Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

High-3

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Q. According to my leave and earnings statement, my service computation date is Feb. 28, 1971. So on Feb. 28, I will have 42 years of continuous federal government service. I am under CSRS and have paid back my military contribution. So I reached my maximum annuity based on actual service that’s allowed under law: 80 percent. How is this annuity computed? I know it is based on my high three grades, but how is the high-3 established? Is there a certain amount of time required between these grades?

Also I have been told that after 42 years of service, I am working for free. But don’t my retirement deductions continue to be taken from my pay? And am I not eligible to have these deductions returned to me? How do I apply to have these deductions returned? And are there any other options available? I just turned 60 and plan on working in my current position for at least another five years, but I would really like to work eight more years, just to have 50 years of continuous government service.

A. Your high-3 is based on the average of your highest three consecutive years (78 pay periods) of basic pay, not your three highest grades. When you have 41 years and 11 months of creditable service, you will be entitled to 80 percent of your high-3, the highest amount that can be paid for actual service. Unused sick leave isn’t subject to that limit and will be added to increase your annuity above 80 percent. Although retirement deductions will continue to be taken from your pay, they will be returned to you by the Office of Personnel Management, which will offer you the option of accepting them or using them to purchase additional annuity, which, like sick leave, isn’t subject to the 80 percent limit.

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