Tag Archives: Vested

NYSLRS Basics: Member Contributions

As a NYSLRS member, you may be making or have made contributions as part of your membership. When you make contributions, a percentage of your salary joins a pool of money called the Common Retirement Fund (the Fund). The Fund is also made up of employer contributions and investment income. By investing contributions, the Fund helps to meet its obligation of paying out benefits to past, present and future retirees.

What this means for you is that you, and other members like you, are all doing your part to fund your future retirement.

Types of Member Contributions

If you belong to a contributory retirement plan, you make required contributions. This means you must make contributions for the length of time listed in your retirement plan. Some members may contribute for only part or all their public service careers. If you belong to a non-contributory plan, this means you aren’t required to make contributions. Instead, you could make voluntary contributions over the course of your career, if your plan allows it. This would provide you with an annuity in addition to your pension when you retire.

(Check out the “Contributing Toward Your Retirement” section in your specific retirement plan publication to see what contributions you make.)

contributions-ers-pfrs-tiers-3-6

Withdrawing Your Member Contributions

What happens to your contributions if you leave public employment? One option is to take your contributions with you. If you have less than ten years of service credit or aren’t vested, you can withdraw your contributions plus the interest they’ve earned. However, withdrawing your contributions also terminates your membership with NYSLRS. Once your membership ends, you won’t be eligible for a retirement benefit.

Another option is to leave your contributions where they are. After all, if you leave public employment, there’s a chance you may return as well. If you do, then your contributions will be waiting for you when you rejoin NYSLRS. If you don’t return to public service, aren’t vested, and have been off the public payroll for seven years, by law we must terminate your membership. Any contributions left will stop accruing interest.

If you have ten or more years of service credit, you can’t withdraw your contributions from NYSLRS. In that situation, if you’re vested before you leave public employment, you can apply for a retirement benefit at a later date (age 55 for most members).

(Read our publication “What If I Leave Public Employment?” for more information, particularly the taxability of withdrawing your contributions.)

If you have questions, visit our website to learn more about member contributions. Want to read more NYSLRS Basics? Check out our earlier posts on:

NYSLRS Basics: Final Average Salary

As a NYSLRS member, you have a defined-benefit retirement plan that provides a lifetime pension when you retire. Laws passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor have established the formulas used to calculate these benefits. Your specific benefit will be based on two main factors: service credit and final average salary. You’re probably familiar with service credit — it’s generally the years of service you’ve spent working for a participating employer. But, what is a final average salary (FAS)?

When we calculate your pension, we find the set of years (one, three or five, depending on your tier and retirement plan) when your earnings were highest. The average of these earnings is your FAS. Usually your FAS is based on the years right before retirement, but they can come anytime in your career. In fact, the years used to calculate your FAS may not match up to a calendar year or even a fiscal year. For FAS purposes, a “year” is any period during which you earned one full-time year of service credit.

Types of Final Average SalaryNYSLRS Basics: Understanding your Final Average Salary

Your tier and plan determine how your FAS is calculated:

  • Three-year FAS: Members in Tier 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  • Five-year FAS: Members in Tier 6.
  • One-year FAS: Members in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Your employer must choose to offer this benefit. It’s not available to PFRS members covered by Article 14 and generally not available to PFRS Tier 6 members.

Exclusions and Limits

The law limits the FAS of all members who joined on or after June 17, 1971. For example, for most members, if your earnings increase significantly through the years used in your FAS, some of those earnings may not be used toward your pension. The specific limits vary by tier; check out your retirement plan booklet on our Publications page for details.

Since 2010, with the creation of Tiers 5 and 6, the Legislature and the Governor have introduced additional limits to the earnings that can be used toward the FAS:

Tier 5

  • Overtime pay is capped — $18,448.11 in calendar year 2017 and $19,001.55 in 2018.

Tier 6

  • Overtime pay is capped — $15,721 in fiscal year 2017 and $16,048 in 2018.
  • Lump sum vacation pay and wages from more than two employers are no longer included in your FAS.
  • Any earnings beyond the Governor’s salary — currently $179,000 — are left out of your FAS.

Find out more about how FAS are calculated on our website.

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

Tier 6 Member Milestones

Understanding Your Benefits Can Help You Plan Ahead

If you’re a Tier 6 member, meaning you joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012, it’s important to start learning about your benefits. Even though retirement seems far off, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead. You can start planning your path to retirement by finding out what milestones you’ll reach on the way.

Your Tier 6 member milestones are markers for when you earn a certain amount of service credit. You can reach some milestones within your first few months of membership. You reach others once you’ve earned 10 or more years of service credit.

Common Tier 6 Member Milestones

When you join NYSLRS, you reach your first milestone on the first day of your membership. This milestone covers you for certain job-related death and disability benefits. (You can learn more about them in your Tier 6 retirement plan publication.)

Once you reach 10 years of service credit, you hit another milestone: you become vested. This means that you will be eligible for a retirement benefit even if you leave public employment before age 55, although the benefit is reduced if it’s collected before age 63. Tier 6 members in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) are eligible to receive the full vested benefit at age 55. Tier 6 members in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) are eligible at age 63.

Later on, the other milestones you’ll reach will focus more on retirement.

ERS Membership Milestones

For Tier 6 members in regular plans, the biggest milestone will be when you reach 20 years of service credit. This is when you’ll have enough service credit to retire with a full benefit. As noted above, if you retire before age 63, the benefit is reduced (you must be at least 55 to apply for the vested benefit). For Tier 6 correction officers, you’ll reach this milestone when you reach 25 years of service credit. Check out some of the other milestones for ERS Tier 6 members using the graphic below, or visit our website for a more detailed listing of ERS member milestones.

ERS Tier 6 Member Milestones

PFRS Membership Milestones

Some of the milestones for PFRS Tier 6 members are similar to ERS milestones, but some milestones vary based on what retirement plan you have. Check out the graphic below, or visit our website for a more detailed listing of PFRS member milestones.

PFRS Tier 6 Member Milestones

If you have any questions about Tier 6 membership milestones or the milestones for other tiers, please email us.

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.

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: PFRS Tier 5

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Each tier has a different benefit structure established by New York State legislation. Our series, NYSLRS — One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier to give you a quick look at the benefits in both ERS and PFRS.

Today’s final post in our series looks at Tier 5 in the Police and Fire Retirement System. Anyone who joined PFRS from January 9, 2010 through March 31, 2012­ is in Tier 5. There are 1,731 PFRS Tier 5 members as of March 31, 2015, making them the third largest tier group in PFRS.PFRS Tier 5If you’re a PFRS Tier 5 member, you can find your retirement plan publication from the list below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in this series:

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tier 2

When you joined the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you were assigned to a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) – so there are many different ways to determine benefits for our members. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier and gives you a quick look at the benefits members are eligible for before and at retirement.

NYSLRS created Tier 2 on July 1, 1973, marking the first time NYSLRS created any new member group. Today’s post looks at one of the major Tier 2 retirement plans in ERS. ERS Tier 2 as a whole represents less than one percent of NYSLRS’ total membership.

ERS-Tier-2-Benefits_001aIf you’re an ERS Tier 2 member in an alternate plan, you can find your retirement plan publication below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Be on the lookout for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts. Next time, we’ll take a look at another ERS tier. Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in the series:

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: PFRS Tier 1

When you joined the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you were assigned to a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) – so there are many different ways to determine benefits for our members. Our series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier and gives you a quick look at the benefits members are eligible for before and at retirement.

Today’s post looks at Tier 1 in the Police and Fire Retirement System, which has only 123 members. PFRS Tier 1 represents the smallest percentage – 0.4 percent – of NYSLRS’ total membership.

PFRS-Tier-1-Benefits_002

If you’re a PFRS Tier 1 member, you can find your retirement plan publication below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Be on the lookout for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts. Next time, we’ll take a look at another one of our ERS tiers. Want to learn more about the different NYSLRS retirement tiers? Check out some earlier posts in the series:

NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time: ERS Tiers 3 & 4

(We know that’s two, but let us explain)

When you join the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), you’re assigned a tier based on the date of your membership. There are six tiers in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and five in the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) – so there are many different ways to determine benefits for our members. Our new series, NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time, walks through each tier and gives you a quick look at the benefits the members are eligible for before and at retirement.

Today’s post looks at Tiers 3 and 4 in the Employees’ Retirement System. Now, we know these are technically two tiers, but many of the members in these tiers are eligible to retire under the same retirement plan: Article 14 (for Tier 3 members) or Article 15 (for Tier 3 and 4 members). They also represent the largest percentage – 64.2 percent – of our ERS membership. Of our current 496,441 ERS members, 318,939 are in Tiers 3 and 4.

Check out the graphic below for the basic retirement information for Tier 3 and 4 members.
If you’re an ERS Tier 3 or 4 member, find your retirement plan publication from the list below for more detailed information about your benefits:

Stay tuned for more NYSLRS – One Tier at a Time posts. Next time, we’ll take a look at one of our PFRS tiers.

For New Members – A Quick Peek at your NYSLRS Retirement Benefits

If you recently became a public employee in New York, you’re relatively new to the New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS). You should know that you are covered by a retirement plan that provides important retirement benefits. And, while pension benefits top the list, there are other NYSLRS retirement benefits which can help keep you and your beneficiaries financially secure.

Two Key Benefits You Should Know About

If you are an Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) Tier 5 or Tier 6 member, you are covered by certain job-related death and disability benefits.

  • A non-job related death benefit after 1 year of service credit, and
  • A disability benefit, with 10 years of service credit, if you are unable to perform your duties because of a permanent physical or mental incapacity.

Similarly, if you are a Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Tier 5 or Tier 6 member in either the 20- or 25-year plan, or an ERS Tier 5 or 6 Correction Officer, your NYSLRS retirement benefits include:

  • A non-job related death benefit after 90 days of service credit, and
  • A non-job related disability benefit after 10 or more years of service credit.

You can learn more detailed information about your benefits by finding your retirement plan publication on our website.

What It Means to be Vested

As a Tier 5 or 6 member, you will be vested once you have ten years of credited service. This means you are entitled to a NYSLRS retirement benefit even if you leave public employment before you are old enough to retire. Once you are vested, you are eligible to receive a retirement benefit as early as your 55th birthday. Your benefit will be based on service and salary earned when you were an active member with NYSLRS.

Remember, your pension isn’t the only benefit of being a member of NYSLRS. Those disability and death benefits are important as well. And learning about all your NYSLRS retirement benefits is an investment in your financial future. Since we are committed to helping you make informed decisions about that future, please do not hesitate to contact us whenever you have questions about those benefits.

Consider Adding a Personal Savings Plan to Your NYSLRS Retirement Benefits Mix

As a NYSLRS member, you can look forward to your pension as one source of income. Your Social Security benefits will be another source. But as a new NYSLRS member who is considering a personal savings plan, the biggest benefit you have is time. Having time on your side to save for retirement is critical. But this benefit you provide to yourself is totally up to you. You have to take that step, so don’t wait, start saving for retirement now.

A good financial planner, accountant or attorney can help you prepare for retirement, so you may want to consult with one to develop a practical plan that meets your needs and goals.