Retirement Planning FAQs

Retirement Planning FAQs
Get answers to common planning questions.
Contact Us

(800) 348-7298, Ext. 6250
communit@nystrs.org

  1. How is my pension calculated?

    Your pension is based on your years of service credit, final average salary (FAS), age and membership tier. See the Benefits chapter of our Active Members’ Handbook for details and examples. We also urge you to schedule a consultation with a NYSTRS representative to discuss your unique circumstances.

  1. Can I provide coverage to a beneficiary with my pension?

    Yes. On your Application for Retirement, you will elect either the Maximum benefit payment (which provides you with the largest monthly payment, but no payment to a beneficiary upon your death) or an option. An option is designed to provide coverage for a beneficiary. Like life insurance, the greater the protection an option provides your beneficiary, the greater the cost of the option to you. No matter which payment option you elect, payments will be made to you for life.

    For a summary of the available options, see our brochure Maximum or an Option: Choosing a Benefit Payment Right for You or watch our two-part video “Your NYSTRS Benefit Payment – Making the Choice That’s Right for You.” Before making any final decisions, we encourage you to discuss your options with a NYSTRS representative at a benefits consultation.

  1. If my circumstances change, can I change my payment choice?

    By law, you cannot change your benefit payment choice more than 30 days after your retirement date. This holds true even if your circumstances change. To change your choice within the 30-day window, file an Election of Retirement Benefit (RET-54.6) form with NYSTRS.

  1. 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.

    Benefit payments are directly deposited into your checking or savings account on the last business day of each month.

  1. My first payment was lower than I expected. How was the amount calculated?

    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 only reflect 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 that first payment. In these cases, your second benefit payment should be higher than your first.

    Also understand 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 which generally takes 9-12 months.

  1. When will I know what my final benefit is?

    We complete the processing of most retirement applications within 9–12 months, but it may take longer in more complicated cases. When your benefit is finalized, 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.

  1. What should I do if I am no longer able to work due to a disability?

    If you are no longer able to work because of a serious illness or injury, you should contact NYSTRS immediately at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6010. We will provide you with disability retirement information and an updated benefit estimate. Eligibility requirements differ by tier of membership. See our publication If You Are No Longer Able to Work for more information.

  1. How are disability retirement benefits calculated?

    A disability benefit generally equals one-third of your final average salary, but the benefit may be more or less depending on your age and service credit. Contact NYSTRS at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6010 to request a disability retirement estimate.

  1. If I am facing a potentially life-threatening condition or surgery, what can I do to protect my beneficiaries?

    Consider filing a disability retirement application and clearly indicate on the application that it is "For Protection Only." Doing so provides a safety net for you and your beneficiaries. If your condition changes, you may either rescind your application or proceed with your disability retirement application by notifying NYSTRS in writing.

    With this protection, benefits will be paid to a beneficiary if you pass away before your effective date of retirement as a result of the illness or condition listed on your application and you are otherwise eligible for disability retirement. In most cases, the lump sum payment your beneficiary would receive would be significantly more than an in-service death benefit and refund of any member contributions account.

    For important information on how to apply, watch the video “Filing for Disability Protection”, available in our website’s Library and on our mobile app.

  1. If I am critically ill and meet the disability eligibility requirements, should I stay on payroll, or retire and select an option protecting my beneficiary?

    With few exceptions, if you meet the eligibility requirements, you should file for disability retirement immediately regardless of your age. In most cases, the lump-sum payment a beneficiary would receive in the event of your death would be significantly more than an in-service death benefit and refund of any member contributions account.

    If you are critically ill and qualify for a service retirement benefit, the payout to a beneficiary may be higher if you retire under a service retirement instead. Contact NYSTRS at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6010 to discuss your situation.

    In lieu of both a monthly retirement benefit and a death benefit paid to a beneficiary, you may be eligible to receive an “accelerated death benefit” if you have a life expectancy less than a year or a medical condition requiring extraordinary care or treatment. An accelerated death benefit would pay you an amount equal to the death benefit that otherwise would be due a beneficiary if you died on the last day of reportable service; no refund of contributions would apply. This election is irrevocable, so you should discuss your choices with NYSTRS before making this decision.

  1. When will I be eligible to retire?

    Members may retire as early as age 55 with five years (Tiers 1-4) or 10 years (Tiers 5 and 6*) of NYS service credit. However, age is only one factor in the calculation of your pension; total years of service, final average salary, and tier of membership are also important. See the Benefits chapter of our Active Members’ Handbook for details.

    * For Tier 6 members no longer in active status, the earliest retirement age is 63.

  1. Is there a difference between the resignation date I give my employer and my NYSTRS retirement date?

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

    The effective date of retirement you enter on your application must be at least one day beyond the last date you earn salary under contract. For example, if you last earn salary under contract on June 30 (even if the last day you actually worked is earlier), the earliest effective date of retirement you could elect is July 1.

  1. When should I file my retirement application?

    You can file your retirement application with NYSTRS as late as your retirement date, but no more than 90 days before. To be on the first available payroll after retiring, you should generally file at least 30 days in advance.

    If you plan to retire on the cusp of a key service credit milestone, be aware that falling short of the credit needed could negatively impact your benefit—for life. Don’t cut it too close when picking a retirement date; work longer than you think necessary, especially if you have ever worked less than full time. Also consider filing your application just a few weeks before your retirement date (e.g., by mid-June for a July 1 retirement). If your district sends timely reports to NYSTRS, you may have met the milestone when the preliminary calculation is run, which could mean higher initial payments until your benefit is finalized.

  1. How do I file my retirement application?

    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. You will also save 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.

    As an alternative, you may print the Application for Retirement 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.

  1. If I was retirement-eligible when I stopped working but didn’t file a retirement application, can I receive retroactive payments now?

    No. Retirement benefits are not retroactive. To begin receiving your benefit, you must file a retirement application with NYSTRS.

  1. May I cancel my retirement application after it’s filed?

    Yes. You may withdraw your service retirement application (or change your retirement date) within 14 days after your effective date of retirement by notifying us with a MyNYSTRS secure message or a signed request. If we receive a document sent by registered or certified mail, we deem it filed on the postmark date. Otherwise, it is considered filed on the date we receive it.

    Be aware that some employers consider a letter of resignation or retirement irrevocable. Consult with your employer's human resources or business office, or with a representative of your bargaining unit, about your employer’s policy.

    Note: If you file for a disability retirement, you may withdraw your retirement application with a signed request as long as NYSTRS receives it before the latter of (a) the date the Retirement Board acts upon the application or (b) the date the retirement becomes effective.

  1. Should I attend a Pension & Retirement Education Program (PREP) seminar?

    Yes. PREP seminars are day-long programs, held across the state, designed to help members of all ages prepare for retirement. Topics include NYSTRS benefits, financial planning, Social Security, estate planning, the retirement process, and retirement—a new beginning. You can stay for the entire daylong session or just attend the modules that help you most. View the schedule of upcoming seminars on the Pension & Retirement Education Program page of our website.

    You can sign up for a PREP seminar through your online MyNYSTRS account or by calling us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6180. Booking for our fall seminars begins in mid-September, booking for our winter/spring seminars begins in mid-December, and booking for our summer seminars begins in mid-May.

  1. Should I schedule a benefits consultation with a NYSTRS representative?

    Yes. NYSTRS’ benefits consultations are available to all members and allow you to meet individually with a representative either in-person or through a video conference. During your consultation, you can ask questions about your unique circumstances, explore the advantages of various benefit payment options, and receive printed pension estimates.

    You can book a consultation through your online MyNYSTRS account or by calling us (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6100. Our schedule is available on the Benefits Consultations page of our website.

  1. How can I obtain an estimate of my pension?

    You may use the Pension Estimator in your MyNYSTRS account to run estimates under various scenarios. To request an estimate be mailed instead, call our Estimates Unit at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6020 or complete our online estimate request form in MyNYSTRS. You will also receive estimates during a benefits consultation.

  1. What other NYSTRS resources can help me with my planning?

    NYSTRS offers a variety of resources to help you with your retirement planning. Visit the Ready to Retire and Retirement Planning pages of our website, and check out the following publications and videos available online.

     

    In addition, you can download our mobile app for Android or Apple. Its planning tools include a Retirement Countdown Clock, which shows how close your retirement date is getting.

  1. Does NYSTRS offer health insurance coverage?

    No. NYSTRS does not administer health benefits. You should contact your employer’s human resources or business office for information regarding health benefits and/or Medicare reimbursement.

  1. If I have an outstanding NYSTRS loan, do I have to pay it off before I retire?

    If you are a Tier 3 - 6 member and do not repay a loan within 30 days after your retirement date, your loan will default. The outstanding amount will generally be considered taxable income and will be actuarially deducted from your pension on a permanent basis. See your annual Benefit Profile statement for samples of the reduction that would apply.

    To repay your loan, call us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6080 and ask for a loan payoff amount. Send NYSTRS either a certified check or a money order for that amount. Include the notation "Loan Payoff" and either your EmplID or your Social Security number.

  1. May I withdraw my contributions at retirement?

    For Tier 3 - 6 members, your required contributions help fund your pension at retirement. They do not provide you with a separate annuity, and these funds cannot be withdrawn at retirement.

    If you are a Tier 1 or 2 member who has an Annuity Savings Fund (ASF), you may withdraw your balance at retirement in lieu of receiving a monthly annuity. To withdraw, check the appropriate box on the retirement application or notify NYSTRS within 30 days of your retirement date. We will deduct any outstanding loan balance from your ASF.

  1. Can I return to work immediately after retiring from NYSTRS?

    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 before working in retirement. (Weekends and holidays do not constitute a break in service.)

    Note that laws restrict the amount you can earn in New York State public employment before reaching age 65, and exceeding these limits can result in the suspension of your retirement benefit. See our publication Working in Retirement for important details.

  1. How will a divorce impact my benefit?

    Under New York State law, pension benefits are marital assets subject to equitable distribution upon the member’s divorce, to the extent those benefits were acquired during the marriage. A Domestic Relations Order (DRO) issued by a court may direct NYSTRS to pay a portion of a member's benefits to a former spouse.

    Before seeking court approval of a DRO, attorneys are strongly advised to submit the proposed DRO language to NYSTRS for review by our Legal Department. We have developed a Domestic Relations Order Form to assist individuals in drafting a DRO consistent with our rules and regulations. This form is intended as a standard template applicable to most situations, but more complicated cases should be discussed with our Legal Department.

    Additional information is available in our publication Domestic Relations Orders and a Participant's Retirement Benefit – A Guide to DROs and NYSTRS Benefits.

  1. Will my death benefit coverage continue into retirement?

    If you are a Tier 2-6 member whose Paragraph 2 death benefit was in effect at retirement, you would continue to have coverage in retirement. To be eligible, you must retire within one year of leaving the payroll and not be employed (other than in NYSTRS service) between your cease-teaching date and retirement date.

    The post-retirement benefit is 50% of the death benefit in effect at retirement if you should die in the first year after retirement, 25% of the death benefit in effect at retirement if you should die in the second year after retirement, and 10% of the death benefit in effect at retirement (or at age 60 if you retire after 59) for the third year after retirement and beyond. See our Active Members’ Handbook for more information.

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