors should be aware that any uncashed pension checks in a deceased member’s name must be returned to us. We will automatically reclaim any direct deposit payments that went out after a member’s death.

If you’re a retiree, consider reading our publication, Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Your Survivors (VO1874). This publication includes valuable planning information for you, as well as guidance for your beneficiaries.