NYSLRS, which administers the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), had 685,450 members as of March 31, 2022. Our members are State government, local government, school district and other public-sector employees from across New York — 650,251 in ERS and 35,199 in PFRS. About 74 percent of our members were active, which means they were on a public payroll as of March 31.
NYSLRS Membership Over Time
A decade ago, more than 80 percent of NYSLRS members were in Tiers 3 and 4. Now, those tiers represent less than 40 percent of our membership. Tier 6, which includes members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012, now has 367,013 members, or 53.5 percent of total membership.
Here’s a look at our NYSLRS membership by tier, as of March 31:
Tier 1: NYSLRS’ oldest tier, whose members first joined the system before July 1, 1973 (July 31, 1973, for PFRS members), is dwindling. Tier 1 represented only 0.2 percent of our membership. There were only 1,043 Tier 1 ERS members and 17 Tier 1 PFRS members.
Tier 2: With 18,074 members, Tier 2 represented 2.6 percent of membership. Ninety-four percent of Tier 2 members were in PFRS.
Tiers 3 & 4: Tiers 3 and 4, which have similar retirement plans, had 263,734 members, 38.5 percent of the total membership. Tiers 3 and 4 are primarily ERS tiers. There is no Tier 4 in PFRS, and only 173 PFRS members were in Tier 3.
Tier 5: Tier 5 covers members who joined from January 1, 2010, through March 31, 2012. With 35,569 members, Tier 5 represented 5.2 percent of membership.
Tier 6: This tier covers members who joined since April 1, 2012. Its ranks grew by about 13 percent during the last fiscal year.
Financial advisers say you will need to replace between 70 and 80 percent of your salary to maintain your lifestyle after retirement. Your NYSLRS pension could go a long way in helping you reach that goal, especially when combined with your Social Security benefit and your own retirement savings. Here’s a look at how Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members in Tier 6 (who are vested once they’ve earned five years of credited service), can reach that goal. Members who joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012 are in Tier 6.
Calculating an ERS Tier 6 Member’s Pension
Your NYSLRS pension will be based on your Final Average Earnings (FAE) and the number of years you work in public service. FAE is the average of the five highest-paid consecutive years. Note: The law limits the FAE of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For example, for most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAE, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension.
Although ERS members can generally retire as early as age 55 with reduced benefits, the full retirement age for Tier 6 members is age 63.
For ERS Tier 6 members in regular plans (Article 15), the benefit is 1.66 percent of your FAE for each full year you work, up to 20 years. At 20 years, the benefit equals 1.75 percent per year for a total of 35 percent. After 20 years, the benefit grows to 2 percent per year for each additional year of service. (Benefit calculations for members of the Police and Fire Retirement System and ERS members in special plans vary based on plan.)
Say you begin your career at age 28 and work full-time until your full retirement age of 63. That’s 35 years of service credit. You’d get 35 percent of your FAE for the first 20 years, plus 30 percent for the last 15 years, for a total benefit that would replace 65 percent of your salary. If you didn’t start until age 38, you’d get 45 percent of your FAE at 63.
So, that’s how your NYSLRS pension can help you get started with your post-retirement income. Now, let’s look at what the addition of Social Security and your own savings can do to help you reach your retirement goal.
Other Sources of Post-Retirement Income
Social Security: According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security currently replaces about 40 percent of the wages of a typical worker who retires at full retirement age. In the future, these percentages may change, but you should still factor it in to your post-retirement income.
Your Savings:Retirement savings can also replace a portion of your income. How much, of course, depends on how much you save. The key is to start saving early so your money has time to grow. New York State employees and some municipal employees can participate in the New York State Deferred Compensation Plan. If you haven’t already looked into Deferred Compensation, you might consider doing so now.
Recent legislation temporarily changes how Tier 6 contribution rates are calculated.
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 new law removed overtime that was earned from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022 from the Tier 6 contribution rate calculation. The earnings from this time period determine the contribution rates that you pay from April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024.
Removing overtime earnings may result in lower contribution rates effective April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2024. Although Tier 6 contribution percentage rates for those years will be calculated only on annual base wages, Tier 6 members must pay the applicable contribution rate on all their pensionable earnings. This video helps explain how your contribution rate is determined.
Note: Tier 6 members are those who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012.
When Will Rates be Recalculated?
We are working with employers to review your past earnings to determine whether your rate should be lowered.
Tier 6 is now the largest tier in NYSLRS. With more than 325,000 Tier 6 members, it will take some time to collect detailed earnings information from employers and change rates.
Once information for all Tier 6 members is received and processed, if your rate is lowered, it will be retroactive to April 1, 2022. If you are entitled to a credit of overpaid contributions, you will be notified and your refund will be paid to you by your employer.
Who is Affected by the Rate Change?
Tier 6 members who make mandatory contributions toward their retirement and earned overtime from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022 may have their contribution rates lowered.
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
Members who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2020. Your rates are based on an estimated wage provided by your employer when you were enrolled into NYSLRS rather than your actual earnings.
More About Tier 6 Contribution Rates
Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to help fund pension benefits. For Tier 6 members, that percentage, or contribution rate, is based on earnings and can vary from year to year. The minimum rate is 3 percent and the maximum rate is 6 percent.
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).
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.”
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). 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.
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 6. Anyone who joined PFRS on or after April 1, 2012 is in Tier 6. Tier 6 members currently make up almost 40 percent of PFRS membership, totaling 13,956 members, making it the second largest tier in PFRS.
About Regular Plans and 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 6 members.
Where to Find PFRS Tier 6 Information
If you’re a PFRS Tier 6 member, please find your retirement plan publication from the list below for more details about your benefits. If you’re not sure what retirement plan you’re in, you can find that information in the My Account Summary section of your Retirement Online account. You can also check your Member Annual Statement, ask your employer or email us using our secure contact form.
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.
In 2021, NYSLRS members showed a keen interest in posts that helped them learn more about their retirement benefits. In case you missed them, or just want to take another look, here are some of our most popular blog posts from the past year.
Tier 6 Benefits – A Closer Look Nearly half of all NYSLRS members belong to the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6. Here is a look at how their pensions will be calculated.
The Police and Fire Retirement System The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) is the smaller of the two NYSLRS retirement systems. The vast majority of PFRS members are in special retirement plans that allow for retirement after 20 or 25 years of service.
What is a Defined Benefit Plan? As a NYSLRS member, you are part of a defined benefit plan. But what does that mean and how will it affect your retirement?
Thank you for following New York Retirement News. We look forward to providing you with more information about your NYSLRS benefits and other retirement topics throughout 2022.
As an Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 6 member, your years of service are critical to your benefits. As time goes by, and you earn more service credit, you’ll reach a number of career milestones. These milestones are points where you become eligible for certain benefits or your existing benefits improve. Understanding these milestones will help you better plan your career and retirement.
Most ERS Tier 6 members are in the Article 15 retirement plan (Article 15 of the Retirement and Social Security Law [RSSL]). If you are not certain what retirement plan you are in, you can contact us or ask your employer. You can also find your retirement plan number in Retirement Online under ‘My Account Summary’ or in your member annual statement. Your plan number indicates the section of the RSSL the plan is based on. For example, Plan A15 indicates that you are covered by Article 15.
In this plan, you reach your first milestone on your first day of membership. This milestone covers you for certain job-related death and disability benefits. (You can learn more about them in the Tier 6 Article 15 retirement plan booklet.)
10 & 20 Years Make a Big Difference
For all NYSLRS members, there is one critical milestone: becoming vested. Being vested means that you have earned the right to a pension, even if you leave public employment before retirement age. ERS Tier 6 members become vested after they earn ten years of service credit.
For most ERS Tier 6 members, another big milestone is the 20-year mark, when their retirement benefit improves significantly. If you retire with less than 20 years of service, you earn 1.66 percent of your final average earnings (FAE) for each year of service. At 20 years, you receive 35 percent of your FAE. After 20 years, you’ll earn an additional 2 percent of your FAE for each year of service beyond 20.
ERS Tier 6 Special Plans
For ERS Tier 6 members in special plans, such as corrections officers and deputy sheriffs, many of the milestones are the same. For example, you will become vested with ten years of service credit.
But there are also major differences. Most importantly, depending on their plan, members in special plans can retire after 20 or 25 years, regardless of age. You can find more information in your retirement plan booklet.
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 ERS Tier 6, which includes anyone who joined ERS since April 1, 2012. There were 311,469 ERS Tier 6 members as of March 31, 2021 making them the largest tier group in ERS.
ERS Tier 6 Membership Milestones
ERS Tier 6 members need ten years of service credit to become vested. Once vested, they’re eligible for a lifetime pension benefit as early as age 55, but if they retire before the full retirement age of 63, their benefit will be reduced. Tier 6 correction officers, however, can retire with 25 years of service, regardless of age, without penalty.
The Final Average Earnings (FAE) Calculation
An ERS Tier 6 member’s final average earnings is the average of their earnings in the five highest-paid consecutive years of employment. Earnings in any year included in the period cannot exceed the average earnings of the previous four years by more than 10 percent.
Tier 6 Service Retirement Benefit
Generally, if an ERS Tier 6 member retires with less than 20 years, the benefit is 1.66 percent of their FAE for each year of service. If a member retires with exactly 20 years of service, the benefit is 1.75 percent of their FAE for each year of service (35 percent of the member’s FAE).
If a member retires with more than 20 years of service, they receive 35 percent for the first 20 years, plus 2 percent for each additional year. For example, a member with 35 years of service can retire at 63 with a pension worth 65 percent of their FAE.
Where to Find More ERS Tier 6 Information
ERS Tier 6 members can find more details about their benefits in the publications listed below:
Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to help fund pension benefits. For Tier 6 members (those who joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012), that percentage, or contribution rate, can vary from year to year.
When Tier 6 Contribution Rates are Determined
A Tier 6 member’s contribution rate is calculated annually. New rates become effective each year on April 1, the beginning of the State’s fiscal year. Once your rate is set for a fiscal year, it will not change for the rest of that fiscal year.
Tier 6 contribution rates are based on what you earn during a State fiscal year, from April 1 through March 31. The minimum rate is 3 percent of your earnings, and the maximum is 6 percent.
Your contribution rate is calculated by NYSLRS. Rates are based on your earnings from the last completed fiscal year and provided to your employer in March, a few weeks before your employer needs to apply rate changes for all the employees at your organization. The contribution rate you are paying today is based on what you earned from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.
During your first three years as a NYSLRS member, your contribution rate is based on an estimated annual wage we receive from your employer when you were enrolled as a new member. After three years, the rate is based on what you actually earned two years earlier.
If you are a Tier 6 member with three or more years of membership in NYSLRS, this video will help explain how your contribution rate is determined:
The amount you contribute to the Retirement System will not affect the amount of your pension. Your NYSLRS pension is a lifetime benefit based on your retirement plan, years of service and final average earnings. You can learn more about your pension by reading your plan booklet on our Publications page. For help finding the right plan book, read our blog post Knowing Your Retirement Plan is the Key to Retirement Planning.