Does the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Have a Downside? by Nelson Secretario

Nelson Secretario investigates the potential downsides of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

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If you’re a federal employee who is enrolled in FERS (the Federal Employees’ Retirement System), then you are probably well aware of the many benefits that this program has to offer as far as saving for the future.

For example, as soon as you have reached your minimum retirement age – which ranges between 55 and 57, this program allows you to retire using an immediate, unreduced annuity if you have put in 30 years of service. In some cases, an employee may even be able to retire at a younger age, provided that they have had either 20 or 25 years of service.

However, while working for the government may allow you to leave the world of employment at a younger age than many other professions can, there can also be some drawbacks to relying solely on the FERS program as your only source of retirement income. Some of these can include:

  • Cost-of-Living Adjustments – If you do happen to retire prior to age 62, you won’t be able to receive a cost-of-living adjustment on your annuity (unless you are a disabled retiree or a survivor annuitant). Therefore, you could essentially go for several years receiving the same amount of income, while the prices of goods and services that you’re paying for continue to go up. And, if you are receiving a special retirement supplement (SRS), the funds from this source do not ever receive a cost-of-living adjustment.
  • Possible Benefit Reduction – You may also be subject to having your benefit amount reduced, based upon when you actually retire. For instance, the MRA+10 (Minimum Retirement Age) program that is a part of FERS, can allow you to retire at any age, as long as you have at least ten years of service. However, if you do end up retiring early, the amount of your annuity will be reduced by 5% for each year that you are under age 62. So, depending on just how early you leave the workforce, you could see a significant reduction in your retirement income amount.

With this in mind, it can be a good idea to have other retirement income sources available to you that can be used to supplement your FERS benefits. That way, you will be able to both fill in the “gaps” that are left between your income from your FERS retirement income and your living expenses, and you can also provide yourself with a way to compensate for the increased income that you will need in the future.

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