Tag Archives: NYSLRS pension

The 3-Legged Stool: An Approach to Retirement Confidence

As a NYSLRS member, your defined benefit pension plan is a good reason to be optimistic about your finances when you retire. Your pension will provide you with monthly payments for the rest of your life. But there is more to a financially secure retirement than having a pension. Understanding your potential sources of income will help you plan for your future and boost your retirement confidence.

Think of retirement security as a three-legged stool. Each leg is a source of income to help support you when your working days are done.

retirement confidence

Leg 1: Your NYSLRS Pension

At retirement, vested NYSLRS members are eligible for a pension based on their final average earnings and the number of years they’ve worked in public service. Your NYSLRS pension provides you with a monthly payment for the rest of your life, no matter how long you live. Unlike workers who rely on a 401(k)-style retirement plan, you won’t have to worry about this income running out.

Most members can use Retirement Online to estimate how much their pension will be. But, if you’re a long way from retirement, it may be better to think in terms of earnings replacement. Financial advisers estimate you’ll need to replace 70 to 80 percent of your income to retire with confidence. Your pension can help get you there. For example, if you retire with 30 years of service, your NYSLRS pension could replace more than half of your earnings. (Pension benefits depend on your tier and retirement plan. Look up your retirement plan publication to find out how your retirement benefit will be calculated.)

Leg 2: Social Security

Your Social Security benefit is another source of income to help support you in retirement. It replaces a percentage of your pre-retirement income. At full retirement age, your social security benefit can replace from about 75 percent for lower income earners to about 27 percent for higher income earners. Visit Social Security’s Plan for Retirement page to estimate your income and learn more about your benefit.

Leg 3: Retirement Savings Can Boost Your Confidence

A lifetime pension and Social Security income will be substantial financial assets, but it’s still important to save for retirement. A healthy retirement savings will give you more flexibility during retirement, helping to ensure that you’ll be able to do the things you want to do. It can also help in case of an emergency and act as a hedge against inflation.

Saving is the retirement factor you have the most control over. You decide when to start, how much to save and how to invest your money. The key is to start saving early so your money has time to grow, even if you can only afford to save a small amount in the beginning.

Eligible employees might consider saving with the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan (NYSDCP). Money gets deducted from your paycheck so you won’t even have to think about it. NYSDCP is not affiliated with NYSLRS, but New York State employees and some municipal employees can participate. If you’re a municipal employee, ask your employer whether you’re eligible for NYSDCP or another retirement savings plan.

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.

Find Your Retirement Plan Publication

Your retirement plan publication is an essential resource that explains your NYSLRS benefits in detail — 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. You should consult it throughout your career, but it’s especially important to read as you prepare for retirement.

finding your retirement plan publication

Finding Your Retirement Plan Publication

NYSLRS administers two retirement systems, six membership tiers and many retirement plans that are described in dozens of retirement plan publications. We want to make sure you find the specific retirement plan information that pertains to you, which is why we have a new tool to help you Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication. To use it, you just need to know your retirement plan code. You can find your code in the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Retirement Online account homepage, or check the second page of your latest Member Annual Statement. You also can also use the new tool to search for your plan publication by retirement system, tier and occupation type (uniformed or non-uniformed).

Looking Up Your Plan Milestones

Once you have found your publication, check to see what minimum age or service milestones you’ll need to reach to receive your pension. Most retirement plans allow for full pension benefits at 62 (63 for Tier 6 members) or a reduced benefit starting at age 55. Members in some plans can apply for their pension once they reach 20 or 25 years of service credit, regardless of age.

The years of service credit you earn may also change the calculation of your pension. For example, the percentage of earnings used to determine your retirement benefit may increase once you reach certain milestones — such as when you have 20 years of credited service — but that depends on what retirement plan you are in.

Knowing your plan-specific age and service requirements can help you decide when to retire and anticipate the income your benefit would provide in retirement. If you want to work until a certain age or need to earn a specific amount of service, now you can set that goal and prepare accordingly.  

For more detailed information on what you can find in your plan publication, check out our blog post, How to Read Your Retirement Plan Booklet.

Help for New Members

New NYSLRS members may also be interested in our New Member webpage. This page collects several resources that can help you understand your NYSLRS membership and pension.