Tag Archives: NYSLRS Basics

NYSLRS Basics: Becoming Vested

What does it mean to be a vested NYSLRS member? If you’re vested, you’ve reached a major milestone in your membership. Being vested means that you’ve earned enough service credit to qualify for a pension benefit, even if you leave public employment. If you leave public employment after becoming vested, at a later date you can apply for and receive what we call a vested retirement benefit. The vested benefit is based on the service and salary earned when you were an active member with NYSLRS.

When Do I Become Vested?

The amount of service credit you need to be vested is based on what tier you’re in. If you’re a Tier 5 or 6 member, you need ten years of service to be vested. If you’re in another tier (Tier 1, 2, 3 or 4), you’re vested once you earn five years of service credit.

Applying for the Vested Benefit

For most vested members, if you leave the payroll before age 55, you’ll be eligible for a retirement benefit when you reach age 55. Tier 1 and Tier 2 members are eligible for a benefit on the first of the month following their 55th birthday. Tier 3, 4, 5 are eligible for a benefit on their 55th birthday. Employees’ Retirement System Tier 6 members are also eligible on their 55th birthday, but Police and Fire Retirement System Tier 6 members are eligible on their 63rd birthday.

Please note these are the earliest ages that you become eligible for the vested benefit. An early age reduction may apply under certain plans. Please review your retirement plan booklet to see if early age reductions apply.

Becoming Vested

Receiving your vested retirement benefit is not automatic. You must file a retirement application when you become eligible and wish to receive your benefit.

Visit our website to learn more about vesting.

Want to read more in our NYSLRS Basics series? Check out past posts on:

NYSLRS Basics: Understanding Your Final Average Salary

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined benefit pension plan. With a defined benefit plan, you’ll receive a lifetime pension benefit based on a formula set by law that uses service credit and final average salary as part of the pension calculation. You’re probably familiar with service credit – it’s the years of service you earn while working with a participating employer. But what is a final average salary?

When we calculate your pension, we look at a specific set of years when your earnings were highest. We take the average of these earnings to create your final average salary. For most members, your final average salary is based on the years just before you retire. However, the years of earnings we use to calculate your final average salary may not match up to a calendar year or the New York fiscal year. For the purposes of calculating your final average salary, each “year” represents earnings during a time that equals one full-time year of service credit.

Types of Final Average Salary

Your tier and plan determines how we calculate your final average salary:NYSLRS Basics: Understanding your Final Average Salary

  • Three-Year Final Average Salary: for all members in Tier 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  • Five-Year Final Average Salary: for all members in Tier 6.
  • One-Year Final Average Salary: only for members in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). This benefit must be adopted by your employer. It’s not available to PFRS members covered by Article 14 and generally not available to PFRS Tier 6 members.

Find out more about how the final average salary is calculated and the limits for each membership tier on our website.

Want to read more NYSLRS Basics? Check out our posts on when you can retire and choosing your pension payment option.

NYSLRS Basics: Pension Payment Options

When you retire, you need to decide how we’ll pay out your retirement benefit. You do that by choosing a pension payment option. Each payment option provides you with a monthly benefit for life. Nine of our payment options let you receive a smaller benefit so you can provide for a beneficiary when you die. There is also an option that pays you the largest amount of your benefit, but pays nothing to a beneficiary.

Read the full descriptions of our payment options on our website.

Payment options

Filing Your Option Election Form

When you’ve decided which payment option you’d like, you need to file an option election form. You must file before the first day of the month following your retirement date. If you file on time, you have 30 days before you receive your first benefit payment to change your payment option. If you miss this deadline, we’re required by law to process your benefit based on the basic retirement benefit listed in your plan. (The Single Life Allowance (Option 0) is the basic retirement benefit for some plans, while the Cash Refund — Contributions (Option ½) is the basic retirement benefit for others. Check your retirement plan publication to see what your options are.)

What To Consider When Choosing A Payment Option

Choosing your payment option is a big decision. Once the 30-day deadline has passed, you can’t change your payment option. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want a payment made to one or more beneficiaries after your death?
  • Do you know about your beneficiary’s future income in retirement? Will your beneficiary receive their own pension? How much will they receive from Social Security benefits or other retirement savings accounts?
  • Do you have life insurance coverage? Life insurance payments could help your beneficiary make ends meet.
  • What are your financial obligations? Will your beneficiary have enough income to cover expenses if you die?

The answers to these questions can help you decide which option meets your needs. If you have any questions, email us from our website.

Would you like to read more NYSLRS Basics posts? Check out our earlier post on when you can retire.

NYSLRS Basics: When Can You Retire?

There are core elements behind each NYSLRS retirement plan that every member should know. Knowing your retirement plan details like what your pension payment options are and how your final average salary (FAS) works is essential. Learning these NYSLRS Basics can give you a good foundation of information and help you prepare for retirement.

When Can I Retire?

This is a popular question we hear from members. Because of the large number of retirement plans we manage, there isn’t one single answer to this question, but we do have answers.

If you’re in a regular retirement plan (the vast majority of members are in regular plans), you can retire any time on or after your 55th birthday. However, some service credit requirements do apply:

  • Tier 1 members, depending on their plan, may need two or five years of service credit if they recently changed employers
  • Tier 2, 3, or 4 members need five or more years of service credit
  • Tier 5 and 6 members need ten or more years of service credit

Note: service credit is defined as the credit you receive for your paid public employment with a NYSLRS participating employer.

If you’re in a special retirement plan (most police officers, firefighters, sheriffs and correction officers are in special plans), you can retire at any age as long as you’ve met the service credit requirement for that plan. Special plan members can retire once they reach 20 or 25 years of service credit, whichever their plan requires.

Retiring at Age 55 vs. Full Retirement Age

Keep in mind that even though you could retire as early as 55, you may receive a benefit reduction* for not waiting until the full retirement age. (Visit our Early Age Reduction page to see the reductions for your tier.) Under NYSLRS regular retirement plans, you can retire with no reduction once you reach your full retirement age.Full_Benefit_Retirement_Age

It’s important to know that if you decide to retire with a reduced benefit, the reduction is permanent – it doesn’t end once you reach your full retirement age. Keep this in mind once you start preparing for retirement.

Knowing what your full retirement age is and when you’re first eligible to retire is just one part of the NYSLRS Basics series. Look out for a future post on retirement option selection.


*There are some exceptions: Tier 1 members can retire at age 55 without a benefit reduction; ERS Tier 2, 3 & 4 members and Tier 5 Uniformed Court Officers and Peace Officers employed by the Unified Court System can retire at age 55 with 30 or more years of service credit without a benefit reduction.