Tag Archives: benefits

NYSLRS’ Top Five Retirement Myths from 2016

Retirement Myths vs FactsWith two retirement systems, six tiers and 346 retirement plan combinations, it’s quite possible that the NYSLRS benefit information your coworker is talking about may not apply to you. That’s why, periodically, we like to clear up some common misconceptions we hear from members and retirees. Here are our top five retirement myths from 2016.


Myth #1  “NYSLRS can change the rules determining pension contributions and retirement benefits.

Fact  We can’t. The contributions you make and the benefits you enjoy are dictated by law — as passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. NYSLRS administers these programs.

This is also true for retirement incentives; the decision to offer an incentive comes from the Legislature and the Governor. Individual employers, like your town or police department, may decide to offer their own incentives to employees, but these do not affect a member’s NYSLRS pension benefits.


Myth #2  “Your final average salary (FAS) is based on the years immediately preceding your retirement

Fact  While the number of years used to calculate your FAS varies by tier and plan, they aren’t limited to your final years of employment. We look at your entire employment history while you were a member of NYSLRS to find the consecutive years when you earned the most, and those years are used in the calculation for your FAS. For more information, visit our website.


Myth #3  “NYSLRS membership ends when you stop working for a NYSLRS participating employer.

Fact  Even when you leave public employment before you’re eligible to retire, you’re still a NYSLRS member. If you’re vested, you will be eligible for a pension benefit once you reach the retirement age specified by your plan. If you’re not vested, your contributions stay with NYSLRS and continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. If you leave public employment with less than 10 years of service, you can end your NYSLRS membership and request a refund of your retirement contributions.

What else happens when you leave public employment? Check out your plan publication to learn more about your benefits. You can also visit our website for more information.


Myth #4  “You can’t make extra payments to pay off a NYSLRS loan faster.

Fact  You can make additional payments or pay your loan in full at any time, with no prepayment penalties. For the payoff balance on your loan, call our automated phone service (1-866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area and press 3 for members; then 1 or 2 for the Employees’ Retirement System or the Police and Fire Retirement System; and then 1 for loan services). For more information, visit Loans: Getting One and Paying it Back.


Myth #5  “If Call Center lines are busy, there’s no way to get benefit information.

Fact  Even when the Call Center phone lines are busy, our automated phone system can help members and retirees with a number of tasks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Press 3 for Member Services, which includes current loan balance and application status information.

Press 4 for Retiree/Beneficiary Services, which includes COLA eligibility and federal tax withholding information.

Press 6 for Other Services, which includes requesting forms by fax.

Another way to get benefit information is to visit the Contact Us page on our website, which has answers to many commonly asked questions. You can also email us using our secure email form.


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10 Most Popular Posts of 2016

As we wrap up 2016, let’s take a look back at our most popular posts.

  1. NYSLRS Retirees at Home and Abroad

    Where did you go? Not far, it turns out. Seventy-eight percent of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries stay in New York State. However, the rest have made homes around the country and even around the world.

  2. How Full-Time and Part-Time Service Credit Works

    Work is work, and credit is credit. But, if you work part-time, there’s some math involved. We helped members crunch the numbers.

  3. NYSLRS Basics: Becoming Vested

    It’s all about becoming vested, earning enough service credit to qualify for a pension benefit — even if you leave public employment. We went through the ins and outs of becoming vested for members of both the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).

  4. What to Know When Leaving Public Employment

    Even if you leave public employment, you’re still a NYSLRS member. We gave members a rundown on their options and how their benefits may change after moving to private employment before retirement.

  5. Taxes and Your NYSLRS Retirement Benefit

    You won’t need to pay New York State or local taxes on your NYSLRS retirement benefit, but other states and federal income tax are another matter. We gave members and retirees some insight into federal tax withholding and the 1099-R form.

  6. Your Checklist to Apply for Retirement

    Once you’ve earned the service credit, it’s time to get ready for retirement. We gave members a six-item checklist to make sure they’ve laid the groundwork for a smooth application process.

  7. Death Benefits for ERS Members

    We looked at the death benefit that Tier 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 ERS members in regular plans receive.

  8. Planning Around Your Retirement Date

    A solid lead up to retirement is essential, but picking the right retirement date is important too. We gave members some tips about when to submit their applications, how to pick a date and what their first benefit payments will look like.

  9. NYSLRS’ Top Five Retirement Myths from 2015

    NYSLRS members are spread out over two systems, six tiers and 346 retirement plan combinations. It can be easy for information to get jumbled between coworkers and between plans. So, we cleared up some common misconceptions we’ve heard from members and retirees over the years. This is an entry in our Retirement Myths series.

  10. Retirement Milestones for ERS Tier 3 and 4 Members

    The better you understand your road to retirement, the better you can plan for it. We took a look at the journey for Tier 3 and 4 ERS members and pointed out several retirement benefit milestones they’ll pass along the way. We also took a look at Tier 5 and Tier 6 member milestone, too.

Retroactive Payments and Your NYSLRS Pension Benefit

Retroactive payments are lump sum payments you receive from your employer. These can be from newly negotiated union contracts, like the one ratified on December 14 by Public Employees Federation (PEF) union members. Retroactive payments can also be from arbitration awards or legal settlements.

Your final average salary (FAS) is a major factor in your pension benefit calculation. Your FAS is the average of your three (five for Tier 6 members) highest consecutive years of earnings. How do retroactive payments affect your final average salary?

How Retroactive Payments Can Affect Your Benefit

When we calculate your FAS at retirement, retroactive payments are applied to the pay periods when they were earned, not when they were paid. In general, retroactive payments can increase your FAS as long as the time period in which you earned that money is part of your FAS.

For example, state employees who are members of PEF received a retroactive payment this month for salary earned since April 1, 2016. If you are one of these PEF members, we would apply the lump sum payment over the time frame when it was earned (State fiscal year April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017). If that State fiscal year falls within your highest three (five for Tier 6) consecutive years of earnings, the retroactive payment you received in March should increase your FAS.

Your employer should let us know if you receive a retroactive payment before or after you retire. If you are a State employee who received a PEF retroactive payment after you retired, we will recalculate your pension benefit amount automatically; you do not need to notify us. If you receive a retroactive payment from a non-state employer after your pension benefit calculation is finalized, send a letter to our Recalculation Unit in the Benefit Calculations & Disbursement Services Bureau. Please include a copy of your check stub and/or any correspondence you received from your employer. You may also email and upload this information to the Retirement System through our secure contact form.

For more information about FAS, read our Understanding Your Final Average Salary blog post. You can also find out specific information about your FAS by reading your retirement plan booklet, available on our Publications page.

What to Know About ERS Tier 6

Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members who join NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012 are in Tier 6. There are currently 129,359 ERS Tier 6 members who make up 21.1 percent of ERS membership.

ERS Tier 6 Membership Milestones

ERS Tier 6 members need 10 years of service credit to be vested. That means they are eligible to receive a service retirement benefit as early as age 55. The full retirement benefit age is 63, but they can retire between 55 and 63, with a reduced benefit. Tier 6 correction officers, however, can retire with 25 years of service, regardless of age.
ERS Tier 6 benefits

The Final Average Salary (FAS) Calculation

A member’s final average salary is the average of the wages earned in the five highest consecutive years of employment. For ERS Tier 6 members, each year’s compensation used in the final average salary calculation is limited to no more than 10 percent above the average of the previous four years.

Tier 6 Service Retirement Benefit

Generally, the benefit is 1.66 percent of their final average salary for each year of service if the member retires with less than 20 years. If a member retires with 20 years of service, the benefit is 1.75 percent of their final average salary for each year of service, or 35 percent.

If a member retires with more than 20 years of service, they receive 35 percent for the first 20 years, plus 2 percent of their final average salary for each year of service over 20 years.

If you’re an ERS Tier 6 member, you can find out more about your benefits by reading one of the plan publications listed below:

What to Know About ERS Tier 5

Any Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) member who joined NYSLRS on or after January 1, 2010 but before April 1, 2012 is a member of Tier 5. There are currently 53,123 ERS Tier 5 members who make up 8.7 percent of ERS.

ERS Tier 5 Membership Milestones

As a Tier 5 member earns service credit over their career, they become eligible for certain benefits in their retirement plan. Here are some important milestones for Tier 5 members: 

ERS Tier 5 member milestones

ERS Tier 5 Contributions

Most Tier 5 members must contribute 3 percent of their salary for all their years of service, except Uniformed Court and Peace Officers employed by the Unified Court System, who must contribute 4 percent for all their years of public service. State Correction Officers contribute 3 percent for no more than 30 years.

With the exception of those retiring under special retirement plans, Tier 5 members must have 10 or more years of service to be vested (eligible for a retirement benefit). They can retire as early as age 55 with reduced benefits. The full benefit age for Tier 5 is 62.

The Final Average Salary (FAS) Calculation

The retirement benefit for Tier 5 members is 1.66 percent of their final average salary (FAS) for each year of service if the member retires with less than 20 years. FAS is the average of the wages earned in the three highest consecutive years of employment. For Tier 5 members, each year’s compensation used in the FAS calculation is limited to no more than 10 percent above the average of the previous two years.

If a Tier 5 member retires with between 20 and 30 years of service, the benefit is two percent of their FAS for each year of service. If a Tier 5 member retires with more than 30 years of service, the benefit is 1.5 percent of their FAS for each year of service over 30 years.

You can find out more info about Tier 5 retirement benefits on our website.

September COLA Increase for NYSLRS Retirees

In August, we said that eligible NYSLRS retirees could expect a cost of-living adjustment (COLA) increase on September 30. 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.

If you are due a COLA, you should have recently received a letter letting you know how much your 2016 increase is and how much your total benefit will be. If you receive your benefit by direct deposit (electronic fund transfer), you can expect to receive a second letter, which will describe the change to your benefit, before pension payments go out at the end of the month.

The COLA you receive from NYSLRS is not the same as the COLA you might receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2016, the SSA didn’t provide a COLA adjustment for almost 65 million Social Security recipients.

Healthcare in Retirement

There are reductions, such as health insurance, which may offset the COLA increase. NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs for its retirees. For New York State retirees, the New York State Department of Civil Service administers the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP). If you have questions about your health insurance premiums, you can visit the Department of Civil Service’s website or call them at 1-800-833-4344 or 518-457-5754 to learn more.

If you retired from a public employer other than New York State (a county, city, town, village or school district), your former employer’s benefits administrator should be able to answer your health insurance questions.

Visit our website to learn more about COLA and your eligibility.

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.

New Law Affects Military Service Credit Requirements

Military Service CreditMilitary service credit legislation amending Article 20 of the Retirement and Social Security Law was signed into law on May 31, 2016. The law removes the requirement that an NYSLRS member must have served during specific periods of hostilities in order to purchase military service credit under Article 20 of the Retirement and Social Security Law. Previously, only NYSLRS members who served in certain conflicts, including World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, were able to purchase service credit.

Under the new law (Chapter 41, Laws of 2016), eligible NYSLRS members may buy up to three years of their military service as long as they:

  • Have at least five years of creditable service in NYSLRS (other than their military service);
  • Have been honorably discharged from active military service; and
  • Have not received credit for this service in any other public retirement system in New York State.

What Will Military Service Credit Cost?

There is a cost for this service credit. If you work full-time, here’s how you can estimate the cost:

  • Tiers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5: The cost will be 3 percent of the compensation you earned during the 12 months of credited service immediately prior to our receipt of your request, times the number of years of military service being claimed.
  • Tier 6: The cost will be 6 percent of the compensation you earned during the 12 months of credited service immediately prior to our receipt of your request, times the number of years of military service being claimed.

How to Apply for Military Service Credit

To apply and request a cost of for military service credit:

  1. Scan and email your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty papers (DD-214) to msunit@osc.state.ny.us and include your name and contact information. You’ll receive an email acknowledging that we received your request;

or

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

or

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

If you have questions, email us at msunit@osc.state.ny.us. We will be providing additional information on our Military Service Credit page over the coming days.

Your Checklist to Apply for Retirement

After months of planning and preparation, you’re ready to apply for retirement. To get your pension benefit, you need to send in a NYSLRS retirement 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). Some items to keep in mind when you fill out the form:

  • Know your registration number. You can find this number on your most recent Member Annual Statement or retirement estimate.
  • Know your past employment. Please list your public employment history, including military service and any memberships in other New York public retirement systems. This helps ensure you receive the proper credit for your public service.
  • Include your beneficiary’s information. This isn’t an official designation, but will help us provide you with the pension payment options available to you.
  • See a notary. The form must be filled out completely and signed by a notary public.

Applying for Retirement

Proof of Birth

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

Other Forms to Consider

You’ll need to choose your payment option before your pension is payable. Option election forms are available on our website, but we will also send you a form after we process your retirement application. If you choose an option that would provide a pension benefit to a beneficiary upon your death, you must provide us with proof of your beneficiary’s birth date.

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 to tell us what amount you want withheld from your monthly benefit. You can change your federal withholding status at any time. We don’t withhold other states’ income taxes. Visit the Retired Public Employees Association’s website to see if your benefit will be taxed in another state.

You can enroll in our direct deposit program at the same time you file for retirement. Just fill out a Direct Deposit Enrollment Application (RS6370) and return it to us. Once your final retirement benefit amount is determined, your payments will be directly deposited into the account you specified on your enrollment application. Direct deposit is the fastest and most secure way for you to receive your pension benefits. We will send you information on your direct deposit payment amount including deductions, and will inform you when the amount changes.

If you’re divorced and your 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. We cannot finalize your pension until we have reviewed your DRO and calculated the required distribution of your benefit. The DRO gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be divided. For more detailed information, please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders.

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

NYSLRS’ Top Five Retirement Myths from 2015

Retirement Myths vs FactsFrom the day you become a NYSLRS member to the day you retire, you’re exposed to all sorts of retirement information. Unfortunately, sometimes what you learn can get jumbled along the way. We want to help clear up some common misconceptions we’ve heard from members and retirees over the past year. Here are the top five retirement myths from 2015:


Myth #1 “I’ll receive the full amount of my monthly retirement benefit when my payments start.”

Fact For the first few months of retirement, most NYSLRS retirees will receive partial payments while we finish calculating their final benefit. (We need to collect information on final payments and pensionable leave credits from their employers, a process that can take some time.) The partial payments are based on their most recent NYSLRS retirement estimate and usually make up 90 – 95 percent of their final benefit. Partial payments are paid by check and mailed to the address we have on file for the retiree.


Myth #2 “Family members always receive death benefits.”

Fact With the exception of accidental death benefits, NYSLRS members may name any person, trust, or organization as their beneficiary to receive death benefits. It doesn’t have to be a family member. Accidental death benefit recipients are outlined in the law.


Myth #3 “I can’t collect my pension until I start receiving Social Security.”

Fact Members can apply for retirement as soon as they meet the eligibility requirements of their retirement plan.


Myth #4 “NYSLRS manages my retiree health insurance.”

Fact NYSLRS does not administer health insurance programs for its retirees. We deduct premiums from a retiree’s monthly retirement benefit to pay for their health insurance if we’re told to do so by their former employer.

(If you have questions about your health insurance coverage or premium deductions, please contact your former employer. If you retired from a New York State agency, you can contact the New York State Department of Civil Service.)


Myth #5 “NYSLRS decides when there’s a retirement incentive.”

Fact This isn’t the case. The New York State Legislature (not NYSLRS) enacts retirement incentive programs. Incentives are approved by both houses and signed into law by the Governor. NYSLRS administers programs that are signed into law.


Check out your plan publication to learn more about your benefits. You can also visit our website for more information.