Category Archives: Retirees

News and Information for members of the retirement system who are enjoying their retirement

Retirement Online for Retirees

More than 427,000 members and retirees are using Retirement Online — a secure and convenient way to do business with NYSLRS.

Retirement Online for Retirees

You can use Retirement Online to:

View Your Benefit Information

Review the most up-to-date information about your account. Check on the details of your pension and review deductions.

Generate an Income Verification Letter

You may need to prove your pension income for any number of reasons, such as applying for a mortgage or renting an apartment. With Retirement Online, you can generate an income verification letter any time you need one.

Update Your Contact Information

Moving? Changing your phone number or email address? It’s easy to keep NYSLRS updated so you won’t have to worry about missing important news and information about your benefits.

Snowbirds, take note. You can schedule an address change so you get NYSLRS mail at your seasonal home without interruption. This will ensure that you get your 1099-R tax forms in time to file your tax return.

Manage Your Beneficiaries

You can change the beneficiary for your post-retirement death benefit or change the contact information for an existing beneficiary.

Retirement Online makes it easy to view your beneficiary selections and submit changes instantly.

New Retiree Features Coming in January

We continue to improve and expand the services Retirement Online offers. In fact, this January, we’re adding new retiree features. They’re designed to give you greater insight into your retirement account and enable you to conduct business with your Retirement System without having to mail in forms or make a phone call.

Retirement Online for Retirees – New FeatureManage Your Direct Deposit

Ninety-five percent of NYSLRS retirees already receive their pension payments with direct deposit, and it’s about to get even more convenient. Soon, you’ll be able to use Retirement Online to update your bank account information. Whether you’ve switched banks, need to update your account details or want to add a joint account holder, you’ll be able to make those changes online.

Are you still receiving your pension by check? You’ll soon be able to sign up for direct deposit through Retirement Online and get your money faster.

Retirement Online for Retirees – New FeatureChange Your Federal Tax Withholding

If you need to adjust the amount of federal tax withholding coming out of your pension payments, you’ll be able to sign in to your account to update your filing status, change your dependents or make other adjustments to your withholding.

Retirement Online for Retirees – New FeatureView a “Pay Stub” of Your Pension Payment

Right now, you can look up your current monthly benefit details in Retirement Online, but soon you’ll be able to access full “pay stubs” for your payments from January 2023 onward by clicking the date of the payment you want to view. You’ll also be able to track year-to-date totals.

How to Get Ready

If you don’t have a Retirement Online account, now is a great time to sign up. Click “Sign Up” on our Retirement Online Sign-In page to get started. If you need help, we have step-by-step instructions on registering for your account and how to sign in for the first time. You may also find our Retirement Online Tools and Tips blog post helpful.

Retirement Online is secure and safe to use. When you sign up for an account, for security reasons, you will be asked to identify yourself, confirm your Social Security number, verify your identity and create credentials. Retirement Online also uses a two-step sign-in process for secure sign in. Remember, one of the best ways to prevent online fraud is for you to open your Retirement Online account using the personalized credentials you choose. That simple step will prevent any fraudster from trying to open an account in your name, whether it’s Retirement Online or any other online account.

Already have an account? Sign in and make sure your email and mailing address are current to ensure that you receive important information from NYSLRS in the coming year. If it’s been a while, you may need to look up your username or reset your password.  If you’re having trouble accessing your account, email us using our secure contact form or call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990 (518-474-7736 in the Albany, NY area). Press 2 to access the retiree menu, follow the prompts, and then press 1 for Retirement Online assistance.

Public Pensions Give Economic Boost to Small Towns, Rural Areas

Small towns and rural areas in New York and across the United States get an important economic boost from public pensions, a recent study concludes.

Public Pensions Give Economic Boost to Small Towns and Rural Areas Across New York

Why Public Pensions Give an Economic Boost

Because of their smaller economies, less-populated counties benefit more from pension dollars than larger, urban counties, according to Fortifying Main Street: The Economic Benefit Of Public Pension Dollars In Rural America.

In many small towns and rural communities, the report notes, school districts and local governments are the largest employers. Those public employees typically remain in their communities after retirement, and the authors attribute the economic boosts they found to pension dollars spent locally on goods and services.

Across New York State, public pensions were responsible for 1.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. (GDP, the total value of goods and services produced during a specific period, is a common gauge of economic activity.) However, during the same period:

  • Wyoming County in western New York, where a handful of villages dot a rural landscape, saw public pensions generate 4.6 percent of GDP.
  • Hamilton County, with fewer than 5,000 people, received an economic boost from public pensions that accounted for 6.3 percent of GDP.

The study’s findings are in line with data showing the impact NYSLRS retirees have on local economies and other studies about the economic benefits of pensions.

Notes on the Data

Fortifying Main Street, which was released in July by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), examines pension data from 2,922 counties in 43 states. Based on criteria used by the federal Office of Budget Management, it divides counties into three main categories: metropolitan, small-town (or micropolitan) and rural. The study also analyzes data from counties that are home to the state capital, because these places tend to have higher numbers of public retirees. In Albany County, public pensions generated 2.7 percent of GDP.

Hamilton County is the only county in New York defined as rural in the study, but 16 counties, including Wyoming County, fit the “small town” criteria. You can read the full report on the NIRS website.

The study uses pensions paid by NYSLRS, the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, the Teachers’ Retirement System of New York City and the New York City Employees’ Retirement System in its data for New York State.

Snapshot of NYSLRS Retirees

NYSLRS was providing pension benefits to 507,923 retirees and beneficiaries as of March 31, 2022.

Nearly 79 percent of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries — some 399,628 — live right here in New York State, and they can be found in every region and county. The Capital District, for instance, is home to more than 64,000 retirees and beneficiaries, with roughly the same number living on Long Island.

These New York retirees live in our communities, and their pension money flows right back into our neighborhoods. Retirees in New York pay local property and sales taxes, and their spending supports local businesses, stimulates the economy and generates thousands of jobs.

NYSLRS Retirees in the United States

NYSLRS Retirees in the United States

NYSLRS retirees can also be found in every state. Florida, not surprisingly, is the number two choice after New York, with nearly 39,885 calling the Sunshine State home. North Carolina is third, with 10,011 retirees, followed by New Jersey, with 8,302. North Dakota has the fewest, with only 20 retirees and beneficiaries. Another 646 live outside the United States.

Learn More

Extensive information about our retirees and members, the Common Retirement Fund and Fund investments can be found in our latest Annual Comprehensive Financial Report. This report, published each fall, has a wealth of information about the Retirement System, its investments, strategies and financial position. It also provides details about NYSLRS’ nearly 1.2 million members, retirees and beneficiaries.

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. 

Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit

Normally, most NYSLRS retirees who return to work for a public employer face an earnings limit. Under Section 212 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, most NYSLRS retirees under age 65 who return to work for a public employer can earn up to $35,000 per calendar year without penalty. The limit includes all earnings for the calendar year, including money or retroactive payments earned in the calendar year but paid in a different calendar year. If a retiree exceeds the earnings limit and continues to work, their pension benefits are suspended for the remainder of the year.

However, executive orders and new legislation have temporarily suspended the earnings limit for retirees who returned to work.

retiree earnings limit

Earnings Limit Suspended through June 30, 2023 for School Districts and BOCES

The state budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 included legislation that temporarily suspends the earnings limit for retirees employed by school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). Under this legislation, post-retirement earnings with a school district or BOCES will not count toward a retiree’s annual earnings limit through June 30, 2023.

The new law means that for retirees working for school districts or BOCES, the limit is eliminated through the end of the school year 2022-23. This extension does not apply to universities, colleges or charter schools.

Earnings Limit Suspended through November 26, 2022 for Other Public Employers

The Governor has issued an executive order temporarily suspending the retiree earnings limit. Under the executive order, post-retirement earnings with a public employer will not count toward a retiree’s annual earnings limit during the following time periods:

  • January 1, 2022 through November 26, 2022.
  • January 1, 2021 through June 24, 2021, and September 27, 2021 through December 31, 2021.
  • March 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

If the order is extended beyond November 26, 2022 we will update this blog post. For general information about post-retirement employment, please read What If I Work After Retirement.

Can I change my beneficiary?

Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire?

Can you change your beneficiary after you retire? That depends. If it’s the beneficiary for your pension, in most cases the answer is no. If you choose a pension payment option that provides a lifetime benefit for a surviving beneficiary, you cannot change that beneficiary, even if they die before you do. If your retirement plan provides a one-time, lump sum death benefit after you retire, you can change your beneficiary (or beneficiaries) for that benefit.

Can you change your beneficiary?

Available Pension Payment Options

At retirement, you will choose from a variety of pension payment options. After your pension becomes payable, you have up to 30 days to change your option. After that, you cannot change your pension payment option for any reason.

  • If you don’t want to leave a lifetime benefit to someone else, the Single Life Allowance option may be right for you, but you won’t be able to change your option and add a beneficiary later. For example, if you’re single when you retire and marry during retirement, you cannot change your option to one that provides a continuing benefit for your spouse.
  • If you want to leave a lifetime benefit to someone, there are several Joint Allowance options you can choose. After your death, if your beneficiary survives you, they will continue to receive all or part of your pension (depending on the specific option you choose) for the rest of their life. For these options, you can only name one beneficiary, and you cannot change that beneficiary after the 30-day window.
  • There are payment options that allow you to change your beneficiary. For example, with the Five Year Certain or Ten Year Certain options, you can change your beneficiary at any time, but these options only provide a short-term benefit for a survivor.

The Post-Retirement Death Benefit

Your pension is not your only NYSLRS retirement benefit. Most NYSLRS retirees are eligible for a death benefit if they retired directly from payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment. This post-retirement death benefit is a one-time, lump-sum payment. You can change your beneficiary for this benefit at any time, and your beneficiaries for this benefit do not have to be the same as your pension payment option beneficiary.

Visit our Death Benefits page for retirees for information about how your post-retirement death benefit is calculated and how to update your beneficiaries if you are retired.

If you have questions about beneficiaries, death benefits or pension payment options, please contact us.

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

When a NYSLRS member or retiree dies, it is important that survivors report the death to NYSLRS as soon as possible.

How Survivors Can Report a Death

Survivors can find the report a death form on the NYSLRS website.

The form has two parts: The first section is for the person reporting the death to enter information about themselves. They should be sure to include a phone number in case we need to contact them. In the second part, they should enter information about the deceased member or retiree. If they know the deceased’s NYSLRS ID or the last four digits of their Social Security number, they should enter that too.

reporting a death

Survivors can upload a photocopy of the death certificate so NYSLRS can begin identifying any benefits that may be payable. (Note: we will still need an original death certificate before any benefits are paid – see below.) The form is transmitted over a secure network.

Survivors can also report a death by calling our toll-free number at 1-866-805-0990 (or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area), weekdays from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. Once they reach the call menu, they should press 3, then 1. The call will be transferred to a customer service representative, who will ask for:

  • The deceased’s NYSLRS ID, retirement or registration number or Social Security number.
  • The date of death.

We may also ask for the addresses and phone numbers of immediate family members who may be beneficiaries. Please note: Our customer service representatives cannot release the identities of a member’s or retiree’s beneficiaries over the phone.

Mailing a Death Certificate

Before any death benefits can be processed or paid, NYSLRS will need an original, certified death certificate, even if a photocopy has already been submitted. The death certificate (and the sender’s contact information) should be mailed to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Survivor Services
110 State St
Albany, NY 12244

We recommend that death certificates be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.

What Happens Next

Once we receive the death certificate, we will send named beneficiaries or their certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits and, if applicable, information about any continuing pension benefits and death benefits that may be payable based on the member or retiree’s tier and retirement plan. We will also send named beneficiaries the appropriate forms to complete.

It could take several months from the date we are notified of a death to the date that any death benefit is paid. This is the average time necessary to recover any pension payments made after the retiree’s death and calculate any death benefit that may be due, as well as receive a certified copy of the death certificate, tax withholding forms and notarized forms from the named beneficiaries. Our top priority is paying a continuing pension benefit as soon as possible.

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

Talk to Your Loved Ones

If you’re a NYSLRS member or retiree, you should talk to your loved ones and provide them with the information they’ll need when the time comes. Let them know your wishes, where to find important papers and what steps they will need to take. And if your documents are organized and accessible, it will make things that much easier.

Our publication Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors provides step-by-step guidance about what should be done now and after a member’s or retiree’s death.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Coming in September

Eligible NYSLRS retirees will see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase in their monthly pension payments beginning in late September 2022. This is a permanent annual increase to your retirement benefit that is based on the cost-of-living index and a formula set by State law.

For payment dates, check our pension payment calendar.

COLA coming soon

How the Cost-of-Living Adjustment is Determined

COLA increases are based on the rate of inflation, as reflected in the consumer price index published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The law requires that COLA payments be calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the State fiscal year (March 31). The increase cannot be less than 1 percent or greater than 3 percent.

The COLA is applied to the first $18,000 of your benefit calculated as a Single Life Allowance, even if you selected a different pension payment option. Once your COLA payments begin, you will automatically receive an increase to your monthly benefit each September.

The September 2022 COLA equals 3 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $540.00, or $45.00 per month before taxes.

COLA eligibility

When Will You See the Increase?

Eligible retirees will see the first 2022 COLA in their end-of-September pension payment. It will be available to those with direct deposit on September 30, 2022. If you receive a paper check, it will be included in the check mailed on September 29, 2022.

You can sign in to your Retirement Online account to view a current breakdown of your pension payment. If you have direct deposit and are eligible for the increase, you will receive notification of the net change in your monthly payment amount in September.

If you are not eligible for a COLA yet, you will receive your first increase in the month after you become eligible. This payment will include a prorated amount to cover the month you became eligible. After that, you will receive a COLA increase each September.

Retroactive Payments and Your NYSLRS Pension

Retroactive payments are lump sum payments you receive from your employer. These payments can be from new union contracts, arbitration awards or legal settlements that took place while you were on your employer’s payroll.

If you receive a retroactive payment from your employer, it could affect your pension benefit calculation.

How Retroactive Payments Can Affect Your Benefit

Retroactive Payments

Your final average earnings (FAE) are a major factor in your pension benefit calculation. It’s the average of your three (five for Tier 6 members) highest consecutive years of earnings. For most people, their highest years of earnings come at the end of their careers.

Retroactive payments are applied to the pay periods when they were earned, not when they were paid. So, retroactive payments can increase your FAE, and therefore your pension benefit, as long as the time period in which you earned that money is part of the time period your FAE is based on.

However, please be aware that the law limits the FAE of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be able to be used toward your pension. You can find information about earnings limitations by tier, including examples, on the Final Average Earnings page on our website. If your FAE has already been affected by these earnings limits, your retroactive payment will not increase your pension benefit.

Payments Received Before Retirement. If you receive a retroactive payment from your employer before you retire, your employer will report your earnings to us through their regular reporting process. You do not need to notify us of payments you receive.

Payments Received After Retirement (State Employees). If you retired from New York State and you receive a retroactive payment after you retire, we will recalculate your pension automatically. NYSLRS receives State payroll information automatically and you do not need to notify us. You will receive correspondence from us explaining any change in your pension benefit.

Payments Received After Retirement (Non-State Employees). If you retired from a non-State employer and you receive a retroactive payment after you retire, send a letter to our Recalculation Unit in the Benefit Calculations & Disbursement Services Bureau. Please include a copy of your check stub and any correspondence you received from your employer related to the payment. Mail it to:

NYSLRS
Attn: BCDS – Recalculation Unit
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

You can also email and upload this information to the Retirement System through our secure contact form.

Your Pension Recalculation Will Be Completed

We continue to receive a record number of pension recalculations and are working diligently to address them. If you are currently waiting for your pension amount to be recalculated, please rest assured that we will get to it. Once we complete your recalculation, you will receive payment of all the money you are owed, and a letter explaining the change in your pension amount.

Recent PEF Retroactive Payments

If you were a Public Employees Federation (PEF) member before retiring from State service, you may have recently received a retroactive payment. The current PEF contract, covering employment from April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2021, was ratified last summer. If you were a PEF member, worked during these dates and have not received your retroactive payment, please check with your previous employer.

If you retired recently and your FAE included earnings from on or after April 1, 2019, your NYSLRS pension will be increased automatically. You do not need to notify us that you received a retroactive payment.

CSEA Contract Negotiations

If you were a member of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) before you retired, your contract and any retroactive payment is currently being negotiated. Contact CSEA if you have questions.

When Retirees Rejoin NYSLRS

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some NYSLRS retirees to return to work in the public sector. If you are one of these retirees, we want to make sure you know that the post-retirement earnings limit of $35,000 a year for retirees in a public sector job who are under age 65 has been suspended through much of 2020, 2021 and 2022 by executive order. Additionally, if you work for a school district or BOCES, legislation has suspended your earnings limit through June 30, 2023. Read more in our blog post, Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit During COVID-19 Emergency.

rejoin NYSLRS

Some retirees have considered ending their retirement to rejoin NYSLRS. While rejoining the Retirement System is an option, you should understand how this decision could affect your pension benefits.

Rejoining NYSLRS may increase your total service credit, allowing you to reach certain milestones that would increase your pension. An increase in earnings could also result in a higher pension. However, depending how long you work after rejoining, your new pension may not be higher than your original amount.

Note: This post applies to service retirees of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) or the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) who are rejoining the same system. Different rules may apply to retirees of other retirement systems, retirees joining a system other than the one they retired from, and disability retirees.

What Happens to Your Pension When You Rejoin NYSLRS?

If you rejoin NYSLRS, your pension will be suspended. If you are in Tiers 2 through 6, and you earn less than two years of new service credit after you rejoin, your original pension would be reinstated when you retire the second time. Any new service credit and earnings would not affect your pension. (Tier 1 members would receive an additional benefit even if they earn less than two years of service in their new membership.)

If you earn two or more years of new service, you can either receive your original pension or you can receive a recalculated benefit that includes your additional service. If you choose the recalculated benefit, you would have to repay the entire pension amount you have already received, plus interest. (The pension amount you repay would be based on the Single Life Allowance rate.) You may repay that amount in a lump sum or by installments before you retire again — or request a permanent reduction to your new pension.

Other Factors

Here are other things to consider before you rejoin NYSLRS:

  • When you retire again, your new retirement date can delay your eligibility for cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).
  • If you are in Tier 1 or 2, rejoining may affect your death benefit.

Where to Go for Help

If you are seriously considering rejoining NYSLRS, we strongly recommend you speak with a customer service representative to discuss how rejoining would affect your benefits. You can call them at 1-866-805-0990 or email them using our secure contact form.

You may also wish to read our publication Life Changes: What If I Work After Retirement?