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A Snapshot of NYSLRS Retirees

This fall, NYSLRS published our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), with the latest data from the State fiscal year ending March 31, 2018. It’s a publication full of details about NYSLRS members, retirees and beneficiaries, as well as information about NYSLRS investments.

In this post, let’s dive in and take a look at NYSLRS retirees and the places they call home.

NYSLRS Retirees by the Numbers

As of March 31, 2018 (the end of the State fiscal year), NYSLRS provides pension benefits to 470,596 retirees and beneficiaries.

Six hundred ninety-five of them live outside the United States, in places like England and the Philippines. However, the vast majority live here in the U.S. In fact, while 22 retirees and beneficiaries have found themselves in the Great Plains of North Dakota, and more than 37,000 now make the sunshine state of Florida home, nearly 79 percent of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries — some 370,329 — live right here in New York.

Where NYSLRS Retirees live in the US

NYSLRS Pensions at Work

NYSLRS retirees live in our communities, in every county of the State. Their pension money flows right back into our neighborhoods, stimulating and growing local economies. In 2017 alone, NYSLRS retirees generated $12 billion in economic activity in New York State. They pay property taxes, state and local sales taxes, and they spend money at local businesses. In fact, in 2017, spending by NYSLRS retirees and their beneficiaries was responsible for the creation of an estimated 73,000 local jobs.

An Award-Winning Publication

NYSLRS has received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the CAFR for the last 14 years. It’s a national award recognizing excellence in the preparation of state and local government financial reports.

There’s more to find out about retirees, members and NYSLRS’ investments. You can check out this year’s CAFR and CAFRs from years past on our website.

A Look Inside NYSLRS

NYSLRS paid $12.03 billion in benefits to 470,596 retirees and beneficiaries during the state fiscal year that ended on March 31. Seventy-five percent of the cost of those benefits came from returns on investments of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (the Fund).

The Fund was valued at $207.4 billion at the end of the fiscal year. The average return on Fund investments was 11.35 percent for the year, exceeding the long-term expected return rate of 7 percent.

a look at NYSLRS retirement fund, benefits and membership

 

NYSLRS Membership

But NYSLRS is more than just the pension fund. The system had 652,030 members as of March 31, including county workers, professional firefighters and State troopers. Here are some facts about them:

  • NYSLRS’ 533,415 active members (that is, members still on a public payroll) work for more than 3,000 public employers statewide.
  • One-third of those active members work for New York State. The rest work for counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and public authorities.
  • Nearly 94 percent of active members are in the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS). The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) accounts for 6 percent of NYSLRS membership.

More than one-third of all NYSLRS members are in Tier 6. (But two-thirds of PFRS members are in Tier 2.)

NYSLRS Retirees and Beneficiaries

The average pension for an Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) retiree was $23,680; the average for a Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) was $50,922. But NYSLRS pension payments don’t just benefit the system’s retirees and beneficiaries. Because 79 percent of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries live in New York, $9.8 billion worth of benefits stayed in the State. And that money supported local businesses, paid local taxes and generated economic development statewide.

An Award-Winning Publication

Extensive information about NYSLRS members and retirees, the Fund, and Fund investments can be found in the 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). NYSLRS received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 2017 CAFR. The Certificate of Achievement is a national award recognizing excellence in the preparation of state and local government financial reports. NYSLRS has won this award for the last 14 years.

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 contributions don’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 and their beneficiaries (355,028 as of March 2017) 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 1.8 percent of our state’s population, but in some areas, they account for more than 5 percent of the residents.

NYSRLS Retirees contribute a lot of money to New York State

Retirees’ contribute in New York State

This large population with steady sources of income has a significant and positive impact on our state and local economies. In 2016 alone, NYSLRS retirees were responsible for $11.8 billion in economic activity in New York State:

  • Property taxes. In 2016, retirees paid $1.7 billion in real property taxes. That’s 3.2 percent of the total collected for the entire state.
  • State and local sales taxes. NYSLRS retirees paid an estimated $618 million in state and local sales tax in 2016.
  • 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 72,370 jobs as a result.

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.

Retirees’ contribute nationwide

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.

Where in New York are NYSLRS Retirees?

NYSLRS retirees tend to stay in New York, where their pensions are exempt from State and local income taxes. In fact, 78 percent of NYSLRS 452,455 retirees and beneficiaries lived in the State as of March 31, 2017. And half of them lived in just ten of New York’s 62 counties.

So where in New York do these retirees call home? Well, there are a lot of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries on Long Island. Suffolk and Nassau counties are home to more than 57,000 recipients of NYSLRS retirement benefits, with annual pension payments exceeding $1.8 billion. But that shouldn’t be surprising. Suffolk and Nassau counties are, respectively, the largest and third largest counties in the State outside of New York City.Erie County, which includes Buffalo, ranks No. 2 in the number of NYSLRS retirees, with nearly 30,000. Albany County, home to the State Capital, ranks fourth with more than 18,000. Monroe, Westchester, Onondaga, Saratoga, Dutchess and Orange counties round out the Top Ten.

This distribution is easy to understand. The Top Ten counties for retirees include nine of the ten most populous New York counties outside of New York City. (The City, which has its own retirement system for municipal employees, police and firefighters, has about 22,000 NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries living in its five counties.)

All told, NYSLRS retirees received $5 billion in retirement benefits in the Top Ten counties, and $9.1 billion statewide.

Hamilton County had the fewest NYSLRS benefit recipients. But in this sparsely populated county in the heart of the Adirondacks, those 435 retirees represent nearly 10 percent of the county population. $8.6 million in retirement benefits were paid to NYSLRS retirees in Hamilton County during fiscal year 2016-2017.

Outside of New York, Florida remained the top choice for NYSLRS retirees, with more than 36,000 benefit recipients. North Carolina (8,693), New Jersey (7,466) and South Carolina (5,620) were also popular. There were 690 NYSLRS recipients living outside the United States as of March 31, 2017.

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.

How NYSLRS Retirees Contribute to New York’s Economy

Public pensions play an important role in our state’s economic health. The pensions NYSLRS retirees earn flow back into their communities in the form of property and sales tax payments, and local purchases. When public retirees stay in New York, they help stimulate and grow local economies.

NYSLRS Retirees Who Call New York Home

As of March 31, 2016, there are 440,943 NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. Seventy-eight percent of them – 345,643 – continue to live in New York. Suffolk County is home to the largest number of NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries. More than $1 billion in pension benefits went to the 33,290 individuals who live there. Erie County has the second largest number of benefit recipients (29,029), who received $701.5 million.

NYSLRS Retirees Contribute

The Economic Impact of NYSLRS Retirees

NYSLRS retirees are patrons of local business and services, and they pay state and local taxes. By spending their retirement income locally, they help fuel the economic engines of their communities. In fact, a study by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) found that state and local pensions in New York State supported 215,867 jobs, driving $35.3 billion in total economic output and $8.1 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

New York mirrored the NIRS report’s results across the rest of America. Nationally, retiree spending of pension benefits in 2014 generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output, supporting some 7.1 million jobs across the U.S.

The NIRS report suggests that a stable and secure pension benefit that won’t run out enables retirees to pay for their basic needs like housing, food, medicine and clothing. It’s good for the economy when retirees are self-sufficient and regularly spend their pension income. They spend that money on goods and services in the local community. They purchase food, clothing, and medicine at local stores, pay housing costs, and may even make larger purchases like computer equipment or a car. These purchases combine to create a steady economic ripple effect. Retirees with inadequate 401(k) savings who might be fearful of running out of savings tend to hold back on spending. This reduced spending stunts economic growth, which already is predicted to drop by one-third as the U.S. population ages.

NYSLRS Retirees Pay Their Share of Taxes

NYSLRS retirees live throughout the different regions of New York, but they only make up 2.9 percent of the general population. In some cases, they pay a larger share of property taxes. For instance, in the Capital District, retirees make up 5 percent of the population yet they pay 8.7 percent of the property taxes, which totals $218 million. In the North Country, retirees make up 4.3 percent of the population and pay 6.8 percent of the property taxes ($55 million). 

Retirees Build a Strong New York

After a career in public service, NYSLRS retirees continue to contribute to their communities and the State. Their pensions are a sound investment in New York’s future. Public pensions don’t just benefit those who receive them, but they pay dividends to local businesses, support local communities, and create jobs. As the number of NYSLRS retirees grows, it’s likely they will continue to help build a strong New York.