Figuring Out Your Federal Retirement Annuity by Jeff Boettcher, AIF
Having a plan for retirement is a must. This is because simply saving for the future, without any knowledge of what you will have available in terms of income, can be a recipe for disaster. It is essential to have at least an approximation of how much money you will have coming in for you to meet your living expenses.
This is especially important because, if there is a “gap” between what you will need for expenses and what you will have coming in, you will need time to plan for some type of additional incoming cash flow that can help you make up for that difference.
For those who are federal employees, there are ways that you can determine approximately how much retirement income you will be able to generate from your FERS or CSRS plan, depending on when you are eligible to separate from service and the type of plan that you have.
For FERS (Federal Employees’ Retirement System) employees, benefit amounts can be calculated as follows:
- Immediate Unreduced Annuity – For those who will retire with an immediate, unreduced annuity, simply multiply 0.01 X your high-3 X all years and full months of service. However, if you have a minimum of 20 years of service and you will be retiring at the age of 62 or over, then you should substitute 0.011 for the 0.01 in the calculation.
- MRA + 10 Annuity – If you will be retiring at your minimum retirement age (MRA) and you have between 10 and 30 years of service, then you will have a reduction of 5% for each year that you retired before the age of 62.
- VERA (Voluntary Early Retirement Authority) – If an employee accepts a VERA, then he or she is able to retire at age 50 if they have at least 20 years of service, or at any age if they have at least 25 years of service. In this case, the annuity amount will be calculated by using the same FERS standard formula, yet without the 5% penalty for retiring at below age 62.
- Special Category Employees – Certain individuals such as firefighters, law enforcement officers, and air traffic controllers are considered to be Special Category Employees. Provided that they have put in at least 20 years of service, then they are eligible to retire. In this case, the annuity amount would be calculated by taking 0.017 X the high-3 X 20 years of service plus 0.01 X the high-3 X all additional years and full months of service.
Some individuals may also be eligible for the SRS, or Special Retirement Supplement. This is because Social Security benefits do not begin until at least the age of 62. Therefore, this SRS income will be provided until that time. In order to calculate one’s SRS benefit amount, take the estimated amount of Social Security benefit at age 62 and divide it by 40, then multiply this figure by the total years of FERS service. (Round the service figure up to the nearest whole number). The total here will be the dollar amount of the SRS monthly benefit.
CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System) employees will calculate their retirement benefits in a somewhat different manner than those of the FERS retirement system. In this case, the way to determine the amount of the CSRS annuity for regular employees entails multiplying (0.015 X the high-3 X five years of service) + (0.0175 X the high-3 X five years of service) + (0.02 X the high-3 X all remaining years and full months of service).
All other CSRS retirement benefit amounts would be determined as follows:
- VERA – If a CSRS employee accepts a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority, he or she may retire at age 50 if they have put in at least 20 years of service, or at any age if they have put in at least 25 years of service. If this is the case, then their annuity will be determined by using the standard formula for the CSRS annuity. If, however, the individual is under the age of 55 when they retire, then the amount of their benefit will be reduced by 2% for each year that they are under age 55. This equates to a reduction in benefits of approximately 1/6% per month.
- Special Category Employees – Certain individuals such as firefighters, law enforcement officers, and air traffic controllers are considered to be Special Category Employees. Provided that they have put in at least 20 years of covered service, then their annuity would be determined by calculating (0.025 X the high-3 X 20 years of service) + (0.02 X the high-2 X all additional years and full months of service).
No matter which area of service a federal employee retires from, if the individual still has any remaining hours of service that are leftover, these will be combined with their unused sick leave in order to create more months. These will then be used in computing their annuity benefits – which can make a difference in the total amount that is received.
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