Category Archives: NYSLRS Retirees

NYSLRS Retirees: 1% COLA Increase Coming September 30

If you’re a New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retiree, you may be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) this September. A COLA payment permanently increases your NYSLRS retirement benefit. It’s based on the cost-of-living index, and is designed to address inflation as it occurs. The September 2016 COLA increase equals 1 percent, for a maximum annual increase of $180.00, or $15.00 per month before taxes. Please note, for most retirees, there are other reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase.

How is the COLA Calculated?

The COLA is calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the fiscal year (on March 31). It cannot be less than 1 percent or greater than 3 percent of your retirement benefit. This year, since the rate of inflation was less than 1 percent, the COLA increase equals 1 percent. The COLA is calculated using the first $18,000 of the annual Single Life Allowance pension (even if you selected a different payment option), or your actual pension, if it’s less than $18,000.

Who Is Eligible for a COLA?

To receive the COLA, you must be:

  • Age 62 or older and retired for five or more years; or
  • Age 55 or older and retired for ten or more years (for uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters and correction officers covered by a special plan that allows for retirement, regardless of age, after a specific number of years); or
  • A disability retiree for five years; or
  • The spouse of a deceased retiree receiving a lifetime benefit under an option elected by the retiree at retirement. (Eligible spouses are entitled to half the COLA amount that would have been paid to the retiree when the retiree was eligible); or
  • A beneficiary receiving the accidental death benefit for five or more years on behalf of a deceased NYSLRS member.

SSA COLA

The NYSLRS COLA is different than the Social Security Administration (SSA) COLA. For 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

If you want to learn more about COLA, read our publication, Permanent COLA.

Reporting a Member’s or Retiree’s Death to NYSLRS

When a NYSLRS member dies, whether before or after retirement, it’s important that survivors report a member’s or retiree’s death to NYSLRS as soon as possible.

But long before that happens, you should talk to your loved ones and provide them with the information they’ll need when the time comes. Let them know your wishes, where to find important papers and what steps they need to take. And if your documents are organized and accessible, it will make things that much easier.

Our publication, Getting Your Affairs in Order and A Guide for Survivors, provides step-by-step guidance about what should be done now and after a member’s or retiree’s death.

Survivors can report a death by email, phone or mail. They will need to send us an original certified copy of the member’s death certificate regardless of how they notify us.

How Survivors Can Report a Death

To report a death by phone, survivors can call toll-free at 1-866-805-0990 (518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area). Once they reach the call menu, they should press “2” to report the death and then press “1.” Their call will be transferred to a customer service representative, who will ask for:

  • The deceased member’s retirement, registration or Social Security number.
  • The date of death.

Please note: Our customer service representatives cannot release the identities of a member’s or retiree’s beneficiaries over the phone.

Survivors can also use our secure email form to report a member’s death. They should enter:

  • The deceased member’s NYSLRS information into the required fields. (If they don’t know the retirement or registration number, we will accept a Social Security number.)
  • The deceased member’s date of death in the Comment field of the form.
  • Their own address and daytime phone number in the Comment section in case we need to reach them for more information.

To report a death by mail, survivors should send us a completed Notification of Death (RS6082) form.

What Happens Next

Once we receive the death certificate, we will send beneficiaries or their certified representatives (guardians, powers of attorney, executors) information about death benefits and, if applicable, information about continuing monthly retirement benefits. We will also send them forms to complete. Beneficiaries should be aware that it could take three months from the date we are notified of the death before any death benefit is paid or any monthly benefit payment begins.

If a member is retired when he or she dies, we will stop payment of any outgoing pension benefits. Survivors should be aware that any uncashed pension checks in a deceased retiree’s name must be returned to us. We will automatically reclaim any direct deposit payments that went out after a member’s death.

Death Benefits For ERS Members

Among the most important benefits a NYSLRS membership provides are death benefits. When you’re covered by a death benefit, your beneficiary may receive a payment on your behalf at your death.

Death benefits can vary by tier and retirement plan, so for the purpose of today’s post, let’s focus our attention on the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 members in regular plans. (If you’re in a special 20- or 25-year plan or are a Tier 1 member, please review your plan publication to learn more about your death benefits.)

The Ordinary Death Benefit

You’re eligible for the ordinary death benefit when you have one year of service credit. Your beneficiary would receive this benefit if you died while working for a public employer.

  • After one year of service, the ordinary death benefit is equal to your last year’s salary.
  • After two years of service, the benefit equals two times your last year’s salary.
  • After three or more years of service, the benefit equals three times your last year’s salary.

Post Retirement Death Benefits ERS Regular-Plans

The Post-Retirement Death Benefit

Your beneficiary may also be eligible for a post-retirement death benefit if you retire directly from your employer’s payroll or within one year of leaving covered employment.

  • During your first year of retirement, the post-retirement death benefit is 50 percent of your ordinary death benefit payable at retirement.
  • During your second year of retirement, the benefit is 25 percent of your ordinary death benefit.
  • During your third year and thereafter, the benefit is 10 percent of the ordinary death benefit that would have been payable at age 60 (if any) or at retirement, whichever was earlier.

There may be other death benefits available in your retirement plan. Please read the Death Benefit section in your plan publication for more information. If you have any questions about death benefits, please email us using our secure email form.

NYSLRS Retirees Help Power New York’s Economy

At the 2015 annual meeting of the Retired Public Employees Association of New York, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli told association members that “a public pension is not only good for you and your family, it’s good for New York State.” He added that “you are part of the economic engine in many of our communities.”

The administrator of the New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) and trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, State Comptroller DiNapoli also noted that, of NYSLRS’ 430,308 retirees, 78 percent of them — 337,406 — have chosen to live in New York.

NYSLRS-Retirees-Build-a-Stronger-NY

Click for full-sized version (PDF)

This is important, the State Comptroller explained, because the pension money paid to retired state and local public employees’ flows directly back into our communities, stimulating and growing our local economies.

During calendar year 2014, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $12 billion in economic activity in New York State.

NYSLRS Retirees Build a Stronger New York

NYSLRS pension benefit can provide security and peace of mind in retirement. What some retirees might not realize about their lifetime benefit is the effect it has on the local economy. During 2014 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $12 billion in economic activity in New York State. By buying local goods and services, NYSLRS retirees help existing companies grow, create opportunities for new businesses, and help foster an environment that helps companies create job opportunities.

NYSLRS Retirees in New York

Of the 430,308 current NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries, 78 percent of them live in New York State. These retirees make up 2.8 percent of the general population, but their impact on the State economy is considerable:

  • Retiree Spending Creates Jobs, Supports Local Business. NYSLRS retirees spend a larger than average share of their income on industries that benefitted local businesses, such as health care, restaurants and entertainment. These industries can expect more growth in the coming decades with NYSLRS retirees as part of their customer base. As a result of this spending, NYSLRS retirees were also responsible for an estimated 60,400 jobs.
  • Retirees Pay Billions in Taxes. In 2014, NYSLRS retirees paid $1.6 billion in real property taxes, which is five percent of the total collected in New York. These taxes help support New York schools, roads and government services. Also, spending by NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries generated an estimated $514 million in state and local sales tax.

After spending their careers working in State and local governments, the university system, public authorities and schools, NYSLRS retirees continue to help New York’s Main Streets grow and develop. The benefits of a NYSLRS pension aren’t just felt by retirees, but also by local businesses and communities. As the number of NYSLRS retirees continues to grow, the investment they make in communities across New York State will also continue to grow.

Tackling Retirement Security for Working Americans

retirement-security

Many Americans are lacking access to employer-sponsored retirement plans.

America is facing a retirement security crisis. The shift away from defined benefit (DB) pensions in favor of defined contribution (DC) plans is considered a common cause. The number of workers with a DB plan decreased pdf-icon (PDF) from 67 percent to 43 percent between 1989 and 1998, while those with a DC plan rose from 33 to 57 percent during that same time. The lack of access to any sort of employer-sponsored retirement plan is another factor: 43.3 million American workers didn’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan in 2013.

The unfortunate truth, though, is that many Americans just aren’t prepared to retire.

A State Solution to the Retirement Crisis?

A few weeks ago, we mentioned how AARP NY called for a state-sponsored retirement savings program to address this problem. According to AARP NY, Americans are 15 times less likely to open a retirement savings plan on their own compared to if their employer offered one. Even more startling, about 3.6 million New Yorkers working in the private sector don’t have access to any kind of employer-sponsored retirement plan.

At the federal level, creating a DC plan with automatic enrollment has been unsuccessful. The president recently asked the Department of Labor to clarify how states can move forward with state-sponsored plans. This could help states manage how to enroll employees into a 401(k), providing workers a chance to start saving for retirement.

Pensions: A Major Part of Retirement Security

Workers will need more than their Social Security and personal savings for a secure retirement. This is where more employer-sponsored retirement plans can help workers. About two thirds of working age Americans aren’t taking part in a retirement plan pdf-icon (PDF) . But even though DC plans are now more common than DB plans, that doesn’t mean they’re the best answer to providing steady retirement income. A DB plan provides a steady source of income for the pensioner’s lifetime. There’s no guarantee a DC plan will provide a retiree with enough or any income during retirement. If too many workers retire without an employer-sponsored plan, they could face levels of poverty in retirement.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 1

When you joined the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you were assigned to 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) — so there are many different ways to determine benefits for our members. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier and gives you a quick look at the benefits members are eligible for before and at retirement.

One of our smallest tiers is ERS Tier 1, which represents 0.7 percent of NYSLRS’ total membership. Overall, there are 4,520 ERS Tier 1 members. Today’s post looks at the major Tier 1 retirement plan in ERS – the New Career Plan (Section 75-h or 75-i).
ERS-Tier-1-Benefits_001
If you’re an ERS Tier 1 member in an alternate plan, you can find your retirement plan publication below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Be on the lookout for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts. Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in the series:

Retirees: Know Your Post-Retirement Earnings Limit

forjuly1As a New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retiree, it’s possible to work a public job after retirement and receive your pension, but there are limits to your post-retirement earnings. If you’re self-employed, work for a private employer, work for another state, or work for the federal government, you don’t have to worry about post-retirement earnings. You can earn as much as you want in your new job and still collect your full NYSLRS benefit.

But if you collect a NYSLRS pension and want to return to work in the public sector, there are two sections of the Retirement & Social Security Law (RSSL) you have to comply with that deal with post-retirement earnings.

Section 212

Under Section 212 of the RSSL, you may earn up to the annual amount set by law. The limit for 2015 is $30,000. Typically, your earnings are not limited in the year you reach age 65.

However, if you are under the age of 65 and earn more than the Section 212 limit during a calendar year, you may:

  • Pay back NYSLRS an amount equal to the retirement benefit you received after you reached the mandated limit. If you continue to work, your retirement benefit will be suspended.

OR

  • Rejoin NYSLRS, in which case your retirement benefit will stop.

Section 211

If you return to work and earn more than the Section 212 limit, your pension will be suspended unless your public employer requests a Section 211 approval for you. This will allow you to continue receiving your retirement benefit without reduction.

Section 211 approvals are given for a fixed period of time, normally up to two years.

If you earn more than the Section 212 limit and do not get Section 211 approval, your benefit will be reduced or suspended.

If you have questions about working after retirement, please read our publication, What If I Work After Retirement? (VO1648).

Income Inequality and Pension Reform

Is the shift away from defined benefit pension plans hurting more than helping?

Today’s pension reform means increasing employee contributions, cutting pension benefits, and switching from defined benefit (DB) plans to defined contribution (DC) plans. In fact, according to a new study from the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), 15 million additional workers would have defined benefit plans if there had not been a trend over the past 30 years to convert pensions into defined contribution (DC) plans. However, there may be a hidden cost to this approach. As these reforms negatively affect plan participants and beneficiaries, income inequality appears to increase.

In the study, NCPERS looks at the growing debate between DB and DC plans. Those in favor of DC plans claim that DB public pension plans aren’t sustainable and taxpayers can’t afford to pay them. Others defend DB pensions, arguing the pension benefits are a type of deferred compensation and not the responsibility of taxpayers. Regardless of what side of the debate you’re on, here’s the hard reality:

  • In a DB plan, the employee receives a lifetime benefit based on years of service and salary.
  • In a DC plan, there’s no guarantee the employee will have enough or any retirement income upon retirement.

Income Inequality Worsening for Seniors

Despite the positive aspects of DB pensions, the trend against them continues, and the effects could be damaging. Several studies mentioned by NCPERS point out the reduction of retirement benefits and the shift away from DB pensions increase income inequality—even poverty—in the elderly. One study from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) found that poverty rates in senior citizen households without pensions were almost nine times higher than those with pensions.Income Inequality: The Elderly Poverty Rate is 9 times greater with no defined benefit income

The Economic Impact of NYSLRS Retirees

These are startling findings, considering the important role of pensions and retiree spending in the economy. In the US, retirees spend almost $838 billion each year, which employs millions of Americans and tens of millions indirectly. For every dollar paid in pension benefits, there’s $2.37 in economic output. In New York, retirees play an important role in the state economy. New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retirees generate $11.3 billion in economic activity by spending $9.6 billion in the state. The pension benefits earned by NYSLRS retirees flows directly back into the local communities and economies.

As more negative changes affect DB pension plans and retiree benefits, the decrease in retiree spending will be felt throughout the economy.

“Personal income loss has a ripple effect, and everyone suffers when income inequality rises and economic growth weakens,” said NCPERS President Mel Aaronson. “Spending by retirees is vital to communities, yet local spending can easily be undermined by shortsighted changes to defined benefit pension plans.”

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Administrator of NYSLRS and sole trustee of the Common Retirement Fund, has often said that DC plans would put more people at risk in their retirement years. During an editorial board meeting of The Syracuse Post Standard last October 20, he also maintained that switching to a defined contribution plan won’t change the state’s obligation to provide a pension to the 1 million people already in the system. “A 401(k) was never meant to be the substitute for a pension,” DiNapoli said.

This is Public Service Recognition Week

This week we proudly celebrate the more than 600,000 members and 400,000 retirees of The New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) for their service to the people of New York State.

A Brief History of Public Service Recognition Week

Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) was created in 1985 to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees. Congress officially designated the first week of May as PSRW. This year, it is being celebrated May 3 through May 9.

PSRW publicly honors all the men and women who dedicate their careers – and sometimes their lives – to keep others safe and provide for the common needs of our society. These individuals strive to help make life better in our communities.

The Public Servants of NYSLRS

NYSLRS is a public retirement system full of stories about State workers and municipal employees finding value and meaning in the work they do, especially when they help another New Yorker. These are stories you may not read or hear about, because to some public employees, they’re just doing their job.

Whether they are picking up our garbage, educating our children, or cleaning our roads during snowstorms, NYSLRS members deliver the critical resources and services many New Yorkers depend on. Likewise, many NYSLRS members and retirees also give back to our state by serving their communities as volunteers and supporters of charitable causes.

Comptroller DiNapoli’s Faith in Public Service

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the administrator of NYSLRS and trustee of the Common Retirement Fund. His public service career began when he was elected as a trustee to the Mineola Board of Education at the age of 18, making him the first 18-year-old in New York State to hold public office. Comptroller DiNapoli is understandably proud about the career path he has chosen and he often speaks about the contributions that New York’s public employees make; not just as engaged citizens, but as individuals who bring value to the communities where they live: