A Guide for New Members


If you are among the thousands of new members who recently joined NYSTRS, welcome! In addition to deciding to educate New York’s youth, you’ve joined one of the best-funded and most secure pension systems in the nation.

If you’re thinking, “Retirement is the furthest thing from my mind at the moment,” we certainly understand. However, there are five key reasons to care early in your career:

  1. Save now; collect later. In today’s money and considering current mortality rates, you’d need to save about $1 million for a pension that pays you $51,000 a year for life. With student loans, mortgages, car payments and other expenses staring you in the face, it’s unlikely you’d be able to save that much on your own. As a NYSTRS member, you contribute 3% to 6% of your salary while you work (depending on your tier and pay scale) and we do the accumulating for you. Learn more about the funding process and the importance of protecting the current plan design by reading the NYSTRS publications Learning About NYSTRS and the Active Members' Handbook.

  2. You can borrow against your contributions while you are working. That’s not to say you should, because doing so can have severe tax consequences. However, simply knowing this option exists in the event of an emergency provides peace of mind. There are milestones you need to reach before you can apply for a loan, and there are limits as to how much and how often you can borrow. See the publication Borrowing From Your NYSTRS Contributions and talk to a System representative before considering a loan.

  3. It’s insurance without the premiums. Once eligible, you will have disability and death benefit coverage at no additional cost to you. As a result, you may decide it is not necessary to buy additional private insurance ― or at least purchase less of it. That’s a potential cost savings to you and another way a NYSTRS pension provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

  4. If you previously worked in the public sector, you may already have service credit you can claim. Service credit is earned by working in New York State public service. The more credit you have, the sooner you can potentially retire and the larger your benefit will be when you do. Once you earn two years of NYSTRS service credit, you may be able to purchase prior service earned through previous state employment. Once you earn five years of service, you may be able to claim prior military service. Even if you just joined NYSTRS, if you had a former membership in another NYS public retirement system, you may be able to reinstate to an earlier date of membership, meaning you could be eligible for better benefits under a different tier. See the publication You Deserve the Credit for more information.

  5. Your NYSTRS benefit will be a big piece of your retirement income. However, you still need to save on your own. How do you determine what to put aside if you don’t know what to expect from your NYSTRS benefit? The time to plan is now.

What to Do Now

The two most important tasks for ALL members are to (1) create an online MyNYSTRS account and (2) review ― each and every year ― the Benefit Profile you will receive from us.

MyNYSTRS is a secure, members-only area on our website where, once you earn salary and accumulate service credit, you will find all your personal data relative to your NYSTRS membership. Once you reach appropriate service milestones, you can also use this area to claim prior service, borrow against your contributions, calculate your future retirement benefit and much more.

Following your first year of employment, your Benefit Profile will be one item you’ll find in MyNYSTRS. Distributed annually in the fall, the Profile is a summary of your membership status. As you meet eligibility requirements, the Profile will provide estimates of your future benefits. Review the statement carefully; it is your opportunity to verify the accuracy of salary and service information reported to us by your employer. Your eligibility for current and future benefits, as well as the calculation of those benefits, is dependent upon this information.

With a MyNYSTRS account, you can choose to receive your Profile electronically. In addition to reducing your U.S. mail intake, selecting the electronic version of this important multi-page retirement planning document is the environmentally friendly option.

Take a Look

You should have received the publication Your First Look with your membership letter from NYSTRS. Here you’ll find an explanation of the member contribution structure, as well as key service milestones.

Give us two minutes and watch NYSTRS' video A Two-Minute Tutorial for New Members to get the basic facts about your retirement system and the benefits it provides.

Also consider asking your NYSTRS delegate or union representative to schedule a new member orientation program in your district. It runs less than an hour and can be held during a superintendent day or after school. Call (800) 348-7298, Ext. 4763 to schedule a session.

If you ever have questions about your NYSTRS membership and you can’t find the answers online, call us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6250 to speak with a System representative.

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