Federal Employee Retirement

Employees of the federal government enjoy retirement benefits that are often unique from those in the private sector. Both major retirement systems offer pensions, for instance, something rarely still found in private companies.


Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

Congress created the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) in 1986, and it became effective on January 1, 1987. Since that time, new Federal civilian employees who have retirement coverage are covered by FERS.

FERS is a retirement plan that provides benefits from three different sources, often referred to as a “three legged stool” of a federal employee’s retirement income under FERS: a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Two of the three parts of FERS (Social Security and the TSP) can go with you to your next job if you leave the Federal Government before retirement. The Basic Benefit and Social Security parts of FERS require you to pay your share each pay period. Your agency withholds the cost of the Basic Benefit and Social Security from your pay as payroll deductions. Your agency pays its part too. Then, after you retire, you receive annuity payments each month for the rest of your life.

FERS eligibility is determined by your age and number of years of creditable service.

Minimum Retirement Age (MRA)

In some cases, you must have reached the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA) to receive retirement benefits. MRA is determined as follows:

If you were bornYour MRA is
Before 194855
In 194855 and 2 months
In 194955 and 4 months
In 195055 and 6 months
In 195155 and 8 months
In 195255 and 10 months
In 1953-196456
In 196556 and 2 months
In 196656 and 4 months
In 196756 and 6 months
In 196856 and 8 months
In 196956 and 10 months
In 1970 and after57

FERS Annuity Computation

Your annuity under FERS is computed based on your length of service and “high-3” average salary. The FERS annuity benefit is computed differently for some categories of employees, such as air traffic controllers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, capitol police, supreme court police, or nuclear materials couriers.

Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)

The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) is a defined benefit, contributory retirement system. Employees share in the expense of the annuities to which they become entitled. New federal employees are not covered under CSRS since it is the older retirement system and was replaced by FERS starting on January 1, 1987.

CSRS covered employees contribute 7, 7 1/2 or 8 percent of pay to CSRS and, while they generally pay no Social Security retirement, survivor and disability (OASDI) tax, they must pay the Medicare tax (currently 1.45 percent of pay). The employing agency matches the employee’s CSRS contributions.

There are five categories of benefits under CSRS. CSRS eligibility is based on your age and the number of years of creditable service and any other special requirements. In addition, you must have served in a position subject to CSRS coverage for one of the last two years before your retirement.