Category Archives: General News

Your Checklist to Apply for Retirement

After months of planning and preparation, you’re ready to apply for retirement. To get your NYSLRS  pension benefit, you need to send in an application. Let’s look at what you should include with the form to help make the retirement process go more smoothly.

Filling Out the Retirement Application

Unless you’re filing for a disability retirement, you’ll need to fill out the Application for Service Retirement (RS6037). As you fill out the form, make sure you:

  • Know your registration number. You can find it on your most recent Member Annual Statement or retirement estimate.
  • Know your past employment. To help ensure you receive the proper credit for your public service, please list your public employment history. Include any military service and memberships in other New York public retirement systems.
  • Include your beneficiary’s information. You won’t make an official beneficiary designation with this form, but including these details will help us give you specific amounts for the pension payment options  that offer a lifetime benefit for a beneficiary.
  • See a notary. The form must be filled out completely and signed by a notary public.

Proof of Birth

Make sure we have proof of your birth date. You can send it with your retirement application or before or after, but we cannot pay pension benefits without it. We accept photocopies of the following as proof:

Other Forms

Option Election

You’ll need to choose your pension payment option, or how you want your pension paid. Option election forms are available on our website, but we will also send you a form after we process your application. If you choose an option that provides your beneficiary a lifetime pension benefit when you die, you must provide proof of your beneficiary’s birth date.

Federal Income Tax Withholding

Your NYSLRS pension isn’t subject to New York State income tax, but it is subject to federal tax. You can fill out a W-4P form  any time to tell us how much to withhold from your monthly benefit. We don’t withhold income tax for other states. Visit the Retired Public Employees Association’s website to see whether your benefit will be taxed in another state.

Direct Deposit

Direct deposit is the fastest and most secure way to receive your pension benefits. You can enroll in our direct deposit program when you file for retirement. Just fill out a Direct Deposit Enrollment Application (RS6370), and return it to us.

Domestic Relations Order

If an ex-spouse is entitled to part of your pension, you should send us a copy of your domestic relations order (DRO) as soon as possible. The DRO gives us specific instructions on how to divide your benefits. We cannot finalize your pension until we review it and calculate the court-mandated distribution of your benefit. For more detailed information, please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders.

Questions

If you have other questions about applying for retirement, read our publication, Life Changes: How Do I Prepare to Retire? or contact us.

Health Care Costs Can Be Steep in Retirement

As you plan for your retirement, you may be forgetting one important thing – health care.

NYSLRS does not provide health care coverage for its retirees, and we’re not the experts on this subject. But we do offer advice to members about retirement planning, and how you’ll pay for health care coverage and out-of-pocket medical expenses should be an important consideration as you approach retirement.

Know the Health Care Cost Facts

Medicare premiums, deductibles, co-payments and prescription drug costs all add up. And those expenditures are likely to rise because health costs have been increasing faster than the rate of inflation and people spend more on medical expenses as they age.

Recent reports indicate a typical 65-year-old retiring in 2018 would spend well over $100,000 to cover medical costs over the course of retirement. What’s more, most NYSLRS members can retire as early as 55. That means you may spend a longer time in retirement than the average retiree, and you may not be eligible for Medicare for years.

couple working on their budget together

What You Can Do To Prepare

Before you can budget for retirement medical costs, you’ll need to do your homework. Start by talking to your employer about the health care options available to you after your retire and get an estimate of how much you will need to pay. You should also familiarize yourself with Medicare’s options, benefits and costs.

Once you get an idea of what your monthly health care might be, you can start planning how to pay for it. You may have to increase your retirement savings. If you’re a state employee, or a municipal employee covered by the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP), you may be able to get credit for unused sick leave that can reduce your NYSHIP premium. This program is managed by the New York State Department of Civil Service, not NYSLRS. Their Planning for Retirement booklet provides some good information.

Getting Credit for Your Military Service

If you served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you may be eligible to buy back up to three years of active service credit. Because service credit is a factor in calculating a NYSLRS pension, in most cases buying military service credit will increase your pension.

Military Service Credit

To be eligible, veterans must:

  • Have been honorably discharged;
  • Have at least five years of credited service in the Retirement System;
  • Have not received credit for this service in any other public retirement system in New York State; and
  • Apply for and purchase military service credit before they retire.

How to Apply for Military Service Credit

To apply and request a cost for military service credit:

1. Fax your name, contact information and a copy of your DD-214 to 518-486-6405 or 518-402-7799;

or

2. Mail a letter with your name and contact information, and a photocopy of your DD-214, to:
    Military Service Unit
    110 State Street
    Albany, NY 12244-0001

If after reviewing your application we determine you are eligible, we will send you a letter that will tell you how much credit you are eligible to purchase and the cost. Most members in Tier 1, 2, 3 or 4 can use our online benefit projection calculator to see how the credit would impact your pension. Tier 5 and 6 members can get that information by calling 1-866-805-0990, or using our secure email form (www.emailNYSLRS.com).

For more information, visit the Military Service Credit page on our website.

Taxes and Your NYSLRS Loan

You may be eligible to borrow money against your retirement contributions, but the loan may have tax implications. A NYSLRS loan is exempt from New York State and local income taxes, but it would be subject to federal taxes if the loan amount exceeds certain limits. That means you would need to include it on your federal income tax return for the year the loan is issued.(We’ll send you a 1099-R to file with your taxes.)

If you already have one or more outstanding NYSLRS loans, all or part of your new loan could be taxable. Also, if you already have a loan from a deferred compensation (457) or a tax-sheltered annuity (403-b) plan from your current employer, the total of all of your loan balances will be used in calculating your tax threshold.

The tax impact can be significant, and may even push you into a higher tax bracket. And, if you’re younger than 59½, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may charge a 10 percent penalty on top of your federal income taxes. Even if a substantial portion of your loan goes to the IRS, you’ll still have to repay the entire amount, plus interest, to NYSLRS. Moreover, if you do not pay off your loan before you retire, your pension will be permanently reduced.

You can have NYSLRS withhold 10 percent of the taxable amount from your loan check, but in most cases that will not cover the total amount you will owe the IRS.

Multiple Loans vs. Refinanced Loans

You may be able to avoid taxes, or at least lower them, by the way you structure your loan. If you have one or more NYSLRS loans and are considering another loan, you’ll have two options. You can take it as a separate loan (known as a multiple loan) or you can refinance your existing loan(s) to include the new loan amount.

The multiple loan option minimizes the potential tax impact. The minimum payment amount is higher for a multiple loan, but the minimum payment amount goes down as your loans are paid off. (The separate loan payments will be combined into a single payroll deduction.) The refinanced loan balance is spread over an additional five-year period. This reduces the minimum payment, but the taxable amount of a refinanced loan will always be greater than the taxable amount of a multiple loan.

Use Retirement Online to apply for a NYSLRS loan

 

Retirement Online

Retirement Online, our self-service tool that gives you secure access to your account information, is the most convenient way to apply for a loan. Retirement Online will also let you know how much you can borrow, your repayment options and whether your loan is taxable. If you don’t already have an account, visit our website to learn more.

We recommend that you speak to a tax advisor or a NYSLRS customer service representative before taking a taxable loan. For more information about taking a loan from NYSLRS, visit our Loans page.

Just Started A New Public Sector Job? Remember This Step…

Are you a current New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) member working at a new job in the public sector? Even though you’re already a member, make sure your new employer sends us a membership application for you.

The Importance of the Filling a New Membership Application

woman on job interview

By sending a new membership application, your employer provides us with updated information about your membership, like the start date of your new position and your job title. But, it’s important for other reasons as well. Up-to-date member information:

  • Ensures that your employment history and benefit projection are accurately reported in your Member Annual Statement;
  • Helps guarantee that benefit determinations are based on the most current information;
  • Highlights any delays between when you began working and when your employer started reporting you;
  • Ensures that we will receive the correct contribution amount for your membership; and
  • Allows us to update your retirement plan in our records, should you change plans as a result of your new employment.

Starting a new public sector job is also a good opportunity to update your beneficiary information . You should check your beneficiaries regularly to make sure any benefits will be paid according to your wishes. Payments are made to the last named beneficiary.

Retirement Online is the convenient and secure way to review and update your beneficiary information. Register or Sign In , and then click “Update My Beneficiaries.”

Being a Friend

While you have applications on your mind, think about any friends or coworkers you may have. Perhaps, like you, they have recently changed jobs. Remind them to make sure their employers submit new applications.

Or, maybe you know a coworker who isn’t a mandatory member of NYSLRS, but who has that option. Suggest they consider joining NYSLRS.

It’s a good idea to join even if you aren’t sure you’ll ever apply for a benefit. By becoming a NYSLRS member, you lock in your tier and protect your benefits. And, if you do decide to leave public employment and withdraw your membership, you’ll receive 5 percent on your contributions, which can be a competitive return.

For more information about the benefits of NYSLRS membership, check out our Membership in a Nutshell publication.

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. All 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. If you work full-time or part-time, you’re earning service credit, just at different rates.

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 work days in a year. For a full-time 12-month employee, 260 work days constitutes a full year. For our members who work for school districts, a full-time 10-month academic year can be 180 work days. (If you work in an educational setting, we covered that in an earlier blog post.)

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.

Check Your Member Annual Statement

From May to July, we’ll send out this year’s Member Annual Statements. For most members, your statement will show how much service credit you’ve earned over the past fiscal year (April 1, 2017 – March 31, 2018). It will also show your total service credit as of March 31, 2018. Make sure to look it over to see how much service credit you’ve earned over your career.

For more detailed information about service credit, please refer to your specific retirement plan publication.

Dig into the NYSLRS Summer Reading List

Looking for some perfect summer beach reading? Why not check out these page-turners from NYSLRS? They’re light on colorful characters and exotic settings. But, what they lack in plot intrigue, they make up for in important retirement information.

summer reading

1.  Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6

Service credit is one of the main components that determine your NYSLRS pension. Whether you’re a new member or well into your career, it’s important to understand what it is, its role in your pension calculation and the various types of service for which Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 members can receive credit. ( Read it now. )

2.  Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members (Articles 14 and 15)

Nearly 300,000 Tier 3 and 4 members of the Employee’s Retirement System (ERS) are covered by this plan. The publication explains some of the benefits and the services available to you, including a service retirement, a vested retirement, a disability retirement, death benefits and more. ( Read it now. )

3.  Membership in a Nutshell

NYSLRS membership can be overwhelming when you first join. There’s new terminology: What’s a tier or service credit or a final average salary? There are services like loans and benefit projections as well as new responsibilities like keeping your account information up to date. This guide will help you navigate NYSLRS and your new retirement plan. ( Read it now. )

4.  Retirement Plan for ERS Tier 6 Members (Article 15)

More than 130,000 Tier 6 ERS members are covered by this Plan. The publication explains some of the benefits and the services available to you, including a service retirement, a vested retirement, a disability retirement, death benefits and more. ( Read it now. )

5.  Life Changes: A Guide for Retirees

Already retired? As a NYSLRS retiree, you know that you will receive a monthly retirement benefit for life. However there may be other benefits available to you, as well as services that we provide retirees. This guide will answer many of the questions you may have and explain your responsibilities as a retiree. ( Read it now. )

Not covered by the retirement plans above? Maybe you’re a police officer, a firefighter, a sheriff or a correctional officer. Find your plan as well as publications covering other general topics of interest on our Publications page. They’re great reading any time of year.

Have You Tried Retirement Online?

Doing business with NYSLRS has never been easier. Retirement Online provides a safe and convenient way to review your retirement account details and conduct transactions in real time. In many cases, you can use Retirement Online instead of sending forms through the mail or calling NYSLRS.

Registration is easy and secure. Retirement Online uses the same security safeguards used for online banking. You’ll be asked a series of security questions while registering. The questions are used to verify your identity.

Once you register and sign in, members, retirees and beneficiaries can access a variety of time-saving features.

Everyone can

  • View benefit information. Instead of relying on your annual statement or calling our Contact Center, with Retirement Online, you can review up-to-date information about your account when it’s convenient for you.
  • Update contact information. Moving? No problem. Change your address, phone number or email address online instead of calling or emailing us.

Members can

  • View or update beneficiaries. It’s a good idea to keep your beneficiary designations up to date. View your selections and submit changes instantly.
  • Apply for a loan. You may be eligible to take out a loan against your NYSLRS contributions. Do it safely and conveniently with Retirement Online.

Retirees can

  • View or update beneficiaries.
  • Generate a verification of income letter. Sometimes a business or government agency requires you to verify your pension income. Generate and print an official income verification letter any time you need one.

Beneficiaries can

  • Generate a verification of income letter.

More features will be rolled out in the future. In time, members will be able to estimate their projected pension benefit and purchase service credit, while retirees will get to manage their direct deposit information and more.

Retirement Online is available weekdays, 6:30 am to 8:00 pm, and weekends, 6:30 am to 5:00 pm.

About web browsers

The recommended web browser to use for Retirement Online is Internet Explorer, but you can also use Google Chrome.

Learn more about Retirement Online

If you need help with your retirement online account, please call our Contact Center at 1-866-805-0990 (or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area). You can also email us using our secure contact form.

A Healthy Retirement

To many of us, life is a journey with retirement as a much anticipated destination along the way. Every year worked and each dollar saved brings us closer to that destination.

If it is a journey, members of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) have a head start, with retirement benefits guaranteed for life. And, with most NYSLRS members eligible to retire as early as age 55, the finish line may be closer as well.

But, the journey doesn’t end when you reach retirement. So, what happens next? It turns out that question is more important than you might think. Your answer can help make retirement a time of fun, relaxation and intellectual stimulation like you’ve always pictured.

Research reveals secrets to a healthy retirement.

According to research based on the Study of Adult Development — an ongoing, 70-year investigation conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School — choices we make after retirement can promote a long and fulfilling third act. Dr. George E. Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has been a part of the study for more than 40 of those 70 years. He has identified four behaviors associated with enjoyable and healthy retirements:

  1. Don’t be an island. We spend our careers making friends and forging connections with colleagues. When we retire, much of the daily human contact that was easy and almost automatic is suddenly gone.
  2. Get a hobby. Whether it’s traveling or golf, volunteer work or woodworking, regular activities add valuable order to your days, offer opportunities to exercise and make excellent shared interests for new friendships.
  3. Use the right side of your brain. Conceptual activities like painting, writing or even gardening promote both physical and mental health.
  4. Learn something new. Should your ongoing education take the form of an in-person class or workshop, that’s all the better. Take the opportunity to meet new people and expand your social network.

Whatever you decide to do when you no longer work, a smooth retirement process will start you off on the right foot. Check out our Life Changes: How Do I Prepare to Retire? publication. It offers resources to help you decide when to retire, a step-by-step guide to the retirement process and even a monthly expenses worksheet to help you budget for life after retirement.

Protect Yourself From Scammers

Since taking office in 2007, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has made fighting fraud one of his top priorities, helping ensure the integrity of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. But have you been as diligent protecting your own money, including your retirement savings?

Most of us are aware of common scams, emails from princes using poor grammar or phone calls about phony sweepstakes prizes. And we’re confident that we would never fall for these schemes. Still, con artists steal billions of dollars every year from sensible, intelligent people. And you’re most likely to encounter a con artist on the phone.

Scammers trying to call you on the phone?

Exploiting your emotions

Con artists work best when their victims are in a heightened emotional state – excited about that prize money or terrified because they owe a large debt. And that emotional state makes it hard to spot the red flags. But if a caller is trying to scare you or manipulate your emotions, that should be a red flag in itself.

Red flags and common ploys

There are other red flags to watch for. Does the caller use high-pressure sales tactics or threatening language? Do they ask for payment in advance for a product or service or require an unorthodox payment method, such as wire-transfer, pre-paid debit card or gift card? Do they insist that you act now?

One common ploy is a call warning that you’ll be locked up if you don’t pay your back taxes right now. But the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) always notifies delinquent taxpayers by mail before they call. The real IRS will not demand immediate payment, ask for your credit card or debit card numbers over the phone, or threaten to arrest you.

Likewise, your bank won’t call and ask for your account information. And a legitimate computer company isn’t going to call because they are getting messages from your computer about a technical problem. There are many variations, but a few basic principles can help you avoid scams.

Generally, NYSLRS will not call you unless we are following up on a contact from you (a phone call, email, online inquiry, form or letter). If you do get a call from us, you can use your NYSLRS ID to identify yourself. If you suspect someone is posing as a Retirement System representative, please notify us using our secure email form at www.emailNYSLRS.com.

Ways to protect yourself and spot scammers:

  • Be wary. Sounds too good to be true? It is. If you didn’t enter the sweepstakes, you’re not going to win it.
  • Don’t provide your Social Security number, bank account information or other sensitive personal data to anyone you don’t know.
  • Sleep on it. If the caller is legit, they won’t mind you taking time to think it over.
  • Hang Up. Don’t engage with suspicious callers. They may be able to extract valuable information from innocuous comments. (And never answer with the word “yes.” They can record you and use it in a scam.)
  • If it’s an automated call or a number you don’t recognize, let it go to voicemail.

More Information