Category Archives: NYSLRS Retirees

A Good Plan Can Ease Transition to Retirement

When people talk about retirement planning, they’re usually talking about money. But there is another aspect that people often forget. What will you do with all that newfound free time?

Sure, after decades of hard work, thoughts of sleeping late and taking it easy seem pretty good. But retirement is a big transition, and many retirees don’t consider its potential psychological consequences.

steps to ease transition to retirement

Create a Plan and Schedule

While you may have some complaints about your job, it is an important part of your life. It helps define who you are and can give you a sense of accomplishment. It provides structure, mental stimulation and social interaction. Leaving the workforce creates a big void, and watching daytime TV or frequent trips to the grocery store may not be enough to fill that void. Empty or aimless hours can lead to boredom, disenchantment and even depression.

You may have a long list of things to do, places to go, books to read, but it won’t mean much if you don’t act. To successfully manage your time, you’ll need to actively plan and create a schedule. Set down how you will spend each day of the week, blocking out time for chores, social engagements, hobbies and exercise. Sticking to a schedule will give your days structure and give you a sense of purpose.

Stay Active and Engaged

For most people, staying busy and remaining socially engaged are essential to a satisfying retirement. That’s why some retirees go back to work full-time, while others opt for part-time or seasonal jobs.

But a retirement job doesn’t necessary mean continuing to do the same old thing. Retirement is an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Do something you’ve always wanted to do, something fun and challenging.

Hopefully, you’ve planned your retirement so you won’t need to work to meet basic needs, so your retirement gig won’t have to pay a lot. In fact, maybe the job for you is one that doesn’t pay at all, at least monetarily. There are countless organizations looking for volunteers, so it shouldn’t be hard to find opportunities that match your skills and interests.

Volunteering just a few hours a week will give you something to look forward to and keep you connected to the outside world. And studies show that it can improve both your mental and physical well-being.

Exercise Your Body and Brain

Regular exercise not only keeps you physically fit, it also increases your sense of well-being. Whatever you do to get exercise, make it part of your regular schedule. Consider taking a fitness class at a local gym, which also adds a social element to your workout. (And you can up the ante by trying something new, like a martial arts class.)

Don’t forget to exercise your brain. A course or workshop can help you discover a new side to yourself (the painter, the mystery writer, the master of topiary). You may want to enroll in classes at a local community college or even return to school full-time.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s part of a plan – a plan for a happier retirement.

Pension Verification Letters

As a retiree, you may find yourself needing a letter verifying your pension income — maybe for housing or as part of an application for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). There are four ways to get a pension verification letter.

Four Ways to Get a Pension Verification Letter

1. Retirement Online

Retirement Online is fastest and most convenient way to get a pension verification letter. First, sign in. Then, on your account homepage, in the ‘I want to…’ section, click the Generate Income Verification Letter link.

A pop-up box with a confirmation message will appear. Once you click OK, your pension income verification letter will open in a new browser tab, ready for you to print or save.

pension verification letter infographic

2. Email

You can email us your request using our secure contact form. Tell us what information you need, and be sure to include your daytime phone number, in case our customer service representatives have a question. In most cases, we’ll mail your letter in five to seven business days.

3. Phone

You can call us with your request at 1-866-805-0990 (518-474-7736 in the Albany, New York area). Our Call Center is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 am – 5:00 pm. As with email, we usually mail letters in five to seven business days.

4. Fax

You can also fax your request to 518-473-5590. Include your retirement or registration number, current address, signature and phone number in case we have questions. Tell us whether you want the letter mailed or faxed to you (provide a fax number).

Sending a Pension Verification Letter to a Third Party

At your request, we can send a letter verifying your pension income directly to a lending institution, housing authority, nursing home or other third party. However, because this information is confidential, we need your signed written permission.

If you decide you want us to send a letter to a third party, they must fax us a request and include a signed release from you giving us permission to release your information.

Designating Beneficiaries: An Important Decision

When you join NYSLRS, we ask you to designate one or more beneficiaries who may receive certain benefits if you die while working. But, don’t forget about your beneficiaries after you turn in your membership application. It’s important to review them periodically to make sure they reflect your current wishes.

Your beneficiaries can be anyone; you don’t need to choose family members. You can even name an organization, such as a charity or religious institution, or your estate. And, did you know there are two types of beneficiary that you can designate?

Types of Beneficiaries

You can name both primary and contingent beneficiaries:

  • Your primary beneficiary will receive any payable benefit. You can list more than one primary beneficiary, and if you do, they will share the benefit equally. You can also choose different percentages for each beneficiary, as long as they total 100 percent. (Example: John Doe, 50 percent; Jane Doe, 25 percent; and Mary Doe, 25 percent.)
  • Your contingent beneficiary will only receive the benefit if all your primary beneficiaries die before you do. Multiple contingent beneficiaries will share the benefit equally, unless you choose to divide the benefit among them differently.

How Do I Designate a Beneficiary?

Even though you designated a beneficiary when you first joined NYSLRS, you can update your beneficiaries any time.

  • The fastest way to view or update your beneficiaries is through Retirement Online. It’s a convenient and secure way to review your personal details, contact information and more. Register and sign in, then click Manage My Beneficiaries on the right, under I want to ….
  • You can also complete and mail us a Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127). Be sure to sign and date the form, and have your signature notarized. The notary must include his or her notary expiration date, and your notary should not be one of your beneficiaries. We can’t accept a form with any alterations, including erasures or the use of correction fluid. You can name up to four primary and four contingent beneficiaries on the form. Please contact us if you want to designate more, because we cannot accept attachments.

Whether you change your beneficiaries online or by mail, be sure to include all of your beneficiaries. Your new beneficiary designations will replace all of your previously named beneficiaries. The changes will not take effect until we review and approve your designations.

More Information

You can read more about beneficiary designations in our Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary? publication. If you have any other questions, please contact us.

How To Keep Your NYSLRS Records Up-to-date

Whether you joined NYSLRS  recently or are preparing to retire, accurate records are essential. To make sure that your records are ready when you are, it’s important to check and update your NYSLRS account details. Here’s how:

  • Sign in to Retirement Online. It’s a convenient and secure way to review your records for personal details, contact information, designated beneficiaries and more. In many cases, you can use Retirement Online to make changes instead of sending forms through the mail or calling NYSLRS.
  • Review your Member Annual Statement (MAS). Each summer, your MAS offers an overview of your retirement account. Check it over carefully to make sure your date of birth, date of membership, service credit, earnings and other details are correct.

Be sure to contact us if you find any information that’s missing or incorrect. Get in touch right away:

  • When your mailing address changes. This is especially important if you leave public service before you’re eligible for retirement. With your correct address on file, we’ll be able to keep you informed about your benefits. The fastest and easiest way to update your address is to sign in to Retirement Online and make the change, or you can send us a completed Change of Address form (RS5512), though this process will take longer.
  • When you find a date-of-birth error. If your date of birth is wrong on any paperwork that we send you, we need to know. Please send us a photocopy of documentation showing your correct date of birth (such as a copy of your birth certificate). You can attach it to an email using our secure contact form, or write to our Member and Employer Services Bureau Registration Unit at 110 State Street, 5th Floor, Albany NY 12244-0001.
  • When you change your name. You can change your name in our records by submitting a Name Change Notice form (RS5483). If a court order was necessary for your name change, you’ll need to include a copy of the order.
  • When you want to select or change your beneficiaries. Sign in to Retirement Online and click Update My Beneficiaries. Retirement Online is the fastest way to get the job done. But, you can also complete a Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127) and send it to us.

 

After You Retire

We’ve written a lot about preparing for retirement — how you should purchase any credit for past service, get a pension estimate, prepare a retirement budget, and more. But, what about after you retire? Are you finished with your NYSLRS To-Do List once you’re a retiree?

Not exactly.

Sign Up for Retirement Online

We recently launched the new Retirement Online, a secure site that allows you to check important NYSLRS information, like the deductions from your latest payment and a summary of your benefits. You can also view or update beneficiaries and generate income verification letters right from your computer.

To access Retirement Online, visit the NYSLRS home page, then click “Register” or “Sign In.”

If You Move, Let Us Know

The United States Postal Service usually won’t forward pension checks to another address. (You may want to sign up for our direct deposit program.) But, pension payments aside, there are other things you’ll want from us once you retire. If we have your correct address on file, you’ll be sure to receive:

  • Your 1099-R form. Your pension isn’t taxed by New York State, but it is subject to federal income tax.
  • Your Retiree Annual Statement. It’s a helpful reference that spells out the benefits, credits and deductions you receive each year.
  • Any official notifications.
  • Your Retiree Notes

The fastest way to update your address is through Retirement Online. You can also mail a signed letter (with your name, old address, new address, date of change and retirement registration number) to:

NYSLRS
Attn: Pension Services
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12244-0001

Keep Your Beneficiaries Current

Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is important. By keeping them up to date, you ensure that any post-retirement death benefit will be distributed to your loved ones according to your wishes. You can use Retirement Online to change your death benefit beneficiaries at any time. Or, contact our Call Center, and we will send you the necessary form. If you aren’t retired yet, submit a Designation of Beneficiary form (RS5127).

Keep Your Loved Ones Informed

Your family or friends have to know to notify us when you die, so we can pay out any benefits to your designated beneficiaries. They can phone our Call Center or notify us by mail. Either way, we will also need a certified copy of your death certificate. You and your loved ones can find more information in our Getting Your Affairs in Order and a Guide for Survivors (VO1874) publication.

Life Changes: A Guide for Retirees (VO1705)

Check out this publication for information about other benefits you may be entitled to and the services we offer retirees.

Four Facts about Divorce and Your Pension

Courts consider pensions marital property. So, if you file for divorce, a judge may award your ex-spouse part of your pension or other NYSLRS benefits. The process for dividing retirement assets after a divorce can be complex. Here are four things you need to know:

1. NYSLRS Requires a DRO

To divide your NYSLRS benefits, we need a domestic relations order (DRO). This court order, issued after a final judgment of divorce, gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be distributed. NYSLRS provides on online fillable DRO that complies with the plan’s requirements for implementation. You are not required to use the online form; however, the System will give priority review to these DROs since the language is pre-approved.

2. A Judge has to Approve Your DRO

Before we can implement a DRO, a trial court judge must review and sign it, and you need to file it with the appropriate County Clerk’s Office. That can be a lengthy process; our Matrimonial Bureau can check your DRO for compliance with the law before you submit the draft order to the court. This way, if the DRO does not meet the requirements, you will have a chance to make revisions.

Once a judge does sign off, we’ll need a certified copy of the DRO and your judgment of divorce. We start payments to your ex-spouse once we’ve calculated and finalized your retirement benefit. If we receive the DRO and judgment before we finalize your retirement benefit, we’ll make retroactive payments back to your date of retirement.

3. Some Beneficiary Designations are Revoked

Reviewing your beneficiary designations periodically is always important, but after a divorce, it’s essential to make sure your benefits will be distributed according to your wishes. As of July 7, 2008, beneficiary designations for certain benefits are revoked when a divorce, annulment or judicial separation becomes final. Please read our Guide to Domestic Relations Orders and review our DRO FAQs before you finalize your divorce.

4. Contact an Attorney with DRO Experience

This last one is not a fact, but it’s a good idea. A lawyer, who’s worked with DROs previously, can help ensure the DRO you submit to the court fairly represents the intentions of both parties.

How Can NYSLRS Help?

We developed an online template  that makes it easier to create a properly formatted DRO. Just enter your tier, plan and employment status, and answer the questions that follow.

To submit your proposed DRO for review, email it, along with scanned copies of your judgment of divorce, to our Matrimonial Bureau at dro@osc.state.ny.us. For DRO proposals prepared using our online worksheet, the review process is simplified and we can complete our review faster.

If you have any questions about divorce and your benefits, please contact our Hearing Administration and Matrimonial Bureau staff.

Email: dro@osc.state.ny.us

Address:
NYSLRS 110 State Street
Mail Drop 7-9
Albany, New York 12244

Sunshine on the Retirement Savings Horizon

Headlines in recent years offer a stormy retirement forecast: “Americans Get a Grade C in Retirement Readiness,” “More Than Four in Ten Households Wrong About Retirement Readiness,” “The Shockingly Small Amount Americans Have in Retirement Savings.”

Unfortunately, research and statistics tend to back up these dire warnings. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, a significant portion of Americans — 42 percent — lack access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b). Among those whose employers do offer a plan, only 49 percent actually participate.

In fact, research from the Federal Reserve suggests that 28 percent of people who haven’t retired yet have no retirement savings whatsoever. So, it’s not surprising that a report from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis predicts that the “number of 65-year-olds per year who are poor or near poor will increase by 146 percent between 2013 and 2022.”

The Good News

There is promising news about retirement, though, if you look for it. Americans — particularly Millennials (those born 1979 through 1996) — are starting to save for retirement much sooner than previous generations. According to the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies, Millennials begin to put away for retirement at a median age of 22. Generation X workers waited until 27, and Baby Boomers didn’t start until age 35.

Sunshine on the Retirement Savings Horizon

Perhaps this earlier focus on saving is responsible for other good news. For example, Fidelity Investments reports record 401(k) balances in 2016: $92,500 at the end of the fourth quarter, which is up $4,300 from 2015. And, earlier this year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 55.4 percent of investors — more than ever before — are maxing out their individual retirement account (IRA) contributions.

That said …

Americans do have a retirement problem. New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli speaks regularly about the need for policies at the state and federal levels of government to ensure retirement security for everyone, including workers in the private sector.

As individuals, the solution is simple: We need to save, and we need to start early. NYSLRS members have the rare advantage of a well-funded, defined-benefit pension. However, your pension and Social Security benefits are only part of a well-rounded financial plan. Consider contributing to a New York State Deferred Compensation Plan (NYSDCP) account. NYSDCP is a voluntary retirement savings plan — similar to private sector 401(k) or 403(b) plans — created for employees of New York State and other participating employers. If you work for a local government employer, please check with your human resources administrator to find out what savings plans are available to you.

The Economic Power of NYSLRS Retirees

Before they leave the workforce, NYSLRS retirees build careers based — at least in part — on serving the people of New York. They are police officers, firefighters and nurses. They are the countless civil servants working each day to keep government services functioning. Their value doesn’t end with retirement. In fact, NYSLRS retirees and their pensions contribute significantly to the communities where they live.

Seventy-eight percent of NYSLRS retirees (440,943 as of March 2016) stay right here in New York. They live throughout the state — from Long Island to the North Country, from the Capital District to Western New York and down to the Southern Tier. Altogether, they’re 2.9 percent of our state’s population, but in some areas, they account for more than 5 percent of the residents.

This large population with steady sources of income has a significant and positive impact on our state and local economies. In 2015 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $11.7 billion in economic activity in New York State:

  • Property taxes. In 2015, retirees paid $1.7 billion in real property taxes. That’s 5 percent of the total collected for the entire state.
  • State and local sales taxes. NYSLRS retirees paid an estimated $550 million in state and local sales tax in 2015.
  • Job creators. Some retirees do go on to start small businesses as a second act. However, all NYSLRS retirees spend at least some of their income to the benefit of local businesses, and they are responsible for an estimated 66,100 jobs as a result.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute infographic

Remember: 75 percent of the pension benefits that make all of this possible comes from the investment earnings of the Common Retirement Fund (CRF), not from taxpayers.

Are these statistics impressive? Yes. Surprising? They shouldn’t be. According to research from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), defined benefit pensions, like those provided by NYSLRS, are responsible for substantial economic gains throughout the U.S. — an incredible $1.2 trillion in total economic output nationwide.

Pensions give retirees a stable source of income, and, in return, retirees support our national and local economies with jobs, incomes, and tax revenue.

Federal Withholding and Your Pension

Federal Withholding and your Pension

Getting hit every year with a larger than expected federal tax bill? You may want to increase the federal withholding from your NYSLRS pension. Or maybe you’re getting a hefty tax refund every year. If you have too much withheld, you’re basically giving the government an interest-free loan. Maybe you need to adjust your withholding due to recent changes to the tax law for 2018 (if you’re not sure, you can check with your tax preparer, or you can use this Internal Revenue Service Withholding Calculator.)

But whatever your situation, you can adjust the amount we withhold from your retirement benefit at any time. Just follow these Step-By-Step instructions.

  1. Print our NYSLRS Form W-4P (Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments) from our website. (This is a fillable form, so you can type in the information before you print it out.)
  2. Fill in the top of the form with your name, address, last four digits of your Social Security number and Registration number (if known).
  3. Complete one of the three numbered sections. (Do not complete more than one section.)
    • Complete Section 1 if you do not wish to have any federal income tax withheld.
    • Complete Section 2 if you want us to withhold based on current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax tables, your marital status and the number of federal exemptions you claim. To see how much that would be, use our tax withholding calculator. You can also have an additional amount withheld.
    • Complete Section 3 if you know how much you want withheld. Remember, the amount you should include here is the total amount you want withheld from your pension, not the amount you want to add or subtract from your current withholding.
  4. Print the completed form.
  5. Date and sign the form.
  6. Mail or fax your form to NYSLRS. Our address and fax number are at the top of the W-4P form.

Visit our website for other resources, including an interactive Understanding your W-4P Form tutorial, and more information about Taxes and Your Pension.