The intricacies of LEO and firefighter retirements are considered to be unique as compared to the public sector in general; between early retirement, more generous annuities, and other small changes, it can be a challenge to understand quite what to expect or how to prepare.
Early Retirement Eligibility Requirements
As a FERS firefighter or LEO, you must retire from a covered position that will provide that benefit. The minimum age and service requirements are that you must either be age 50 and have at least twenty years of covered service, or you can be any age with 25 years of covered service. Military service does not apply unless you go directly from a firefighter or LEO position to the military and return to a covered position.
If you have completed twenty years of service in a position that allows early retirement, you are required to take the retirement option by the end of the month you turn 57. However, it is important to note that if you have fulfilled the requirement of years in a covered position, you can switch to a non-covered job and still receive the elevated annuity bonus while avoiding early retirement.
Your annuity will end up being a more generous payout, but this is balanced out by higher contributions taken out of your income. To estimate your annuity, use the ‘high-3’ method- take the average of the highest-paid three years of your employment, take 1.7 percent of that salary, and multiply the result by 20. Then take one percent of your ‘high-3’ and multiply it by all remaining service over twenty years.
There is no penalty taken from your annuity if you retire early and can also receive cost-of-living adjustments annually instead of waiting until age 62.
Retirement can be challenging, but at the end of your retirement, it can often be a rewarding experience. Remember to speak with a financial professional about your retirement options before making any firm decisions, and you can be sure that your retirement will be safe and secure.