Author Archives: NYSLRS

Transferring Your Membership to NYSLRS

transferring membership

A lot can change in our lives, and sometimes people switch jobs or professions during their career. Perhaps you were a teacher, and you recently began working for New York State. Or maybe you had a job with New York City, and you took a position with a municipality outside of the city. If you are an active member of more than one public retirement system in New York State, you may have the option of transferring that membership to NYSLRS and receiving credit for that service.

Considering Service Credit

Service credit is a factor in calculating a NYSLRS pension benefit, so increasing your service credit will generally increase your pension benefit.

In some cases, transferring membership may not be beneficial. For example, if you are in a retirement plan that allows for retirement after 20 or 25 years of service (regardless of age), your service usually must be in specific job titles to be creditable toward your pension benefit. If you are in one of these plans, find your retirement plan publication to learn what service is creditable.

If you have questions, contact a customer service representative before you apply to transfer a membership. You can message them using our secure contact form.

Transferring Membership

Members who are transferring membership to NYSLRS must:

  • Be on the payroll in a job that is covered by NYSLRS;
  • No longer work in the job that was covered by the other retirement system; and
  • Still be an active member of the other system (off payroll for that job, but your membership in the other system has not been terminated or withdrawn).

To transfer a membership to NYSLRS, you first must submit a transfer request to your other retirement system. When we receive your membership information 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 complete, your date of membership will be the earlier of the two dates. If applicable, your tier will change.

If You Need to Transfer to Another System

You can submit an online request to NYSLRS to transfer your membership from NYSLRS to another New York State public retirement system:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • In the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage, under ‘I want to…,’ click the “Transfer My Membership” button.

Whether you are transferring in or out of NYSLRS, the transfer is effective when we receive your application, and it may be permanent.

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

Where Are Your Important Documents?

We accumulate a lot of important documents over a lifetime — things such as birth certificates, diplomas, deeds, wills, insurance policies and more. If you’re like many people, you may have papers stuffed in drawers, filing cabinets or boxes in the attic. If you need an important document, will you be able to find it? What’s more, when you pass away, will your loved ones be able to find what they need?
where are your important documents?

Organize Your Important Documents

Important documents should be kept in a secure but accessible place in your home. This includes personal documents, such as your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, will and burial instructions. You should also include information about your NYSLRS retirement benefits, income taxes, bank accounts, credit cards and online accounts. Important contact information, such as the names and phone numbers of your attorney, accountant, stockbroker, financial planner, insurance agent and executor of your will should also kept in a secure location.

Our fillable form, Where My Assets Are, can help make organizing your important documents a little easier. It will help you or your loved ones locate these documents when they are needed. It’s a good idea to review and update this information regularly.

Be aware that a safe deposit box may be sealed when you die. Don’t keep burial instructions, power of attorney or your will in a safe deposit box, because these items may not be available until a probate judge orders the box to be opened. However, a joint lessee of the box, or someone authorized by you, would be permitted to open the box to examine and copy your burial instructions.

Review Death Benefits and Beneficiary Designations

Depending on your tier and retirement plan, your beneficiaries may be eligible to receive a death benefit. Visit our member and retiree death benefit pages for more information.

Then, sign in to your Retirement Online account to review your named beneficiaries and update their contact information if needed. From your Account Homepage, click “View and Update My Beneficiaries” to get started.

Please note, when a NYSLRS member or retiree dies, it is important that survivors report the death to NYSLRS as soon as possible. Before any death benefits can be processed or paid, NYSLRS will need an original, certified death certificate.

Divorce Affects Other NYSLRS Benefits

We’ve written before about how divorce may affect your pension benefit. However, NYSLRS members have other benefits besides their pension, and divorce may affect some of them as well.

NYSLRS must have an approved Domestic Relations Order (DRO) on file to pay benefits to the ex-spouse of a member. The DRO is a court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, that gives NYSLRS specific instructions on how your benefits should be split.

divorce affects other NYSLRS benefits

Ordinary Death Benefit

A DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of your ordinary death benefit. This is the death benefit that would be payable to your beneficiaries if you die in active service (before retiring) so you should file the DRO with NYSLRS as soon as it’s officially accepted by the court. Be sure to choose additional beneficiaries for any remainder of the benefit and submit your changes to NYSLRS. (If your designations conflict with the terms of the DRO, the DRO will take precedence over any other beneficiary designations.)

Post-Retirement Death Benefit

Most Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) are covered by a post-retirement death benefit. A DRO may direct you to designate your ex-spouse as a beneficiary for some portion of the benefit.

Accidental Death Benefit

Your accidental death benefit becomes available to specific beneficiaries if you die as a result of an on-the-job accident. Those beneficiaries are designated by law, and only those beneficiaries may receive this benefit — even if there is a DRO.

Loans

NYSLRS members who meet eligibility requirements can borrow a certain percentage of their contribution balance. DROs may be written to prohibit members from taking future loans.

Outstanding loan balances at retirement reduce retirees’ pension benefits. The ex-spouse’s share of the pension will also be reduced unless the DRO specifically provides that the ex-spouse’s share be calculated without reference to outstanding loans.

Contribution Refunds

Occasionally, NYSLRS may refund a member’s contributions because of a tier reinstatement, membership withdrawal or membership transfer. Some members are eligible to make voluntary contributions and withdraw them as excess contributions. Generally, if a DRO doesn’t mention a contribution refund, the member will receive the full amount.

Divorce, Annulments, Separation and Your Beneficiaries

As of July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain death benefits are automatically revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. If you are divorced, it is especially important to review your beneficiary designations to ensure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes and your divorce agreement.  

The best way to view and update your death benefit beneficiaries is by using Retirement Online. You can also submit a paper designation of beneficiary form. Visit our View and Update Your Beneficiaries page for more information and instructions. If you are already retired, visit our Death Benefit page for retirees for information about available death benefits and how to update your beneficiaries and their contact information.

Visit our How Divorce Can Affect NYSLRS Benefits page for more information, including how divorce can affect service credit, disability benefits or retiree cost-of-living adjustments.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 5

When you joined the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you were assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. This post looks at Tier 5 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS).

Your tier determines such things as your eligibility for benefits, the calculation of those benefits, death benefit coverage and whether you need to contribute toward your benefits.

ERS has six tiers. Anyone who joined from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012 is in Tier 5. There were 33,619 ERS Tier 5 members as of March 31, 2022, representing 5.2 percent of ERS membership.

Most ERS Tier 5 members (unless they are in special retirement plans) retire under the Article 15 retirement plan. Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for Tier 5 members in this plan.

ERS Tier 5

Membership Milestones

As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 members only need five years of service credit to become vested. If you are a vested member in the Article 15 retirement plan, you are eligible for a lifetime pension benefit as early as age 55. However, if you retire before the full retirement age of 62, your benefit will be reduced.*

If you retire with less than 20 years, the benefit is 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service. If you retire with 20 to 30 years, the benefit is 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service. For each year of service beyond 30 years, you will receive 1.5 percent of your FAE. For example, with 35 years of service, you can retire at 62 with 67.5 percent of your FAE.

Where to Find More ERS Tier 5 Information

For more information about ERS Tier 5 membership, find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication. It’s a comprehensive description of the benefits provided by your specific plan.

You can check your service credit total and estimate your pension using Retirement Online. Most members can use our online pension calculator to create an estimate based on the salary and service information NYSLRS has on file for them. You can enter different retirement dates to see how your choices would affect your potential benefit.

Members may not be able to use the Retirement Online calculator in certain circumstances, for example, if they have recently transferred a membership to NYSLRS. These members can contact us to request an estimate or use the “Quick Calculator” on our website. The Quick Calculator generates estimates based on information you provide.

For information about other tiers, our series NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time gives you a quick look at the benefits for other tiers in both ERS and the Police and Fire Retirement System.

*Uniformed court officers or peace officers employed by the Unified Court System that have at least 30 years of credit may retire with a full benefit as early as age 55.

Designating Beneficiaries: An Important Decision

When you joined NYSLRS, you may have named one or more beneficiaries to receive certain benefits if you die.

NYSLRS retirement plans provide death benefits for beneficiaries of eligible members who die before retiring. The “ordinary death benefit” is paid to the beneficiary or beneficiaries that you designated, so it’s important to review periodically to make sure your choices reflect your current wishes. For example, if you just married, you may want to update your NYSLRS account information to name your new spouse as your beneficiary.

Types of Beneficiaries

 There are two types of beneficiaries — primary and contingent beneficiaries:

  • Your primary beneficiary will receive any payable ordinary death benefit. You can list more than one primary beneficiary. If you do, they would share the benefit equally. Or, you can choose different percentages for each beneficiary that total 100 percent. (Example: John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent.)
  • contingent beneficiary will only receive the benefit if all your primary beneficiaries die before you do. If you list multiple contingent beneficiaries, they will share the benefit equally unless you choose different percentages.

Special Beneficiary Designations

Your beneficiary doesn’t have to be a person. You can name a charity, a trust or your estate as your beneficiary.

designating beneficiaries

When you die, your estate is the money and property you owned. Your death benefit will be given to the executor of your estate to be distributed according to the terms of your will. You can name your estate as the primary or contingent beneficiary of your death benefit. If you name your estate as the primary beneficiary, do not name a contingent beneficiary.

You can name a trust as a primary or contingent beneficiary if you have a trust agreement or provided for a trust in your will. The trust itself would be your NYSLRS beneficiary, not the individuals for whom you established the trust. (You may want to speak with your attorney if you’re thinking about making your trust a beneficiary.)

You can also name any charitable, civic, religious, educational or health-related organization as a beneficiary.

If your beneficiary is a minor child (under age 18) at the time of your death, your benefit will be paid to the child’s court-appointed guardian. You may instead choose a custodian to receive the benefit on the child’s behalf under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Custodians can be designated in Retirement Online or you can contact us for more information and the appropriate form before making this type of designation.

Updating Your Beneficiaries

You can change your beneficiaries at any time. You should also review your named beneficiaries to make sure their contact information is up to date.

  • The fastest way to view or update your beneficiaries is in Retirement Online. You can add beneficiaries, update beneficiary information or remove beneficiaries. Sign in, then click “Manage My Beneficiaries” on the right, under “I want to ….”
  • You can also complete and mail us a Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127). Read the instructions on the form before entering your preferences. Be sure to include all your beneficiaries on the form. Your new beneficiary designations will replace all your previously named beneficiaries. Though your designations will need to be reviewed and approved, your updated beneficiary information becomes effective when we receive your properly completed, signed and notarized form.

More Information

You can read more about beneficiary designations in our Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary? publication. If you have questions, please contact us.

If you are retired, you may wish to read our blog post Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire?

Age Milestones for Retirement Planning

age milestones

Whether you’re 22 or 52, you should be planning for retirement. Your NYSLRS retirement benefits will be based on your tier, years of service and final average earnings. For most members, age is also an important factor in your NYSLRS benefits and it’s a factor for Social Security and retirement savings strategies as well. So, as you plan for retirement, consider these age milestones.

Age Milestones

Under 50: It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. Even modest savings can add up over time as investment returns grow and interest compounds.

50: The Age 50 and Over Catch-Up provision allows you to save more pre-tax dollars in a retirement account starting in the calendar year in which you turn 50.

55: The earliest age most NYSLRS members can begin collecting a service retirement benefit. (This does not apply to members in special retirement plans.) Your pension may be permanently reduced if you retire before your full retirement age.

59½: The age you can start withdrawing money from a tax-deferred retirement savings plan, such as an IRA, without facing a potential federal tax penalty. (The penalty does not apply to New York State Deferred Compensation Plan savings if you are retired or have left public service.)

62: Full retirement age for your NYSLRS benefit if you are in Tier 2, 3, 4 and 5 or PFRS Tier 6. Earliest age you can begin collecting a Social Security pension, but the benefit would be reduced. For more information about Social Security, read When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.

63: Full retirement age for your NYSLRS benefit if you are in ERS Tier 6.

65: Age most people are eligible for Medicare benefits.

66: Full retirement age for Social Security if you were born from 1943 through 1954. Add two months for each year from 1955 through 1959.

67: Full retirement age for Social Security if you were born in 1960 or later.

70: If you do not take your Social Security benefit, your benefit will increase each year until you reach age 70. Delaying Social Security after 70 will not increase your benefit.

73: Generally, if you have tax-deferred retirement savings and are no longer working, you must begin withdrawing some of this money when you reach a certain age. Under a recent change in federal law, you must start taking “minimum required distributions” at age 73. The minimum age had been 72, and the change does not affect those who turned 72 before the end of 2022. This age milestone will increase to 75 in 2033. Required minimum distributions do not apply to your NYSLRS retirement benefits.

One Last Number: Having a rough idea of your life expectancy is essential to retirement planning.

Compounding: A Great Way for Your Money to Grow

Financial security doesn’t just happen; it takes planning … and time. You know you can count on your pension income in retirement. But if you want to improve your chances of a financially secure retirement, you should have a retirement savings plan. The sooner you do that, the better, because it’s important to start saving and investing early so your money has time to grow.

When you invest in a retirement savings plan such as an IRA or 457(b), you earn a return on your investment, and your returns are compounded. That means your money increases in value by earning returns on both the original amount and accumulated profits. This is a little different from earning simple interest. Let’s see how they both work.

the power of compounding interest

How Simple Interest Works

In banking, simple interest is a certain percentage you are paid on the money you put in your account. With simple interest, the amount of interest you earn is based on the original (or principal) amount of the deposit.

Let’s say you opened a savings account and deposit $1,000 in January. If the bank paid 5 percent annual interest on that deposit, you’d receive five cents for every dollar in your savings account each year. At the end of one year, you’d have $1,050. That’s $50 more than the principal amount you started with. With simple interest, the interest you earn every year would still be based on the principal amount of $1,000 — no compounding.

How Compounding Works

With compounding, your initial investment plus your earnings are reinvested. If you earn the same 5 percent, with compounding, it’s applied to the full balance of your account. So, you would still have that $1,050 at the end of the first year, but by the end of the second year you’d have $1,102.50 in your account instead of $1,100.

In this example, that’s just a difference of $2.50, but, over time, compounding can mean a difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

If you’re thinking about boosting your personal savings for retirement, look for accounts that use compounding. For example, the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan (NYSDCP) is the 457(b) plan created for New York State employees and employees of other participating public employers in New York. The sooner you can start saving, the more time your money has to grow.

Other Sources:
How to Calculate Simple and Compound Interest

Where in New York are NYSLRS Retirees?

NYSLRS retirees tend to stay in New York, where their pensions are exempt from State and local income taxes. In fact, 79 percent of NYSLRS’ 507,923 retirees and beneficiaries lived in the State as of March 31, 2022. And more than half of them lived in just ten of New York’s 62 counties.

So where in New York do these retirees call home? Well, there are a lot of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries on Long Island. Suffolk and Nassau counties are home to more than 64,000 recipients of NYSLRS retirement benefits, with annual pension payments of nearly $2.4 billion. But that shouldn’t be surprising. Suffolk and Nassau counties have the largest and third largest number of pension benefit recipients, respectively, of all the counties in the State outside of New York City by population. (The City, which has its own retirement systems for municipal employees, police and firefighters, had 24,061 residents who were NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries.)

NYSLRS retirees in New York

Erie County, which includes Buffalo, ranked number two among counties in the number of NYSLRS retirees, with more than 33,000. Albany County, home to the State capital, ranked fourth with more than 20,000. Monroe, Westchester, Onondaga, Saratoga, Dutchess and Oneida counties round out the top ten.

All told, retirees and beneficiaries in the top ten counties received $6.5 billion in NYSLRS retirement benefits in 2021-2022.

Hamilton County had the fewest NYSLRS benefit recipients. But in this sparsely populated county in the heart of the Adirondacks, those 505 retirees represent about 10 percent of the county’s population. During fiscal year 2021-2022, $11.5 million in NYSLRS retirement benefits was paid to Hamilton County residents.

NYSLRS Retirees Across the United States and Around the Globe

Outside of New York, Florida remained the top choice for NYSLRS retirees, with 39,885 benefit recipients. North Carolina (10,011), New Jersey (8,302) and South Carolina (7,285) were also popular.

There were 646 NYSLRS benefit recipients living outside the United States as of March 31, 2022. These retirees and beneficiaries live throughout the world, with the most common countries being:

  • Canada: 164
  • Israel: 56
  • United Kingdom: 36
  • Italy: 31
  • Jamaica: 31

Whether you retire close to home or move away, you’ll always be a part of NYSLRS. 

Deferred Compensation:
Another Source of Retirement Income

Many financial experts say that you will need 70 to 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your standard of living once you retire. For NYSLRS members, a financial plan in retirement is likely to include your NYSLRS pension and Social Security benefits. For greater financial stability, it may make sense to supplement your retirement with personal savings such as a deferred compensation plan.

deferred compensation

What is Deferred Compensation?

Deferred compensation plans are voluntary retirement savings plans like 401(k) or 403(b) plans – but designed and managed with public employees in mind. The New York State Deferred Compensation Plan (NYSDCP) is the 457(b) plan created for New York State employees and employees of other participating public employers in New York.

Once you sign up for the NYSDCP, you can build your own investment portfolio or invest in established investment funds. Your contributions will be automatically deducted from your paycheck, and you can contribute as little as 1 percent of your earnings.

One option for a deferred compensation plan is a tax-deferred account, where you make contributions with pre-tax money. This way, you won’t have to pay State or federal taxes on your contributions and earnings until you start making withdrawals. Your employer also may offer the option for a Roth account, where you make contributions with after-tax money. With a Roth account, you won’t pay taxes on withdrawals in retirement. Find out more about both options.

If your employer is not an NYSDCP participating employer, check with your human resources or personnel office about other retirement savings options.

What Does Deferred Compensation Mean For Me?

Deferring income from your take-home pay may mean less money to spend in the short-term, but you’re planning ahead for your financial future.

You can enroll in a deferred compensation plan anytime — whether you’re approaching retirement or you just started working. Usually, the sooner you start saving, the better prepared you’ll be for retirement.