A couple of weeks ago, the Citizens Budget Commission released a tabulation of the average annual benefits accruing to recent retirees from the New York City government, from firefighters to teachers to administrative assistants. How much would it cost you — if you’re a private-sector worker — to amass the same level of benefits?

Say you are expecting to live for 30 years after your retirement. (You may not; life isn’t fair. But that is what you expect. Therefore, you’re not going to retire until you’ve amassed enough money to support yourself for that long.)

And say you’d like to make $72,944 annually in your dotage — the average annual pension benefit a recently retiring New York City firefighter (including officers, as of 2006) can expect.

And say you want that benefit to rise each year with expected inflation of, say, 2.5 percent.

And say, finally, that you don’t want to take too much risk in your retirement. You’re not planning on putting all of your money in the stock market, for example (although good luck with figuring out what’s risky in this new world — mortgages, muni bonds, etc.). You figure that you’d like to take just enough risk to earn a return of 5 percent annually through your retirement.

To earn an average of $72,944 annually in retirement, then, you would need to have amassed a retirement-day nest egg of $1.5 million.

We can make the same calculation for …

Police: to earn the recently awarded average benefit of $56,617, you’d need $1.2 million in the bank.

Teachers: to earn the recently awarded average benefit of $54,931, you’d need $1.2 million in the bank, too.

Civilians and transit workers: to earn the recently awarded average benefit of $30,098, you’d need more than $635,000 in the bank.

Firefighters and police offcers, too, take in an extra $12,000 annually via a “Christmas” bonus. To assure yourself of such a bonus, you’d need $250,000 in additional savings.

How do these figures stack up against what the average private-sector worker has saved up?

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a “long-tenured” 401(k) participant in his 50s, earning $60,000 to $80,000 a year at this point in his working life, has a median account balance of $160,324.

A similar worker earning $80,000 to $100,000 has a balance of $226,266.

Workers earning $100,000 or more have a median balance of $344,526.

Of course, some of these workers, particularly older ones, have other sources of private retirement income, including the old-fashioned pensions that public-sector workers continue to get. 401(k)s are only about three decades old.

But “long-tenured” private-sector workers in their 40s — the same age of many recently retiring firefighters and police officers, including one-fourth of recent police retirees — have an average balance of $194,832 if they earn $80,000 to $100,000, and $280,624 if they earn $100,000 or more — not enough to retire well on at that very moment.

In fact, if a person expected to live for 40 years in retirement, instead of 30, and earn $72,944, he would need $1.9 million today. If a person expected to live that long and earn $56,617, he would need $1.5 million.

Most people in the private sector must save up much of this money themselves. In New York, by contrast, as the CBC notes, “the city contributes nine times as much as employees contribute to their pension funds.”

You may also like

The Health Department’s response to a FOIL request for nursing home data triggers 2020 déjà vu

Despite Governor Hochul's promise of transparency, the Health Department keeps responding to requests for COVID data with tactics from the Cuomo administration Read More

How Are the Billions in Emergency Aid to New York Being Spent?

A new  posted yesterday on the Comptroller’s website could become the lens through which New Yorkers see how tens of billions of dollars in one-shot federal funding is being spent by governm Read More

Hochul’s Emergency Order Imposes Insurer Restrictions Sought by Hospital Group

Buried in Governor Hochul's emergency order on health-care staffing is a temporary bar against insurance companies challenging claims submitted by hospitals–and an influential hospital association is taking credit. Read More

Home Care Agencies Project Widespread Staffing Shortages in the Next Phase of New York’s Vaccine Mandate

Agencies providing home-based care to elderly and disabled New Yorkers face a large-scale loss of employees when the next phase of the state's vaccine mandate takes effect on Oct. 7, according to a newly released industry s 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

As leaves turn, NY’s post-pandemic recovery still has very far to go

Entering the second autumn since the COVID-19 outbreak of March 2020, the pace of New York State's pandemic economic recovery has been abysmal by almost any standard. New York was the national epicenter of the pandemic, and Governor Cuomo's "" business Read More

More NY job gains in August—but employment needs to rise a lot further

New York's jobs report for August looked relatively strong—but only by comparison, that is, with . On a seasonally adjusted basis, New York gained 28,000 private-sector jobs last month—a growth rate of 0.4 percent, according to . This was double th Read More

Projected PIT Haul Brightens State Budget Office’s Fiscal Forecast 

Stronger than expected tax payments this spring led the Governor’s Division of the Budget (DOB) to increase its personal income tax (PIT) revenue projections for the next four years by $8.5 billion above its April pr Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

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!