Retired Member FAQs

Retirement FAQs
Refer to our Retired Member FAQs for answers to many common questions.
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(800) 348-7298

  1. How do I change my beneficiary?

    Being able to change beneficiaries depends on the type of benefit payment you selected at retirement and whether you are eligible for a Post-Retirement Paragraph 2 Death Benefit. To check what beneficiaries you have on file, visit your MyNYSTRS account or review your Retired Member Profile.

    Retirement Benefit Beneficiary: If you selected the Maximum retirement payment, you were not eligible to name a beneficiary for your pension at retirement. Your pension benefits will cease upon your death. However, you may be eligible to name a beneficiary for a Post-Retirement Paragraph 2 Death Benefit. (See below.)

    If you selected a payment option that provides coverage for a beneficiary, the following applies:

    • If you elected a lump sum option, you can change your beneficiary by filing a Designation of Beneficiary for Retirees Electing a Lump Sum Option (RMS-5).
    • If you elected a guarantee option and the guaranteed period is still in effect, change your beneficiary by filing a Designation of Beneficiary for Retirees Electing a Guarantee Option (RMS-5.3). However, if the guaranteed period has already expired, a beneficiary is no longer covered by this option.
    • If you elected a survivor or pop-up survivor option, your coverage provides a lifetime payment to one beneficiary only, and your payments were determined in part by the age and gender of your beneficiary. As a result, you cannot change your beneficiary designation if it is more than 30 days after your retirement date.
    • If you are within 30 days after your retirement date, you may change your beneficiary (or your option election) by filing an Election of Retirement Benefit (RET-54.6). The form must be received by NYSTRS or postmarked by registered or certified mail within 30 days after your retirement date.

    In all cases, forms should be mailed to NYSTRS at 10 Corporate Woods Drive, Albany, NY 12211.

    Paragraph 2 Death Benefit Beneficiary: If you are covered by a Post-Retirement Paragraph 2 Death Benefit, you can change your beneficiary at any time by submitting a Designation of Beneficiary for In-Service or Post-Retirement Paragraph 2 Death Benefit (NET 11.4). See the Death Benefits tab of these FAQs for more details.

    If you still have questions, speak with an Information Representative by calling (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6250.

  2. What should I do if my beneficiary dies before me?

    The death of a beneficiary associated with the retirement benefit you selected should be reported to NYSTRS by calling (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6140.

    If the beneficiary of your Paragraph 2 Death Benefit dies, you may update your beneficiary by submitting a new Designation of Beneficiary for In-Service or Post-Retirement Paragraph 2 Death Benefit (NET 11.4).

  1. What is a COLA?

    A Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) is an automatic increase to a pension that eligible NYSTRS retirees and beneficiaries receive each September. By law, NYSTRS retirees receive a 1% to 3% COLA annually, based on 50% of the increase in the Consumer Price Index. The COLA is applied to the first $18,000 of the maximum pension benefit. Visit our Retirees > COLA page for the latest COLA figure.

  2. Who is eligible to receive a COLA?

    Retired members are eligible for the COLA if they meet one of the following requirements:

    • At least age 62 and retired at least five years.
    • At least age 55 and retired at least 10 years.
    • Received a NYSTRS disability benefit for at least five years (regardless of age).
    • A surviving spouse of an eligible retiree receiving a lifetime benefit. (By law, the spouse receives an increase equal to one-half the COLA the retiree would have received.)
  1. What is a Post-Retirement Paragraph 2 Death Benefit?

    A Paragraph 2 Death Benefit would be paid to the beneficiary of a deceased Tier 2-6 retiree if the death benefit was in effect at retirement. To be eligible for continued coverage under Paragraph 2 in retirement, you must have retired within one year of leaving public employment payroll and must not have been employed (other than in NYSTRS service) between your cease-teaching date and retirement date.

  2. How is the Paragraph 2 Death Benefit calculated?

    The post-retirement death benefit is 50% of the death benefit in effect at retirement if the member dies in the first year after retirement, 25% of the death benefit in effect at retirement if the member dies in the second year after retirement, and 10% of the death benefit in effect at retirement (or at age 60 if the member retired after 59) for the third year after retirement and beyond.

  3. What should my family do if I die to ensure they receive any death benefits owed them?

    The death of a retired member should be reported to NYSTRS by calling (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6140. They should also refer to When a Loved One Passes, a checklist for reporting the death of a NYSTRS retiree.

    NYSTRS will need the member’s name, EmplID or Social Security number, and date of death. We will also need the name, address and relationship of the survivor to contact, and the name, address and telephone number of the person handling the estate. Once this information is received, we will contact the appropriate person(s) as necessary.

    Alternatively, you could provide the information listed above in writing, accompanied by a certified copy of the death certificate, to NYSTRS at 10 Corporate Woods Drive, Albany, NY 12211.

  1. How is my retirement benefit paid?

    Your retirement benefit is paid in 12 monthly payments, directly deposited into your checking or savings account on the last business day of each month. See our Benefit Payment Dates Calendar for specific dates.

  2. I’m recently retired. When will I receive my first payment?

    Generally, if we receive your retirement application at least 30 days before your date of retirement, you should receive your first payment at the end of the month in which your retirement date falls. If we receive your application closer to your retirement date, your first two payments may be made together at the end of the following month.

  3. I just received my first payment and it was lower than I expected. How was my payment amount calculated?

    Your initial benefit payments are based only on the verified service and salary data we have on file when you retire. Your benefit amount will be finalized after we receive and post all additional employer reports of service and salary – a process that typically takes 9-12 months. When we have completed your processing, you will receive a letter that details your final pension amount and the information used in our calculations. If applicable, we will also retroactively pay you any money owed above the payments you received back to your date of retirement.

    If your retirement date is later than the first of the month and you receive your first payment at the end of the month you retired, your first payment will reflect only the days you were retired, not a full month of pay. In addition, if you requested a specific dollar amount of federal income tax be withheld from your pay each month, the entire requested amount will be withheld from the first payment. In these cases, your second benefit payment should be higher than your first.

  4. I’ve changed banks. How do I update my banking information?

    Those with a MyNYSTRS account can make the change online by logging in, finding the Tools menu at the top of any page and selecting Direct Deposit Authorization Agreement. 

    Alternatively, you can complete and file with NYSTRS a new Direct Deposit Authorization Agreement (GRE-54). Mail the completed form to NYSTRS at 10 Corporate Woods Drive, Albany, NY 12211. You may also fax the form to us at (518) 447-4749.

  1. I retired from my school months ago, but I still haven’t received a pension check. Why is that?

    To begin receiving your retirement benefit, you must file a retirement application with NYSTRS. Notifying your employer that you are resigning is a separate process from retiring and collecting a pension. 

    We encourage you to file your retirement application online through your MyNYSTRS account because doing so has many advantages. The online version has built-in logic to help ensure you don’t inadvertently miss a step or make a mistake that would cause a rejection of the application or a delay in your benefit payments. 

    Filing online also saves time and money because you won’t need to have the online application notarized or pay for postage. The application will be deemed received as soon as you submit it online.

    Alternatively, you may print an Application for Retirement (RET-54) from our website, complete it, have it notarized, and mail it to NYSTRS. If we receive a document sent by registered or certified mail, we deem it filed on the postmark date. Otherwise, it is deemed filed on the date we receive it.

  2. I stopped working in New York State public employment and was eligible to collect my retirement benefits three years ago. If I file now, will I receive retroactive payments?

    No. Retirement benefits are not retroactive. To begin receiving your benefits, you must file a retirement application with NYSTRS. See the answer to the previous question for details on how to file.

  1. What taxes do I pay on my NYSTRS benefit?

    Your retirement benefit is subject to federal tax, except for any previously taxed contributions. Your benefit is exempt from New York State, Social Security and Medicare taxes. 

    If you move out of state, your benefit will be subject to the tax laws of your new state. Check with a tax professional for the tax rules in other states.

    You can have federal taxes withheld from your monthly payment or make quarterly estimated tax payments. Federal tax tables can help you determine how much NYSTRS would withhold from your benefit payment under various scenarios. Consult a tax professional to determine what is best for you.

  2. How can I adjust my federal tax withholding?

    If you have an online MyNYSTRS account, you can make the change online by logging in, finding the Tools tab found at the top of the page and selecting W-4P Withholding Election.

    Or you can file a W-4P Withholding Election and Certificate (FIN-149) with us. Mail the completed form to NYSTRS at 10 Corporate Woods Drive, Albany, NY 12211, or fax it to us at (518) 431-8783. 

  3. What is a 1099-R tax form?

    A 1099-R tax form lists the gross amount of your benefit, the taxable amount, and any federal income tax withheld for the previous calendar year. NYSTRS mails your 1099-R form to you each year in January. If you need another copy, you can print one from your MyNYSTRS account or call us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6120.

  1. After I retire, can I return to teaching in a New York State public school?

    If you are a NYSTRS service retiree, you may generally return to teaching in a New York State public school and earn a limited amount of income within a calendar year without it affecting your pension. 

    If you plan to return to work for a NYSTRS participating employer immediately following your anticipated date of retirement, you MUST have a break in service of at least one business day before working in retirement. Weekends and holidays do not constitute a break in service. 

    For additional details, including rules that apply to a disability retirement, or to learn about other options for returning to work after you retire, see our pamphlet Working in Retirement.

  2. Are there any situations where I can earn an unlimited amount of money working in retirement without it impacting my NYSTRS benefits?

    If you are a NYSTRS service retiree, you can have unlimited income from the following employment without impacting your NYSTRS retirement benefit: 

    • Private sector employment that does NOT include services to any NYS public employer. (Employment for a business providing services to a NYS public employer is considered public employment. These earnings must be reported to NYSTRS and earnings limits may apply.)
    • Federal employment.
    • Public employment outside of New York State.
    • Work as an elected official, inspector of elections, or poll or ballot clerk.
    • Commissioner of deeds, juror, or notary public.
    • Any employment beginning in the calendar year you turn 65.

    You may also qualify for unlimited earnings if your employer receives a waiver on your behalf from the appropriate governing body. For additional details and information on earnings limits, read our pamphlet Working in Retirement.

  3. Do I have to report my earnings to NYSTRS?

    Unless you fall into a category which allows unlimited earnings, you must report your non-pension earnings to NYSTRS as soon as you reach $35,000. This is required even if your public employer reports your earnings, you have a waiver to exceed the earnings limit or your public employer contracted with a private, third-party entity to hire you.

    We recommend using the Earnings After Retirement feature in your MyNYSTRS account to report earnings monthly. Those without a MyNYSTRS account will need to complete and submit the Reporting Your New York State Public Employment Earnings (RMS-64.1) form as soon as they reach the limit.

    Please Note: If you are subject to an earnings limit and exceed the limit at any time during a calendar year, NYSTRS will suspend your pension for the remainder of the calendar year if you continue working in New York State public employment. You also will be required to repay NYSTRS either your retirement benefit for each day you exceeded the limit (applicable to those who worked without a waiver) or the dollar amount you earned in excess of the waiver limit (applicable to those who had a waiver with a specified earnings limit).

    See our Working in Retirement pamphlet for details.

  1. How can I change my address?

    You can change your address online through your MyNYSTRS account (Tools > Change My Address), by filing a Member Name/Address Change (GRE-50) form, or by sending NYSTRS a signed letter that states your new address and your EmplID or Social Security number. Mail the completed form or letter to NYSTRS at 10 Corporate Woods Drive, Albany, NY 12211, or fax it to (518) 447-4749.

    If your address changes seasonally, complete and mail to us a Seasonal Address Change (RET-2) form. NYSTRS will automate where your mail is delivered based on your specifications.

  2. My name has changed. What should I do?

    Complete a Member Name/Address Change (GRE-50) form and either mail it to NYSTRS at 10 Corporate Woods Drive, Albany, NY 12211, or fax it to (518) 447-4749.

    The following documentation must be included with this form to change your name:

    • A photocopy of your marriage certificate, court order or divorce decree stating legal change of name.
    • A photocopy of your valid driver’s license, passport, military ID or Social Security card issued under your new name.
  3. Does NYSTRS offer health insurance coverage?

    NYSTRS does not administer health insurance benefits for retirees. Contact your former employer’s human resources or business office for information regarding health benefits and/or Medicare reimbursement.

    If you are a retired NYS employee (SUNY or Department of Education), the Employees Benefits Division of the NYS Department of Civil Service functions as your Health Benefits Administrator (HBA). Please contact them at (518) 457-5754 or (800) 833-4344.

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