Glossary

General Reference

Accelerated Death Benefit is a payment that members may receive if they qualify for a disability retirement benefit and have either a) a terminal illness resulting in a life expectancy of no more than 12 months or b) a medical condition requiring extraordinary care or treatment. This benefit equals the death benefit that would have been paid if a member died on the last day of reportable service. It would be paid in lieu of both a monthly retirement benefit and a death benefit paid to a beneficiary.

Accidental Death Benefit is a payment to which a beneficiary may be entitled if an active member dies as the result of an accident sustained in the performance of his/her duties. This benefit would be paid in lieu of an in-service death benefit, and the annual payment would be 50% of the regular salary the member earned during the last year of service.

Age Factor is a component of the pension calculation formula. No age reduction applies to Tier 2-4 members who retire either at: age 62 or later; or, with at least 30 years of service credit. No age reduction applies to Tier 5 members who retire either at: age 62 or later; or, at age 57 or later with at least 30 years of service credit. The reduction percentage is prorated by month. No age reduction applies to Tier 6 members who retire at age 63 or later.

Alternative Option is a benefit payment option that a retiring member may elect instead of the traditional benefit payment choices. Such an election must be reasonable, must be computable actuarially and must be approved by the Retirement Board.

Annual Statement – See Benefit Profile.

Annuity Reserve is the current Annuity Savings Fund balance of a Tier 1 or 2 retiree who elected the Declining Annuity Reserve Lump Sum Option at retirement.

Annuity Savings Fund (ASF) is a fund containing the member contributions made by Tier 1 or 2 members. Members have an ASF if they a) joined NYSTRS before July 1, 1970 and made member contributions or b) purchased prior service under Tier 1 or 2. ASF monies are credited with 5% annual interest. Members may take loans from their ASF and, at retirement, may either withdraw their ASF in a lump sum or receive it as an annuity.

Article 11 refers to a) the section of New York State's Education Law that governs Tier 1 benefits, and b) the section of New York State's Retirement and Social Security Law that governs Tier 2 benefits.

Article 14 refers to the section of New York State's Retirement and Social Security Law that governs Tier 3 benefits.

Article 15 refers to the section of New York State's Retirement and Social Security Law that governs Tier 4 benefits (which are available to both Tier 3 and 4 members). Article 15 was further modified by: Chapter 504 of the Laws of 2009 to provide benefits for Tier 5 members; and, Chapter 18 of the Laws of 2012 to provide benefits for Tier 6 members.

Article 19 (Benefit Enhancement) is the section of New York State's Retirement and Social Security Law that a) provides up to two years of additional credit at retirement for Tier 1 and 2 members who were in active service for at least 20 days in any one school year on or after July 1, 1992, and b) enables Tier 3 and 4 members to stop making member contributions when they have 10 years of membership or service credit, whichever occurs first.

Beneficiary refers to a) a person whom a member has designated to receive a benefit that may be due when the member dies, or b) a person who is already receiving such a benefit.

Benefit Enhancement refers to the New York State legislation that established Article 19 of the State's Retirement and Social Security Law, which a) provides up to two years of additional credit at retirement for Tier 1 and 2 members who were in active service for at least 20 days in any one school year on or after July 1, 1992, and b) enables Tier 3 and 4 members to stop making member contributions when they have 10 years of membership or service credit.

Benefit Payment Election is a choice that members make at retirement. They may a) elect to receive the Maximum benefit during their retirement or b) select an option that may provide for a beneficiary(ies) after they die, but which reduces the retirement allowance amount they will receive. NYSTRS' pamphlet Maximum or an Option: Choosing a Benefit Payment Right for You describes each of these choices in detail.

Benefit Profile is a document NYSTRS sends annually to active members that summarizes their employment status, service credit, contributions and loan information; projects their retirement benefits; estimates their disability retirement benefits and death benefits; and, lists their designated beneficiaries.

Career Plan is a term used for the pension plan under which most Tier 1 members retire.

CETA Service Credit is credit that members can receive for certain work under the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). To claim service, a member must submit verification of the employment and a Prior Service Claim form.

COLA – See Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA).

Consultations are meetings members have with a NYSTRS representative at which they can ask questions about their specific situation and receive printed estimates of their retirement benefits. NYSTRS holds both in-person and video consultations at locations throughout the state.

Contract Salary is the total of a member's annual full-time base salary plus any additional compensation paid for administrative duties (e.g., department head, chairman, team leader). It does not include termination pay or payments for coaching, adult education or extracurricular activities. NYSTRS uses this amount in the service credit formula.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is an automatic retirement benefit increase that eligible retirees receive each September. By law, eligible retirees receive a COLA of 1% to 3% annually on the first $18,000 of their retirement benefit. The percentage is determined by taking 50% of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase from one March to the next, and rounding up to the nearest tenth. To be eligible, retirees must be a) at least age 62 and retired for at least five years, or b) at least age 55 and retired for at least 10 years, or c) receiving a NYSTRS disability retirement benefit and retired for at least five years. Spouses who are receiving a lifetime benefit (i.e., are the beneficiary of a deceased member who elected a survivor option or pop-up survivor option) will receive half the COLA the retiree would have received.

Credit – See Service Credit.

Date of Membership is the date that NYSTRS coverage begins for a member. For those mandated to join NYSTRS, the date of membership is their first day of covered employment. For those who have the option of joining NYSTRS, the date of membership is the first day they are employed on or after the notarization date on their Application for Membership. (Members with a ceased membership in NYSTRS or another New York State public retirement system are eligible for reinstatement to their earliest date of membership.)

Date of Retirement – See Effective Date of Retirement.

Death Benefits are available to members who meet certain eligibility requirements. NYSTRS offers several types of death benefits: In-Service, Accidental, Vested, Post-Retirement (Tiers 2-6), and Accelerated.

Declining Annuity Reserve Lump Sum Option is a benefit payment option that retiring Tier 1 and 2 members may elect if they leave their Annuity Savings Fund (ASF) in the System at retirement. Under this option, any ASF balance that was not paid before a retiree's death (i.e., the annuity reserve) is paid to the retiree's beneficiary(ies).

Declining Reserve Lump Sum Option is a benefit payment option for Tier 1 members in which the balance of the total reserve (i.e., the retiree's pension reserve plus annuity reserve, if any) is paid to the retiree's beneficiary(ies) when the retiree dies. (Members who have a life-threatening illness should consider this option since it provides the largest payment to a beneficiary if the member dies early in retirement.)

Delegates are district representatives to NYSTRS who serve a two-year term. Delegates have two main functions: to elect a teacher member to the Retirement Board at the annual Delegates Meeting, and to serve as a liaison between NYSTRS and the members in their school district. Visit the Delegates page for more information.

Direct Deposit is the means by which most retirement benefits are paid. On the last business day of each month, benefit payments are automatically deposited into the checking, savings or brokerage account designated by each retiree and benefit recipient.

Disability Retirement is a benefit for which members may be eligible if they are no longer able to work because of a serious illness or injury, and if they meet eligibility requirements. Learn more on the Benefits > Disability Retirement page.

Domestic Relations Order (DRO) is a judgment, decree or court order indicating how benefits will be divided between parties who are divorcing or are already divorced. Before seeking court approval of a DRO, attorneys are strongly advised to submit the proposed DRO language to NYSTRS. Our Legal Department will review the proposal to determine if we can administer it and whether it is consistent with the laws applicable to the System. Additional information is available in our publication Domestic Relations Orders and a Member's Retirement Benefit – A Guide to DROs and NYSTRS Benefits.

Earnings After Retirement are limited when retirees under age 65 return to work for a New York State public employer. Such retirees would be subject to the restrictions of either Section 211 or Section 212 of the Retirement and Social Security Law.

Effective Date of Retirement is the date that a member's retirement takes effect. Members may file their service retirement application as late as their effective date of retirement, but no more than 90 days before this date.

EmplID — short for Employee Identification number — is a seven digit NYSTRS-specific number which is found in your Benefit Profile or Retired Member Profile, and other correspondence you receive from us. If you cannot locate your EmplID, please be aware that for security purposes, our staff will not be able to provide your EmplID over the phone or through email. However, if you contact us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6250, we can mail your EmplID to the home address you have on file.

Employer Contribution Rate (ECR) is the rate at which school districts make contributions to NYSTRS on behalf of members. This rate is determined annually through an actuarial valuation of NYSTRS' assets and liabilities. Information about the current rate can be found on the Employers > Employer Contribution Rate page.

Employment Base is the contractual time of a member's primary assignment during a school year, including paid vacations. An employment base of 200 days is used for a 10-month employee; a base of 220 days is used for an 11-month employee; and a base of 240 days is used for a 12-month employee. This amount is a factor in the service credit formula.

Final Average Salary (FAS) is a component of the pension calculation formula. For Tier 2-5 members, the FAS is generally the average of the three highest consecutive school years of regular salary earned, whenever they occurred in the salary history. Refer to the Active Members' Handbook for more information.

Guarantee Period Options are benefit payment options that guarantee a designated number of retirement benefit payments will be made. If a retiree receives at least the guaranteed number of payments (for either five or 10 years, depending on the election made), payments cease upon the retiree's death. If a retiree dies before receiving the guaranteed number of payments, the beneficiary receives the remaining guaranteed payments.

Hotline is NYSTRS' toll-free phone line, available 24 hours a day, which enables callers to order NYSTRS forms and publications, and hear recorded messages about NYSTRS benefits. The Hotline number is (800) 782-0289.

In-Service Death Benefit is a benefit paid to the beneficiary of a deceased active member. The eligibility requirements and benefits differ by tier. Refer to the Benefits > Death Benefits page for more information.

Largest Non-Declining Lump Sum Option is a benefit payment option that enables retiring members to provide the largest possible fixed payment to a beneficiary after their death. This option is not available to members retiring under Tier 3.

Loans are available to members who a) have at least one year of service credit, and b) have a designated minimum amount in their Annuity Savings Fund ($400 for Tiers 1 and 2) or Required Contributions Fund ($1,334 for Tiers 3-6). Learn more in our pamphlet Borrowing From Your NYSTRS Contributions. Also refer to our video Loan Truths... And Consequences and our loan taxability tutorial for important information.

Maximum Benefit is the benefit payment election that provides the largest monthly payments to a retiree for life, but does not provide any payment to a beneficiary after the retiree’s death. The Maximum benefit is determined by the pension calculation formula.

Member Contributions are the amount that members contribute toward their retirement benefit. Refer to the Contributions, Loans and Credit chapter of the Active Members' Handbook for more information.

Member Service Credit is the credit members earn after their NYSTRS date of membership by working for a participating employer. Refer to the Contributions, Loans and Credit chapter of the Active Members' Handbook for more information.

Membership Withdrawal – See Withdrawal from Membership.

Military Service Credit is the credit members can receive for active duty military service. Read our publication Claiming Military Service Credit for more information.

MyNYSTRS is a feature of NYSTRS' website that enables members to securely view their personal account and benefit information online. For security purposes, members must register before they can access their records. Learn about the benefits of having a MyNYSTRS account in our video MyNYSTRS: Your Information on Your Schedule.

Non-Contributory Retirement (NCR) Plan is a plan available only to certain Tier 1 members whose date of membership precedes July 1, 1970. This plan offers a different pension calculation than most Tier 1 members receive under the Career Plan. When an eligible member retires, NYSTRS will base the pension on the highest possible calculation to which the member is entitled.

Non-Regular Compensation (NRC) represents taxable fringe benefits, bonus payments and payments that members receive in lieu of health insurance. These earnings are not included in the three-year Final Average Salary (FAS) calculation, but can be included as part of the five-year FAS calculation applicable to eligible Tier 1 members.

Option is the general term for a retirement benefit payment election that may provide payment to a beneficiary after a retiree’s death. NYSTRS' publication Maximum or an Option: Choosing a Benefit Payment Right for You describes each of these choices in detail.

Out-of-State Prior Service Credit is credit that Tier 1 members may receive for teaching service in another state's public schools or colleges before their NYSTRS date of membership. Eligible members may receive up to 10 years of such credit, but any such service that brings a member's total service above 35 years is excluded from the pension calculation. Tier 2 members receive this credit only if it was credited under a prior Tier 1 membership in NYSTRS.

Paragraph 2 Death Benefit (Tiers 2-6) is a benefit that may provide a member's beneficiary with either an in-service death benefit or a post-retirement death benefit. Members who elected the Paragraph 1 Death Benefit (before it was eliminated by New York State law on Jan. 1, 2001) are covered by the Paragraph 2 Death Benefit unless the Paragraph 1 Death Benefit is greater.

Pension is the defined benefit amount a member receives after retirement based on total service credit, age and final average salary, as prescribed by the pension calculation formula under his or her tier of membership.

Pension & Retirement Education Program (PREP) is a retirement-planning program open to all active members and their spouses/companions. A variety of retirement-related topics are covered with members able to choose which would be of greatest benefit. Programs are held at locations across the state.

Pension Calculation Formula is the formula that determines a member's Maximum annual pension (i.e., Pension Factor x Age Factor (if applicable) x Final Average Salary = Maximum Annual Pension). Learn more in the Benefits chapter of the Active Members' Handbook.

Pension Factor is a percent based on a member's years and months of service credit. The percent increases with additional service in most cases. Learn more in the Benefits chapter of the Active Members' Handbook.

Pension Reserve is the amount that NYSTRS sets aside, based on a member's actuarial life expectancy, to fund a retirement benefit payment. If a Tier 1 member elects the Declining Reserve Lump Sum Option and dies before receiving the pension reserve and annuity reserve, the beneficiary is paid the combined reserve balance (i.e., the total reserve).

Pop-up Survivor Options are benefit payment options that provide a continuing benefit to a beneficiary, but revert to the Maximum benefit if the beneficiary dies before the retiree.

Post-Retirement Death Benefit (Tiers 2-6) is a benefit that would be paid to the beneficiary of a deceased Tier 2-6 retiree whose Paragraph 2 Death Benefit was in effect at retirement. Refer to the Benefits > Death Benefits page for more information

Power of Attorney is a legal tool that enables an agent to act on an individual's behalf in a designated range of personal, legal and financial matters. An ordinary power of attorney would be revoked if the individual becomes legally incapacitated. Under a durable power of attorney, the agent can act even if the individual becomes incapacitated. Please be advised that all powers of attorney executed on or after Sept. 1, 2009 will be durable unless specified otherwise.

Prior Service Credit is credit members can receive for public service before their NYSTRS date of membership. Refer to our publication You Deserve the Credit for more information.

Regular Compensation represents earnings that are always included in a member's final average salary calculation. These include pay for contractual salaries, coaching, adult education, home tutoring, summer school and other teaching-related duties.

Reinstatement permits active NYSTRS members with ceased memberships in NYSTRS or another New York State public retirement system to reinstate to their earliest date of membership. If that membership was part of an earlier tier, that tier status is also reinstated.

Required Contributions Fund contains the mandatory contributions Tiers 3-6 members make toward their retirement benefit, plus the 5% annual interest accrued on these contributions. Tier 3 and 4 members are required by law to contribute 3% of their salary until they have been a member for 10 years or accrue 10 years of total service credit, whichever occurs first. Tier 5 members are required by law to contribute 3.5% of their salary throughout their active membership. Tier 6 members are required by law to contribute a percentage of their salary throughout their active membership. At retirement, these contributions help fund the member's pension and cannot be received as a separate annuity.

Resource is the NYSTRS newsletter that addresses topics of interest to our retired members. Published three times a year, articles spotlight changes to NYSTRS benefits, new NYSTRS services and general interest items for retirees. Recent issues are posted on the Publications > Newsletters page.

Retired Member Profile is an annual statement sent to retirees listing their date of retirement, benefit payment election, designated beneficiary (if applicable), gross income, cost-of-living adjustments, deductions and net payment amount.

Retirement Benefit is the total benefit a member receives after retirement. For most members, this equals their pension. Tier 1 and 2 members with an Annuity Savings Fund can elect to receive those funds as an annuity, which will be paid monthly in addition to the pension.

Retirement Board sets NYSTRS policy and oversees the System's operations. Trustees on the 10-member Board represent various constituents, including active and retired teachers, school administrators, and school boards. They are responsible as fiduciaries to protect the long-term value of the System's investment portfolio and to provide benefit security for members. Read more on the About Us > Retirement Board page.

Retirement Date – See Effective Date of Retirement.

Salary Earned represents the regular compensation that a member earned for all teaching-related duties during a school year. This is a component of the service credit formula.

Salary Received represents the compensation that a member was actually paid during a school year.

School Year is the period from July 1 to June 30. A member's service credit for a school year is calculated based on the salary the member's employer reports to NYSTRS. Members can receive a maximum of one year of service credit in a school year.

Section 211 is the section of New York State's Retirement and Social Security Law that enables NYSTRS retirees under age 65 to return to New York State public employment and earn more than the designated limit under Section 212. To be eligible, retirees must receive prior approval from the agency having jurisdiction over the employment. Read more in our publication Working in Retirement.

Section 212 is the section of New York State's Retirement and Social Security Law that establishes an annual earnings limit for NYSTRS retirees under age 65 who return to New York State public employment on a temporary or occasional basis. Retirees who exceed the earnings limit must repay part of their retirement benefit to NYSTRS or suspend their retirement benefit. Read more in our publication Working in Retirement.

Service Credit is the general term for credit that a member can receive as a NYSTRS member. Types of credit include member service, prior service, transfer service, military service and (for Tier 1 and 2 members) Article 19 (Benefit Enhancement) service. A member's total service credit helps determine his/her pension factor, which is a component of the pension calculation formula. Read our publication You Deserve the Credit to learn more.

Service Credit Formula is the calculation that determines how much credit to assign to a member's service. The formula is Salary Earned x Employment Base / Contract Salary = Days of Service. Days of service are then converted into months of credit, with nine months of full-time service equaling one year of credit.

Service Retirement is the type of retirement benefit most members receive.

Survivor Options are benefit payment options that provide for a continuing benefit to a single beneficiary after the retiree's death.

Termination Pay represents payments for unused leave, local retirement incentives or other such payments made to members in anticipation of retirement. These earnings are not included in the three-year Final Average Salary (FAS) calculation, but are included as part of the five-year FAS calculation applicable to Tier 1 members whose date of membership precedes June 17, 1971.

Tier is a classification that specifies the type of benefits for which a member may be eligible. Tier status is determined by a person's date of membership:

Tier Date of Membership
1 Before 7/1/73
2 7/1/73 — 7/26/76
3 7/27/76 — 8/31/83
4 9/1/83 — 12/31/09
5 1/1/10 — 3/31/12
6 On or after 4/1/12

Tier Reinstatement – See Reinstatement.

Total Reserve is the combined balance in a retiree’s pension reserve and annuity reserve. This amount would be paid to the beneficiary of a Tier 1 retiree who elected the Declining Reserve Lump Sum Option at retirement and died before receiving this total.

Transfer Service Credit is credit a NYSTRS member receives when transferring a membership and its related service credit from another New York State public retirement system to NYSTRS.

Trustees – See Retirement Board.

Unclaimed Funds are contributions left in NYSTRS by former members whose membership rights have ceased. Help us locate these former members and enable them to receive their outstanding funds by reviewing our Unclaimed Funds page and searching for people you know.

Vested is the status members attain with a certain amount of New York State service credit, which makes them eligible for a retirement benefit at age 55. Tier 5 and 6 members vest with 10 years of state service credit. For all other tiers, five years of credit is necessary to vest.

Vested Death Benefit is the benefit that would apply if a member died before retirement and a) had at least 10 years of total service credit and b) was not eligible for an in-service death benefit. Learn more on the Benefits > Death Benefits page.

Video Consultations allow members to meet with a NYSTRS representative in Albany via video conference. Video consultations are held at locations across the state. At these sessions, members can ask questions about their specific situation and receive printed estimates of their retirement benefits.

Withdrawal From Membership is a choice members may have if they are no longer teaching (or are only teaching part time) and their obligation to a participating employer has ended. Read more in the Membership chapter of the Active Members' Handbook.

Your Source is the NYSTRS newsletter that addresses topics of interest to our active members. Published three times annually, articles spotlight changes to NYSTRS benefits, new NYSTRS services, and general interest items that help members better plan for retirement. Recent issues are posted on the Publications > Newsletters page.

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