Tag Archives: Member Annual Statement

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.

Retirement Planning vs. Reality

As we sit down to plan our retirement, we ask ourselves some tough questions: Am I saving enough? Am I ready for the lifestyle change? Do I need to tighten my budget now or will I need to in retirement?

These questions are all aimed at helping us answer one central question: When is the right time to retire?

According to recent Gallup research, there is often a significant gap between the age we plan to retire and how old we are when we actually do.

Retirement Survey

Gallup’s April 2016 survey asked workers, “At what age do you expect to retire?” And, it asked retirees, “At what age did you retire?”

On average, there is a significant gap between the percent of workers who plan to retire within a certain age range and the percent of retirees who actually did. For example, 31 percent of workers intend to retire at age 68 or older. However, only 12 percent of retirees actually do. And, only 23 percent of workers think they’ll retire before age 62. Nevertheless, 36 percent of retirees ended up doing so. On average, Americans expect to retire at age 66, but actually retire at age 61.  That means a significant number of us may be underestimating how many years our retirement savings need to last.

Age and Your NYSLRS Pension

Regular readers may recall that most NYSLRS retirement plans have a minimum age requirement to retire with a full benefit. However, once you are vested, you are generally able to retire as early as age 55.

An early retirement may come with a significant — and permanent — benefit reduction, though. So, if you plan to retire with a full benefit at age 62 (or 63 for Tier 6 members), but end up retiring early instead, your pension will be less than you planned.

Retirement Planning

NYSLRS has several resources to help you make your retirement plans and stay on target. We distribute your Member Annual Statement (MAS) between May and July. It contains valuable information to help you understand your benefits and plan for the future, including: your earnings, your service credit total and up to three pension projections based on your specific details. You can also check out our Preparing for Retirement — A Checklist and 5 Step Plan for Retirement pages on our website. Our Life Changes: How Do I Prepare to Retire? publication offers a step–by–step guide to the retirement process, a list of available resources and some key factors to consider as you plan.

If you have any questions about your retirement plan, we’re glad to help. Email us using our secure email form, which allows us to safely contact you about your personal account information.

Know Your Benefits: Your NYSLRS Pension

Generally, three main components determine your NYSLRS pension: your retirement plan, your final average salary (FAS) and your total service credit.

Your Retirement Plan

NYSLRS retirement plans are established by law. Your plan lays out the formula we’ll use to calculate your pension as well as eligibility requirements. It’s important to read your plan booklet, which you can find on our Publications page.  If you aren’t certain what retirement plan you’re in, check your Member Annual Statement or ask your employer.

NYSLRS Pension Chart

Final Average Salary

Your FAS is the average of your earnings during the set period of time when they were the highest. For ERS and PFRS members in Tiers 1 through 5, that period is three consecutive years; for Tier 6 members, it’s five consecutive years. Some PFRS members may be eligible for a one-year period, if their employer offers it. We will use your FAS, age at retirement, total service credit and the formula from your retirement plan to calculate your NYSLRS pension.

Generally, the earnings we can use for your FAS include regular salary, overtime and recurring longevity payments earned within the period. Some payments you receive won’t count toward your FAS, even when you receive them in the FAS period. The specifics vary by tier, and are listed in your retirement plan booklet.

In most cases, the law also limits how much your pensionable earnings can increase from year to year in the FAS period. Earnings above this cap will not count toward your pension.

Our Your Retirement Benefits publications, (ERS and PFRS), provide the limits for each tier and examples of how we’ll determine your FAS.

Service Credit

Service credit is credit for time spent working for a participating public employer. For most members who work full-time, 260 workdays equals one year of service credit. Members who work part-time or in educational settings can refer to their retirement plan publication for their service credit calculation.

Service credit is a factor in the calculation of your NYSLRS pension. Generally, the more credit you have, the higher your pension will be. Some special plans (usually for police officers, firefighters or correction officers) let you retire at any age once you’ve earned 20 or 25 years of service credit. In other plans, if you retire without enough service credit and don’t meet the age requirements of your retirement plan, your pension will be reduced.

Planning Ahead for Your NYSLRS Pension

As you get closer to retirement age, keep an eye on your service credit and FAS. Make sure we have an accurate record of your public employment history. You can sign in to Retirement Online or check your latest Member Annual Statement to see the total amount of service credit you’ve earned. You may also want to take a look at our budgeting worksheet or try our Benefit Projector Calculator as you plan for your retirement.

If you have questions, or want to find out more information about what makes up your NYSLRS pension, please contact us.

Know Your Benefits: Leaving Public Employment

It may never come up, but, you should know what would happen with your NYSLRS membership and benefits if you ever leave public employment. Even if you no longer work for a New York public employer, you’d still be a NYSLRS member. Depending on your circumstances, that membership may come with certain benefits and responsibilities.

What Happens to My Contributions If I Leave Public Employment?

If you have less than ten years of service credit, you can end your membership and request a refund of your contributions by filing a Withdrawal Application (RS5014).

If you have not earned enough service credit to be vested (eligible for a retirement benefit) and don’t withdraw your contributions, they will continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. At that point, if you are still off the public payroll, by law, your membership ends automatically, and your contributions will be deposited into a non-interest-bearing account. (Your contributions are not automatically refunded.)

If you are vested, your contributions will remain on deposit with NYSLRS, and when you reach retirement age, you’ll be eligible to apply for a retirement benefit.

Leaving Public Employment

How Will Leaving Public Employment Affect My Death Benefits?

If you have at least ten years of service credit before you leave, 50 percent of your death benefit may still be payable when you die. With less than ten years of service credit, the 50 percent death benefit is only payable if you die within one year of leaving public service.

How Can I Pay Back My Outstanding Loans?

If you have an outstanding NYSLRS loan, you must still make payments directly to NYSLRS at least once every three months. You must repay your loan within five years of the date it was issued, or you will default on the loan. Defaulting on a loan may carry considerable tax consequences: You’ll need to pay ordinary income tax and possibly an additional 10 percent penalty on the taxable portion of the loan. Once you’ve left public employment, you aren’t eligible to take a NYSLRS loan.

How Can I Stay Informed About My Membership If I Leave Public Employment?

If you leave public employment, but haven’t ended your NYSLRS membership, you’ll still:

Beyond staying informed, you’ll need to keep your membership information up to date:

  • Keep your beneficiary information current, and
  • Let us know about any name or address changes (for either you or your beneficiaries).

Finally, it’s your responsibility to file an Application for Service Retirement (RS6037) when you are eligible to retire — we will not pay out a retirement benefit unless you apply for it.

For more information, read our Life Changes: What if I Leave Public Employment? (VO1800) publication.

What Unused Sick Leave Might Mean For You at Retirement

If you’ve accumulated unused, unpaid sick leave, you may be able to use it toward your NYSLRS pension benefit.

New York State employees are eligible for this benefit. You also may be eligible if your employer has adopted Section 41(j) for the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), or 341(j) for the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), of Retirement and Social Security Law. Not sure? Ask your employer or check your Member Annual Statement.

Here’s How It Works

Your additional service credit is determined by dividing your total unused, unpaid sick leave days by 260. Most ERS members can get credit for up to 165 days (7½ months) of unused sick leave. The benefit is capped at 100 days (4½ months) for most Tier 6 members. State employees in certain negotiating units may be able to use 200 days (about nine months). Those extra “months” would be used in calculating your retirement benefit.

Also, depending on your employer, your unused sick leave may be used to cover some health insurance costs during your retirement. Please check with your employer for information about health insurance.

Restrictions

Unused sick leave cannot be used to reach NYSLRS retirement milestones. Let’s say you have 19½ years of service credit. At 20 years, your pension calculation would improve substantially. You also have 130 days of unused sick leave. Can you add the six months of sick leave credit to get you to 20 years? No. Retirement law does not permit it. You’ll have to work those extra six months to get the 20-year benefit rate, though sick leave credits can still be used in your final pension calculation.

Also, credit for unused sick can’t be used to:

  • Qualify for vesting
  • Reach a minimum retirement age
  • Increase your pension beyond the maximum allowed under your retirement plan
  • Meet the service credit requirement for a special 20- or 25-year plan

Check your retirement plan booklet for more information.

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?

Earning NYSLRS Service Credit as a School Employee

There are non-teachers earning NYSLRS service credit. In an earlier post, we talked about how full-time and part-time service credit works for NYSLRS members. We mentioned how earning NYSLRS service credit for workers in an educational setting can be a little different, so we want to take this time to elaborate on that.

While most New York teachers are in a separate retirement system from NYSLRS, there are NYSLRS members working in New York schools in other roles. They work according to the school year, which could be only 10 or 11 months long. So how do we determine service credit for them?

Earning NYSLRS Service Credit When You Work Full-Time

If you’re a school employee who works full-time, you receive one year of service per school year. Generally, a full-time 10-month school year requires at least 180 days worked in any school year. Depending on your employer, your full-time academic schedule could require a minimum of 200 or 170 days.

Earning NYSLRS Service Credit When You Work Part-Time

Part-time school employees earn service credit based on the number of days they worked. Depending on the length of your school year, you’d earn service credit the following ways:

For institutional teachers

Number of days worked ÷ 200 days

For all BOCES and school district employees, as well as teachers working at New York State schools for the deaf and blind

Number of days works ÷ 180 days

For college employees

Number of days worked ÷ 170 days

Check Your Member Annual Statement

From May to July, we’ll send out this year’s Member Annual Statements. (Members who work an academic schedule usually receive statements first.) For most members, your statement will show how much service credit you’ve earned for the past fiscal year (April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2016). It will also show your total service credit as of March 31, 2016. Make sure to look it over to see how much service credit you’ve earned over your career.

For more information on service credit, read our booklet, Service Credit for Tiers 2 through 6 (VO1854), or your own retirement plan publication.

Your Member Annual Statement is Coming

We’ve started distributing the 2017 Member Annual Statements (MAS) to more than 600,000 NYSLRS members. The mailing is done in stages, taking six to eight weeks to complete. School employees receive their statements first; most others should expect to see theirs by mid-July.

Your statement contains important information about your NYSLRS membership, including your reported salary, service credit and beneficiaries. Depending upon your own circumstances, you may also see projected annual benefits, loan balances or past service account balances.

When You Receive Your Statement

Be sure to review the information in your statement carefully. If you need to change your address, email or phone number, or update your beneficiaries, you can use Retirement Online — our convenient and secure self-service tool. You can contact us to correct most errors, but if you have a question about your reported salary, please contact your employer.

Because the information is valuable year round, after you check it over, file your MAS away securely. It’s very likely you’ll reference it again at some point in the future.

Member ID Cards

Your statement also includes a member identification card, with both a registration number and a NYSLRS ID number. The NYSLRS ID is new this year, part of our upgrade to a new computer system. When the upgrade is complete, we will phase out the old registration numbers and replace them with the NYSLRS ID.

As identity theft becomes more and more prevalent, please help us protect you and your personal information. Reference either your registration or NYSLRS ID number — not your Social Security number — whenever you contact us.

When you receive your statement, be sure to clip out your ID card. Save it in a secure and easily accessible place, so you’ll always have your NYSLRS identification numbers handy.

Questions about Your MAS?

2017 Member Annual Statement TutorialCheck out our interactive, online presentation. It features a page-by-page explanation of your MAS as well as answers to common questions. View the entire presentation, or go directly to the information you need.

We can provide MAS reprints once we finish mailing statements — usually by mid-July. You can contact us at that time if you need to order a reprint.