What happens to your New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System membership if you leave public employment? The answer depends on your tier and the amount of service credit you have earned.
If you are vested and age 55 or older, you may choose to collect a retirement benefit. Being vested means you have enough service credit to be eligible for a retirement benefit, even if you leave public employment before retirement age. For most Tier 1 members, there is no minimum service credit requirement to be vested. Tier 2, 3 and 4 members need five years of service credit to be vested; Tier 5 and 6 members need 10 years of service credit. Vested members must file a retirement application in order to collect their retirement benefit once they reach retirement age; benefit payments do not begin automatically.
If you leave public employment before you are vested, your membership will remain active for at least seven years, and any contributions you've made will earn 5 percent interest for those seven years. Many members choose to leave their membership intact in case they return to work for a New York state public employer.
If you go off public payroll with less than 10 years of service credit, you may choose to end your ERS membership and withdraw your retirement contributions by submitting a Withdrawal Application (RS5014), available on our website at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/forms/rs5014.pdf.
Please read the application carefully as there are federal tax implications and rollover options. The IRS requires that you take your contributions by the time you reach the age of 70½.
It's important to note that Tier 2, 3 and 4 members who have at least five, but less than 10 years of service credit are vested and eligible for a retirement benefit at age 55. In this situation, we suggest requesting a benefit projection from us to find out how much your retirement benefit would be before withdrawing. If you withdraw, you forfeit the right to receive any retirement benefit.
For more information, please read our publication, What If I Leave Public Employment (VO1800), available on our website at www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/publications/vo1800.php.
Every month state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, sole trustee of the New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System, provides information on the system, which delivers retirement benefits to many NYSUT School-Related Professionals and other support staff. If you are an ERS member with a question of general interest, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For immediate assistance, contact the ERS Call Center toll-free at 866-805-0990, or 518-474-7736 in the Capital District area.