Tag Archives: retirement security

Stopping Pension Fraud

Stopping Pension Fraud is a top priority of Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoliSince taking office, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has battled public corruption. One of his top priorities is to protect the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) from pension scammers.

Under the direction of Comptroller DiNapoli, NYSLRS has put in place a system of safeguards designed to prevent and identify potential incidents of pension fraud. One such safeguard uses data analytics to uncover and stop improper payments.

Post-Retirement Employment Violations

Our investigative efforts include a focus on post-retirement employment. New York State law restricts the amount of money public sector retirees can earn if they return to public service employment after retirement. The law permits public sector retirees under the age of 65 to earn up to $30,000 per year from public employment before their pension benefits are suspended.

As of this March, our review of post-retirement employment cases have uncovered more than $700,000 in benefit payments subject to recovery. For example, a former Newburgh City Fire Chief, who double-dipped by collecting $95,000 in pension payments while still working as fire chief, was federally convicted.

The “Muscle” in the Pension Fraud Fight

In some cases, the pension fraud NYSLRS uncovers gets referred to Comptroller DiNapoli’s wider umbrella program to root out public corruption and fraud involving public funds. The Comptroller’s aggressive initiative included partnering with federal, state and local prosecutors and law enforcement statewide, including DiNapoli’s groundbreaking “Operation Integrity” task force with Attorney General Schneiderman. To date, Comptroller DiNapoli’s various partnerships have garnered more than 130 arrests and $30 million in ordered recoveries.

NYSLRS’ partnership with DiNapoli’s “Operation Integrity” has resulted in the investigation, prosecution and recovery of stolen pension payments, exposing $2.75 million in pension fraud in recent years.

Here are some recent cases where pension scammers have been thwarted:

Comptroller DiNapoli and NYSLRS will not tolerate pension fraud. These arrests and convictions serve as warnings to those who might steal pension benefits: if you think you can steal the hard-earned benefits of NYSLRS members and retirees, you are gravely mistaken. When fraud is identified, Comptroller DiNapoli will work with law enforcement to hold the pension scammers accountable. The clear message to anyone who tries to defraud our pension system is that you will be found, and you will pay.

If you suspect someone of pension fraud, call the Comptroller’s toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, file a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us, or mail a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.

Retirement Planning Tip: Required Minimum Distributions

Required Minimum DistributionsIf you’re putting money into a retirement savings account, you should know that once you turn 70½ years old, you may need to start using those retirement savings. That’s not some oddly specific financial advice; it’s the law. The same federal tax laws that provide for investments like 401(k) plans and individual retirement arrangements, or IRA accounts, also require you to withdraw at least some of your retirement funds as taxable distributions during your lifetime.

Why Take Required Minimum Distributions?

These required minimum distribution rules are intended to ensure that you don’t simply defer taxation and leave these retirement funds as an inheritance. So, once you turn 70½, you need to begin withdrawing a certain amount from your investments each year.

That amount is calculated annually. It’s based on the account’s balance at the end of the previous calendar year as well as a set of actuarial tables that factor in both your age and your beneficiary’s age. Check out AARP’s Required Minimum Distribution Calculator for an easy way to determine your required distributions.

If you don’t take a distribution, or if the amount you withdraw doesn’t meet the requirement, you may have to pay a 50 percent excise tax on the amount not distributed. Required minimum distributions are never eligible for rollover into other retirement accounts; you must take out the money and pay the taxes.

What Accounts Require Minimum Distributions?

Most retirement accounts you’re familiar with require these annual withdrawals:

  • IRAs (traditional, SEP and SIMPLE)
  • 401(k) plans
  • 403(b) plans
  • 457(b) plans
  • Profit sharing plans
  • Money purchases.

Since contributions to Roth IRAs are not tax-exempt, the IRS does not require distributions from Roth IRAs at any age. For beneficiaries who inherit a Roth IRA, certain minimum distribution rules do apply.

As with most things investment-related, a lot depends on your particular circumstances. If you have questions, contact your financial advisor or your plan administrator.

National Retirement Security Week 2016

This year’s National Retirement Security Week runs from October 16 through 22. It’s a good time to reflect on your personal financial goals and see if you’re on target to meet them. You can ask yourself questions like, “Will I have enough income when I’m retired?” If the answer isn’t clear, you can start taking steps to improve your retirement security.

The Three-Legged Stool: An Example of Retirement Security

Think of your future retirement as a three-legged stool. Each leg represents a different income source that can support you in retirement. The first leg of the stool is your NYSLRS defined benefit pension. Your NYSLRS pension will provide you with a monthly benefit for life based on your service credit and final average salary. The second leg on the stool is your Social Security benefit. Your Social Security benefit is based on how much you earned during your working career. For more details about your Social Security benefit, please visit the Social Security Administration’s website.

The third leg is your own personal savings, such as your own bank or investment accounts. Your personal savings can bridge the gap between what your NYSLRS pension and Social Security will provide. All together, these three legs can support you over the course of your retirement.
Retirement Security in 5 Steps

Ways to Save for Retirement

If you haven’t been maintaining your personal savings, you should start saving as early as possible. The best way to get into the savings habit is to just do it. Here are some suggestions to get into the saving habit:

Also consider looking into accounts that use compound interest. When your money is compounded, it increases in value by earning interest on both the principal and accumulated interest. That way, the more time your money has to grow, the better off you’ll be.

Remember, retirement security just doesn’t happen – it takes planning. You can learn more about retirement planning and our 5 Step Plan for achieving your financial goals 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.

A Quick Look at the NYS Common Retirement Fund

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the trustee of the Common Retirement Fund, which is the third largest public pension fund in the country. The Fund’s assets come from three main sources: member contributions, employer contributions, and investment returns. The Fund has two main goals:

  • Provide the means to pay benefits to NYSLRS’ participants; and
  • Minimize employer contributions through an investment program designed to protect and enhance the long-term value of the assets.

Over the last 20 years, 79 percent of benefits have been funded from investment returns. When you retire from NYSLRS, your monthly pension benefit—and the benefits of many others—will be drawn from this fund. Ethical management and a long-term, diversified investment strategy has made NYSLRS one of the best managed and funded plans in the nation.
Common Retirement Fund Assets

Strategic Long-Term Investments

The Fund’s investment program is designed to weather the ups and downs of an increasingly volatile global market. Our long-term target allocation for our investment portfolio is 22 percent in fixed income assets (bonds and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities [TIPS]) and 78 percent in equities, which includes:

  • Domestic and international public equities
  • Real estate
  • Real assets
  • Absolute return strategies
  • Mortgages
  • Private equity investments
  • Opportunistic funds

A diversified investment strategy helps us meet the funding needs for our current and future retirees while also helping to control risk.

The Fund is Well-Managed

An independent review of the Fund commended Comptroller DiNapoli and NYSLRS for strong policies and ethical management. By adhering to the highest standards of accountability and transparency, our members, retirees, and beneficiaries can be confident the Fund is being managed wisely.

More Than One Million Strong: The Growth of NYSLRS

When NYSLRS formed in 1921, it started with a total of 4,721 participants (4,672 members and 43 retirees). Today, NYSLRS provides retirement security to 643,178 members and 430,308 retirees and beneficiaries (the most recent data available).

To say we’ve grown would be an understatement. But no matter how large we get, NYSLRS will continue to provide its members and retirees with lifetime retirement benefits and help them to plan for a financially secure future.

A look back at membership growth through the years.

NYSLRS Membership growth through the years

NYSLRS: Retirement Security Before Social Security

Before NYSLRS began in 1921, many New York public employees who were no longer able to work would fall into poverty. At the time, Social Security didn’t exist to help supplement post-retirement income. While Social Security was created in 1935, it wasn’t made available to public employees until 1950 and didn’t start in New York until 1953.

NYSLRS in 1950

Under State Comptroller Frank C. Moore, NYSLRS was comprised of 161,686 participants in 1950. Of those, 151,326 were Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members and 10,360 were retirees and beneficiaries.

You may have noticed that there were no Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members in 1950. We had police and fire members – a little more than 12,000, in fact – but they were considered ERS members until 1967. On April 1, 1967, ERS split into the two systems you know today: ERS and PFRS.

NYSLRS in 1970

Participation in NYSLRS grew to 525,763 in 1970. Of these, 463,939 were members and 51,824 were retirees and beneficiaries. The State Comptroller at the time was Arthur Levitt Sr. Comptroller Levitt is known for having the longest tenure as State Comptroller, serving a total of 24 years from 1955 to 1978.

The 1970s also saw the creation of a new member group. Tier 2 began on July 1, 1973. The creation of Tier 2, and the other tiers that followed, were designed to provide members equitable benefits at a reasonable cost.

NYSLRS in 1990

From 1979 to 1993, Edward V. “Ned” Regan served as State Comptroller. During his time in office, participation in NYSLRS continued to climb, growing to 882,410 in 1990. Of these, 649,847 were members and 232,563 were retirees and beneficiaries.

NYSLRS in 2010

Between 2006 and 2007, participation in NYSLRS broke the one-million-participant mark. In 2010, during current Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s administration, participation rose to 1,055,020. Of these, 679,217 were members and 375,803 were retirees and beneficiaries.

NYSLRS in 2015

In 2015, overall membership in the System reached 1,073,486. This includes 643,178 members and 430,308 retirees and beneficiaries (the most recent data available). The number of retirees is increasing more quickly than members. For example, in 1995, retirees represented 30 percent of the System’s members. By 2015, that number had increased to approximately 40 percent.

What does 2016 hold for NYSLRS? Keep an eye out in future blog posts for the latest NYSLRS demographics.

Compounding: A Great Way For Your Money to Grow

Financial security just doesn’t happen – it takes planning. When planning for retirement, it’s important to start saving and investing early. After working hard to earn your money, you want your money to work hard for you too. The more time your money has to grow, the better off you’ll be.

Compounding is one way for your money to earn money. When your money is compounded, it increases in value by earning interest on both the principal and accumulated interest. This is a little different from earning simple interest. Let’s see how they both work.

How Simple Interest Works

Simple interest is a return that pays you a certain percentage based on every dollar you put in your account.

Let’s say you opened a savings account with $100 in January. If the bank paid 5 percent annual interest on that deposit, you’d receive five cents for every dollar in your savings account for the whole year. At the end of the year, you’d have $105. That’s $5 more than the principal amount you started with. Any interest you’d earn after the first year would still be based on the principal amount of $100.

How Compounding Interest Works

While you receive some extra money with simple interest, compounded interest can give you more bang for your buck.

Compounding interest

Let’s look at the above example again, but use compounded interest this time. If that $105 remained in your account, and the bank paid out another 5 percent interest, by the end of the second year you’d have $110.25 in your account. That $105 increased by $5.25. Not only did you earn interest on your original $100 in year one, you earned interest on year one’s interest. That’s the great thing about compounding. In just two short years, your money has earned $110.25. If we were still using simple interest, you’d only have $110 after two years.

If you’re thinking about boosting your personal savings for retirement, look into accounts that use compound interest. The sooner you can start saving, the more time your money can grow.

Other Sources:
How to Calculate Simple and Compound Interest

Spending Budgets Change in Retirement

What are some of the changes you can expect in retirement? Sleeping in past 8 a.m.? Shopping during regular business hours? Retirement can bring many changes, but one you should be aware of is how your spending could change.

According to an Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study, average spending goes down in retirement, but not for everyone. Some households’ expenses stayed the same while others increased. In the first two years of retirement, almost 46 percent of households spent more than what they had spent just before retirement. EBRI offered a suggestion for this trend – people may want to splurge on hobbies or vacations during the first few years of retirement.

Keep in mind, the EBRI study is meant to understand trends in retiree spending, but it brings up a good question. Have you thought about how you’ll spend money in retirement?

Prepare a Post-Retirement Budget

As you get closer to retirement, you may be saving and investing more to meet your financial goals. Making the switch from saving to spending in retirement can be easy if you plan ahead. By looking at how you spend your money now, you can get an idea of how to spend your money in retirement.

When you set a post-retirement budget, look at what your expenses currently are. Don’t forget to include periodic expenses, like car insurance payments or property/school taxes. Track how you spend your money over a month or two. Then, consider your current monthly income and your post-retirement income. Your current monthly income should cover your current expenses, so estimate what your post-retirement income will be. If your post-retirement income is less than your current income, you might want to adjust your expenses or even your retirement plans.

These worksheets can help you prepare a budget and list out your post-retirement income sources. Print them out and start planning ahead for post-retirement spending.

Monthly budgeting worksheets (PDF)

Monthly Worksheets (PDF)

Who Are Financial Planners?

When you’re preparing for retirement, you want to avoid costly mistakes. And while hiring an attorney or accountant may help, think about hiring a financial planner too. A financial planner can help you develop a practical plan to help you meet your retirement goals.

What Do Financial Planners Do?

Financial planners do not manage your money. According to the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts, financial planners assess your current financial health. They examine your assets, liabilities, income, and more. They help you develop a realistic plan to meet your goals by looking at your financial weaknesses and strengths. With their help, you can put your plan into action and keep track of its progress. If your goals change over time, they can also help you adjust your plan.

Choosing a Financial Planner

Retirement-Savings_5-Rules-to-RememberIf a financial planner has a CFP next to his or her name, that means they are a certified financial planner. Certified financial planners have passed a national test given by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The certification test covers:

  • Insurance
  • Investments
  • Taxation
  • Employee benefits
  • Retirement and estate planning

Certified financial planners must also abide by a code of ethics.

Do Your Research

Choosing a financial planner is like hiring any other professional. Make sure you do your research so you can make a well-founded decision. While we can’t offer specific advice about hiring a financial planner, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Check credentials, educational background and experience.
  • Find out if he or she is a member of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
  • Get referrals from people you trust – ask friends, relatives and business associates.
  • And finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions:
    • Do they research the financial products they recommend?
    • Do they offer a free consultation?
    • Are they paid by fee, commission, or salary?

The Steep Price of Caring for a Loved One

How Caregiving Can Affect Your Retirement Plans

In the past year, about 43.5 million American adults worked as unpaid caregivers, the bulk of them to an adult age 50 or older, according to a joint study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Among its findings, the report indicated that family caregivers spend 24.4 hours per week helping with activities of daily living (ADL), like eating, bathing, using the bathroom, or getting dressed, and that 38 percent of caregivers reported high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving.

Caregivers Providing Financial Support

Caregiving can require more than just helping sick relatives or loved ones with ADL activities. A previous National Alliance for Caregiving survey found that most caregivers spent an estimated $5,531 each year on out-of-pocket expenses for sick family members or for loved ones. At the time, survey respondents indicated that they stopped saving for their own future, deferred home improvement projects, and cut back on leisure activities to make ends meet.Financial-strain-on-caregivers_draft-2

Unfortunately, not much has changed in eight years.

The costs of caregiving can add up quickly. A 2014 Caring.com report stated that almost half (46 percent) of family caregivers spend more than $5,000 per year on caregiving expenses. Absorbing these financial costs are straining their own budgets. Only 28 percent of “sandwich-generation” adults supporting an aging parent and children say they’re living comfortably, while 11 percent say they don’t have enough to meet their own basic expenses, according to the Pew Research Center.

Caregivers Not Retirement Ready

In a TD Ameritrade survey, 22 percent of financial supporters said they have had to dip into their savings, and 14 percent have added to their own debt, which is already at an average of $22,000. A third have delayed saving for retirement. According to NBC News, if they have to help defray long-term care costs for their loved ones, only 56.5 percent of caregivers aged 60-64 say they are retirement ready. Among workers age 55 to 59, that retirement readiness is at 57 percent.

If you are a caregiver, here are some resources available to you:

United States Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator

National Family Caregiver Support Program