Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

When can I retire, part one

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It’s that time of year, when employees start thinking hard about retiring. If you are one of them, you need to know the two factors that determine if you’ll be able to do that. The first is age. The second is years of service. In this column I’ll go over the rules for Civil Service Retirement System, and in the next one, Federal Employees Retirement System.

CSRS requirements:

Immediate retirement

  • Age 62, five years of service.
  • Age 60, 20 years of service.
  • Age 55, 30 years of service.

Early retirement

  • Age 50, 20 years of service.
  • Any age, 25 years of service.

Deferred retirement

  • Age 62, five years of service.
  • Age 60, 20 years of service.

Immediate retirement means that you have the age and service needed to retire on an immediate annuity. Once you’ve got that combination, you can retire whenever you feel like it. Early retirement is an option, if your agency is offering you that opportunity through the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and/or a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment. It’s also an option if you are being separated through reduction-in-force or for poor performance. A deferred retirement is one where you leave government before being eligible to retire and apply for an annuity when you meet the eligibility requirements.
Service credit rules
Under CSRS, creditable service includes any service for which retirement deductions were taken from your pay and not refunded. With one exception, if it was refunded, the time will be creditable as long as you repaid the refund. Here’s the exception: If you got a refund for service performed before Oct. 1, 1990, and didn’t make a redeposit, it will still be used in determining your length of service; however, your annuity will be reduced actuarially based on your age at retirement and the amount you owe.
You’ll also get service credit for any period of civilian employment where retirement deductions weren’t taken from your pay, but only if it was performed before Oct.1, 1982. If it was performed on or after that date, you’ll only get credit for the time in your annuity computation if you make a deposit. If you don’t, your annuity will be actuarially reduced based on the amount you owe, plus accrued interest.
If you were on active duty in the armed services before Jan. 1, 1957, you’ll get full credit for that time. If it was performed after Dec. 31, 1956, and you were first hired before Oct. 1, 1982, you’ll also get credit for it; however, if you are retired and eligible for Social Security at age 62 and haven’t made a deposit for that time, those years will be deducted and your annuity reduced. If you retire on or after age 62, haven’t made a deposit, and are eligible for a Social Security benefit, the reduction will be made when you retire.
If you were first employed on or after Oct.1, 1982, you’ll have to make a deposit in order to get credit for that time. If you are receiving military retired pay, you’ll usually have to make a deposit for that time and waive that pay before retirement in order to get credit for it. On the other hand, if you are receiving reserve retired pay, you’ll still have to make a deposit to get credit for your active duty service, but you won’t have to waive your reserve retired pay.
Time in a nonpay status is also creditable if it doesn’t exceed six months during any calendar year.
Once you have enough years of creditable service to retire, any unused sick leave will be added.
Computing your length of service
Your length of service is based on all the years you’ve worked, plus any full months that don’t add up to a year. Any days that don’t add up to a full month are converted to hours and added to unused sick leave. If you have enough of those hours to create one or more months, they’ll be used to compute your annuity.
So what are “enough hours”? In order to produce 12 equal annuity payments, each month is treated as if it was 30 days long. To convert those leftover hours into additional retirement months, 2,087 (the number of hours in a work year) is divided by 360. As a result, each additional month is roughly 174 hours long.

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance programs at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com, and view his blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/ federal-retirement.

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