Tag Archives: retirement

NYSLRS Membership Basics

Whether you’re a new member or have been part of the Retirement System for years, you’re sure to have questions about your NYSLRS membership. What is vesting? Final average earnings? Maybe you’re wondering what tier you’re in or why that even matters. While NYSLRS administers many different retirement plans, the core concepts of a NYSLRS membership remain the same. Here are the basics.

Your NYSLRS Membership Basics

Four Things to Understand About Your NYSLRS Membership

When learning about 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. 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 to reach because once you become vested, you’ll be eligible for a NYSLRS pension when you reach retirement age, even if you leave public service.
  • Final Average Earnings. Final average earnings is the average of your earnings during a period when your pay is highest. It’s another major factor in determining the amount of your pension.

Once you understand these basics, it can make learning more about your NYSLRS membership and benefits easier and help you get ahead on your retirement planning.

Your NYSLRS Pension and Other Benefits

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

NYSLRS also provides other important benefits for its members, including:

Where to Get More Information

We want to provide you with the information you’ll need to plan for your retirement and make critical decisions about your future. Here are the 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. Sign up for a Retirement Online account if you don’t already have one.

If you have questions about your NYSLRS membership or benefits, you can find answers on our NYSLRS website. You can find different webpages, such as our Understanding Your NYSLRS Benefits page, that explain what benefits and services are available to you. Reading your retirement plan publication is a great way to get a comprehensive understanding of your benefits. Go to our Publications page to find your retirement plan and other helpful information.

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

Federal Withholding and Your Pension

Getting hit every year with a larger than expected federal tax bill? Or maybe you received a hefty refund. Either way, it might be time to look at how much federal tax withholding is taken out of your NYSLRS pension. If you’re not sure whether you need to adjust your federal withholding, you can check with your tax preparer or you can use this Internal Revenue Service Withholding Calculator. Remember, this is only for federal income tax. New York State doesn’t tax your NYSLRS pension and we can’t withhold state income taxes.

Understanding Your Federal Withholding

You can adjust the amount we withhold from your retirement benefit at any time. Just follow these step-by-step instructions.

  1. Print our NYSLRS Form W-4P (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments) from our website. (This is a fillable form, so you can type in the information before you print it out.)
  2. Fill in the top of the form with your name, address, Social Security number and NYSLRS ID.
  3. Complete the form.
    • Complete Section 1 if you do not wish to have any federal income tax withheld.
    • Complete Section 2 to have NYSLRS withhold based on current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax tables, your marital status and the number of federal allowances (exemptions) you claim. You can use our tax withholding calculator to estimate how much would be withheld from your pension payment every month.
    • Complete Section 3 if you completed Section 2 and also want an additional amount withheld.
  4. If you completed the form by typing in your information, print the form.
  5. Date and sign the form.
  6. Mail your form to:
    NYSLRS
    110 State Street
    Albany, NY 12244-0001

You can sign in to Retirement Online to view your current federal withholding information, including your withholding status, number of exemptions and any additional tax being withheld. You’ll also find your NYSLRS ID on your Retirement Online account page. Visit our Taxes and Your Pension page for more information.

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.

New Legislation Changes 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 10 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. Over the next few months, we will update members’ accounts to reflect any changes to vesting status as a result of these new vesting requirements. If your total estimated service credit in Retirement Online is more than five years, rest assured, you are considered vested and your vesting status will be changed to “Yes.” This will be done by NYSLRS and there is no need to contact us.

In addition, we are working to update the pension estimate tool in Retirement Online. Until vesting status updates are made to the tool, pension estimates produced in Retirement Online will not accurately reflect the vesting status of members impacted by the new legislation.

Effective immediately, 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. We are updating our online services to enable Tier 5 and 6 members to apply for retirement through Retirement Online. In the meantime, you may file for retirement using our paper application. If you have between five and 10 years of service credit and you have questions about filing for retirement, please contact us.

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. Information about this legislation will be posted on our blog when it becomes available.

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 years of service but less than 10 years, 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 10 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 have been 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 or military service, that credit can be used toward vesting.

What You Need to Do

Vesting is automatic. You do not need to file any paperwork to become vested. To find out if you’re vested, you can sign in to your Retirement Online account and find your total estimated service credit in the ‘My Account Summary’ section. Again, if your total estimated service credit in Retirement Online is listed as more than five years, you are considered vested.

Vested members will need to apply for a service retirement benefit in order to receive a pension. Applications must be submitted within 15 – 90 days before the date you wish to retire (you must be eligible to retire on the date you choose).

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.

You can estimate your pension benefit based on the salary and service information we have on file for you. From your Retirement Online account, under ‘My Account Summary’ click “Estimate my Pension Benefit.”

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: PFRS Tier 5

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation.

Our series, NYSLRS — One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS. Today’s post looks at PFRS Tier 5. Anyone who joined PFRS from January 9, 2010 through March 31, 2012 is in Tier 5. There were 1,967 PFRS Tier 5 members as of March 31, 2021, making up 5.6 percent of PFRS membership.

About Special Plans

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

Nearly 80 percent of PFRS members are in plans covered under Sections 384, 384-d, 384-e or 384-f of the 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 5.

PFRS Tier 5

If you’re a PFRS Tier 5 member, you can find detailed information about your benefits in the retirement plan booklets listed below:

For special plans under miscellaneous titles, please visit our Publications page.

Check out other posts in the PFRS series:

A Short To-Do List for After You Retire

There are a few things you should do regarding your NYSLRS benefits after you retire. This way, wherever your retirement takes you, we can continue to provide you with the benefits and services available to our retirees.

A Short To-Do List for After You Retire

Sign Up for Retirement Online

If you don’t already have a Retirement Online account, this is a great time to sign up. Retirement Online provides a secure and convenient way to check important NYSLRS information, like the deductions from your latest payment and a summary of your benefits. You can also view or update beneficiary information and generate pension income verification letters right from your computer. We’ll be adding additional online features for retirees in the near future, so stay tuned.

Have New Contact Information? Let Us Know

If you move after you retire, let NYSLRS know your new address so you can be sure to get important communications about your benefits.

The Post Office usually won’t forward pension checks to another address. If you haven’t already, you can sign up for our direct deposit program. It’s the safe, hassle-free way to receive your monthly benefit. But there are other things you’ll want to receive from us after you retire, such as:

  • Your 1099-R form. Your pension isn’t taxed by New York State, but it is subject to federal income tax.
  • Your Retiree Annual Statement. It’s a helpful reference that spells out the benefits, credits and deductions you receive each year.
  • Any official notifications such as a net change in your benefits.
  • Your Retiree Notes newsletter.

There are several ways to update your address. The fastest way is through Retirement Online. Or, you can complete our secure contact form for street addresses within the United States. Be sure to fill out the entire contact form and provide both your old and new addresses.

You can also complete a Change of Address Form (RS5512) and mail it to:

NYSLRS
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

You should also make sure we have your current email address. Having an email address on file means we can contact you quickly if we need to notify you about an update to your NYSLRS benefits. If you haven’t updated your email address with NYSLRS, update it in Retirement Online, send it to us using the secure email form or send it to us with your Change of Address Form (RS5512).

Keep Your Beneficiary Information Current

Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is important. By keeping them up to date, you ensure that any post-retirement death benefit will be distributed to your loved ones according to your wishes. You can use Retirement Online to change your death benefit beneficiaries at any time, or contact our Call Center and we will send you the necessary form.

Read Our Guide for Retirees

Check out our publication, Life Changes: A Guide for Retirees (VO1705), for information about other benefits you may be entitled to and the services we offer after you retire.

Retirement Planning: Questions to Ask Yourself

retirement planning - things to think aboutAfter months or years of retirement planning, you’re probably looking forward to the day when you apply for your NYSLRS pension. But before you retire, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. After all, by filing for retirement, you’re making critical decisions about your financial future. And once you’ve retired, some of those decisions will be irrevocable. Whether your planned retirement date is just around the corner or a few years off, asking these questions now could help you avoid costly mistakes.

Do I have all the service credit I think I have?

Under some retirement plans, service milestones (20 years, 30 years, reaching full retirement age) can have a big impact on the amount of your benefit. If you’re aiming for one of these milestones, but retire just short of reaching it, your pension will be less than you might be expecting. To make sure you have enough service credit on your planned retirement date, sign in to Retirement Online to check the most up-to-date estimate of your total service credit.

Do I have previous service credit I want to purchase?

You may be able to buy credit for previous public employment or military service, which in most cases would increase your pension.  

If you are planning to purchase service credit, including military service, you should do that as soon as possible, especially since you can’t purchase service credit after you retire. You can apply for additional credit in Retirement Online or by submitting a Request to Purchase Service Credit form (RS5042). You may also wish to read our publication Service Credit for Tier 2 Through 6.

Do I have a balance on a NYSLRS loan?

If you have an outstanding balance on a NYSLRS loan, you should pay it off before you retire. If you retire with an outstanding loan, your pension will be permanently reduced.

While Employees’ Retirement System members may repay their loan after retiring, they must pay back the full amount of the outstanding balance that was due at retirement in one lump-sum payment. Once the loan has been repaid, their pension benefit will be increased from that point going forward, but it will not be adjusted retroactively back to their date of retirement.

You can use your Retirement Online account to check your loan balance, make a lump-sum payment or increase your payment amount. For more information, visit our Loans page.

Retirement Planning Resources

The more you know about retirement and the retirement process, the better off you’ll be. Here are some resources that can help with your retirement planning:

How Full-Time and Part-Time Service Credit Works

Service credit plays a vital part in your pension calculation and your eligibility for other NYSLRS benefits. As a NYSLRS member, you earn service credit by working for an employer who participates in the Retirement System. Your paid public employment is creditable. You would not, however, earn credit for any period when you are not receiving a salary, such as an unpaid leave of absence. You would earn credit for both full-time and part-time employment, but if you work part-time, the service you earn is pro-rated.

Earning Service Credit When You Work Full Time

When you work on a full-time, continuous basis throughout your career, we’ll calculate your total service credit from your date of employment up until the date you leave paid employment. Most full-time workers earn a year of service credit for working 260 workdays a year. For a full-time, 12-month employee, 260 workdays equal a full year. (If you work in an educational setting, you can read about earning service credit in our blog post, How School Employees Earn NYSLRS Service Credit.)

Earning Service Credit When You Work Part Time

Your service credit is prorated if you work part time. Part-time employment is credited as the lesser of:

the number of days worked ÷ 260 days

or

your reported annual salary ÷ (the State’s hourly minimum wage × 2,000)

You can think of it like this: let’s say you work 130 days in a year. If a year’s worth of service credit is earned for working 260 days full time, you’d earn half a year (0.5) of service credit for your part-time work.

How Part-Time Service Credit Works

Check Your Service Credit in Retirement Online

Retirement Online is the fastest way to check your current total estimated service credit. Once you sign in, go to the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage and look under “Account Information.”

You can also use Retirement Online to request credit for public employment from before you joined NYSLRS. If you’re eligible to purchase previous service credit, it’s a good idea to file your request as early in your career as possible because:

  • Records we need to verify your service will be more readily available.
  • If there is a cost, it will be less expensive than if you wait to purchase credit before retirement.
  • Your retirement benefit will be processed more quickly if your service credit request has been reviewed or processed prior to retirement.

For more information, please read our publication Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6. You may also wish to refer to your specific retirement plan booklet, available on our Publications page.

Overtime Limits for Tier 5 and 6 Members

The formula used to calculate a NYSLRS pension varies by tier and plan, but your credited service and final average earnings (FAE) are the main factors. You earn service credit for paid service with participating employers, and you also may purchase credit for previous public employment. Your FAE is the average wage you earned during the period when your earnings were highest (36 consecutive months for Tier 5 and 60 consecutive months for Tier 6).

Your FAE can include overtime pay you earn during that period, but for Tier 5 and 6 members there are limits to how much overtime can be used to calculate your pension.

You can still earn overtime pay beyond the limit — it just won’t be used in your FAE. Members also aren’t required to make contributions on overtime pay that is above the limit.

Overtime Limits for Tier 5 and 6 Members

Tier 5 Overtime Limits

The overtime limit for Tier 5 Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members increases each calendar year by 3 percent. In 2022, the limit for Tier 5 ERS members is $21,386.41.

For Tier 5 Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members, the overtime limit is 15 percent of your regular earnings each calendar year.

Tier 6 Overtime Limits

The overtime limit for Tier 6 ERS members increases each calendar year based on the annual increase of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 2022, the limit for Tier 6 ERS members is $18,233.

For Tier 6 PFRS members, the overtime limit is 15 percent of your regular earnings each calendar year.

Learn More

Find more information about the overtime limit, FAE and retirement calculations in your retirement plan booklet, available on our Publications page.

Taxes After Retirement

Estimating your post-retirement expenses is crucial to effective retirement planning, and it’s important to remember that taxes are also part of that equation. Most retirees pay less in taxes than when they were working, partly because their incomes are lower. But there are other reasons why your tax burden may be lighter after you stop working.

taxes after retirement

New York State Taxes

As a NYSLRS retiree, your pension will not be subject to New York State or local income tax. New York doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, either.

You may also get a tax break on any distributions from retirement savings, such as deferred compensation, and benefits from a private-sector pension. Find out more on the Department of Taxation and Finance website.

Be aware that you could lose these tax breaks if you move out of New York. Many states tax pensions, and some tax Social Security. For information on tax laws in other states, visit the website of the Retired Public Employees Association.

Federal Taxes

Unfortunately, most of your retirement income will be subject to federal taxes, but there are some bright spots here.

Your Social Security benefits are likely to be taxed, but at most, you’ll only pay taxes on a portion of your benefits. You can find information about it on the Social Security Administration website. (If you’re already retired, use the Social Security Benefits Worksheet in the Form 1040 instructions to see if any of your benefits are taxable.)

Throughout your working years, you’ve paid payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. For most workers, that’s 6.2 percent (Social Security) and 1.45 percent (Medicare) of your gross earnings out of every paycheck. But Social Security and Medicare taxes are only withheld from earned income, such as wages. Pensions, Social Security benefits and retirement savings distributions are exempt from Social Security taxes. Of course, if you get a paying job after retirement, Social Security and Medicare taxes will be deducted from your paycheck.

Once you turn 65, you may be able to claim a larger standard deduction on your federal tax return.

To better understand how your retirement income will be taxed, it may be helpful to speak with a tax adviser.

Estimate Your Pension in Retirement Online

How much will your pension be?

Fortunately, it is now easier than ever to find out. Most NYSLRS members can create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online.

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 in Retirement Online

How to Create Your Pension Estimate

Before you can use the pension calculator, you will need a Retirement Online account. Once you sign in, go to the My Account Summary section of your account homepage and click the “Estimate my Pension Benefit” button.

You can enter an estimated retirement date (or retirement age), your current salary and expected annual salary increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase and anticipated lump sum payment for unused vacation. If you add the birthdate for a beneficiary, you’ll also see the estimated monthly payment you would receive if you were to choose a pension payment option that provides a benefit for a survivor.

Any pension estimate you generate with the online calculator would be an approximation of your potential benefit; it is not a guarantee that you’ll receive a certain amount when you retire.

Alternative Ways to Get an Estimate

While more than 90 percent of NYSLRS members (most Tier 3 through 6 members) can use the benefit calculator, some members should have NYSLRS generate their benefit estimate. For example, if you recently transferred your membership to NYSLRS or are covered under certain special plans, it would be better if NYSLRS created an estimate for you.

The system will notify you if your estimate cannot be completed using Retirement Online’s estimate tool. Please contact us to request a pension estimate if you receive this notification. Also, if you are in Tiers 1 through 4, you can still use the Quick Calculator on the NYSLRS website. The Quick Calculator generates estimates based on information you provide.