Infographic showing size of NYSLRS in three groups: ERS, PFRS, and Pensioners.

A Quick Look at NYSLRS, One of America’s Largest Pension Systems

An Important Historical Footnote

NYSLRS’ membership ledger (1921) showing Thomas Cantwell as the first entry.

NYSLRS’ membership ledger (1921).

Thomas Cantwell’s name might not ring a bell for the average New Yorker, but his place in New York history was cemented long before he passed away on July 20, 1931 at the age of 91.

Born on December 18, 1839, Cantwell worked for the New York State Insurance Fund from 1890 through 1916, after which he became a file clerk for the New York State Office of the State Comptroller, retiring on July 1, 1921. At the time of his retirement, he earned $2,400 per year, which is the equivalent of $31,410 today. His retirement benefits amounted to $1,076 per year, or $14,435 today.

As you’ve guessed by now, Cantwell was the first member of The New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) and his membership marked the start of a timeline that has stretched more than 90 years.

Key Facts and Figures about NYSLRS Today

Picture of the first NYS Comptroller and the current NYS Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli

New York’s first State Comptroller, Samuel Jones (1797), pictured left, and New York’s current State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli (2014), pictured right.

One of the America’s largest pension systems, NYSLRS is comprised of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), which was established in 1921 and currently has more than 612,294 members, and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), which was created in 1966 and has more than 35,100.

The fiduciary and administrative head of the pension system is New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The Comptroller acts solely in the best interests of the System’s members and retirees and ensures that the 346 different benefit programs offered by NYSLRS are managed properly and effectively.

ERS provides service and disability retirement benefits, as well as death benefits to employees of participating public employers in non-teaching positions, exclusive of New York City. This includes uniformed services personnel, such as correction officers and sheriffs.

PFRS provides service and disability retirement benefits, as well as death benefits to police officers and firefighters who work for participating public employers, exclusive of New York City.

In addition to members, there are more than 440,900 pensioners and beneficiaries in the System bringing the total to more than 1,088,342 participants, as of March 31, 2016.

NYSLRS’ Core Purpose Remains

NYSLRS’ mission hasn’t changed since the days when Mr. Cantwell was working. Whether we’re talking about that inaugural class of 1921 or the more than one million members and retirees of today, NYSLRS seeks to fulfill New York State’s promise of secure retirement benefits to enable members, retirees and beneficiaries to plan for a more financially secure retirement. Perhaps most important of all, as a NYSLRS member or retiree, your pension system benefits are guaranteed under the New York State Constitution.

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