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Serving New York Educators Since 1921

Countdown to Retirement

Steps to Take in Your Final School Year

Fall: Review and Evaluate | Winter: Plan Your Golden Years
Spring: Final Preparations and Filing | Summer: Transition to Retirement
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A Seasonable Approach to Retiring

Retirement is fast approaching. Perhaps your countdown to retirement has already begun, or maybe it's a decision you’re contemplating. In either case, there are many considerations to ensure you receive all the benefits for which you are eligible.

There are questions to ask, decisions to make and filing dates to meet. This pamphlet will help guide you through the retirement process. The topics covered here include:

  • How to get the best information.
  • When to file your retirement application.
  • What to do when legislation that may impact you is pending.
  • What to consider if you have a beneficiary.
  • When to expect your first benefit payment.
  • The deadline for withdrawing your application or changing your retirement date.
  • When to file for Social Security benefits, if you're eligible.

Whether your retirement is imminent or down the road, start the planning process early! The earlier you plan, the less stressful the process will be.

For the purpose of this pamphlet, assume it's the beginning of your last school year and you're planning a July 1 date of retirement, which is typical for members who are contracted to work through June 30. If you follow this outline, you’ll know you are on the right path for retirement.

If, however, your retirement is more than one year away it would be advantageous for you to do some of the following tasks now (e.g., attend a Pension & Retirement Education Program, claim prior service).

Fall ImageFall: Review and Evaluate

Fall marks the start of the school year. It also marks the start of your countdown to retirement. In addition to attending your last open house, here are some other steps you should take in the fall.



Review your contract so you'll know when to notify your district you intend to retire. Some employers may consider a letter of resignation or retirement irrevocable. Ask your employer about local policy on changing your date of retirement, should the need arise.

Also check for eligibility to receive a payment for unused leave or a local retirement incentive. Your district or employer may require you to inform the administration of your retirement by a specific date in order to qualify for certain payments, so it's important to be familiar with contract language on these issues.

Ask your employer or Retirement System delegate to arrange for a group presentation on the retirement process. A NYSTRS representative will tailor a presentation that best suits the group's needs.

If you haven't already done so, claim and purchase (if required) credit for prior New York State public employment or military service. It generally takes 18-24 months to fully process a claim. While priority is given to those who are retiring, members are urged to submit their claims as soon as possible.

Service credit is used to determine your pension factor, which is a primary component of the formula used to calculate your retirement benefit. Additional credit will increase the pension factor in almost every situation. The formula used to calculate your benefit is:

Pension Factor (x Age Factor for Tiers 2–6) x Final Average Salary =
Maximum Annual Pension

Remember: Receiving additional service credit for prior New York State or military service does not change your date of membership or tier – unless it is the result of a membership reinstatement or transfer. You cannot receive credit for employment with the federal government or a private school, except for charter schools participating in NYSTRS.

One year of service credit is the maximum you can receive in a school year (July 1—June 30). You can receive credit for part-time, partial year or substitute teaching if you worked the equivalent of at least 20 full days in a school year.


Plan to attend a NYSTRS Pension & Retirement Education Program (PREP) if you haven't yet. These programs, conducted throughout the state, are designed to help members prepare for retirement. Topics include the eligibility and calculation rules for a pension, the death benefit coverage that could continue into retirement, the retirement process, the choice of taking a benefit payment option or purchasing life insurance, the rules for working while receiving a pension, the challenges of adjusting to retirement, Social Security and estate planning. Visit the PREP page of our website for the schedule and information on making a reservation.

Beat the spring rush and schedule a personal or video benefits consultation with a NYSTRS representative at a site near you. Doing so allows you to meet with a staff member either in person or through video conference. You will get answers to questions about your benefits and payment options, as well as information on when to file for retirement. You'll also leave the consultation with printed estimates of your retirement benefits under various scenarios.

Our video consultations are live, face-to-face communications with a NYSTRS representative in Albany. They are offered at more than 15 sites across the state. Meanwhile, personal consultations are available at more than a dozen locations statewide. For a list of consultation sites and scheduling information, refer to the benefits consultations page of our website.


After discussing the various NYSTRS benefit payment options at your consultation, thoroughly review the differences between them, particularly if you will need to provide income to a beneficiary. You won't need to select a payment method until you file for retirement, but planning ahead is important.

Weigh your benefit payment options against purchasing private insurance and review your choices with a certified financial advisor. A summary of your choices can be found in NYSTRS' pamphlet Maximum or an Option: Choosing a Benefit Payment Right for You, available on the Publications page of our website or by calling our Hotline at (800) 782-0289.

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Winter ImageWinter: Plan Your Golden Years

As winter sets in and retirement nears, take time to plan your golden years. Think about all the new and exciting opportunities that retirement can bring. Don't lose sight, though, of other important details.



When you receive your NYSTRS Benefit Profile, review the service and salary information for accuracy. Make sure all of your service credit is listed and verify that any extra earnings have been reported. Your benefit is based in large part on these figures, so it's crucial they are correct.

If you find discrepancies, ask your employer's business office to send corrected information to NYSTRS now. Waiting until you actually file for retirement will slow the processing of your application and delay the calculation of your full benefit.

Health insurance in retirement is an extremely important consideration, so now is a good time to discuss coverage with your employer. NYSTRS does not administer health insurance coverage. Until you become eligible for Medicare, which in most cases is age 65, your health insurance coverage will depend on the choices your employer offers.

Employers who participate in the statewide health plan are required to continue coverage for most retirees – but not necessarily at pre-retirement levels. You may need to obtain additional private health insurance to supplement your coverage until you are eligible for Medicare. That's why reviewing your options before retirement is critical.

If you will be eligible to start receiving Social Security benefits at the end of the school year, contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 or www.socialsecurity.gov to determine what you need to do to receive that benefit. In most cases, eligibility begins at age 62.


Monitor pending New York State legislation, because new laws could affect your NYSTRS benefits. For example, if your employer participates in a statewide retirement incentive and targets your position, your benefit would likely increase.

The easiest way to keep tabs on legislation is to visit the Legislation page of NYSTRS' website. There we monitor pending bills affecting our members through the legislative process. You can also review NYSTRS-related legislation dating to 2000.

Another consideration: By law, any legislation affecting benefits that is implemented before Dec. 31 will be considered in effect as of June 30 of that same year (unless the legislation was specifically written otherwise). As a result, those who retire between July 1 and Dec. 31 would benefit from the new law; those who retire June 30 or earlier would not.

Use NYSTRS' online Pension Estimator for an updated projection of your benefits. (A MyNYSTRS account is required.)

Spend your winter vacation planning the next chapter of your life. You might consider:

  • Searching for possible retirement destinations;
  • Planning your leisure activities; and,
  • Considering a second career or volunteer work.

Visit the Retirees page of our website and explore the Retiree Resources section. There you will find links to various organizations offering retirement planning advice and information on topics of interest to retirees.


The good news is there is no New York State or Social Security tax on your NYSTRS benefit. However, it is subject to federal income tax. While preparing your federal income tax return, start calculating the tax liability on your estimated retirement income. Decide whether you would prefer having federal income taxes withheld from your monthly benefit payment or paying quarterly estimated taxes. Contact the IRS or your financial advisor to assist in deciding.

You must indicate on your retirement application whether or not you want federal taxes withheld. If no indication is made on your application, NYSTRS is required to withhold as if you are married with three exemptions. You can elect a new withholding amount at any time by filing a W-4P Withholding Election and Certificate (FIN-149).

Also, if you move out of New York State, your benefit would be subject to the tax laws of your new state. You can find information about other states' tax laws at www.rpea.org.

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Spring ImageSpring: Final Preparations and Filing

Spring will signal your final weeks at school. You'll enjoy one more spring concert and submit grades for the last time. Perhaps a retirement celebration is being planned in your honor. Here's what else you have to look forward to as your retirement date nears.



The filing period for a July 1 retirement begins April 2.  You can file your application up to 90 days prior to your effective date of retirement, or as late as the date of retirement. Waiting until your retirement date nears will allow you more time to make decisions and track pending legislation that could affect your final benefit. To ensure you receive your first benefit payment on the last business day in July, file your retirement application with NYSTRS at least 30 days prior to a July 1 date of retirement.

Whenever you decide to file, we urge you to submit your application by registered or certified mail. Doing so will give you proof of mailing and ensures we consider your application received on the date it was postmarked. If your application is sent any other way, it is considered received the day it arrives at NYSTRS' headquarters in Albany.


Continue tracking pending legislation by visiting the Legislation page of our website or calling our Hotline at (800) 782-0289. If there is important legislation pending and you've already filed your retirement application, you can withdraw your application up to 14 days after the date of retirement and re-file at a later date.

Keep in mind, however, that your employer's policy for withdrawing a retirement application or changing a date of retirement may differ from NYSTRS'. For example, some employers may 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, to determine the local policy on filing for retirement.


If June arrives and you still haven't filed for retirement, begin preparing your application in anticipation of a July 1 retirement. You can obtain a Service Retirement Application (RET-54) from the Forms page at www.nystrs.org, by calling our Hotline at (800) 782-0289, or by requesting one from your employer.

On the application, you will need to indicate your choice of the Maximum benefit or an option. Remember to sign your application in the presence of a notary before submitting it to NYSTRS.

The application includes a Direct Deposit Authorization Agreement, which must be completed and submitted to ensure your monthly benefit payments will be deposited in the proper account. A W-4P Withholding Election and Certificate, on which you must indicate whether or not you want federal income tax withheld from your payments, is also included in the application.

Once NYSTRS receives your retirement application, we will send you an acknowledgement letter and the brochure The Path to Retirement: Understanding the Retirement Process. This guide for new retirees explains how we process retirement applications. It's also available on our website or by calling (800) 782-0289.

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Summer ImageSummer: Transition to Retirement

July 1 is your official date of retirement. The next chapter of your life is just beginning. Here are some other important dates to keep in mind.

July 15 (or 14 days after your retirement date) is the last day for NYSTRS to receive your signed request to withdraw your service retirement application.

Note: Your employer's policy for withdrawing a retirement application or changing a date of retirement may differ from NYSTRS'. Some employers, for example, may consider a letter of resignation or retirement irrevocable. You should consult with your employer's Human Resources or Business office, or with a representative of your bargaining unit, to determine the local policy on filing for retirement.

July 31 (or 30 days after your retirement date) is the last day NYSTRS can receive an Election of Retirement Benefit (RET-54.6) form if you need to change the payment choice you selected on your retirement application.

The last business day in July is generally the direct deposit date of your first benefit payment if NYSTRS received your application at least 30 days prior to your July 1 date of retirement.

After all the planning and decision making, you can now enjoy your retirement! NYSTRS is still here to help you, though. In the weeks following your retirement, you'll receive our publications Discovering Retirement, a guide to the opportunities and challenges facing new retirees, and Working in Retirement, a pamphlet that looks at earnings limits and their effect on your NYSTRS retirement benefit. These publications are also available online or by calling us at (800) 782-0289.

You'll also receive the Resource newsletter with pertinent information about your benefits. Each fall you'll get your Retired Member Profile, which is a summary of your retirement benefits. And each January we'll send you your federal 1099-R form, which you'll need to file your taxes.

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Contact Us


Visit our website at www.nystrs.org for the latest NYSTRS and retirement benefit news, to print forms and publications, and to use our pension calculator.

By Phone

Call our Hotline at (800) 782-0289 to request System forms and publications and to hear the latest news. Call (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6250 to speak with a System representative.

By Mail

Write to us at:
10 Corporate Woods Drive
Albany, NY  12211-2395


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