Most NYSLRS members can now create their own pension estimate in minutes using Retirement Online.
A Retirement Online estimate is based on the most up-to-date account information we have on file for you. You can enter different retirement dates to see how those choices would affect your benefit. When you’re done, you can print your pension estimate or save it for future reference.
How to Create Your Pension Estimate
Before you can use the new pension calculator, you will need a Retirement Online account. Once you sign in, go to the My Account Summary section of your account homepage and click the “Estimate my Pension Benefit” button.
You can enter an estimated retirement date (or retirement age), your current salary and expected annual salary increases. You can also include any service credit you plan to purchase and anticipated lump sum payment for unused vacation. If you add the birthdate for a beneficiary, you’ll also see the estimated monthly payment you would receive if you were to choose a payment option that provides a benefit for a survivor.
Any pension estimate you generate with the online calculator would be an approximation of your potential benefit; it is not a guarantee that you’ll receive a certain amount when you retire.
Alternative Ways to Get an Estimate
While more than 90 percent of NYSLRS members (most Tier 3 through 6 members) can use the new benefit calculator, some members should have NYSLRS generate their benefit estimate.
For example, if you recently transferred your membership to NYSLRS or are covered under certain special plans, it would be better if NYSLRS created an estimate for you. The system will notify you if your estimate cannot be completed using Retirement Online’s estimate tool. Please contact us to request a pension estimate if you receive this notification. Also, if you are in Tiers 1 through 4, you can still use the Quick Calculator on the NYSLRS website. The Quick Calculator generates estimates based on information you provide.
Most members of the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) contribute a percentage of their earnings toward their pensions. For Tier 6 members, that percentage, or contribution rate, can vary from year to year. If you joined NYSLRS on or after April 1, 2012, you are in Tier 6.
When Tier 6 Contribution Rates are Determined
Tier 6 contribution rates are calculated annually. New rates become effective each year on April 1, the beginning of the State’s fiscal year. Once your contribution rate is set for a fiscal year, it will not change for the rest of that fiscal year. However, depending on your earnings, it may change the following year.
How Your Tier 6 Contribution Rate is Calculated
As a Tier 6 member, your contribution rate is based on how much you earn. Changes in your earnings may result in changes to your contribution rate.
For the first three years as a NYSLRS member, your contribution rate is based on an estimated annual wage we receive from your employer. After three years, the rate is based on what you actually earned two years prior. The minimum contribution rate is 3 percent of your earnings, and the maximum is 6 percent.
The percentage you contribute toward your pension while you work does not affect the pension amount you may receive in retirement. Your NYSLRS pension is a lifetime benefit based on your retirement plan, years of service credit and final average salary. You can learn more about your pension by reading your plan booklet on our Publications page. For help finding the right plan book, read our blog post, Knowing Your Retirement Plan is the Key to Retirement Planning. For more information about ERS Tier 6 memberships, read our blog post, What to Know About ERS Tier 6.
We continue to receive reports of NYSLRS members who have become ill, or seriously ill, as a result of COVID-19. It is vitally important that these members, and their loved ones, be aware of the provisions contained in a NYSLRS Power of Attorney.
NYSLRS provides a Special Durable Power of Attorney form that is specific to retirement transactions and meets all New York State legal requirements. It can be filed with NYSLRS at any time so the designated agent can act immediately in case of emergency, hospitalization or unexpected illness. There’s no need to wait until something happens to file a NYSLRS POA form.
A power of attorney (POA) allows a person to designate someone else to act on their behalf. The designated person, referred to as an “agent,” could be a spouse, another family member or a trusted friend.
A person can designate more than one person as an agent, and can decide if those agents act together or separately. In addition to an agent or agents, a person may designate “successor agents” to act on an individual’s behalf if the person designated as the “primary” agent is unable or unwilling to serve. Successor agents can be named using the “Modifications” section (g) of the POA.
Why is a NYSLRS POA Important?
Normally, NYSLRS won’t release benefit information to anyone without your permission — even to a spouse. With a POA on file, we would be able to discuss your benefits and conduct business with the agent you appointed. This could be especially important now as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic. If you suddenly become ill and are unable to contact us personally, your agent would be able to take care of your retirement needs for you.
What Can Agents Do?
Agents can file applications and forms, such as service or disability retirement applications. They can get account-specific benefit information, request copies of retirement documents, update addresses or phone numbers or take out loans. For retirees, agents can change the amount withheld from pensions for taxes.
It’s important to note that the NYSLRS POA form only covers Retirement System transactions. It does not authorize an agent to make health care decisions or changes to a Deferred Compensation plan.
If you use the NYSLRS POA form, and your agent(s) or successor agent(s) is your spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, they have “self-gifting authority.” That means they can direct deposit money into a joint bank account you have with them, designate themselves as a beneficiary to your pension benefits, and/or choose a retirement payment option that provides for a beneficiary after your death.
If your agent(s) or successor agent(s) is not your spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, they do not automatically have “self-gifting” authority, which means they cannot name themselves as a beneficiary or direct deposit money into a joint bank account with their name on it. If you wish to give an agent(s) or successor agent(s) ”self-gifting” authority, you should specifically indicate so in section (g) “Modifications” of the POA. In that section you should identify your agent(s) or successor agent(s) by name and state the specific authority granted to them.
Please note only biological or legally adopted children are considered your “child” for NYSLRS POA purposes. All other children must be granted specific authority in section (g) “Modifications.”
How to Submit a NYSLRS POA Form
If your decision to submit a NYSLRS POA is related to the COVID-19 emergency, please note that on the form in section (g) “Modifications.” If you file a retirement application, consider submitting a NYSLRS POA with your application.
You can scan and email a copy of your POA to NYSLRS using the secure email form on our website.
You can also mail your POA (original or photocopy). You may wish to mail it certified mail, return-receipt requested, so that you know when NYSLRS receives it. The address is:
NYSLRS 110 State Street Albany, NY 12244-0001.
Find Out More
A power of attorney is a powerful document. Once you appoint someone, that person may act on your behalf with or without your consent. We strongly urge you to consult an attorney before you execute this document.
During this challenging time, NYSLRS staff continues to work hard to serve you, which includes processing retirement applications. If you are eligible and planning to retire, you don’t need to delay filing. And, if you become ill with COVID-19, you may want to file for retirement to protect your loved ones.
Regardless of your reason for retiring, you can now file for a service retirement benefit using Retirement Online. This new feature makes applying for retirement faster and easier than ever before. If you don’t already have an account, register today.
File for a Service Retirement Online
After signing in to your Retirement Online account, scroll down to the ‘My Account Summary.’ On the right, under the heading ‘I want to…,’ click the green “Apply for Retirement” button.
From there, you’ll go through a series of screens where you’ll be able to:
If you decide to file your application by mail, you will have to have your signature notarized on the application and on the payment option election form.
You can have forms notarized using audio-video technology, which allows a notary to witness a signature remotely. You can find more information about the virtual notary process on the New York Secretary of State website.
If you are in quarantine and unable to use a virtual notary, you can submit a signed form that is not notarized. You’ll need to include a letter to NYSLRS to explain that you were under quarantine when the form was signed, and submit notarized forms once the quarantine is lifted.
If you use regular mail, the filing date will be the date we receive it. If you die between the time you mail it and the time we receive it, a legible postmark will serve as the date of filing. (If you mail it from a post office, you can ask for a hand cancellation, which may help ensure the postmark is legible.)
If you become seriously ill, you may wish to file for a disability retirement benefit. That way, if you were to die before your retirement date, your beneficiary may still be eligible for a continuing pension, rather than a one-time, in-service death benefit. You may apply for a disability retirement at the same time you apply for a service retirement — there is no 15 day waiting period when filing for disability retirement.
For More Details, Read Your Retirement Plan Booklet
Your service and disability retirement benefits and death benefits are based on your tier, plan, service credit, and other factors. For details about your available benefits, please read your retirement plan booklet, available on our Publications page, or you can call our Contact Center at 866-805-0990 if you have questions.
The unfortunate reality of the COVID-19 emergency is that some NYSLRS members may become seriously ill and some may die from the disease. That is why it is vitally important that members understand how to apply for retirement benefits, if they need to take that step.
NYSLRS members who become seriously ill from COVID-19 may wish to file for a disability retirement benefit so their beneficiary may be eligible for a continuing pension, rather than a one-time in-service death benefit, if the member dies.
or their employer on their behalf, need to file the disability
retirement application that is appropriate for them according to their
Please visit our Disability Benefits page and select “Find Your Application” to help you find the right application. Additionally, the member, or the member’s spouse, should file a pension payment option election form to identify a beneficiary to receive the continuing benefit. An option election form cannot be filed by the employer. A continuing benefit cannot be paid to a beneficiary unless we receive an option election form.
Applications and option election forms can be emailed directly to NYSLRS’ Disability Processing Unit. If the member dies after applying, the disability retirement application would be effective upon death. If the member recovers, he or she would be allowed to withdraw the disability retirement application.
Eligible members may also file for a service retirement. However, a service retirement cannot be canceled if your retirement date has passed. You can file a disability and a service retirement application at the same time. Service retirements can be filed electronically using Retirement Online.
Please call our Contact Center at 866-805-0990 if
you have questions.
You probably have a lot on your mind right now, but one thing you don’t need to worry about is your NYSLRS pension. Despite the turmoil in the financial markets, your retirement benefits are secure.
want to assure the more than one million men and women who rely on the State
pension fund for retirement security that we are well-positioned to weather the
ongoing volatility,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “To
our retirees, your pensions are safe and we will continue to pay your benefits
The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which holds and invests NYSLRS assets, has long been recognized as one of best managed and best funded public pension plans in the nation. The strength of the Fund puts NYSLRS in a good position as we navigate through the current economic turmoil.
Fund’s professional managers take a conservative approach to investing and
focus on sustained, long-term results. This approach allows the Fund to capitalize
on investment opportunities in good times and cushions it against market ups
and downs. In recent months, as they recognized increased volatility in the
market, Fund managers began making adjustments to the Fund’s investment
portfolio to prepare for an expected downturn in the economy. They are actively
managing the Fund through these difficult times and are confident the markets
will ultimately recover.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted our daily lives in ways large and small. As New York and the rest of the nation work on treatment and containment of this virus, many New Yorkers are concerned about what the future will bring.
The New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) wants to assure retirees and members who rely on the state pension fund for fiscal security that it is well positioned to weather the volatility in the financial markets. Your retirement benefits are secure and you will continue to receive your pension payments.
Retirees: Please Sign Up for Direct Deposit
As NYSLRS closely monitors the public health measures being taken to prevent the community transmission of the coronavirus, there are circumstances that could arise that impact the delivery of pension checks, particularly the ability of retirees to go to the bank to deposit them.
NYSLRS strongly urges retirees to consider signing up for direct deposit, instead of receiving a monthly pension by check via mail delivery. The vast majority of our retirees have their retirement and Social Security benefits deposited directly into their checking or savings account. Direct deposit is quick and safe. To enroll in direct deposit, complete the Electronic Funds Transfer Direct Deposit Enrollment Application (RS6370).
As an Employees’ Retirement
System (ERS) Tier 6 member, your years of service are critical to your
benefits. As time goes by, and you earn service credit, you’ll reach a number
of career milestones. These milestones are points where you become eligible for
certain benefits or your existing benefits improve. Understanding these milestones
will help you better plan your career and retirement.
In ERS Tier 6, you reach your first milestone on your first day of 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 booklet.)
10 & 20 Years Make a Big Difference
For all NYSLRS members, there is one critical milestone: becoming vested. Being vested means that you have earned the right to a pension, even if you leave public employment before retirement age. ERS Tier 6 members become vested after they earn 10 years of service credit.
For most ERS Tier 6 members, another big milestone is the 20-year mark, when your retirement benefit improves significantly. If you retire with less than 20 years of service, you earn 1.66 percent of your final average salary (FAS) for each year of service. At 20 years, you receive 35% of your FAS. After 20 years, you’ll earn an additional 2 percent of your FAS for each year of service beyond 20.
ERS Tier 6 Special Plans
For ERS Tier 6 members in special plans, such as corrections officers, many of the milestones are the same. For example, you will become vested with 10 years of service credit.
But there are also major differences. Most importantly, correction officers in the special 25-year plan can retire after 25 years regardless of age. You can find more information in your retirement plan booklet.
A recent survey gauged how important retirement benefits are to state and local government workers, and the crucial role that pensions and other benefits play in recruiting and retaining workers.
In 2015, more than 19 million Americans worked for state or local
governments, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Retirement benefits,
including defined benefit and defined contribution plans, were available to
most of those workers.
Last year, the National Institute on Retirement Security
commissioned a survey
of more than 1,100 public sector employees. Teachers, police officers,
firefighters and other public workers were asked questions on a variety of
work-related subjects, from job satisfaction to health care benefits. The
majority of public workers surveyed (86 percent) cited retirement benefits as a
major reason they stay in their jobs.
Defined Benefit vs. Defined
An overwhelming number (94 percent) of government employees
surveyed said pensions help attract and retain workers. The same percentage had
a favorable view of defined benefit pension plans.
As a NYSLRS member, you are part of a defined benefit plan, also known
as a traditional pension plan. Your pension is a lifetime benefit based on
years of service and earnings. It is not based on your individual contributions
to the Retirement System.
With defined contributions plans, such as 401(k)-style
retirement savings plans, the employer, employee
or both make contributions to an individual retirement account. The money in
the account is invested, and the amount the employee has at retirement is based
on investment returns. A market downturn can affect the value of the benefit
and employees risk outliving their money.
When Retirement Benefits Get Reduced
In an effort to cut costs, some state and local governments have replaced
defined benefit plans with defined contribution plans. But these moves have had
The Institute’s study cites the experience of Palm Beach, Florida,
which gutted its defined benefit plan. The town soon realized that it was
spending large sums to recruit and train new police officers, only to see them
move to nearby communities with better benefits. The town reconsidered and
improved its pension plan.
Then there’s the case of West Virginia, where officials found that switching to a defined contribution plan for teachers actually cost more money. Because the traditional pension plan stopped receiving contributions from new teachers and their employers, it became harder for the state to meet its pension obligations. After 14 years, the state went back to offering a defined benefit plan to all new teachers. Teachers already in the 401(k)-style plan were allowed to switch to the traditional plan, and 79 percent made the switch. State officials project that the return to a defined benefit system will save them $1.2 billion in the first 30 years.
Meanwhile, Alaska is still struggling with its decision to drop its defined benefit plan. A report by the Alaska Department of Public Safety cited “the inability to provide a defined benefits retirement system” as a factor in the “critically low staffing levels” for Alaska state troopers.
Most NYSLRS members contribute a percentage of their earnings to the Retirement System. Unlike a 401k or IRA, these contributions don’t determine the amount of your pension. So how do NYSLRS contributions work?
NYSLRS retirement plans differ from defined contribution
plans, such as 401k plans. In those plans, a worker, their employer or both
contribute to an individual retirement account. The money is invested and hopefully
accumulates investment returns over time. This type of plan does not provide a
lifetime benefit, and there is the risk that the money will run out during the
worker’s retirement years.
Your NYSLRS contributions, however, don’t go into a personal
retirement account. That’s because NYSLRS is a defined benefit plan. Your
contributions go into the New York Common Retirement Fund along with employer
contributions and investment income. This pool of money pays out retirement
benefits for you and other NYSLRS members.
Once you’re vested, you’re entitled to a pension that will provide monthly payments for the rest of your life. The amount of those payments will be based on your years of service and final average salary, not on how much you contributed to the Retirement System.
How Much Do
If you joined NYSLRS since April 1, 2012, you are in Tier 6.
Tier 6 contributions range from 3 to 6 percent of earnings.
To put that into perspective, financial experts advise workers in defined contribution plans to save 10 to 15 percent of their earnings in their retirement accounts.
If you leave public employment with less than ten years of service, you can withdraw your contributions, plus interest. If you withdraw, you will not be eligible for a NYSLRS retirement benefit. If you have more than ten years of service, you cannot withdraw, but you will be entitled to a pension when you reach retirement age. But remember, you will not receive this pension automatically; you must file a retirement application before you can receive any benefits.