Category Archives: Members

News for members of the New York State & Local Retirement System

Popular Blog Posts You May Have Missed

In 2021, NYSLRS members showed a keen interest in posts that helped them learn more about their retirement benefits. In case you missed them, or just want to take another look, here are some of our most popular blog posts from the past year.

most popular blog posts of 2021
 
  1. Tier 6 Benefits – A Closer Look
    Nearly half of all NYSLRS members belong to the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6. Here is a look at how their pensions will be calculated.

  2. Retirement Online Makes Applying for Retirement Fast, Easy
    Many members have discovered the convenience of filing for a service retirement benefit online. You won’t need to have anything notarized and you can skip a trip to the post office.

  3. Tier 3 & 4 Members: When Is The Right Time To Retire?
    Many Tier 3 and 4 members are close to retirement. But their pension amount will depend on several factors, including when they retire. Here is some information to help you get the timing right.

  4. The Police and Fire Retirement System
    The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) is the smaller of the two NYSLRS retirement systems. The vast majority of PFRS members are in special retirement plans that allow for retirement after 20 or 25 years of service.

  5. What is a Defined Benefit Plan?
    As a NYSLRS member, you are part of a defined benefit plan. But what does that mean and how will it affect your retirement?

Thank you for following New York Retirement News. We look forward to providing you with more information about your NYSLRS benefits and other retirement topics throughout 2022.

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.

Give Your Retirement Savings a Boost

If you’re already building your retirement savings, you already understand how those savings, along with Social Security, work together with your pension to help provide financial stability in retirement. Financial advisors call this the “three-legged stool.”

But why not take it a step further and give your retirement savings a boost? Even a small increase could make a big difference over time, while having minimal impact on your take-home pay.

How much of a difference would it make? You can check it out yourself using this online calculator and your own salary and savings information. Calculate the impact of your current savings, then try the same calculation with an additional 1 percent of your earnings. For example, if you’re saving 5 percent of your pay, see what saving 6 percent would do by the time you expect to retire.

retirement savings

Impact on Your Paycheck

Fortunately, adding a small amount to your retirement savings won’t have a substantial impact on your paycheck. For example, if you’re making $60,000 a year, 1 percent is only $600. That’s just $50 a month or, if you are paid every other week, about $23 per payday.

The impact on your take-home pay would be even less if you save in a tax-deferred plan because you won’t have to pay income tax on those earnings until after you retire. The New York State Deferred Compensation Plan’s paycheck impact calculator can help you estimate how increased savings would affect your paycheck. (You don’t have to have a Deferred Compensation account to use their calculator. The New York State Deferred Compensation Plan is not affiliated with NYSLRS.)

When to Increase Retirement Savings?

The sooner you boost your savings, the better off you’ll be. But if you’re not ready to increase your savings right now, then try this: Schedule your increase to coincide with your next raise. That way, you may not even miss the money.

What is a Defined Benefit Plan?

As a NYSLRS member, you are part of a defined benefit plan, also known as a traditional pension plan.

Your pension is based on a preset formula that takes into account your salary and years of service. It will not be based on your individual contributions to the Retirement System.

If you are vested and retire from NYSLRS, you will receive a monthly pension payment for the rest of your life.

Defined Contribution Plans

Defined benefit plans are often confused with 401(k)-style retirement savings plans, which are known as defined contribution plans.

With a defined contribution plan, the employer, employee or both make contributions to an individual retirement account, and the money in the account is invested. In most cases, it is the responsibility of the employee to make investment decisions, or the plan may offer pre-packaged investment options. At retirement, the employee will have an account that includes the accumulated value of contributions and investment returns, minus any fees.

The amount of money the employee has at retirement is dependent on the investment returns of the individual account, so market downturns, especially near retirement, can affect the value of the benefit. The employee also can run the risk of outliving their savings.

defined benefit plan

NYSLRS’s Defined Benefit Plans

NYSLRS administers more than 300 retirement plan combinations, but all are defined benefit plans and share certain features. NYSLRS plans:

  • Provide a guaranteed lifetime retirement benefit;
  • Offer a pension that is based on final average earnings and years of service;
  • Provide a right to pension benefits (vesting) with five years of service credit (ten for Tier 5 and 6 members);
  • Build a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) into pensions to help offset the effect of inflation; and
  • Include disability retirement and death benefits.

To find out details about your own NYSLRS plan, check your retirement plan booklet. You can find a copy on the Publications page of our website. Read this blog post for help locating your plan book. Your plan is listed on your Retirement Online account page.

Advantages of Defined Benefit Plans

With defined benefit plans, retirement assets are pooled, and the investment risk is shared. These plans are usually administered by professional managers, whose long-term investment strategies reduce the impact of market turmoil. With defined contribution plans, individual employees bear the brunt of investment risk, so a dip in the stock market can reduce their retirement income.

Defined benefit plans provide important advantages for state and local government employers. For one, offering these plans makes it easier to recruit and retain qualified employees, particularly police officers, fire fighters and teachers. Employers can also reduce the risk of employee turnover, which could help cut training costs and improve productivity.

Defined benefit plans also help support state and local economies because they provide a steady, reliable stream of retirement income for many retirees across New York and the nation.

Read more about the advantages of defined benefit plans.

ERS Tier 6 Member Milestones

As an Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6 member, your years of service are critical to your benefits. As time goes by, and you earn more service credit, you’ll reach a number of career milestones. These milestones are points where you become eligible for certain benefits or your existing benefits improve. Understanding these milestones will help you better plan your career and retirement.

Most ERS Tier 6 members are in the Article 15 retirement plan (Article 15 of the Retirement and Social Security Law [RSSL]). If you are not certain what retirement plan you are in, you can contact us or ask your employer. You can also find your retirement plan number in Retirement Online under ‘My Account Summary’ or in your member annual statement. Your plan number indicates the section of the RSSL the plan is based on. For example, Plan A15 indicates that you are covered by Article 15.

In this plan, you reach your first milestone on your first day of membership. This milestone covers you for certain job-related death and disability benefits. (You can learn more about them in the Tier 6 Article 15 retirement plan booklet.)

ERS Tier 6

10 & 20 Years Make a Big Difference

For all NYSLRS members, there is one critical milestone: becoming vested. Being vested means that you have earned the right to a pension, even if you leave public employment before retirement age. ERS Tier 6 members become vested after they earn ten years of service credit.

For most ERS Tier 6 members, another big milestone is the 20-year mark, when their retirement benefit improves significantly. If you retire with less than 20 years of service, you earn 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service. At 20 years, you receive 35 percent of your FAE. After 20 years, you’ll earn an additional 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service beyond 20.

ERS Tier 6 Special Plans

For ERS Tier 6 members in special plans, such as corrections officers and deputy sheriffs, many of the milestones are the same. For example, you will become vested with ten years of service credit.

But there are also major differences. Most importantly, depending on their plan, members in special plans can retire after 20 or 25 years, regardless of age. You can find more information in your retirement plan booklet.

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. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by State Law. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS.

Today’s post looks at ERS Tier 5, which covers ERS members who joined from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012. There were 37,114 ERS Tier 5 members — 5.8 percent of all ERS members — as of March 31, 2021.

ERS Tier 5 Information

ERS Tier 5 Membership Milestones

ERS Tier 5 members need ten years of service credit to become vested, which means they’ll be eligible for a lifetime pension when they retire.

When a Tier 5 member can retire is based on whether they are in the regular retirement plan (Article 15) or a special plan. Most Tier 5 members are in the regular plan, which means they can retire as early as age 55, but if they retire before age 62, their benefit will be reduced.

Tier 5 members in special plans, such as sheriffs and correction officers, can retire with 20 or 25 years of service (depending on their retirement plan), regardless of age, without penalty.

See your plan booklet (listed below) for details.

The Final Average Earnings (FAE)

An ERS Tier 5 member’s final average earnings is the average of their earnings in the three highest-paid consecutive years of employment. Earnings in any year included in the period cannot exceed the average earnings of the previous two years by more than 10 percent.

Tier 5 Service Retirement Benefit

If an ERS Tier 5 member retires with less than 20 years, the benefit is 1.66 percent of their FAE for each year of service.

If a Tier 5 member in a regular plan retires with 20 to 30 years of service, the benefit is 2 percent of their FAE for each year of service. For each year of service beyond 30 years, they will receive 1.5 percent of their FAE. For example, a Tier 5 member with 35 years of service can retire at 62 with 67.5 percent of their FAE.

For Tier 5 members in special plans, the benefit is generally 50 percent of their FAE with 20 or 25 years of service, depending on their retirement plan.

Where to Find More Information

ERS Tier 5 members can find more details about their benefits in the publications listed below:

For benefit information about special plans for miscellaneous titles, please visit our Publications page. Stay tuned for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts.

Countdown to Retirement – 1-3 Months to Go

Congratulations! After years of hard work and planning, the big day is almost here. It’s time to file for retirement.

You must submit your service retirement application 15 to 90 days before your retirement date.

Countdown to Retirement – 1-3 Months to Go

Filing Online

Online filing offers a secure and convenient way to apply for a service retirement benefit. You can upload needed documents instead of having applications notarized and taking them to the post office. You can also check on the status of your application once you submit it through Retirement Online. To get started, sign in to your Retirement Online account, scroll to the ‘My Account Summary’ section and click the “Apply for Retirement” button.

From there, you’ll go through a series of screens where you’ll be able to:

  • Choose your retirement date;
  • Get an estimate of the pension payment options available to you;
  • Select a pension payment option and beneficiary;
  • Have federal taxes withheld;
  • Sign up for direct deposit; and
  • Upload required documents, such as proof of date of birth.

After you click the “Submit” button, do not close your browser until you receive a confirmation message saying your application has been successfully submitted.

Once you submit your application, you will see a summary page that will include all the information that you have submitted through Retirement Online. Review this information to be sure that your online application is complete and your chosen option benefit and beneficiary information are accurate. This is very important since there are specific deadlines for selecting or changing a pension option and beneficiary.

If you don’t have a Retirement Online account, you can sign up today.

Filing by Mail

If you prefer, you can submit a paper retirement application. Complete an Application for Service Retirement (RS6037) and mail it to NYSLRS. (Do not give your retirement application to your employer.) Your application must be signed, notarized, and received by NYSLRS. We recommend that you mail your application “certified mail, return receipt requested.”

If you have received a recent pension estimate and you know which pension payment option you want, you should include your pension payment option form when you mail your retirement application. If you have not received an estimate, we will send you one, along with an option form, after we receive your application, but you must select an option within the deadlines required by law.

If you file by mail, you must also send us the following documents:

 We cannot start paying benefits until we receive proof of your date of birth.

If you have questions about filing for your retirement benefits, you can schedule a pre-retirement telephone consultation. To make an appointment, call 1-866-805-0990 (or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, NY area), press 2, then follow the prompts.

Read the Rest of Our Countdown to Retirement Series

This is the final installment of our Countdown to Retirement series. Missed our earlier posts? Catch up with them here:

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 6

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). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS.

Today’s post looks at ERS Tier 6, which includes anyone who joined ERS since April 1, 2012. There were 311,469 ERS Tier 6 members as of March 31, 2021 making them the largest tier group in ERS.

ERS Tier 6

ERS Tier 6 Membership Milestones

ERS Tier 6 members need ten years of service credit to become vested. Once vested, they’re eligible for a lifetime pension benefit as early as age 55, but if they retire before the full retirement age of 63, their benefit will be reduced. Tier 6 correction officers, however, can retire with 25 years of service, regardless of age, without penalty.

The Final Average Earnings (FAE) Calculation

An ERS Tier 6 member’s final average earnings is the average of their earnings in the five highest-paid consecutive years of employment. Earnings in any year included in the period cannot exceed the average earnings of the previous four years by more than 10 percent.

Tier 6 Service Retirement Benefit

Generally, if an ERS Tier 6 member retires with less than 20 years, the benefit is 1.66 percent of their FAE for each year of service. If a member retires with exactly 20 years of service, the benefit is 1.75 percent of their FAE for each year of service (35 percent of the member’s FAE).

If a member retires with more than 20 years of service, they receive 35 percent for the first 20 years, plus 2 percent for each additional year. For example, a member with 35 years of service can retire at 63 with a pension worth 65 percent of their FAE.

Where to Find More ERS Tier 6 Information

ERS Tier 6 members can find more details about their benefits in the publications listed below:

For benefit information about special plans for other job titles, please visit our Publications page. Stay tuned for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts.

Crunching the Numbers: A Short Guide to Retirement Calculators

A good estimate of your post-retirement income is essential to retirement planning. But estimating your income becomes a little tricky when you need to calculate income from several sources. Fortunately, there are retirement calculators available to help you.

online calculators

NYSLRS Benefit Calculator

A good place to start is with the NYSLRS online benefit calculator. Most members can create a pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. A Retirement Online estimate is based on the most up-to-date account information we have on file for you. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit.

Social Security Calculators

The Social Security Administration (SSA) hosts a variety of calculators that you may find helpful. The SSA’s Quick Calculator, which uses information you enter, provides a rough estimate of your Social Security benefit. The Retirement Estimator, which estimates your benefit based on your actual Social Security earnings record, is more refined, but you’ll need to enter your Social Security number and other personal information.  

You can also calculate when you will be eligible for full Social Security benefits and estimate your life expectancy.

Savings Calculators

If you are saving for retirement, a simple savings calculator can show you how your money can grow over the years. But simple calculators assume a fixed amount of savings each month. In reality, most people increase their retirement savings as their income grows. With more sophisticated calculators, like this 401k Retirement Calculator, you can account for salary increases over time. (Note: The 401k Retirement Calculator works with other types of retirement savings plans, including 457(b) plans like the ones offered by the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan.)

Savings Withdrawal Calculators

Savings withdrawal calculators like this one are designed to help determine how much savings remains after a series of withdrawals. These are especially helpful tools to use when trying to determine how long your retirement savings will last. Enter the starting amount, how much to withdraw and how often, and an expected final balance will be calculated.

While the calculators mentioned above are great planning tools for before and after retirement, remember that their results are only estimates.