November 2011
October 28, 2011

ERS: Know your tier

Source: NYSUT United

There are five membership tiers in the New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System (ERS). A tier is the group to which you were assigned based on the date you joined ERS. Consider being a member of a tier like being a member of a club or group that has shared interests, like a book-of-the-month club. Only, instead of reading being the common bond, members who are in the same tier all have similar retirement benefits.

Most ERS Tier 1 and 2 members are in the Section 75-h or 75-i retirement plans, while ERS Tier 4 and 5 members are all in the Article 15 plan. If you are an ERS Tier 3 member, you may retire under Article 14 or Article 15, although in most cases you'll choose the pension offered under Article 15.

Which tier you are in determines your eligibility for service or disability retirement benefits, the formula used in the calculation of your benefits, death benefit coverage, service crediting, whether you must contribute toward your benefits and, if you do contribute, your eligibility to take a loan against your contributions.

Tier 1 & 2

Of our 637,921 ERS members, only 3.7 percent are currently in Tiers 1 and 2. Broken down by tier, 10,718 individuals are members of Tier 1 while 12,911 are members of Tier 2.

If you are a member of Tier 1 or 2, you need five years of service credit to be vested. Tier 1 members joined the System before July 1, 1973; Tier 2 members joined on or after July 1, 1973, but before July 27, 1976.

Tier 3, 4 & 5

The lion's share of ERS members — some 579,104 individuals (90.8 percent) — are in Tiers 3 and 4. If you are a member of either Tier 3 or 4, you need five years of service credit to be vested. Individuals in Tier 3 joined the System on or after July 27, 1976, but before Sept. 1, 1983. If you are in Tier 4, you joined on or after Sept. 1, 1983, but before Jan. 1, 2010. The only exceptions to this rule are New York state correction officers and security hospital treatment assistants, who are in Tier 3 if they joined on or after July 27, 1976, but before Jan. 1, 2010.

Members joining the System on or after Jan. 1, 2010 are in Tier 5 and need 10 years of service credit to be vested. As of March 31, 2011, the end of our last fiscal year, 35,188 individuals, or about 5.5 percent of the entire ERS membership, were Tier 5 members.

Q: Where can I go for more information?

A: You can start by reading What Tier Are You In? on our website at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/members/find_your_tier.htm. You should also refer to your specific plan booklet at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/publications for additional details on your retirement benefits.1-800-382-HOME (4663)

For more information, call or visit www.sonyma.org.

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