Tag Archives: pension

Your Retiree Annual Statement: Now Available Online

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

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

Get Your Statement Online Now

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

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

Your Retiree Annual Statement is now available in Retirement Online

Inside Your Retiree Annual Statement

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

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

Next Year Don’t Wait for the Mail

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

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

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

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

Use Retirement Online to Stay Informed

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

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

Your Statement is Not a Tax Document

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

Retirees: Your 1099-R is Available Online

Retirees: Your 1099-R is Available OnlineTax season is approaching, and with 1099-Rs available online, getting this key NYSLRS tax form is now faster and more convenient than ever.

Most NYSLRS pensions are subject to federal income tax (some disability benefits are not taxable). If you receive taxable income from NYSLRS, we provide a 1099-R tax form for filing your taxes. New this year, retirees who opted to go paperless received an email notifying them their 1099-R is available in their Retirement Online account. If you did not change your delivery preference to email, your 1099-R tax form will be mailed to you by January 31.

Understanding Your 1099-R

A 1099-R tax form is used to report the distribution of taxable retirement benefits. It shows:

  • The total benefit paid to you in a calendar year.
  • The taxable amount of your benefit.
  • The amount of taxes withheld from your benefit.

If you have questions about the information on the form, check our interactive 1099-R tutorial. It walks you through a sample 1099-R and offers a short explanation of each box on the form.

Get Your 1099-R Online Now

Whether you chose email delivery or not, you can access your 1099-R in your Retirement Online account now. To view, save or print your 1099-R:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • From your Account Homepage, click the “Manage My 1099-R Tax Forms” button.
  • Select “2023” from the dropdown.

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

Changing Your Federal Withholding

After you file your taxes, you may find that you need to adjust the federal taxes that are being withheld from your pension.

Retirement Online is the fast and convenient way to change your withholding information. You can also check your current withholding by signing in to Retirement Online and viewing your most recent pension pay stub. Visit our Taxes and Your Pension page for more information.

Note: New York State doesn’t tax your NYSLRS pension, and we can’t withhold income tax for other states.

Working After Retirement: Retiree Earnings Limit

Working After Retirement: Retiree Earnings Limit

As a NYSLRS retiree, you can work and still receive your pension, but you should be aware there may be a limit on how much you can earn each year without affecting your NYSLRS pension. Whether the earnings limit applies to you depends on:

  • Whether you receive a service retirement or disability retirement;
  • Whether you will be working for a New York State public employer, private employer (yourself or other); and
  • Your age.

Please read the information below carefully to find out more.

Working While Receiving a Service Retirement Benefit

An earnings limit of $35,000 generally applies to NYSLRS retirees who:

  • Are under age 65;
  • Receive a service retirement benefit (see disability benefit rules below); and
  • Return to work for a public employer (including contract or consultant work, if you joined NYSLRS on or after May 31, 1973).

2024 Update Regarding the Earnings Limit

In response to the COVID-19 emergency, NYS executive orders suspended the earnings limit. The last order expired in June 2023. This means for most retirees under the age of 65, the $35,000 limit applies to the entire calendar year starting 2024.

The earnings limit for retirees employed by school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), however, is suspended through June 30, 2024. The earnings limit suspension for school employees does not apply to retirees who work for a college, university or charter school.

There is no earnings limit if you are self-employed or if you work for:

  • The federal government;
  • A state or local government in another state; or
  • A private employer.

Also, beginning in the calendar year you turn 65, the earnings limit no longer applies.

Note: Special rules apply to elected officials.

Working While Receiving a Disability Retirement Benefit

Almost all earnings for retirees who are working while receiving a disability retirement benefit are limited whether they work for a public or private employer. The limit is specific to each retiree. To find out your earnings limit, please contact us.

How the Limit Applies

The limit applies to all earnings for the calendar year, including money earned in the calendar year, but paid in a different calendar year (for example earned in December but paid in January).

The limit does not apply to:

  • Payments received after you retire from your employer, such as for vacation or sick time you earned when you were still working; and/or
  • A retroactive payment for a new union contract, if the earnings are for employment before you retired.

Reporting Your Earnings

It is your responsibility to notify NYSLRS if you earn more than the limit. If you know you are going to exceed the limit, contact us at least a month before you do.

You can message us using the secure contact form, or you can fax a letter to 518-402-2498. Be sure to include the name of your employer, the approximate date you expect to exceed the limit and a daytime phone number in case we have questions.

If You Exceed the Limit

If you earn more than the limit, you must:

  • Pay back NYSLRS for the pension payments you received after the date you reached the limit. If you continue to work, your pension will be suspended for the remainder of the calendar year and resume the following January.

    OR

  • Rejoin NYSLRS, in which case your pension will be suspended until you retire again at some future date. (You’d need to reapply.)

Earnings Limit Waiver

Under Section 211 of the Retirement and Social Security Law, the earnings limit can be waived if your prospective employer gets approval before hiring you. Approval is not automatic; it is based on the employer’s needs and your qualifications. In most cases, the New York State Department of Civil Service would be the approving agency. A Section 211 waiver covers a fixed period, normally up to two years.

For More Information

Before you decide to return to work, please read our publication What If I Work After Retirement? It includes information such as how earnings limits are calculated for retirees receiving a disability retirement benefit, consequences to consider before returning to NYSLRS membership and more. If you have questions, please contact us.

10 Things All NYSLRS Retirees Should Know

Retirees, brush up on your Retirement System knowledge!

10 Things All NYSLRS Retirees Should Know
  1. Get Your 1099-R Tax Form in Retirement Online
    Starting in 2024, your 1099-R tax form will be available in Retirement Online! Get yours faster and help us ‘go green’ — update your delivery preference now to receive an email when it’s ready, instead of waiting for it in the mail. (If you choose to receive your 1099-R by email, you will not receive a printed copy in the mail. Regardless of your delivery preference, you will be able to view and print your 1099-R by signing in to Retirement Online at the end of January.)
  2. Change Your Federal Tax Withholding in Retirement Online
    Retirement Online is the fastest way to update your withholding. Changes submitted by the middle of the month will generally appear in that month’s payment. Most NYSLRS pensions are subject to federal income tax (some disability benefits are not taxable).
  3. Not Taxed by New York State
    Your NYSLRS pension is not subject to New York State or local income taxes. Visit our Taxes and Your Pension page for more information. If you move to another state, your pension may be subject to that state’s income tax. If you’re thinking of moving to another state, check with that state’s tax department.
  4. Get Your Retiree Annual Statement in Retirement Online
    Starting in 2024, you can use Retirement Online to view and print your annual statement. Help us go green and update your delivery preference to receive an email when it’s available, instead of waiting to receive it in the mail.
  5. Manage Your Direct Deposit in Retirement Online
    Use Retirement Online to securely update your direct deposit bank account information. Whether you’ve switched banks or need to move your deposits to a different account, you can make those changes quickly with Retirement Online. Changes are generally applied within one to two payments. You can find out when your next pension payment is coming by checking our online pension payment calendar.
  6. Prove Your Pension Income Using Retirement Online
    You may need proof of your retirement income for housing or as part of an application for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). With Retirement Online, you can print or save an income verification letter any time you need one.
  7. Receiving Your Annual Cost of Living Increases
    Once you become eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), you will receive a permanent increase to your pension amount every September. When your net benefit amount changes, NYSLRS will inform you.
  8. View Your Pension Payment “Pay Stub” in Retirement Online
    Sign in to Retirement Online to access full pay stubs for your pension payments. Select the date of the payment you want to review to see a breakdown of your pension payment, including your most recent COLA amount as well as any deductions made for health insurance, union dues, tax withholding or disbursements under a domestic relations order.
  9. You May Leave a Death Benefit
    Your survivors may be entitled to a death benefit after you die. Retirement Online makes it easy for eligible retirees to view their beneficiary selections, choose different beneficiaries or change contact information for an existing beneficiary. Anyone can report the death of a retiree by using our online death report form.
  10. Best-Funded, Best-Managed
    The New York State Common Retirement Fund holds and invests the assets of NYSLRS on behalf of members, retirees and their beneficiaries and continues to be one of the best-funded and best-managed public pension funds in the nation. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the administrative head of NYSLRS and trustee of the Common Retirement Fund.

Not retired yet? Read our blog post 10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know.

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.

National Retirement Security Month

October is National Retirement Security Month, a time to learn more about the importance of saving and your potential sources of income in retirement. Even if your own retirement seems far off in the future, it’s never too early to start developing your plans for retirement.

Retirement Security

NYSLRS and Retirement Security

Check out these blog posts to learn more about how your NYSLRS pension and other sources of retirement income can provide retirement security.

  • What is a Defined Benefit Plan?
    Your NYSLRS pension is a defined benefit retirement plan. When you retire, you’ll receive a guaranteed lifetime benefit based on your earnings and years of service. It will be calculated using a preset formula rather than being limited to your accumulated contributions and your investment returns, as it would be in a 401(k)-style plan.  
  • The 3-Legged Stool: An Approach to Retirement Confidence
    Think of your retirement security as a three-legged stool — each leg represents a different income source that supports you in retirement. The first leg of the stool is your NYSLRS pension, and the second leg is your Social Security benefit. The third leg is your own personal savings, which can give you more flexibility during retirement, helping to ensure that you’ll be able to do the things you want to do.
  • Compounding: A Great Way for Your Money to Grow
    The sooner you can start saving, the better — especially if you have a retirement savings account with compounding interest. When your money is compounded, it increases in value by earning interest on both the principal and accumulated interest. But for your money to make more money, it needs time to grow.
  • Deferred Compensation: Another Source of Retirement Income
    Deferred compensation plans are voluntary retirement savings plans. Your contributions will be automatically deducted from your paycheck, and you can contribute as little as 1 percent of your earnings. It’s a savings vehicle to consider if you want to start saving extra for retirement but aren’t sure where to start.
  • Give Your Retirement Savings a Boost
    Once you’re on your way and saving for retirement, you may want to look at ways to increase how much you save. Even the smallest increase can make a big difference over time, while having a minimal impact on your take-home pay.

Remember, retirement security doesn’t just happen — it takes planning. Visit our Retirement Planning page for more information about your NYSLRS pension, including an overview of how it’s calculated, estimating your amount and how to find a description of the benefits provided by your specific retirement plan.

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.

COLA Coming in September

Eligible NYSLRS retirees will see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in their monthly pension payments at the end of September 2023. This is a permanent annual increase to your retirement benefit that is based on the cost-of-living index and a formula set by State law. For upcoming pension payment dates, check our pension payment calendar.

COLA Coming Soon

How the COLA is Determined

The COLA is based on the rate of inflation, as reflected in the consumer price index published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The law requires that COLA payments be calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, as measured at the end of the State fiscal year (March 31). Once you are eligible, your annual increase will be at least 1 percent, but no more than 3 percent.

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

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

COLA Eligibility

When Will You See the Increase?

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

Viewing Your Benefit Payment

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

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

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.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

Here is an important retirement planning tip. Most members can create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online.

A Retirement Online estimate is based on the most up-to-date account information we have on file for you. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit. When you’re done, you can print your pension estimate or save it for future reference.

estimate your pension

How to Estimate Your Pension

First you will need a Retirement Online account. Once you register and sign in, go to the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage and click the ’Estimate my Pension Benefit’ button.

You can enter the date (or age) that you plan to retire. You can use your current annual earnings or add in expected pay increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase. If you add the birthdate for a beneficiary, you’ll see the estimated monthly payment amounts under the pension payment options that provide a benefit for a survivor.

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

Most Tier 2 through 6 members (more than 90 percent of all NYSLRS members) can use the Retirement Online pension calculator. However, some members may not be able to use the Retirement Online calculator because of their 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. 

The system will notify you if your estimate cannot be completed using the Retirement Online pension calculator. Please contact us to request a pension estimate if you receive this notification. If you are in Tier 2 through 6, you can use the “Quick Calculator“ on the NYSLRS website. The Quick Calculator generates estimates based on information you provide.