Tag Archives: members

How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit

school employeesWhile most New York teachers and administrators are in the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, other school employees are members of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). In fact, 1 out of 5 NYSLRS members works for a school district. Usually, their employment is tied to the school year, which is often 10 or 11 months long.

So how do we determine service credit for school employees?

Service Credit for School Employees

As a member, you receive service credit for paid public employment beginning with your date of membership. That credit is based on the number of days you work, which your employer reports to us.

If you’re working full-time, you receive one year of service per school year, even if you only work 10 months of the year.

For part-time work, your employer calculates days worked by dividing the number of hours worked by the hours in a full-time day. The number of hours in a full-time day is set by your employer (between six and eight hours). So, for example, if a 40-hour work week is considered full-time for your employer, and you work 20 hours a week for a given school year, you will receive half a year of service credit.

Calculating Service Credit

Usually, a full-time, 10-month school year is at least 180 days. However, depending on your employer, a full academic year can range from 170 days to 200 days. Whether you work full- or part-time, your service is based on the length of your school year:

For all BOCES and school district employees, as well as
teachers working at New York State schools for the deaf and blind:

Number of days worked ÷ 180 days

For college employees:
Number of days worked ÷ 170 days

For institutional teachers:
Number of days worked ÷ 200 days

Calculating Part-Time Service Credit for School Employees

Check Your Service Credit

You can sign in to Retirement Online and find your current estimated service credit listed on your Account Homepage under ‘My Account Summary.’

If you’re not sure whether you’re earning full-time or part-time service, you can check your most recent Member Annual Statement to see how much service you earned over the past fiscal year. To view your most recent Statement, sign in to Retirement Online. From your Account Homepage, click the “View My Member Annual Statement” button under ‘My Account Summary.’ If you are receiving full-time service, it will say “1.00 Years” for service credited from 4/1/2022 – 3/31/2023. A reminder: the total credited service you will see listed on your Statement was as of March 31, 2023.

For more information about service credit, read our booklet Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6 (VO1854) or find your retirement plan publication.

Debt and Retirement

If you’re planning to retire soon, it’s a good idea to take inventory of any debt you owe. Paying down your debt can give you flexibility to enjoy the type of retirement you want.

NYSLRS Loan Debt

If you have an outstanding NYSLRS loan balance when you retire, it will reduce your pension. The amount of your reduction is based on:

  • Your retirement system — Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) or Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS);
  • Your tier;
  • Your age at retirement; and
  • Whether you retire with a service retirement benefit or a disability retirement benefit.
Debt and Retirement - How a NYLSRS Loan Balance Could Affect Your Pension

The pension reduction does not go toward repaying the outstanding loan balance — it’s a permanent reduction. And, at least part of the loan balance at retirement will be subject to federal income taxes.

When you apply to retire using Retirement Online and have an outstanding NYSLRS loan balance, the pension reduction amounts are provided to you. They are also listed on the loan applications on our Forms page. If you are nearing retirement, be sure to check your loan balance. If you are not on track to repay your loan before you retire, you can increase your loan payments, make additional lump sum payments or both (see the Change Your Payroll Deductions or Make Lump Sum Payments section of our Loans page.)

Although ERS members may repay their loan after retiring, they would have to pay the full balance that was due at retirement in a single lump sum payment. Then, going forward, the pension would be increased to the amount it would have been without the loan reduction. However, it would not be increased retroactively back to the date of retirement.

Other Debt to Check

Credit Cards

Another priority is paying off credit cards. The average American household with credit card debt carries a month-to-month balance of $7,876 and pays $1,380 a year in interest, according to a recent analysis of federal data.

Credit card statements carry a minimum payment warning that tells you how long it will take, and how much it will cost, to pay off your balance making only minimum payments.

If you have more than one credit card balance, many financial advisors recommend you pay as much as you can on the card with the highest interest, while making at least the minimum payments on lower-interest cards. Once you’ve paid off the high-interest card, focus on the one with the next-highest rate, and so on. Other advisors say it might be better to pay off the card with the smallest balance first. The idea is to gain a sense of accomplishment, and make the process seem less daunting.

Mortgages

Mortgage balances make up 70 percent of the $17.06 trillion in U.S. household debt. Should you try to pay off your mortgage before you retire? Advice varies on that question. It would eliminate a major expenditure and let you spend your retirement income on other things. On the other hand, if your mortgage interest rate is relatively low, you may want to focus on paying off other high-interest debt or boosting your retirement savings. What works best for you will depend on your situation.

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.

Visit NYSLRS and OUF at the New York State Fair

If you’re visiting the Great New York State Fair, stop by and see us.

The celebration of everything New York begins Wednesday, August 23 and runs through Monday, September 4 (Labor Day). Our information representatives will be at the fairgrounds in Syracuse from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm to help members and retirees with their retirement planning and benefit questions. You’ll also be able to pick up retirement plan brochures and forms, request an estimate that will be mailed to you and get help registering for a Retirement Online account.

The NYSLRS booth will be in the Center of Progress Building, Building 3 on the State Fair map, near the Main Gate.

State Fair

Find Unclaimed Funds at the State Fair

OSC’s Office of Unclaimed Funds booth will also be in the Center of Progress Building. An unclaimed fund is lost or forgotten money, perhaps in an old bank account or insurance policy, that has been turned over to the State. See if any of that money is yours. So far this year, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the Office of Unclaimed Funds have returned more than $295 million.


Special Fair Days

Wednesday, August 23

  • Opening Day — Governor’s Day

Thursday, August 24

  • Student Youth Day — Youth and students under 18 years of age are admitted free on this day. ID showing date of birth may be requested.
  • Agriculture Career Day

Friday, August 25

  • Pride Day — The first State fair in America to host an official Pride Day to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • New Americans Day

Monday, August 28

  • Law Enforcement Day — Free admission to any active or retired law enforcement or corrections personnel who present a badge or picture ID from the department from which they are or were employed.

Tuesday, August 29

  • Comptroller DiNapoli Visits the Fair — He is the trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund and is the administrator of NYSLRS. He will present area residents and organizations with unclaimed funds, and he’ll be stopping by the NYSLRS booth during the day.
  • Fire & Rescue Day — Free admission to any active or retired member of a fire department or emergency services organization who presents a picture ID from that department or organization.
  • Beef Day

Wednesday, August 30

  • Women’s Day

Thursday, August 31

  • Armed Forces Day — Free admission to any active-duty service member or veteran with military identification (military ID card, form DD-214 or NYS driver license, learner permit or nondriver ID card with a veteran designation).
  • Dairy Day
  • Stomp Out Stigma Day

Friday, September 1

  • Native American Day — Free admission to all members of Native American tribes, no ID required.

Saturday, September 2

  • Apple Day 

Monday, September 4

  • Labor Day

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.

Add a NYSLRS Publication to Your Summer Reading List

Looking for some summer reading to add to your e-reader? Check out these publications from NYSLRS for important retirement information.

Add a NYSLRS Publication to Your Summer Reading List

1. Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 6 Members (Article 15)

Are you one of more than 350,000 Tier 6 Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members covered by Article 15? Your retirement plan publication explains some of the benefits and the services available to you, including service retirement, disability retirement, death benefits and more. Read it now.

2. Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members (Articles 14 and 15)

If you’re not in Tier 6, you’re likely among more than 260,000 Tier 3 and 4 ERS members covered by Article 14 and 15. Check out your publication to find out about the benefits and the services available to you. Read it now.

3. Service Credit for Tiers 2 Through 6

The service credit you earn as a NYSLRS member is an important factor in the calculation of your pension. This publication explains the service you can earn credit for and how you can request to purchase credit for additional public employment or military service. Read it now.

4. What If I Leave Public Employment?

While we hope you stay a NYSLRS member throughout your working career, we understand that circumstances can change. If you leave public employment, this publication explains what you’ll need to do and what happens to your NYSLRS membership. Spoiler: It depends on how much service you have. Read it now.

5. What If I Work After Retirement?

Generally, NYSLRS retirees under age 65 can earn up to $35,000 per calendar year from public employers in New York State without affecting their NYSLRS pension. However, you should be aware of the laws governing post-retirement employment and how working after retirement may impact your retirement benefits. If you are considering working while collecting your pension, you should read this publication. If you already work in public employment as a NYSLRS retiree, read our Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit blog post for information about recent legislation and Governor’s executive orders that affect the limit.

Other Publications

Looking for other retirement plans? Maybe you’re a police officer, a firefighter, a sheriff or a correctional officer. You can find your retirement plan publication on our website. Visit our Publications page for more general information topics such as Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary?

Are You Prepared for a Long Retirement?

As you plan for retirement, you need to think about your sources of income in retirement. However, you should also consider how long your retirement income will need to last.

Longer Life Span, Longer Retirement

These days, a 55-year-old man can expect to live for another 27.4 years, to about 82. A 55-year-old woman can expect to live for more than 30 years. These figures, derived from the Social Security life expectancy calculator, are only averages. They don’t account for factors such as health, lifestyle or family medical history.

life expectancy statistics to help plan for a long retirement

Here are some other statistics worth considering as you plan for retirement (as of the State fiscal year that ended March 31, 2022):

  • More than 37,000 NYSLRS retirees were over 85 years old;
  • More than 3,500 had passed the 95-year mark; and
  • 401 NYSLRS’ retirees were 101 or older.

Considering that many public employees can retire as early as 55, it’s possible that a fair number of them could have retirements that last 45 years or more.

Saving for a Long Retirement

Your NYSLRS pension is one source of income that you can depend on however long your retirement lasts. Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members who retired in fiscal year 2022 are receiving an average monthly pension of $2,748. Social Security is another long-term source. The average Social Security benefit for a retired worker was $1,837 a month, as of June 2023.

Your retirement savings is a crucial asset that can supplement your pension and Social Security. In a long retirement, savings can help with rising costs and provide a source of cash in an emergency.

It is never too late to start saving for retirement. The New York State Deferred Compensation Plan is one easy way to get started. It’s a program created for New York State employees and employees of participating public agencies. If you’re a municipal employee, ask your employer if you’re eligible for the Deferred Compensation Plan or another retirement savings plan. (The New York State Deferred Compensation Plan is not affiliated with NYSLRS.)

You should also visit our Start Saving for Retirement page. You’ll find an example of how much you can save over a 30-year period, and a sample withdrawal strategy designed to provide retirement income for 20 years.

Your NYSLRS Pension Benefit

Your NYSLRS pension is a lifetime benefit that will provide monthly payments throughout your retirement. Get a head start on your retirement planning and estimate your pension in Retirement Online.

Popular Blog Posts You May Have Missed

New York Retirement News is dedicated to keeping NYSLRS members and retirees informed about developments that may affect their 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.

popular blog posts
 
  1. Becoming Vested
    Becoming vested is a crucial milestone in your NYSLRS membership. Under legislation enacted in April 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members are now vested after five years of service. Previously, these members needed ten years of service credit to be eligible for a service retirement benefit.

  2. Update Regarding Retiree Earnings Limit
    Normally, most NYSLRS retirees who return to work for a public employer are limited in how much they can earn before their pension would be suspended. The limit is $35,000 per calendar year, however, executive orders from the Governor and legislation temporarily suspended this limit. Read the blog post for current information.

  3. Enhanced Death Benefit for Survivors of COVID-19 Victims
    Survivors of NYSLRS members who contract COVID-19 on the job may be entitled to an enhanced death benefit if the member dies as a result of the disease. This accidental death benefit covers eligible deaths through December 31, 2024.

  4. Find Your Retirement Plan Publication
    Your retirement plan publication is an essential resource that provides comprehensive information about your NYSLRS benefits. It explains how long you’ll need to work to receive a pension, how your benefit is determined, what death and disability benefits may be available and more. Our new tool can help you find your plan publication.

  5. 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. Defined benefit plans are often confused with defined contribution plans, but there are major differences between the two types of plans.

Other Popular Blog Posts

Our blog covers a variety of topics, including supplementing your NYSLRS pension with retirement savings, new retirement online features for retirees and age milestones for retirement planning. We also busted some common retirement myths. Keep reading for more posts on NYSLRS benefits, legislation updates and other retirement information. If you haven’t already subscribed to New York Retirement News, fill out our Subscribe form now to receive an email when we publish new posts.

Thank you for reading New York Retirement News!

Requesting Additional Service Credit

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, which could increase your pension amount.

You can request credit for past service if you:

  • Worked for a participating employer before joining NYSLRS;
  • Worked for a public employer that later participated in NYSLRS; or
  • Received an honorable discharge from active military duty.

In most cases, you have to pay to receive additional service credit. The sooner you purchase your credit, the less it will generally cost. You must apply for any additional service credit that you wish to receive before you retire. After you apply, we’ll determine whether you’re eligible for the credit and how much it would be.

Credit for Previous Public Employment

Additional service credit includes work for an employer who later joined NYSLRS, or for public employment before you became a NYSLRS member.

Example:
You worked at the town library while going to school and, as a part-time employee, you chose not to join NYSLRS. When you graduated and took a full-time job at the Town Supervisor’s office, you were required to join. You can request credit for the part-time service at the library.

When you apply, you’ll be asked for the name of the employer and the approximate dates you worked there. We encourage you to submit any proof you may have of your previous service. We will also reach out to your former employer, but you may be able to expedite the process by providing payroll records such as W-2 forms or pay stubs to NYSLRS when you apply.

You must earn two years of service credit as a member before additional service can be credited to you.

Military Service Credit

If you served in the U.S. armed forces, you may be eligible to purchase credit toward your retirement for your military service, regardless of whether your military service was before or after you joined NYSLRS.

There are different sections of the law that allow credit for military service. The amount of military service credit you can receive, and the cost (if any), will vary depending on which section of the law allows the credit. Reserve and National Guard service may qualify if it’s considered active duty.

For requests for military service credit, you will need to include a copy of your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214).

For certain military service, you must have five years of member service credit before you can apply. 

How to Request Additional Service Credit

You can apply for additional service credit and military service credit in Retirement Online. Sign in to your account, scroll down to the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage and click the “Manage My Service Purchases” button, then click “Request Additional Service Credit.” If you are applying for military service credit, select “Article 20 Military” when asked for your employer.

You can also complete and submit a Request to Purchase Service Credit form (RS5042). You can attach your form (and any supporting documents) to our secure contact form or mail it to NYSLRS, 110 State Street, Albany, NY 12244-0001.

More Information

There may be other ways to increase your retirement service credit. If you had a previous membership in a New York State public retirement system and it was terminated, you may be able to reinstate your membership. If you still have an active membership in another public retirement system, but you are no longer working for the employer that participates in that retirement system, you may be able to transfer that membership to NYSLRS.

A word of caution — there are certain situations where purchasing additional service credit will not increase your pension. For example, special retirement plans for police officers and firefighters allow retirement after 20 or 25 years of service regardless of age, but not all types of public employment count toward the 20 or 25 years in these plans. Contact us if you have questions.

For more information about purchasing additional credit: