Tag Archives: New York State & Local Retirement System

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 5

When you joined the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you were assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. This post looks at Tier 5 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS).

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.

ERS has six tiers. Anyone who joined from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012 is in Tier 5. There were 33,619 ERS Tier 5 members as of March 31, 2022, representing 5.2 percent of ERS membership.

Most ERS Tier 5 members (unless they are in special retirement plans) retire under the Article 15 retirement plan. Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for Tier 5 members in this plan.

ERS Tier 5

Membership Milestones

As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 members only need five years of service credit to become vested. If you are a vested member in the Article 15 retirement plan, you are eligible for a lifetime pension benefit as early as age 55. However, if you retire before the full retirement age of 62, your benefit will be reduced.*

If you retire with less than 20 years, the benefit is 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service. If you retire with 20 to 30 years, the benefit is 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service. For each year of service beyond 30 years, you will receive 1.5 percent of your FAE. For example, with 35 years of service, you can retire at 62 with 67.5 percent of your FAE.

Where to Find More ERS Tier 5 Information

For more information about ERS Tier 5 membership, find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication. It’s a comprehensive description of the benefits provided by your specific plan.

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. 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.

For information about other tiers, our series NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time gives you a quick look at the benefits for other tiers in both ERS and the Police and Fire Retirement System.

*Uniformed court officers or peace officers employed by the Unified Court System that have at least 30 years of credit may retire with a full benefit as early as age 55.

Retirement Myths vs Facts

Common Retirement Myths

retirement myths versus facts

Retirement law can be confusing. Sometimes a small misunderstanding can have a big impact on your benefit. That’s why it’s important to correct some common retirement myths. Here are the top five:

Retirement Myth #1

myth

My NYSLRS contributions go into a personal 401(k)-style savings account that I will get when I retire.

fact

NYSLRS is a defined benefit plan. Your pension will be based on your earnings and years of service  — it will not be based on your contributions.

Retirement Myth #2

myth

If I work for more than one NYSLRS participating employer, the service credit from both will count toward my pension benefit.

fact

It depends. You can only earn one year of service credit in a 12-month period. If you work part-time for two participating employers, you would receive credit toward retirement from both, up to the maximum of one year. However, if you already work full-time for one NYSLRS employer plus you work part-time for another employer, your part-time job won’t increase your retirement service credit. Also, if you are a full-time employee of a school district, you won’t earn extra service credit if you work during the summer.

Retirement Myth #3

myth

NYSLRS administers health insurance coverage for its retirees.

fact

NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs. We may deduct premiums from a retiree’s monthly pension benefit to pay for health insurance coverage if their former employer instructs us to do so, but we can’t answer questions about coverage or changes in premium amounts.

The New York State Department of Civil Service administers the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) for New York State retirees and some municipal retirees. If you are still working, your employer’s human resources (personnel) office should be able to answer your questions about post-retirement coverage.

Retirement Myth #4

myth

I can take out a NYSLRS loan after I retire.

fact

You need to actively work for New York State or a participating employer to borrow against your retirement contributions. NYSLRS loans are not available to retirees.

Retirement Myth #5

myth

If I’m vested and no longer working for a public employer, NYSLRS will automatically start paying my pension as soon as I’m eligible.

fact

Your pension is not automatic. You must apply for retirement 15 to 90 days before your retirement date. Your retirement date is up to you. Most NYSLRS members can begin collecting their pension as early as age 55. If you retire between age 55 and your full retirement age (62 of 63, depending on your tier and plan), you may face a permanent benefit reduction. If you have left public employment though, your benefit won’t increase after you reach full retirement age, so delaying retirement beyond that point can cost you money.


You can find more answers about your NYSLRS benefits in your retirement plan publication. If you have account-specific questions, please message our customer service representatives using our secure contact form.

Designating Beneficiaries: An Important Decision

When you joined NYSLRS, you may have named one or more beneficiaries to receive certain benefits if you die.

NYSLRS retirement plans provide death benefits for beneficiaries of eligible members who die before retiring. The “ordinary death benefit” is paid to the beneficiary or beneficiaries that you designated, so it’s important to review periodically to make sure your choices reflect your current wishes. For example, if you just married, you may want to update your NYSLRS account information to name your new spouse as your beneficiary.

Types of Beneficiaries

 There are two types of beneficiaries — primary and contingent beneficiaries:

  • Your primary beneficiary will receive any payable ordinary death benefit. You can list more than one primary beneficiary. If you do, they would share the benefit equally. Or, you can choose different percentages for each beneficiary that total 100 percent. (Example: John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent.)
  • contingent beneficiary will only receive the benefit if all your primary beneficiaries die before you do. If you list multiple contingent beneficiaries, they will share the benefit equally unless you choose different percentages.

Special Beneficiary Designations

Your beneficiary doesn’t have to be a person. You can name a charity, a trust or your estate as your beneficiary.

designating beneficiaries

When you die, your estate is the money and property you owned. Your death benefit will be given to the executor of your estate to be distributed according to the terms of your will. You can name your estate as the primary or contingent beneficiary of your death benefit. If you name your estate as the primary beneficiary, do not name a contingent beneficiary.

You can name a trust as a primary or contingent beneficiary if you have a trust agreement or provided for a trust in your will. The trust itself would be your NYSLRS beneficiary, not the individuals for whom you established the trust. (You may want to speak with your attorney if you’re thinking about making your trust a beneficiary.)

You can also name any charitable, civic, religious, educational or health-related organization as a beneficiary.

If your beneficiary is a minor child (under age 18) at the time of your death, your benefit will be paid to the child’s court-appointed guardian. You may instead choose a custodian to receive the benefit on the child’s behalf under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Custodians can be designated in Retirement Online or you can contact us for more information and the appropriate form before making this type of designation.

Updating Your Beneficiaries

You can change your beneficiaries at any time. You should also review your named beneficiaries to make sure their contact information is up to date.

  • The fastest way to view or update your beneficiaries is in Retirement Online. You can add beneficiaries, update beneficiary information or remove beneficiaries. Sign in, then click “Manage My Beneficiaries” on the right, under “I want to ….”
  • You can also complete and mail us a Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127). Read the instructions on the form before entering your preferences. Be sure to include all your beneficiaries on the form. Your new beneficiary designations will replace all your previously named beneficiaries. Though your designations will need to be reviewed and approved, your updated beneficiary information becomes effective when we receive your properly completed, signed and notarized form.

More Information

You can read more about beneficiary designations in our Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary? publication. If you have questions, please contact us.

If you are retired, you may wish to read our blog post Can You Change Your Beneficiary After You Retire?

Divorce and Your Pension

One aspect of retirement planning some members may not consider is how a divorce may affect their pension benefit. In New York State, retirement benefits earned by NYSLRS members are considered marital property. So, if you get a divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension. The process for dividing retirement assets after a divorce is complicated, but here is some basic information.

Dividing Pension Benefits After a Divorce

A commonly used formula for distributing pension benefits, established by the State Court of Appeals (the Majauskas formula), provides an ex-spouse with a portion of your pension based on half of the service credit you earned while you were married.

For example, let’s say you worked in your public-sector job for 10 years before you married. Then you got married continued working in public service for another 20 years, and then divorced. After the divorce, you continued working in public service for an additional 10 years. You’d have 40 total years of service credit, but only 20 years of your service was earned during your marriage. Under the Majauskas formula, your ex-spouse would be entitled to the proceeds of half of the service credit you earned during the marriage (10 years of service), or a quarter of your pension.

Other ways to divide pension benefits include a flat dollar amount, a benefit based on a specific date or a flat percentage of the benefit.

divorce and your pension

Domestic Relations Orders

To divide your retirement benefits after a divorce, NYSLRS needs a Domestic Relations Order (DRO). This court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be split.

If your pension benefits will be affected by divorce, your DRO should be submitted to the Retirement System before you apply for retirement. We require a certified copy of the DRO, and it must be signed by a Supreme Court judge and entered as an official court document. We also require proof of divorce, such as a copy of the judgment of divorce. Failure to submit your DRO before you retire could result in a delay of your pension payments or an overpayment to you, which would need to be recovered by NYSLRS.

Learn More

Divorce may affect other NYSLRS benefits as well. Read Divorce and Your Benefits for more information including formulas for determining an ex-spouse’s share, a template you can use to draft a DRO and how to avoid a rejected DRO.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 6

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. This post looks at Tier 6 members of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS).

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.

ERS has six tiers. Anyone who joined ERS on or after April 1, 2012 is in Tier 6. There were 350,986 ERS Tier 6 members as of March 31, 2022. At 54 percent of membership, Tier 6 is the largest ERS tier.

Most ERS Tier 6 members (unless they are in special retirement plans) retire under the Article 15 retirement plan. Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for Tier 6 members in this plan.

ERS Tier 6

Membership Milestones

As of April 9, 2022, Tier 6 members only need five years of service credit to become vested. If you are a vested member in the Article 15 retirement plan, you are eligible for a lifetime pension benefit as early as age 55, but if you retire before the full retirement age of 63, your benefit will be reduced.

If you retire with fewer than 20 years, the benefit is 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service. If you retire with exactly 20 years of service, the benefit is 1.75 percent of your FAE for each year of service (35 percent of your FAE).

If you retire with more than 20 years of service, you’ll receive 35 percent for the first 20 years, plus 2 percent for each additional year. For example, with 35 years of service you can retire at age 63 with 65 percent of your FAE.

Where to Find More ERS Tier 6 Information

For more information about ERS Tier 6 membership, find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication. It’s a comprehensive description of the benefits provided by your specific plan.

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, or if they are a Tier 6 member with between five and ten years of service. 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.  

Overtime Pay Temporarily Excluded From Tier 6 Contribution Rates

April 2022 legislation temporarily changes how Tier 6 contribution rates are calculated.

As a Tier 6 member, your contribution rate is based on your past earnings and can change from year to year. Usually, Tier 6 contribution rates are calculated using a member’s base pay, which includes regular earnings, holiday pay and longevity pay. Overtime pay (up to a certain limit) is also included in the calculation of the contribution rate.

The legislation removes overtime earned from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022 from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation. For some Tier 6 members, this has resulted in lower contribution rates for up to two years. The lower rates affect earnings that are being paid from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024.

Although overtime is temporarily removed from the calculation of Tier 6 contribution rates, your contribution rate is still applied to all your pensionable earnings, including overtime. 

Our video Understanding Your Tier 6 Contributions helps explain how your contribution rate is determined.

contribution rates

Who is Affected by the Rate Change?

The temporary exclusion of overtime affects Tier 6 members who:

  • Earned overtime from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022; and
  • Make mandatory contributions toward their retirement (most Tier 6 members do).

The rate decrease does not apply to:

  • Members who are already paying the minimum rate of 3 percent;
  • Members who did not earn overtime during the COVID pandemic; and
  • New members whose rate is based on an estimated wage rather than actual earnings.

If you are a Tier 6 member who is affected by the legislation, we worked with employers to review your past earnings and to determine whether your rate should be lowered. Members who should have contributed at a lower rate beginning April 1, 2022 received a refund. The rate that will be applied to your earnings from April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 already takes the legislation into account.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: PFRS Tier 6

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. This post looks at Tier 6 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. Anyone who joined PFRS on or after April 1, 2012 is in Tier 6. There are 16,027 Tier 6 members, which accounts for more than 45 percent of PFRS membership, making it the second largest PFRS tier.

About Regular Plans and Special Plans

Under a regular retirement plan, you need to reach certain age and service requirements to receive your NYSLRS pension. If you’re covered by a special retirement plan, there is no age requirement, and you can receive your pension after completing 20 or 25 years of service.

Eighty percent of PFRS members are in plans covered under Sections 384, 384-d, 384-e or 384-f of the New York State Retirement and Social Security Law. Read our Police and Fire Retirement System blog post for information about different PFRS plans.

Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for PFRS Tier 6 members.

PFRS Tier 6

Where to Find PFRS Tier 6 Information

For more information about PFRS Tier 6 membership, find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication. It’s a comprehensive description of the benefits provided by your specific plan.

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.

As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members only need five years of service credit to be vested. Tier 5 members with five or more years of service can estimate their pension benefit in Retirement Online. If you are a Tier 6 member with between five and ten years of service credit, you can contact us to request a benefit estimate.

Some Pension Payment Options Can Provide a Lifetime Benefit for a Loved One

When you apply for a NYSLRS pension, you’ll need to choose a payment option, which determines how your retirement benefit will be paid. All options will provide you with a monthly benefit for the rest of your life. The single life allowance option pays the highest monthly benefit, but all payments stop at your death. If you choose a different option, you may be able to provide a lifetime benefit to a beneficiary.

You can apply for service retirement through Retirement Online. One of the benefits of applying online is that you’ll see a projection of your pension payment under each option before you’re asked to select one. If you submit your retirement application by mail, you’ll need to mail a paper option election form.

payment options

Joint Allowance Payment Options

In exchange for a reduction in your monthly payment, joint allowance options pay your beneficiary all or part of your pension after you die. The amount of the reduction in your pension is based on your life expectancy and the life expectancy of your beneficiary. The reduction is permanent even if your beneficiary dies before you do.

You can only choose one beneficiary under a joint allowance option, and you can’t change your beneficiary after you retire, regardless of the circumstances. If your beneficiary dies before you, all payments will stop when you die.

Pop-Up Payment Options

Like joint allowance options, pop-up options allow you to provide a lifetime payment for a beneficiary after your death. But, if your beneficiary dies before you, your future monthly payments will increase to the amount you would have been receiving had you chosen the single life allowance at retirement. (The pop-up only affects future payments. You would not be entitled to any retroactive payments.)

The monthly reduction in your benefit will be greater if you choose a pop-up option over a regular joint allowance.

Payment Options for Multiple Beneficiaries

There are options that allow you to leave a monthly payment to more than one beneficiary, and options that leave a benefit for a certain amount of time. For more information, visit our Payment Option Descriptions page.

Consider Your Decision Carefully

There are many factors that might influence your payment option choice. Your age and overall health, the age and health of your partner, and your loved one’s access to other financial resources should all be considered.

You only have 30 days after the last day of your retirement month to change your option. After that date, you cannot change your option for any reason.

An important step in retirement planning is finding out how much you can expect to receive. Most members can use Retirement Online to create a pension estimate based on the salary and service information we have on file for them. You can enter different retirement dates and beneficiaries to see how they affect your potential benefit and pension payment options. Go to the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online Account Homepage and click the “Estimate my Pension Benefit” button. You can also ask NYSLRS to send you a benefit estimate that calculates your pension under the various options.

Other Death Benefits

Most NYSLRS retirees are eligible for a post-retirement death benefit if they retire directly from payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment. Eligibility depends on your retirement plan and tier. If you are eligible, your beneficiary will receive a one-time, lump sum payment. The amount of the post-retirement benefit is a percentage of the death benefit available during your working years. For information about this and other potential death benefits, please visit our Death Benefits for Retirees page.

A Good Plan Can Ease Your Transition to Retirement

When people talk about retirement planning, they’re usually talking about money. But there’s another aspect that people often forget: what will you do with all that newfound free time? After decades of hard work, the thought of sleeping late and taking it easy is pretty attractive. But the transition to retirement is a big deal, and many retirees don’t consider the psychological aspects of the change. We’ve gleaned some advice from professional sources.

A Good Plan Can Ease Your Transition to Retirement

Create a Plan and Schedule

However you feel about your job right now, it’s an important part of your life. It provides structure, mental stimulation and social interaction. Retiring can leave a void, and streaming the latest shows or making frequent trips to the grocery store may not be enough to fill it. Empty or aimless hours can lead to boredom, disenchantment and even depression.

You may have a long list of things to do, places to go, and hobbies to take up, but if you don’t decide where to begin, it can be hard to get started. You’ll need to actively plan your activities and create a schedule to successfully manage your time in retirement. Write down how you’d like to spend each day of the week, blocking out time for chores, social engagements, hobbies and exercise. Sticking to a schedule can keep your days structured and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Stay Engaged

For many people, staying busy and remaining socially engaged are essential to a satisfying transition to retirement. That’s one reason why some retirees take on part-time or seasonal jobs.

A job in retirement doesn’t necessarily mean continuing to do the same old thing. Retirement is an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Do something you’ve always wanted to do, something fun and challenging.

Maybe the job for you is one that doesn’t pay at all, at least monetarily. There are countless organizations looking for volunteers.

Volunteering just a few hours a week will give you something to look forward to and keep you connected to the outside world, which can improve both your mental and physical well-being.

Exercise Your Body and Brain

Regular exercise not only keeps you physically fit — it also increases your sense of well-being. Whatever you do to exercise, make it part of your regular schedule. Consider taking a fitness class at a local gym, which also adds a social element to your workout. Maybe you can up the ante by trying something new, like a martial arts class.

Don’t forget to exercise your brain. A course or workshop can help you discover a new side to yourself (the painter, the mystery writer, the master of topiary). You may even want to enroll in classes at a local community college or return to school full-time.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s part of a plan — a plan for a happier retirement.

Becoming Vested

Becoming vested is a crucial milestone in your NYSLRS membership.

You become vested after you earn enough years of service credit. Once you’re vested, you have earned the right to receive a retirement benefit, even if you leave public employment before retirement.

Legislation Changed Vesting Requirements for Tier 5 and 6 Members

As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members only need five years of service credit to be vested. This affects members of both the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Previously, Tier 5 and 6 members needed ten years of service to be eligible for a service retirement benefit (the new legislation does not change eligibility for disability retirement benefits that are established by your retirement plan).

becoming vested - New Legislation Changes Requirements for Tier 5 and 6 Members

You can sign in to your Retirement Online account to view your total estimated service credit and vesting status.

Tier 5 members with five or more years of service can estimate their pension benefit in Retirement Online. Tier 6 members with between five and ten years of service credit can contact us to request a pension estimate.

If you are a Tier 5 or 6 member with five or more years of service and you meet the minimum age requirements for your retirement plan, you can apply for a service retirement benefit if you wish. Most NYSLRS members are eligible to collect a pension as early as age 55, but, depending on your tier and retirement plan, benefits may be reduced if you retire before your full retirement age.

This legislation did not change Tier 5 or 6 benefit rules such as how long you must contribute, your pension benefit calculation, your full retirement age, reductions to retire early or the cost to purchase previous service. However, additional new legislation may affect contribution rates for some Tier 6 members.

Tier 5 and 6 members who left public employment with five or more years of service and did not withdraw their membership are now considered to be vested.

Tier 5 and 6 members who leave public employment with more than five but less than ten years of service as of April 9, 2022, now have the option to either apply for a retirement benefit once you reach retirement age or withdraw your contributions. You cannot withdraw your contributions once you have ten years of service. As a reminder, once you withdraw your contributions, you end your membership with NYSLRS and are no longer eligible for a retirement benefit.

If you were a Tier 5 or 6 member and were off the payroll for more than seven years prior to April 9, 2022, your membership is considered withdrawn and terminated. You would need to return to payroll and reinstate your withdrawn membership in order to be eligible for five-year vesting.

All Members — When Will I Be Vested?

NYSLRS members in Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 need five years of service credit to be vested.

If you work part-time, it will take you 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.

If you purchase credit for previous service, that credit can be used toward vesting.

Vesting is automatic. You do not need to file any paperwork to become vested.