cuomo-headshot-238x300-4082241Financial disclosure filings made public yesterday have revealed that Governor Andrew Cuomo has a net worth of at least $1.75 million. But in one sense, that doesn’t actually make him unusual among New York government employees at his level of education and experience.

Imagine an alternative career history for the governor, in which Cuomo decided not to pursue a career in law and politics. Instead, after graduating from Fordham in 1979, he went straight to work as a public school teacher in, let’s say, the city of Yonkers. Today, after 34 years in the classroom, he’d be a Tier 3 retirement system member making a salary of $118,709.*  And, having turned 55, he’d be eligible to immediately retire with a pension of $78,384, which has a net present value equivalent of nearly $1.6 million — i.e., it would cost a man Cuomo’s age $1.6 million to purchase an annuity worth $78,384 a year for the rest of his life.**

The hypothetical Cuomo-as-teacher example illustrates an aspect of public-sector compensation that government employees themselves often fail to recognize: by the end of their careers, their constitutionally guaranteed pension benefits effectively make them millionaires. Indeed, after 30 or more years on a state or local payroll in New York, the majority of public employees in jobs requiring professional degrees have earned pensions that effectively push their net worth over seven figures. So do most police and firefighters, including virtually all uniformed public-safety employees in the downstate region. These pension net-worth values, some of which can be simulated using the calculator at, don’t include the added value of lifetime health insurance coverage, for which most state and local employees also qualify. Heavily subsidized health coverage would typically add at least $100,000 or so to the total lifetime value of a career government job.

Because it excludes the value of the public pension he has already earned, Cuomo’s net worth is actually understated  by the state’s financial disclosure formula for public officials, which only counts the value of corporate equities and other financial investment assets. If he left office today, after four years as attorney general and two years as governor, Cuomo could start collecting a $17,800-a-year pension once he reached age 62.*** A male of the same age would need $329,848 to purchase an annuity yielding that income stream. If Cuomo serves an additional full term as governor, leaving office at the end of 2018, he will qualify for a pension of $35,600, which currently equates to a net present value of $536,555.


* Assumes that, along the way, he earned a master’s plus 30 graduate credit-hours, not at all atypical for a senior teacher.

** The minimum retirement age for fullk benefits was raised to 62 for Tier 5 teachers and 63 for Tier 6 teachers, and lifetime employee contributions in the new tiers are also higher. The Tier 5 benefit is essentially the same as the Tier 3 and 4 benefit, while the Tier 6 benefit formula for the hypothetical Cuomo-as-teacher example would yield an income about 95 percent of the Tier 3 level.

*** It’s not clear whether Cuomo was credited with pension system service for his two years as a $1-a-year advisor to his father, Governor Mario Cuomo.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

Emails show Cuomo’s staff working on his memoir at the peak of New York’s pandemic

Newly available records shed further light on the origins of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pandemic memoir, which won him a $5.1 million publishing contract before contributing to his political downfall. The records reveal that his government staff were a Read More

Hochul’s Pandemic Study Is Off to an Underwhelming Start

Although Governor Hochul's long-promised review of New York's COVID response hasn't formally started yet, it has already exposed important information about the state's pandemic preparedness – much of which is unflattering. Read More

Answers needed on Governor Hochul’s health-care budget

The health-care agenda laid out by Governor Hochul in her budget proposal this week leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Here are a few of them. Read More

The Health Department takes a big step toward COVID transparency

The state Health Department released a flurry of 20 COVID-related data sets this week, taking its biggest step yet toward full transparency about the state's pandemic response. Read More

Remembering the scandal that brought down Health Commissioner Howard Zucker

The resignation of Dr. Howard Zucker as state health commissioner marks the end of a term marred by scandal over his role in managing the coronavirus pandemic. The much-debated compelling nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients, though it origi Read More

After 10 weeks, all but five of the Empire Center’s 63 requests for pandemic data remain unfulfilled

Over the 10 days that Hochul has been in office, there has been no further progress on the Empire Center's record requests. Read More

New York’s health benefits remain the second-costliest in the U.S.

New York's health benefit costs increased faster than the national average in 2020, leaving it with the second-least affordable coverage in the U.S. The state's average total cost f Read More

Another Hochul To-Do: Timely Financial Reporting

The state will spend a record $212 billion in the current 2022 Fiscal Year, under the budget its elected leaders adopted in April. Read More

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!