Re-Depositing Retirement Contributions and Your Federal Annuity

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A while back, we looked at the issue of ‘deposit service’ for CSRS employees.  Now we will consider what human resources (HR) folks refer to as ‘re-deposit service’.  Re-deposit service refers to service where you withdrew your contributions when you left federal service and did not re-deposit them when you later returned.

This article is for CSRS employees and the few (very few) FERS employees (often known as FERS transferees) who had withdrawn contributions from CSRS and not re-deposited them when they returned to federal service as a FERS employee, or elected to transfer from CSRS to FERS during one of the two open seasons.

When deciding whether or not to re-deposit money, the most important thing to consider is when did the service for which you received a refund end?  If it ended before 03/01/91, breathe a sigh of relief.  If it ended 03/01/91 or after, pay it.

It is unlikely that CSRS employees would have withdrawn contributions on 03/01/91 or after, but if they did, the refunded service will not count in the computation of their annuity. I guess the good news is that the service will count for their eligibility to retire.

Let’s look at an example. Fred withdrew ten years’ worth ($30,000) of CSRS contributions when he left federal service on 03/02/91.  Within a year he returned to federal service.  This allowed him to remain in CSRS.  Had he not returned for 365 days or more, he would have had to be covered by Social Security.  He would not have been allowed to remain in CSRS; he would have been given a choice between FERS and CSRS Offset.  But that is a topic for another article.

Upon his return, Fred did not re-deposit the money he had withdrawn ten years earlier.  All of this time, interest is accruing at variable rates; the amount owed by the time he retires will be well over $100,000.  He will work for a total of 37 years and will retire in roughly 2017 with a high-three salary of $75,000.  If he does not deposit the withdrawn contributions (and interest), his annuity will be $37,687 rather than the $52,687 it would have been had he made the re-deposit.  My advice to Fred – repay it, even if you have to take out a loan.

Now let’s look at the situation that most people who are facing a CSRS redeposit find themselves in.  That is, the period of service for which they received a refund of contributions ended before 02/01/91.  In this case, the service counts for both their eligibility to retire and in their retirement computation.  If they do not make the redeposit, their annuity will be reduced by an amount determined by their age at retirement and the amount they owe.  What they owe is the amount of money they withdrew plus interest.

Not to confuse you, but there is another date to remember.  If you took your money out before 10/01/82, you are being charged interest at a flat 3% rate.  If you took the money out 10/01/82 or later, the interest rate varies (in one year it was 13%).  Since the amount you took out, plus interest will determine the reduction to your annuity, those who took the money out before 10/01/82 will face a smaller reduction.

Now, let’s say that Fred took his money out in 1981, and that, by 2017, the amount he will owe will be $85,000.  When he retires in 2017, Fred will be 65 years old.  The “Present Value Factor” chart used by OPM gives a 65 year old a reduction factor of 176.2.  That amount is divided into the $85,000 that Fred owes to determine how much his annuity is reduced.  His monthly annuity is reduced by $482, or $5,785 a year.  That leaves Fred with $46,902 per year in annuity.  Disregarding opportunity cost (remember, that’s what we could make by investing the money) Fred would break even when he reaches his life expectancy.

Perhaps the best thing to do if you have a redeposit is to ask human resources to compute how much you owe and what the effect will be on your annuity if you do not pay it back.

John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. Order your copy at Ask your human resources office to contact Federal Career Experts about pre-retirement training.

© 2017 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.