Tag Archives: membership

PFRS Milestones

The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) covers more than 35,000 police officers and firefighters across New York State. Let’s look at the PFRS 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.

Some milestones are common to most PFRS members; others are shared by members in a particular tier or retirement plan. For example, your plan determines when you would be eligible to apply for a non-job-related disability benefit. Understanding these milestones will help you plan for retirement.

Important PFRS Milestones

PFRS milestones

Special Retirement Plans

Most PFRS members are in special retirement plans, which allow you to retire after 20 or 25 years of service regardless of age.

If you retire at your 20- or 25-year milestone, your pension will be 50 percent of your final average earnings (FAE). Depending on your retirement plan, you may earn 1.66 percent of your FAE for each year you work beyond the 20 or 25 years, however for most PFRS members, a maximum of 32 years of service can be used in your pension calculation.

Final Average Earnings

A new law improves your pension benefits. 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. Read our blog post, Calculating Your Final Average Earnings, for more information, including how your FAE will be calculated and limitations.

Eligible Service

PFRS members in special plans should be aware that not all public employment counts towards reaching the 20- or 25-year milestone. Service usually must be in specific job titles to be creditable toward your pension benefit. For example, if you are in the New York State Police Plan, service with a city police department would be creditable, but service as a sheriff’s deputy or corrections officer would not be. PFRS members may be eligible to purchase credit for military service to reach 20 or 25 years.

More Information About Your Benefits

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.

Your specific PFRS milestones, along with your eligible service and pension calculation, are determined by your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. You can visit our website to Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication.

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.

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.

Transferring Your Membership to NYSLRS

transferring membership

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

Considering Service Credit

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

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

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

Transferring Membership

Members who are transferring membership to NYSLRS must:

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

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

If You Need to Transfer to Another System

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

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

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

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

Sex Identification and Your NYSLRS Membership

As of January 1, 2023, when new members are enrolled in NYSLRS, they can choose “x” as their sex identification instead of “male” or “female.”

sex identification

Updating Your Sex Identification With NYSLRS

If you’re already a member or a retiree, you can update your sex identification with us at any time.

Sign in to Retirement Online to check what information we have on file for you. You can find your current sex identifier on your Account Homepage under ‘My Profile Information.’

If you need to change or correct your sex identification, send us a signed letter requesting the change. Please include your NYSLRS ID on the letter. No additional documentation is required to change your sex identifier.

You can send us the letter by attaching it to our secure contact form, or by mailing it to:

NYSLRS
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

We are working to update Retirement Online so members and retirees can sign in and update their sex identification on their own. This feature is expected to be available sometime in 2023. (Need help accessing Retirement Online in the meantime? See our Tools and Tips post for more information.)

Need a Name Change Too?

If you’re changing your last name, you can make the update, and upload copies of the documentation showing the change, in Retirement Online. Sign in to your account, go to the ‘My Profile Information’ section of your Account Homepage and click the “update” link next to your name. A list of acceptable documentation will be provided.

To update your first or last name, send us a Name Change Notice (RS5483) form. You will need to provide original documentation, such as a court order, if the name change is for a reason other than a change in marital status. We can also accept a certified copy of the documentation.

NYSLRS Membership Basics

Whether you just joined or you’re a longtime member, you likely have questions about your NYSLRS membership. What is vesting? What are final average earnings? What tier are you in, and why does it even matter?

NYSLRS Membership

Basic Concepts of NYSLRS Membership

While NYSLRS administers many different retirement plans, the core concepts of our memberships are the same. Your pension will be calculated using a preset formula based on your earnings and years of service. To better understand your NYSLRS benefits, you should become familiar with these four basic concepts:

  • Tier. Your tier is based on the date you joined NYSLRS and helps determine the benefits available to you. If you’re a new NYSLRS member, you’re likely in Tier 6. Tier 6 members joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012.
  • Service Credit. Generally, you earn a year of service credit for each year you work for a participating NYSLRS employer. Part-time work is prorated. Your total service credit at retirement is a major factor in determining the amount of your pension.
  • Vesting. You become vested after you earn five years of service credit. It’s a significant milestone, because once you’re vested, you’re eligible for a NYSLRS pension when you reach retirement age, even if you leave public service.
  • Final Average Earnings. Final average earnings are the average of your earnings during the period when your pay is highest. It’s another major factor in determining the amount of your pension.

Your NYSLRS Pension and Other Benefits

As a NYSLRS member, you are part of a defined benefit retirement plan. This means your NYSLRS pension will be a lifetime benefit based on your final average earnings and service credit, not on the contributions you make toward your retirement.

Your NYSLRS membership also provides other important benefits, including:

More Information

We want to make sure you have the information you’ll need to plan for your retirement and make critical decisions about your future. Here are some resources available to you:

Retirement Online is the quickest way to access account information such as your tier, retirement plan and estimated total service credit. If you don’t already have one, sign up for a Retirement Online account now.

Explore the NYSLRS website to learn more about your NYSLRS membership. Our Welcome New Members page explains more about the benefits that are available to you. Your retirement plan publication offers a comprehensive overview of your benefits, and you can find it with our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool.

If you have questions about your account or your NYSLRS benefits, please message us using our secure contact form.

Why Your Retirement Plan Publication Is So Important

Your plan publication is an essential resource that you should consult throughout your career. It will help you plan for retirement and guide you when your retirement date draws near.

Reminder: you can use this tool to help you find your retirement plan publication.

Let’s explore the information you’ll find in your plan publication and what it means.

retirement plan publication

About Your Membership

This section has basic information about your membership, including your tier, contributions, when you will be eligible for a pension and how to withdraw your membership if you leave public employment.

Service Credit

Service credit is one of the main factors in determining your pension benefit amount. If you work full-time for the State or a participating municipal employer for 12 months, you’ll earn a year of service credit. If you work part-time, your service credit is prorated.

You’ll also find information about how your service credit is calculated, how to purchase credit for previous public employment or military service, how leaves of absence affect service credit, and how sick leave can be used for extra service credit at retirement.

Final Average Earnings

Final average earnings (FAE) are another major factor in determining the amount of your pension. Your FAE is the average earnings during the set of consecutive years (three or five years, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest.

This section describes what types of payments are used in calculating your FAE and any limitations that may apply.

Service Retirement Benefits

This section describes your retirement eligibility and how your benefit is calculated. If you have questions about how much your pension will be, you should read this section.

Choosing a Pension Payment Option

You can choose from several options for the payment of your pension. Some payment options allow you to provide for your spouse or other beneficiary after you die in exchange for a reduction in your monthly payment. Consider each payment option carefully, as you’ll only have at most 30 days to change it after you retire.

Items That May Affect Your Pension

This section describes factors that can change the amount of your pension. For example, if you retire with an outstanding loan, your pension will be permanently reduced. Also, if you get a divorce, your ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of your benefit.

A cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), on the other hand, would increase your benefit once you become eligible.

Vested Retirement Benefits

If you leave public employment before retirement age but have met the minimum service requirement to receive a pension, you can apply for a vested retirement benefit when you become eligible.

Disability and Death Benefits

Your NYSLRS benefits include more than a pension. If you are no longer able to perform your job because of a medical condition, you may be eligible for a disability retirement. If you die before retirement, your survivors may be eligible for a death benefit.

Receiving Your Benefits

Before you can receive your pension, you must file an application with the Office of the State Comptroller. This section describes the process of applying for your retirement benefits, including information about filing online.

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

NYSLRS, which administers the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), had 685,450 members as of March 31, 2022. Our members are State government, local government, school district and other public-sector employees from across New York — 650,251 in ERS and 35,199 in PFRS. About 74 percent of our members were active, which means they were on a public payroll as of March 31.

NYSLRS Membership Over Time

A decade ago, more than 80 percent of NYSLRS members were in Tiers 3 and 4. Now, those tiers represent less than 40 percent of our membership. Tier 6, which includes members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012, now has 367,013 members, or 53.5 percent of total membership.

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

Here’s a look at our NYSLRS membership by tier, as of March 31:

Tier 1: NYSLRS’ oldest tier, whose members first joined the system before July 1, 1973 (July 31, 1973, for PFRS members), is dwindling. Tier 1 represented only 0.2 percent of our membership. There were only 1,043 Tier 1 ERS members and 17 Tier 1 PFRS members.

Tier 2: With 18,074 members, Tier 2 represented 2.6 percent of membership. Ninety-four percent of Tier 2 members were in PFRS.

Tiers 3 & 4: Tiers 3 and 4, which have similar retirement plans, had 263,734 members, 38.5 percent of the total membership. Tiers 3 and 4 are primarily ERS tiers. There is no Tier 4 in PFRS, and only 173 PFRS members were in Tier 3.

Tier 5: Tier 5 covers members who joined from January 1, 2010, through March 31, 2012. With 35,569 members, Tier 5 represented 5.2 percent of membership.

Tier 6: This tier covers members who joined since April 1, 2012. Its ranks grew by about 13 percent during the last fiscal year.

Why Your Tier Matters

Your tier is an essential component of your NYSLRS membership because it is one of the factors that determines your benefits. You can find out more by reading your retirement plan booklet. Our recent blog posts explain how to find your plan booklet and how to get the most out of it.

Countdown to Retirement — 18 Months to Go

Thinking about retiring soon? Our Countdown to Retirement series will help you get started and stay on track to hit your retirement date.

Countdown to Retirement 18 months

Review Your Account Information in Retirement Online

As your first step on the road to retirement, you should sign in to your Retirement Online account and review the information we have on file for you. If you don’t have an account, consider signing up for one. It’s an essential retirement tool that will make the retirement process easier.

Make sure your mailing address and email address are current and check other information in your account. In your Retirement Online account, you’ll find:

  • The date you joined NYSLRS;
  • Your tier and membership plan;
  • Your estimated service credit;
  • Your annual earnings for the past five years; and
  • Loan balances and payoff dates.

If you believe information is missing or incorrect in your Retirement Online account, please contact us.

Read Your Retirement Plan Booklet

Your retirement plan booklet provides essential information about your NYSLRS benefits. It shows the formula that NYSLRS will use to calculate your pension and discusses other factors that may affect your pension.

You can find your plan booklet on our Publications page. Read our blog post about retirement plans to figure out which plan is yours. If you’re still not sure, check your Retirement Online account or ask your employer.

Learn How Divorce Can Affect Your Pension

If you’ve been through a divorce since you joined NYSLRS, that may affect your pension.

Retirement benefits are considered marital property and can be divided between you and your ex-spouse. Any division of your benefits must be stated in a domestic relations order (DRO), a legal document that gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be divided.

Read our Divorce and Your Benefits page to learn more.

Other Things to Consider

If you have a NYSLRS loan, you should plan to pay it off before retirement. Your pension will be reduced if you retire with an outstanding loan. You can use Retirement Online to check your balance, make a lump-sum payment or increase your payment amount. For more information, visit our Loans page.

If you are planning to purchase service credit, including military service, you should do that as soon as possible. You can apply for additional credit in Retirement Online or submit a Request to Purchase Service Credit form (RS5042). Our publication Service Credit for Tier 2 Through 6 has more information.

Your Countdown to Retirement

Your planned retirement date will be here before you know it. Watch for future posts in the Countdown to Retirement series for steps to take at 12 months, four-to-six months and one-to-three months before your retirement date.

Questions About Your NYSLRS Membership? Look Here for Answers

If you have general questions about NYSLRS or your benefits, we have a web page that can help you find the answers.

That’s because the NYSLRS Contact Us page does double duty. It not only lists contact information, it also helps you find answers for many of the common questions we get from members, retirees and beneficiaries. It covers subjects like address changes, loans, pension estimates, direct deposit and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

To get started, go to the Contact Us page and select the Member, Retiree or Beneficiary button to find the questions and answers you need. Each section has categories specific to that member group.

Member

answers
  • Address Change
  • Forms
  • Loans
  • Member Annual Statement
  • Mortgage Letter/Account Verification Letter
  • Pension Estimates
  • Retirement Online
  • Service Credit
  • Withdrawing from NYSLRS

Retiree

answers
  • 1099-R Reprint
  • Address Change
  • Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
  • Direct Deposit
  • Federal Taxes
  • Forms
  • Health Insurance
  • Pension Checks
  • Pension Verification Letters
  • Retirement Online

Beneficiary

answers
  • 1099-R Reprint
  • Address Change
  • Direct Deposit
  • Federal Taxes
  • Forms
  • Pension Checks
  • Pension Verification Letters
  • Reporting a Death
  • Retirement Online
  • Who is a Beneficiary?

Getting Account-Specific Answers

The information on the Contact Us page is general. If you’re looking for information specific to your situation, like your loan balance or a breakdown of your pension payment, sign in to Retirement Online. If you don’t already have a Retirement Online account, sign up today.