Tag Archives: benefits

ERS Tier 6 Milestones

If you joined the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) on or after April 1, 2012, you are a Tier 6 member. Let’s look at the ERS Tier 6 milestones you will reach over the course of your public service career and how they will affect your benefits.

Why Milestones Matter

As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit for your paid public employment. Generally, one year of full-time work equals one year of service credit. As you earn service credit, you’ll reach career milestones that will make you eligible for certain benefits or for increases to your existing benefits. Understanding these milestones will help you plan for retirement.

Your milestones depend on your tier and your retirement plan. Most ERS Tier 6 members are in the Article 15 retirement plan (named for a section of the New York State Retirement and Social Security Law). If you see Plan A15 listed in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online account, you’re in this plan.

Important ERS Tier 6 Milestones

ERS Tier 6 milestones

Here are some additional important milestones for Tier 6 members in the Article 15 retirement plan:

  • With ten years of service credit, you can apply for a non-job-related disability benefit if you are permanently disabled and cannot perform your duties because of a physical or mental condition.
  • With ten years of service credit, your beneficiaries may be eligible for an out-of-service death benefit if you leave public employment and die before retirement.
  • Ten years also marks the point when you are no longer able to withdraw your membership and receive a refund of your contributions if you leave public employment.
  • You are eligible to retire once you are age 55 and have at least five years of service credit. However, for most Tier 6 members, there would be reductions to your benefit if you retire before age 63.
  • You can retire with full benefits at age 63.
    • If you retire with fewer than 20 years of service, your pension will equal 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service.
    • If you retire with more than 20 years of service, your benefit will equal 1.75 percent of your FAE for each year of service.
    • Then, for each year of service beyond 20 years, you will receive an additional 2 percent of your FAE.

Note: A new law improves your pension benefits. When you retire, your final average earnings (FAE) will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings, the same as members in other tiers. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Most members can estimate their pension in Retirement Online. You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase.

Calculating Your Final Average Earnings

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined benefit plan that provides a lifetime pension when you retire. Your NYSLRS pension benefit amount will be determined by several factors, including your tier, service credit, and final average earnings (FAE).

When we calculate your pension, we find the consecutive years when your earnings were highest. These are usually your years of employment immediately before retirement, but they can be anytime in your career and do not need to match up with calendar years or fiscal years.

Update: Tier 6 Final Average Earnings Based on Highest Three Years

A new law improves the pension benefits of NYSLRS Tier 6 members. When you retire, your FAE will be based on the average of your three highest consecutive years of earnings, the same as members in other tiers.

These improvements apply to members who retire on or after:

  • April 1, 2024, for Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Tier 6.
  • April 20, 2024, for Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6.

Previously, your FAE was the average of your highest five consecutive years of earnings.

If you recently retired and the change applies to you, we will automatically update your pension calculation — you don’t need to contact us. The new law does not apply to members who retired before the dates above.

Understanding Final Average Earnings Limits

If your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension.

Your limit depends on whether you’re an ERS or PFRS member and your tier. For most members, if the earnings in any 12-month period in your FAE exceed the average of the previous two years by more than 10 percent, the amount above 10 percent will not be included in your FAE calculation.

Calculating Your Final Average Earnings

For more information, including limits for other tiers, visit our Final Average Earnings page.

Types of Earnings Included in Your FAE

The specific types of earnings included in your FAE calculation depend on your retirement plan and tier. Please check your plan publication for details.

In most cases, your FAE will include the payments listed below, if they are earned in the FAE period. (In some cases, restrictions may apply.)

In most cases, the following payments will not be included in your FAE calculation:

  • Unused sick leave;
  • Payments made as a result of working your vacation;
  • Any form of termination pay;
  • Payments made in anticipation of retirement; and
  • Any payments made for time not worked.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

Here is an important retirement planning tip — most members can create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online. Your estimate will be 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. When you’re done, you can print your pension estimate or save it for future reference.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

How to Create a Pension Estimate

To get started:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • Click the ‘Estimate my Pension Benefit’ button to access the pension calculator.
  • Enter the date (or age) you plan to retire.

You can fine tune your estimate by entering your annual earnings and expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase. If you add the birthdate for a beneficiary, you’ll see the estimated monthly payment amounts under the pension payment options that provide a benefit for a survivor.

Remember, the pension amounts you’ll see are just an estimate; it is not a guarantee of what you’ll receive when you retire.

Most Tier 2 through 6 members (more than 90 percent of all NYSLRS members) can use the Retirement Online pension calculator. However, some members may not be able to because of their circumstances — for example, members who recently transferred to NYSLRS, some PFRS members, or Tier 6 members with between five and ten years of service. The system will notify you if your estimate cannot be completed using the Retirement Online pension calculator. Please contact us to request a pension estimate if you receive this notification.

Do More With Retirement Online

In Retirement Online, you can view your date of membership, tier, retirement plan, estimated total service credit and more. Purchase previous service credit well before retirement and save on interest costs. Check out what else members can do in Retirement Online.

If you don’t already have an account, learn more and register for one today. If you need help with Retirement Online, read our Retirement Online Tools and Tips blog post.

Your Retiree Annual Statement: Now Available Online

Your Retiree Annual Statement is now available in Retirement Online! Retirees who opted to go paperless already received an email notifying them that their Statement is available in their Retirement Online account.

If you did not change your delivery preference to email, your Statement will be mailed by the end of February.

Get Your Statement Online Now

Whether you chose email delivery or not, you can access your Statement in your Retirement Online account now. To view, save or print your Statement:

If you don’t have an account, you can find step-by-step instructions for registering in the Tools & Tips section of the Retirement Online page.

Your Retiree Annual Statement is now available in Retirement Online

Inside Your Retiree Annual Statement

Your Statement has a new look this year, but it still contains the same information you receive every year about your benefit amount, deductions and tax withholding. Your Retiree Annual Statement includes:

  • Your NYSLRS ID. To protect your privacy, use this number instead of your Social Security number when conducting business with NYSLRS.
  • The total amount of your annual benefit. (This is your base benefit, before taxes, deductions and credits.)
  • Your total net benefit for the year. (This is your benefit after taxes, deductions and credits.)
  • The total amount of any cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), if you are eligible.
  • Your total Medicare credits (if eligible).
  • Federal tax withholding (if applicable).
  • Other deductions taken from your pension, such as payments to an alternate payee or union dues.
  • Health insurance premiums. (NYSLRS doesn’t administer health insurance benefits, but we deduct retiree premiums at the request of your former employer.)

Next Year Don’t Wait for the Mail

Going forward, your Statement will be available online in early February each year.

Update your delivery preference now to receive an email as soon as next year’s Retiree Annual Statement is available online:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • From your Account Homepage, click the “update” link next to ‘Retiree Annual Statement by.’
  • Choose “Email” from the dropdown.

If you choose to receive your Statement by email, you will not receive a printed copy in the mail.

Use Retirement Online to Stay Informed

Your Statement is a snapshot of your NYSLRS account as of December 31, 2023. For the most up-to-date information year-round, sign in to Retirement OnlineIf you don’t already have an account, you can learn more or register today.

In Retirement Online, you can view pay stubs for your benefit payments. Check them if you have a question or to track year-to-date totals of your pension benefit as well as any deductions for health insurance, union dues, tax withholding or disbursements under a domestic relations order.

Your Statement is Not a Tax Document

While your Retiree Annual Statement does include information about your benefit payments and tax withholding, it is not a tax document. If your pension is taxable, you should have received a 1099-R tax form (either through your Retirement Online account or by mail, depending on your delivery preference) for filing your taxes.

10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know

Brush up on your Retirement System knowledge! Here are 10 things all NYSLRS members should know.

10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know
  1. Lifetime Retirement Benefit
    You are part of a defined benefit pension plan, which provides a lifetime benefit at retirement based on your earnings and years of service.
  2. Qualify for a Retirement Benefit by Becoming Vested
    Becoming vested is a key milestone in every NYSLRS member’s career. Once you’re vested, you have earned enough service to qualify for a retirement benefit, once you meet the minimum age requirements established by your retirement plan.
  3. Tier Determines Benefits
    Your tier determines your eligibility for benefits under your plan and how those benefits are calculated.
  4. Conduct NYSLRS Business Using Retirement Online
    Retirement Online is the fastest and most convenient way to do business with NYSLRS. It only takes a few minutes to open your account. Use Retirement Online instead of calling or mailing for instant access to benefit information and convenient tools to make account changes.
  5. Estimate Pension Using Retirement Online Calculator
    Most members can use Retirement Online to create benefit estimates based on the most up-to-date information we have on file. You can enter different retirement dates and payment options to see how those choices would affect your benefit.
  6. Use Plan Publication to Learn about Benefits
    Your retirement plan publication is a comprehensive source for information about your benefits.
  7. Pension Calculated Using Highest Earnings
    Your final average earnings (FAE) is another major factor in calculating your NYSLRS pension. When we calculate your pension, we find the set of consecutive years (one, three or five, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest. 
  8. Request Past Service Credit Before Retirement
    Service credit is one of the major factors in calculating your NYSLRS pension. You earn a year of service credit for each year of full-time employment with a participating employer. In some cases, you may also be able to request additional credit for past service.
  9. NYSLRS Membership Includes Death and Disability Benefits
    NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. If you become seriously ill or injured, you may be eligible for a disability benefit. And, you may also be eligible to leave a beneficiary a death benefit if you die while working for a public employer.
  10. Best-Funded, Best-Managed
    The New York State Common Retirement Fund holds and invests the assets of NYSLRS on behalf of members, retirees and their beneficiaries and continues to be one of the best-funded and best-managed public pension funds in the nation. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the administrative head of NYSLRS and trustee of the Common Retirement Fund.

NYSLRS is one of the largest public retirement systems in America, serving more than 1.2 million members, retirees and beneficiaries. Read A Look Inside NYSLRS to learn more about your retirement system.

Vested: Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

Becoming vested is a crucial milestone for NYSLRS members. It means you have earned enough service to qualify for a retirement benefit once you meet the age or service requirements established by your retirement plan. Vesting is automatic — you don’t have to fill out any paperwork to become vested.

Vested: Qualifying for a Retirement Benefit

Years of Service Credit to Become Vested

NYSLRS members in Tiers 2 – 6 need five years of service credit to be vested.  

If you work part-time, or if you have an unpaid leave of absence, it will take longer to become vested. For example, if you work half-time, you earn six months of credit toward vesting for each year on the job.

Sign in to your Retirement Online account to check your total estimated service credit and whether you are vested.

If you work for a school district, read our How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit blog post for information about how your service credit is determined. 

Note: Previously, Tier 5 and 6 members needed ten years of service to be eligible for a service retirement benefit. However, as of April 9, 2022, these members only need five years of service credit to be vested. The new law did not change benefit rules such as how long members must contribute, pension benefit calculations, the full retirement age, reductions to retire early or the cost to purchase previous service.

Applying for Retirement

Vesting is automatic, but you will need to apply for retirement to receive your pension — NYSLRS will not pay out your pension benefit unless you apply for it.

Pension eligibility requirements and benefit calculations depend on your tier and retirement plan. To find your tier and retirement plan, sign in to your Retirement Online account and go to the ‘My Account Summary’ section. Once you know your tier and retirement plan, you can find your retirement plan publication for comprehensive information about your benefits and filing instructions.

And when you’re ready, you can apply for a service retirement benefit quickly and easily using Retirement Online.

If you leave public employment, read about the age requirements for filing for a vested retirement benefit as well as other important information that you should know about your NYSLRS membership and benefits.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: PFRS Tier 2

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. This post looks at Tier 2 members of the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).

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.

PFRS has five tiers. Almost half of PFRS members are in Tier 2, which began on July 31, 1973, and ended on June 30, 2009. Most are in special retirement plans that allow for retirement after 20 or 25 years, regardless of age, without penalty.

The special plans that cover most police officers and firefighters fall under Sections 384, 384(f), 384-d, and 384-e of Retirement and Social Security Law. You can sign in to Retirement Online to find your benefit plan, which is listed under ‘My Account Summary.’

PFRS Tier 2

Where to Find PFRS Tier 2 Information

Whether you’re in one of the retirement plans described in this post or another retirement plan, we encourage you to visit our website to find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication. It’s a comprehensive description of the benefits you’re entitled to receive as a PFRS member.

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, if they are a Tier 6 member with between five and ten years of service, or if they have worked for multiple employers and were covered by different retirement plans. 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.  

Know Your Benefits: Death Benefits

NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. For most members, if you die while in active service, your beneficiary may be eligible to receive a death benefit. Here is an overview of member death benefits. If you are retired, visit our Death Benefit page for retirees to learn about your available benefits.

death benefits

Types of Death Benefits

Most members who die while they’re still working will leave their beneficiaries what’s called an “ordinary death benefit.” This is a lump sum payment that’s usually equal to one year of your earnings per year of service, up to a maximum of three years. 

Generally, to leave your beneficiaries this death benefit, you must have at least one year of service credit and your death must occur while you are on the public payroll.

Some members who die because of an on-the-job accident (not due to their own willful negligence) may leave their beneficiary an accidental death benefit. The accidental death benefit is a pension payable to your spouse. Other beneficiaries, as specified by law, may be eligible if there is no spouse.

  • For Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 4, 5 and 6 members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your earnings from your last year of service.
  • For most other members, the benefit would be 50 percent of your final average earnings (less any workers’ compensation benefit).

There is no minimum service credit requirement to leave an accidental death benefit.

The specific death benefits that may be available to your beneficiaries depend on your tier and retirement plan. Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication and check it for specific benefit amount and eligibility information.

Note: For public employees who contract COVID-19 on the job and die from COVID-19, their beneficiaries may be eligible for an enhanced death benefit. Find out more about the Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims.

Review and Update Your Beneficiaries

You should periodically review your beneficiary designations. Life circumstances sometimes change, and the beneficiary you may have named before might not be the one you would choose today. You should also make sure your beneficiary’s contact information is up to date so we can find them when needed.

Retirement Online is the best way to manage your beneficiary information. Sign in to Retirement Online today and click “View and Update My Beneficiaries” to review your named beneficiaries, and update them if needed.

Reporting a Death

NYSLRS cannot pay out death benefits until after we are notified of a member’s death and have a certified copy of the death certificate. The fastest way for survivors to report a member’s death to NYSLRS is using our online form on our website. Survivors can also upload a copy of the certified death certificate, which enables us to start reaching out to the beneficiary. It’s important to talk with your family about your benefits and how to report your death to NYSLRS.

Payment of Death Benefits

NYSLRS will reach out to your beneficiaries on file and send them the application and instructions for receiving benefits. NYSLRS can pay death benefits once it receives the required documentation.

COLA Coming in September

Eligible NYSLRS retirees will see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in their monthly pension payments at the end of September 2023. 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 upcoming pension payment dates, check our pension payment calendar.

COLA Coming Soon

How the COLA is Determined

The COLA is 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, as measured at the end of the State fiscal year (March 31). Once you are eligible, your annual increase will be at least 1 percent, but no more than 3 percent.

The percentage is applied to the first $18,000 of your benefit as if you had chosen the Single Life Allowance pension payment option, even if you selected a different option at retirement. Using the Single Life Allowance gives you the highest COLA amount possible, since this option pays the highest benefit. Once your COLA payments begin, you will automatically receive an increase to your monthly benefit each September.

The September 2023 COLA is 2.5 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $450.00, or $37.50 per month before taxes.

COLA Eligibility

When Will You See the Increase?

Eligible retirees will see the annual 2023 COLA in their end-of-September pension payment, which will be available to those with direct deposit on September 29, 2023. If you receive a paper check, your COLA will be included in the check mailed on September 28, 2023.

Viewing Your Benefit Payment

You can view your benefit payment pay stubs, including your current COLA amount, in Retirement Online. At the end of September, if you are eligible for the increase, you’ll be able to view a breakdown of your September payment with your new COLA amount.

To view your pension payments, sign in to Retirement Online. From the top of your Account Homepage, in the ‘I want to’ section, click the “View Pension Check” link. Then select the date of the pension payment that you want to view. You’ll see a list of payments you received beginning with your January 2023 payment and going forward. If you have direct deposit, you will also receive a notification of the net change in your monthly payment amount at the end of September.