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NYS Comptroller

Thomas P. DiNapoli

Preparing For Retirement - A Checklist

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Retirement is a big step, and this checklist will help prepare you to take that step with confidence. The checklist timeline guides you through the retirement process and highlights important topics and information you’ll need to consider.

Step One: Sign up for Retirement Online

Retirement Online is our self-service tool that offers an easy and secure way to review your benefits and conduct transactions in real time. You can update your contact information, check your retirement service credit totals and view or update your beneficiaries. In many cases, you’ll be able to use Retirement Online instead of sending forms through the mail or calling the New York State and Local Retirement System. Learn more.

At Least 18 Months Before You Retire

Review your Member Annual Statement (MAS)

We provide this to our members every summer. Take some time to familiarize yourself with your retirement account, and to see if there are any inconsistencies with your records. Your statement will show your:

  • Retirement plan
  • Date of membership
  • Total credited service
  • Contribution and loan balances
  • Employment and salary data
  • Projection of pension benefits (provided for most members)
Read your plan booklet

You can find your plan booklet on our Publications page. If you aren’t certain what retirement plan you are in, you can check your Member Annual Statement or you can ask your employer. Your plan booklet will give you information on:

  • Service and disability retirement benefits
  • The formula for calculating your retirement benefit, with examples
  • Death benefit coverage
Visit us

Make an appointment if you would like to meet with an information representative at one of our consultation sites. You can ask questions specific to your NYSLRS account.

Read your employee newsletter

Our semiannual newsletters, The Update for Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members and The Sentinel for Police and Fire (PFRS) members, are a good way to stay informed about NYSLRS benefits and changes in retirement law.

Pay off your NYSLRS loan

If you retire with an outstanding loan balance, there will be a permanent reduction to your retirement benefit. Learn more on our Loans page.

Purchase Service Credit

If you think you have service that has not been credited to you, submit a Request to Purchase Service Credit. You may also be able to get credit for service in the military. Visit our service credit page for more information. If you have questions about whether purchasing additional service credit will benefit you, call or email us.

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18 – 12 Months Before You Retire

Project Your Pension

We offer several ways for you to project the approximate amount you can expect to receive each month under the available pension payment options. You can select the maximum benefit with no payments to a beneficiary after your death, or select a reduced monthly benefit for possible payment to a beneficiary.

Visit our Payment Option Descriptions page for a list of available pension payment options.

Use our benefit projector calculator

Our benefit projector calculator will estimate your pension based on information you enter. It allows you to enter different retirement dates, final average salaries and service credit totals, so you can compare retirement outcomes. For example, if you’re debating between retiring early or working until your full retirement age, the calculator can show you the difference in your pension benefit.

This service is available to most ERS members who joined NYSLRS before April 1, 2012, and most PFRS members who joined before July 1, 2009.

Request a benefit projection

Most ERS members who are age 50 or older can request a benefit projection by phone at any time by using our automated system, as long as they have enough years of service to be eligible for a pension. The automated system will use salary reported to date, and project additional service credit based on a date of retirement up to five years in the future. Call 1-866-805-0990, or 518-474-7736 in the Albany, NY area. In most cases, these projections are mailed on the next business day to your home address.

Both ERS and PFRS members can request a benefit projection by emailing or writing to us. Be sure to include your estimated retirement date, the name and birth date of your intended beneficiary, your public employment history, any military service you may have, your current address, and your retirement registration number or NYSLRS ID. For our mailing address, or to email us, visit our Contact Us page.

Submit a Request for Estimate form

If you are within five years of your first eligible date of retirement (18 months for PFRS) and you are not certain that you’ve received credit for all your public service in New York State, you can submit a Request for Estimate form (RS6030). Be sure to provide the dates and locations of your public employment history. NYSLRS will review your account to determine if you are eligible for any additional service.

Learn how divorce can affect your pension

Read our Divorce and Your Benefits page for information about Domestic Relations Orders (DRO), and to learn how divorce can affect your retirement benefits.

Retirement benefits are considered marital property and can be divided between you and your ex-spouse when the marriage ends. Any division of your benefits must be stated in the form of a DRO — a legal document that gives us specific instructions on how your benefits should be divided.

We offer an easy-to-complete online DRO template. The template is not required, but because the review process is simplified for submissions using the DRO template, we can complete our review faster if you use it. We will also need a certified copy of your divorce decree.

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12 Months Before You Retire

Review your health insurance coverage

NYSLRS does not administer health insurance benefits. Check with your health benefits administrator to determine your eligibility for post-retirement coverage. You may have to investigate private health insurance plans if you’re not eligible for post-retirement coverage or need to supplement it.

Review other income sources

Experts say you will need at least 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your current standard of living.

Prepare a retirement budget

Having a budget allows you to decide how you want to spend your money and aids you in keeping your long-term goals in focus.

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6 Months Before You Retire

Locate proof of your birth date

We will need proof of your birth date before any benefits can be paid. If you do not have proof readily available, now is the time to hunt it down or arrange to get a replacement. This is especially important if you have to write to an out-of-state registry or a foreign country for an acceptable document.

In most cases, a photocopy of your proof of date of birth will be acceptable, and you can submit it when you submit your retirement application. If you send us the original, we will return it to you. Acceptable documents include:

The National Center for Health Statistics’ website contains information for each state on where to write for your vital records.

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3 Months – 15 Days Before You Retire

Filing Your Retirement Forms

Retirement application

Most members are eligible to file a retirement application between 15 to 90 days before their retirement date. You can get your application from our website, your employer, or by contacting us. When filling out your application, be sure to list all public employment, and note if you’ve been a member of another public retirement system in New York State.

Your application is a legal document, so you must sign it and have your signature notarized. Information representatives at our consultation sites serve as notary publics and can assist you in completing the form.

Option election form

You have to make a decision on how you want your retirement benefit paid. Refer to your most recent estimate. It will show you the amounts you may receive under each option. You have up to 30 days after your pension benefit becomes payable to submit or change your option selection. If your election is not timely, by law, your retirement will be processed as if you had selected:

  • Tier 1 or 2 members, the Cash Refund — Contributions option; or
  • Tier 3, 4, 5 or 6 members, the Single Life Allowance option.
Other documents

When we receive your retirement application, we will send you and your employer acknowledgment letters. We will keep you informed about any additional documents we need from you. But you don’t need to wait. There are other documents we will eventually need that you can submit along with your retirement application:

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After You Retire

We will let you know if there are any additional documents we need from you. Finalizing your retirement benefit amount can take some time. The time it will take can vary depending on the complexity of your own circumstances. In the meantime, enjoy your retirement. You’ve earned it.

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(Rev. 11/17)