Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Working in law enforcement, then working outside law enforcement

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Q. I have 20 years of FERS law enforcement coverage, with approximately four years in nonlaw enforcement coverage. I am only 51. We don’t get administrative overtime, so if I could find a nonlaw enforcement position that paid the same grade, that would be nice. If I obtain such a position, what happens to my 20 years of law enforcement coverage? It is safe, right? My understanding is that my basic annuity is calculated at 1.7 percent of my high-3 times 20 plus 1 percent of my high-3 average times years of additional creditable service. Further, my understanding of the high-3 rule is it doesn’t have to be my highest law enforcement salary — my high-3 could be after I left a law enforcement position.

So I could have 20 years’ law enforcement coverage and put in another 10 to 20 years of nonlaw enforcement work, depending on how I felt about it. I understand I can’t retire and take the nonlaw enforcement position. It would have to be a transfer, with no break in service. The advantages of this seem to be that I would get a higher retirement, plus the benefit of making close to my current salary for longer, plus my leave benefits would still be there. I just need confirmation, as I am starting to look at other positions.

A. Your law enforcement retirement benefit is locked in. Based on your age and service, you can retire at any time. You can also transfer without a break in service to a noncovered position and work as long as you want. When you retire, your high-3 will be the highest three consecutive years of average pay, regardless of when they occur in your career. As you noted, your 20 years of law enforcement coverage would be computed at 1.7 percent and each additional years at 1 percent.

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