How Do You Determine Your Length of Service for Retirement?

By on September 21, 2010 in Current Events, Retirement with 2 Comments

In an earlier article we discussed one of the two factors that is used to compute your retirement annuity; the high-three salary. (See What Goes into Your “High-Three” Salary Calculation?)

The second factor used is your length of service. Under CSRS and FERS, your length of service will give you a percentage that is used to multiply your high-three salary and give you the amount of your annual annuity. The percentage factors are higher for CSRS than they are for FERS.

There are many things that can affect your length of service (e.g., deposits, re-deposits etc.) and we will need more than one article to cover them all. This article will cover the basic calculation of length of service, including how sick leave is added to your length of service for computation purposes.

The first step of determining your length of service is subtracting your service computation date (SCD) from your date of retirement. For federal employees who have had no breaks in service in their federal careers, their SCD is almost always the day they began working for Uncle Sam. For employees who have had temporary service early in their career, or who left federal service and withdrew their retirement contributions, the situation gets a little murkier. A future article or two will address these issues.

Here’s an example of a length of service calculation:

 

Retirement date

 Length of Service Calculation

Year

Month

Day

Retirement Date

2010

12

31

Service Computation date

1980

05

15

Length of Service

30

07

16

 

Before adding sick leave, this individual’s length of service is thirty years, seven months and sixteen days. When sick leave is added to the picture, the length of service increases. It is important to remember that adding sick leave to your length of service will not allow you to retire earlier than you are eligible to. For example, a 56 year old would need thirty years of service to be eligible for retirement under normal criteria. An individual with 29 years of service and one year of sick leave would not be eligible to retire. However, when that individual reaches 30 years of service, their one year’s worth of sick leave will give them a computation factor based on 31 years.

  • A CSRS or CSRS Offset employee will receive full credit for their sick leave in the computation of their annuity.
  • A FERS employee who retires in 2014 or later will receive full credit for their sick leave in the computation of their annuity.
  • A FERS employee who retires before 2014 will receive ½ credit for their sick leave in the computation of their annuity.

Now, let’s assume that the individual in the example above retired with 1,519 hours of sick leave. That amount of leave translates into 8 months and 22 days of sick leave. (OPM has a chart that converts hours of sick leave to months and days. That chart is accessible on their website and is reproduced in virtually all books about federal retirement.) In the following example, full credit is given for the sick leave.

 

 Sick Leave Calculation

Year

Month

Day

Length without sick leave

30

07

16

Sick leave

 

08

22

Length of Service

31

04

08

 

In the next example, ½ credit is given for the sick leave.

 

 1/2 Sick Leave Credit

Year

Month

Day

Length without sick leave

30

07

16

Sick leave

 

04

11

Length of Service

30

11

27

 

Once the sick leave is added to the length of service, the days are dropped and the months and days result in a percentage factor that is multiplied by your high-three.

The chart below shows the percentage factors that are used to multiply the high-three salary for the three separate lengths of service we have in the charts above. These percentage factors are for ordinary retirement. Special category employees will have higher percentages.

 

Years and months of service

CSRS

FERS 1%

FERS 1.1%

30 years and 7 months

57.4167%

30.5833%

33.6417%

30 years and 11 months

58.0833%

30.9167%

34.0083%

31 years and 4 months

58.9167%

31.2500%

34.4667%

 

The FERS 1.1% factor is only for FERS employees who retire at the age 62 or older and who have 20 or more years of service.

John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. The book is written in an easy to understand question and answer format and covers all areas of federal benefits from the perspective of an employee at various stages of their career. Order your copy at shoplrp.com.

© 2016 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm that specializes in federal retirement and career transition issues. He is also affiliated with TSP Safety Net. John retired from federal service after 25 years of progressively more responsible human resources positions. He is the author of Understanding the Federal Retirement Systems and Career Transition: A Guide for Federal Employees, both published by the Federal Management Institute. Federal Career Experts provides pre-retirement seminars for a wide variety of federal agencies.

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