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10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know

Brush up on your Retirement System knowledge! Here are 10 things all NYSLRS members should know.

10 Things All NYSLRS Members Should Know
  1. Lifetime Retirement Benefit
    You are part of a defined benefit pension plan, which provides a lifetime benefit at retirement based on your earnings and years of service.
  2. Qualify for a Retirement Benefit by Becoming Vested
    Becoming vested is a key milestone in every NYSLRS member’s career. Once you’re vested, you have earned enough service to qualify for a retirement benefit, once you meet the minimum age requirements established by your retirement plan.
  3. Tier Determines Benefits
    Your tier determines your eligibility for benefits under your plan and how those benefits are calculated.
  4. Conduct NYSLRS Business Using Retirement Online
    Retirement Online is the fastest and most convenient way to do business with NYSLRS. It only takes a few minutes to open your account. Use Retirement Online instead of calling or mailing for instant access to benefit information and convenient tools to make account changes.
  5. Estimate Pension Using Retirement Online Calculator
    Most members can use Retirement Online to create benefit estimates based on the most up-to-date information we have on file. You can enter different retirement dates and payment options to see how those choices would affect your benefit.
  6. Use Plan Publication to Learn about Benefits
    Your retirement plan publication is a comprehensive source for information about your benefits.
  7. Pension Calculated Using Highest Earnings
    Your final average earnings (FAE) is another major factor in calculating your NYSLRS pension. When we calculate your pension, we find the set of consecutive years (one, three or five, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest. 
  8. Request Past Service Credit Before Retirement
    Service credit is one of the major factors in calculating your NYSLRS pension. You earn a year of service credit for each year of full-time employment with a participating employer. In some cases, you may also be able to request additional credit for past service.
  9. NYSLRS Membership Includes Death and Disability Benefits
    NYSLRS membership provides more than just retirement benefits. If you become seriously ill or injured, you may be eligible for a disability benefit. And, you may also be eligible to leave a beneficiary a death benefit if you die while working for a public employer.
  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.

NYSLRS is one of the largest public retirement systems in America, serving more than 1.2 million members, retirees and beneficiaries. Read A Look Inside NYSLRS to learn more about your retirement system.

Transferring Your Membership to NYSLRS

transferring membership

A lot can change in our lives, and sometimes people switch jobs or professions during their career. Perhaps you were a teacher, and you recently began working for New York State. Or maybe you had a job with New York City, and you took a position with a municipality outside of the city. If you are an active member of more than one public retirement system in New York State, you may have the option of transferring that membership to NYSLRS and receiving credit for that service.

Considering Service Credit

Service credit is a factor in calculating a NYSLRS pension benefit, so increasing your service credit will generally increase your pension benefit.

In some cases, transferring membership may not be beneficial. For example, if you are in a retirement plan that allows for retirement after 20 or 25 years of service (regardless of age), your service usually must be in specific job titles to be creditable toward your pension benefit. If you are in one of these plans, find your retirement plan publication to learn what service is creditable.

If you have questions, contact a customer service representative before you apply to transfer a membership. You can message them using our secure contact form.

Transferring Membership

Members who are transferring membership to NYSLRS must:

  • Be on the payroll in a job that is covered by NYSLRS;
  • No longer work in the job that was covered by the other retirement system; and
  • Still be an active member of the other system (off payroll for that job, but your membership in the other system has not been terminated or withdrawn).

To transfer a membership to NYSLRS, you first must submit a transfer request to your other retirement system. When we receive your membership information from the other retirement system, we will compare your date of membership in NYSLRS with your date of membership in the other system. When the transfer is complete, your date of membership will be the earlier of the two dates. If applicable, your tier will change.

If You Need to Transfer to Another System

You can submit an online request to NYSLRS to transfer your membership from NYSLRS to another New York State public retirement system:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online.
  • In the ‘My Account Summary’ section of your Account Homepage, under ‘I want to…,’ click the “Transfer My Membership” button.

Whether you are transferring in or out of NYSLRS, the transfer is effective when we receive your application, and it may be permanent.

You can find more information about transferring membership on our website.

NYSLRS Membership Basics

Whether you just joined or you’re a longtime member, you likely have questions about your NYSLRS membership. What is vesting? What are final average earnings? What tier are you in, and why does it even matter?

NYSLRS Membership

Basic Concepts of NYSLRS Membership

While NYSLRS administers many different retirement plans, the core concepts of our memberships are the same. Your pension will be calculated using a preset formula based on your earnings and years of service. To better understand 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. Generally, 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, because once you’re vested, you’re eligible for a NYSLRS pension when you reach retirement age, even if you leave public service.
  • Final Average Earnings. Final average earnings are the average of your earnings during the period when your pay is highest. It’s another major factor in determining the amount of your pension.

Your NYSLRS Pension and Other Benefits

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

Your NYSLRS membership also provides other important benefits, including:

More Information

We want to make sure you have the information you’ll need to plan for your retirement and make critical decisions about your future. Here are some 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. If you don’t already have one, sign up for a Retirement Online account now.

Explore the NYSLRS website to learn more about your NYSLRS membership. Our Welcome New Members page explains more about the benefits that are available to you. Your retirement plan publication offers a comprehensive overview of your benefits, and you can find it with our Find Your NYSLRS Retirement Plan Publication tool.

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

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tiers 3 and 4

(We know that’s two, but let us explain.) When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on your date of 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 and gives you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS. Today’s post looks at ERS Tiers 3 and 4. Of our current 650,251 ERS members, 263,561 are in Tiers 3 and 4, representing 40.5 percent of ERS membership.

Most ERS Tier 3 and Tier 4 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 Tiers 3 and 4 members in this plan.

ERS Tiers 3 and 4 - Article 15

Membership Milestones for ERS Tiers 3 and 4

ERS members in Tiers 3 or 4 need five years of service credit to become vested. Once vested, they’re eligible for a lifetime pension benefit as early as age 55. However, if they retire before the full retirement age of 62 with fewer than 30 years of service credit, their benefit will be reduced. Some Tier 3 and 4 members, such as sheriffs or correction officers, can retire with 20 or 25 years of service, regardless of age and without penalty.

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.

For more information about Tier 3 and 4 membership, find your NYSLRS retirement plan publication. It’s a comprehensive description of the benefits provided by your specific plan.

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

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.

NYSLRS Membership by Tier

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.

Why Your Tier Matters

Your tier is an essential component of your NYSLRS membership because it is one of the factors that determines your benefits. You can find out more by reading your retirement plan booklet. Our recent blog posts explain how to find your plan booklet and how to get the most out of it.

PFRS Member Milestones

The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) covers nearly 32,000 police officers and firefighters across New York State. As a PFRS member, you’ll pass a series of important milestones throughout your career. Knowing and understanding these milestones will help you better plan for your financial future.

Some milestones are common to most PFRS members; others are shared by members in a particular tier or retirement plan. For example, your plan determines when you would be eligible to apply for a non-job-related disability benefit.

A recent amendment to Retirement law changed a milestone for some members. As of April 9, 2022, Tier 5 and 6 members are now vested after earning five years of service credit. Previously, members in these tiers needed ten years of service to become vested. Being vested means you are entitled to a NYSLRS pension, even if you leave public employment before retirement age.

Member Milestones to Remember

PFRS member milestones

Most PFRS members are in special plans that allow them to retire with full benefits, regardless of age, after 20 or 25 years of service. If you are in a special plan, only certain job titles would give you creditable service toward a 20- or 25-year milestone. For example, if you are in the State Police plan, service with a city police department would be creditable, but service as a sheriff’s deputy or corrections officer would not be.

PFRS members in regular plans can retire as early as age 55, but may face a benefit reduction if they retire before their full retirement age.

Your specific milestones, along with your pension calculation, are determined by your retirement plan, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the details of your plan. You can find information about your milestones in your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page. Not sure which retirement booklet is yours? Your retirement plan is listed in your Retirement Online account or you can ask your employer. You can also read our recent blog post for tips on finding your plan booklet.

Tier 6 FAS Limits (ERS)

 

 

First, a year of earnings in the FAS period can’t exceed the average of the previous four year’s earnings by more than 10 percent. Anything beyond that will not be included in the pension calculation.

Additionally, several types of payments will not be part of the FAS calculation for ERS Tier 6 members:

  • Lump-sum vacation pay,
  • Wages from more than two employers,
  • Payment for unused sick leave,
  • Payments for working during a vacation,
  • Any payments that cause your annual salary to exceed that of the Governor (currently $179,000),
  • Termination pay,
  • Payments made in anticipation of retirement,
  • Lump-sum payments for deferred compensation and
  • Any payments made for time not worked.

Generally speaking, here’s what an ERS Tier 6 FAS will include: regular salary, holiday pay, overtime pay (regular and noncompensatory) earned in the FAS period and up to one longevity payment per year, if earned in the FAS period.

Overtime Limits

While overtime pay generally is part of an ERS Tier 6 FAS, the amount that can be included is limited. The limit is adjusted for inflation each year based on the change in the Consumer Price Index over the one-year period ending September 30 of the previous year. Under a new law, beginning January 1, 2018, the Tier 6 limit will be updated on a calendar year basis instead of on a fiscal year basis.

The 2018 calendar year overtime limit for Tier 6 members is $16,406.

For more information about the Tier 6 FAS, find your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page, or check out our Final Average Salary and Overtime Limits for Tier 6 pages.