Tag Archives: Preparing to Retire

Creditable Service for Police & Fire Members

The New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) provides service and disability retirement benefits, as well as death benefits to more than 35,000 police officers and firefighters.

Most PFRS members are covered by a plan that allows for retirement after 20 or 25 years, regardless of age, without penalty. As a member, you earn credit toward that requirement through paid public employment with participating employers. However, not all public service counts toward your 20 or 25 years.

What Credit Counts Towards Retirement?

The public service that can be used toward your 20 or 25 years is determined by the specific retirement plan under which you’re covered. Check your retirement plan booklet for details.

There are booklets for state police , forest rangers , regional state park police , state university police , EnCon police and members covered under Sections 384, 384-d and 384-e of Retirement and Social Security Law (RSSL). More plan booklets are available on our Publications page.

The most common PFRS plan, which covers nearly 50 percent of PFRS members, was established by Section 384-e of RSSL. With this plan, you earn creditable service:

  • As a firefighter or police officer under the 384-e plan;
  • As a member or officer of the New York State Police; or
  • In the military, as specified by law.

In the 384-e retirement plan, civilian service, as well as service as a sheriff, corrections officer or volunteer firefighter, is not creditable.

creditable service for police and fire retirement system members

Transferring Membership or Purchasing Service Credit — Contact Us First

If you have worked for multiple New York State public employers and are unsure if all of your service is creditable towards your 20 or 25 year plan, contact us before transferring membership or purchasing service credit . Please note: the public service that can be used toward your 20 or 25 years is determined by legislation and differs among plans offered to PFRS members. You should also be sure to request an estimate from us well before your planned date of retirement if there is any question about your creditable service.

Get an Estimate

PFRS members should request an estimate from us as early as 18 months before you plan to retire. It’s the best way to make sure you have all the credit you’re entitled to. Simply fill out and return a Request for Estimate (RS6030) form.

Your Checklist to Apply for Retirement

After months of planning and preparation, you’re ready to apply for retirement. To get your NYSLRS  pension benefit, you need to send in an application. Let’s look at what you should include with the form to help make the retirement process go more smoothly.

Filling Out the Retirement Application

Unless you’re filing for a disability retirement, you’ll need to fill out the Application for Service Retirement (RS6037). As you fill out the form, make sure you:

  • Know your registration number. You can find it on your most recent Member Annual Statement or retirement estimate.
  • Know your past employment. To help ensure you receive the proper credit for your public service, please list your public employment history. Include any military service and memberships in other New York public retirement systems.
  • Include your beneficiary’s information. You won’t make an official beneficiary designation with this form, but including these details will help us give you specific amounts for the pension payment options  that offer a lifetime benefit for a beneficiary.
  • See a notary. The form must be filled out completely and signed by a notary public.

Proof of Birth

Make sure we have proof of your birth date. You can send it with your retirement application or before or after, but we cannot pay pension benefits without it. We accept photocopies of the following as proof:

Other Forms

Option Election

You’ll need to choose your pension payment option, or how you want your pension paid. Option election forms are available on our website, but we will also send you a form after we process your application. If you choose an option that provides your beneficiary a lifetime pension benefit when you die, you must provide proof of your beneficiary’s birth date.

Federal Income Tax Withholding

Your NYSLRS pension isn’t subject to New York State income tax, but it is subject to federal tax. You can fill out a W-4P form  any time to tell us how much to withhold from your monthly benefit. We don’t withhold income tax for other states. Visit the Retired Public Employees Association’s website to see whether your benefit will be taxed in another state.

Direct Deposit

Direct deposit is the fastest and most secure way to receive your pension benefits. You can enroll in our direct deposit program when you file for retirement. Just fill out a Direct Deposit Enrollment Application (RS6370), and return it to us.

Domestic Relations Order

If an ex-spouse is entitled to part of your pension, you should send us a copy of your domestic relations order (DRO) as soon as possible. The DRO gives us specific instructions on how to divide your benefits. We cannot finalize your pension until we review it and calculate the court-mandated distribution of your benefit. For more detailed information, please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders.

Questions

If you have other questions about applying for retirement, read our publication, Life Changes: How Do I Prepare to Retire? or contact us.

Getting Credit for Your Military Service

If you served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you may be eligible to buy back up to three years of active service credit. Because service credit is a factor in calculating a NYSLRS pension, in most cases buying military service credit will increase your pension.

Military Service Credit

To be eligible, veterans must:

  • Have been honorably discharged;
  • Have at least five years of credited service in the Retirement System;
  • Have not received credit for this service in any other public retirement system in New York State; and
  • Apply for and purchase military service credit before they retire.

How to Apply for Military Service Credit

To apply and request a cost for military service credit:

1. Fax your name, contact information and a copy of your DD-214 to 518-486-6405 or 518-402-7799;

or

2. Mail a letter with your name and contact information, and a photocopy of your DD-214, to:
    Military Service Unit
    110 State Street
    Albany, NY 12244-0001

If after reviewing your application we determine you are eligible, we will send you a letter that will tell you how much credit you are eligible to purchase and the cost. Most members in Tier 1, 2, 3 or 4 can use our online benefit projection calculator to see how the credit would impact your pension. Tier 5 and 6 members can get that information by calling 1-866-805-0990, or using our secure email form (www.emailNYSLRS.com).

For more information, visit the Military Service Credit page on our website.

Just Started A New Public Sector Job? Remember This Step…

Are you a current New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) member working at a new job in the public sector? Even though you’re already a member, make sure your new employer sends us a membership application for you.

The Importance of the Filling a New Membership Application

woman on job interview

By sending a new membership application, your employer provides us with updated information about your membership, like the start date of your new position and your job title. But, it’s important for other reasons as well. Up-to-date member information:

  • Ensures that your employment history and benefit projection are accurately reported in your Member Annual Statement;
  • Helps guarantee that benefit determinations are based on the most current information;
  • Highlights any delays between when you began working and when your employer started reporting you;
  • Ensures that we will receive the correct contribution amount for your membership; and
  • Allows us to update your retirement plan in our records, should you change plans as a result of your new employment.

Starting a new public sector job is also a good opportunity to update your beneficiary information . You should check your beneficiaries regularly to make sure any benefits will be paid according to your wishes. Payments are made to the last named beneficiary.

Retirement Online is the convenient and secure way to review and update your beneficiary information. Register or Sign In , and then click “Update My Beneficiaries.”

Being a Friend

While you have applications on your mind, think about any friends or coworkers you may have. Perhaps, like you, they have recently changed jobs. Remind them to make sure their employers submit new applications.

Or, maybe you know a coworker who isn’t a mandatory member of NYSLRS, but who has that option. Suggest they consider joining NYSLRS.

It’s a good idea to join even if you aren’t sure you’ll ever apply for a benefit. By becoming a NYSLRS member, you lock in your tier and protect your benefits. And, if you do decide to leave public employment and withdraw your membership, you’ll receive 5 percent on your contributions, which can be a competitive return.

For more information about the benefits of NYSLRS membership, check out our Membership in a Nutshell publication.

How Full-Time and Part-Time Service Credit Works

Service credit plays a vital part in your pension calculation and your eligibility for other NYSLRS benefits. As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit by working for an employer who participates in the Retirement System. All your paid public employment is creditable. You would not, however, earn credit for any period when you are not receiving a salary, such as an unpaid leave of absence. If you work full-time or part-time, you’re earning service credit, just at different rates.

Earning Service Credit When You Work Full-Time

When you work on a full-time, continuous basis throughout your career, we’ll calculate your total service credit from your date of employment up until the date you leave paid employment. Most full-time workers earn a year of service credit for working 260 work days in a year. For a full-time 12-month employee, 260 work days constitutes a full year. For our members who work for school districts, a full-time 10-month academic year can be 180 work days. (If you work in an educational setting, we covered that in an earlier blog post.)

Earning Service Credit When You Work Part-Time

Your service credit is prorated if you work part-time. Part-time employment is credited as the lesser of:

the number of days worked ÷ 260 days

or

your reported annual salary ÷ (the State’s hourly minimum wage × 2,000)

You can think of it like this: let’s say you work 130 days in a year. If a year’s worth of service credit is earned for working 260 days full-time, you’d earn half a year (0.5) of service credit for your part-time work.

Check Your Member Annual Statement

From May to July, we’ll send out this year’s Member Annual Statements. For most members, your statement will show how much service credit you’ve earned over the past fiscal year (April 1, 2017 – March 31, 2018). It will also show your total service credit as of March 31, 2018. Make sure to look it over to see how much service credit you’ve earned over your career.

For more detailed information about service credit, please refer to your specific retirement plan publication.

Start Saving for Retirement Now

More than 40 percent of Millennials are not saving for retirement at all, according to one recent study.

If you’re in your 20s or 30s and have nothing saved for retirement, now is a good time to get started. Even if you can’t save much, starting early gives your money time to grow. And getting started is probably easier than you think.

A simple savings plan

Let’s say you put $10 per week into a retirement account. That’s just $2 per workday. Let’s also say you invest your savings in a stock fund, which yields an average annual return of 7 percent, compounded annually. (That’s actually pretty conservative based on past market performance.) After 30 years, you’d have $50,000. Not bad for a couple bucks a day.

Of course, you’ll want to save more over the course of your career, but the important thing is getting started early. That’s because your future investment returns will be based not just on the money you invest, but on the returns on those investments as well.

Deferred Compensation – an easy way to save

For public employees, New York State Deferred Compensation Plan is a good place to start.

Deferred Comp is a 457(b) retirement plan created for New York State employees and employees of participating agencies. (It is not affiliated with NYSLRS.) If you are a NYSLRS member but do not work for New York State, check with your employer to see if you are eligible.

Deferred Comp makes withdrawals directly from your paycheck, so once you sign up, you don’t even have to think about it. They also offer packaged investment plans, so you don’t have to be a financial wizard to participate, or you can create a customized investment plan.

The important thing is to get started. Then watch your money grow.

Retirement Planning vs. Reality

As we sit down to plan our retirement, we ask ourselves some tough questions: Am I saving enough? Am I ready for the lifestyle change? Do I need to tighten my budget now or will I need to in retirement?

These questions are all aimed at helping us answer one central question: When is the right time to retire?

According to recent Gallup research, there is often a significant gap between the age we plan to retire and how old we are when we actually do.

Retirement Survey

Gallup’s April 2016 survey asked workers, “At what age do you expect to retire?” And, it asked retirees, “At what age did you retire?”

On average, there is a significant gap between the percent of workers who plan to retire within a certain age range and the percent of retirees who actually did. For example, 31 percent of workers intend to retire at age 68 or older. However, only 12 percent of retirees actually do. And, only 23 percent of workers think they’ll retire before age 62. Nevertheless, 36 percent of retirees ended up doing so. On average, Americans expect to retire at age 66, but actually retire at age 61.  That means a significant number of us may be underestimating how many years our retirement savings need to last.

Age and Your NYSLRS Pension

Regular readers may recall that most NYSLRS retirement plans have a minimum age requirement to retire with a full benefit. However, once you are vested, you are generally able to retire as early as age 55.

An early retirement may come with a significant — and permanent — benefit reduction, though. So, if you plan to retire with a full benefit at age 62 (or 63 for Tier 6 members), but end up retiring early instead, your pension will be less than you planned.

Retirement Planning

NYSLRS has several resources to help you make your retirement plans and stay on target. We distribute your Member Annual Statement (MAS) between May and July. It contains valuable information to help you understand your benefits and plan for the future, including: your earnings, your service credit total and up to three pension projections based on your specific details. You can also check out our Preparing for Retirement — A Checklist and 5 Step Plan for Retirement pages on our website. Our Life Changes: How Do I Prepare to Retire? publication offers a step–by–step guide to the retirement process, a list of available resources and some key factors to consider as you plan.

If you have any questions about your retirement plan, we’re glad to help. Email us using our secure email form, which allows us to safely contact you about your personal account information.

Will Your Retirement Age Affect Your Benefit?

Only you can decide when it’s time to retire, but you should know that your age at retirement can affect your pension benefit. Some New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) members are in special plans that allow for retirement after a certain number of years, regardless of age (for example, police officers, firefighters, correction officers or sheriffs). But for most members, you can retire with full benefits at the age specified by your plan. Most members can choose to retire as early as age 55, but if you do, you may receive a permanently reduced pension benefit.

Full Retirement Ages

Most retirement plans have an age requirement to retire with full benefits. For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members in Tiers 2, 3, 4 and 5 and Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members in Tiers 2, 3, 5 and 6, the full retirement age is 62. For ERS Tier 6 members, it’s 63. PFRS Tier 6 members who have left their PFRS employer are eligible for their benefits at age 63.

Service Credit Exceptions

In some retirement plans, members with a certain amount of service credit can retire at age 55 without being subject to benefit reductions. Benefit reductions don’t apply to ERS Tier 2, 3 or 4 members who have 30 or more years of service credit and Tier 2, 3, 4 and 5 Uniformed Court Officers and Peace Officers employed by the Unified Court System who have 30 or more years of service.

Benefit Reductions

Retirement benefits for all other ERS Tier 5 and Tier 6 members, and PFRS Tier 2, 3, 5 and 6 members not in a special 20- or 25-year plan, will be reduced for early retirement — even if they have 30 years of service credit.

These benefit reductions are prorated by month, so the closer you are to your full retirement age, the less the reduction will be. Once you retire with a reduced benefit, that reduction is permanent.

Here’s a look at how reductions break down by membership tier:

Contact us if you have any questions about benefit reductions or any other retirement-related topics. Please review your retirement plan booklet for a full description of the benefits you’re entitled to as well as any reductions and restrictions.

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.

Top Five Pre-Retirement Goals for NYSLRS Members in 2018

January is a great time to set goals for the coming year. And setting pre-retirement goals is crucial in planning for a successful retirement. Here are five goals to consider for 2018:

Plan ahead for retirement

1. Choose a sensible savings plan that works for you.There are several ways to save for retirement, including starting a deferred compensation plan like the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan. An important part of developing a savings plan is to start early. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Check out our Weekly Investment Plan chart to see how a weekly investment can grow by age 65.

2. Track your expenses and income. Tracking your current expenses for a month or two will give you a better idea of how much you’re likely to spend in retirement and how much you’ll need to supplement your pension. Use the expense and income worksheets on our website to create a retirement budget. Be sure to include periodic expenses, such as car insurance and property taxes.

3. Request a pension estimate. If you’re within 18 months of your anticipated retirement date, it’s a good idea to request an estimate of what your retirement benefit will be. You can do this by sending us an email using our secure contact form or by calling 1-866-805-0990 (518-474-7736 in the Albany, NY area). If you are not certain that you’ve received credit for all your public service in New York State, you can submit a Request for Estimate form (RS6030) and be sure to provide detailed information about your public employment in section eight of the form. If your planned retirement date is farther away, you may want to use our online Benefit Calculator. This estimates your pension based on information you provide, so have your Member Annual Statement handy before you start, or sign in to your Retirement Online account to check your current service credit.

4. Pay off any NYSLRS loans. An outstanding loan balance at retirement will permanently reduce your NYSLRS retirement benefit. You cannot make loan payments after you retire, and the pension reduction does not go away after we recover the balance of the loan. Visit the Loans page on our website for information about making additional payments or increasing your loan payment amount.

5. Consider seeking the advice of a financial planner. Financial planners don’t manage your money, but can help you assess your present financial condition and develop a practical plan to meet your specific goals and needs. Also consider doing your own research by seeking Do-It-Yourself financial planning guides on the web.

If you ever have any retirement-related questions, please contact us.