Helping Federal Employees and Annuitants Understand Their Benefits


Federal Employee Retirement Benefits

FERS Eligibility

The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) was established effective January 1, 1987. All Federal civilian employees hired after this date are covered under FERS. FERS retirement eligibility is based on years of service and minimum retirement age (MRA).

FERS retirement plans provide civil service retirement benefits from a combination of the Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). If you leave federal service before retiring Social Security and the TSP can go with you to your next job. Both the Basic Benefit plan and Social Security require you to pay into the system each payday.


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Agencies withhold the cost of these plans as payroll deductions plus your agency pays its share too. After retirement you are entitled to a monthly annuity for life. If you leave federal service before you reach full retirement age and have a minimum of 5 years FERS service you can elect to take a deferred retirement.  FERS retirement benefits are very generous and far exceed what most private companies offer today. To determine your FERS retirement eligibility review the FERS eligibility charts on this page.

Which Way is Up – A Retiree’s Conundrum

FERS also includes the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) that is automatically set up for you when first hired. Agencies deposit 1% of the basic pay each payday into your account. Your agency will match up to 5% of your contributions and contributions are tax-deferred.

Federal employees considering leaving for greener pastures should explore all oportunities. Here is an article that discusses early retirement options when leaving federal service for the private sector:

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FERS Retirement Eligibility Menu

Determine Your FERS Eligibility

Congress created the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) in 1986, and it became effective on January 1, 1987.  Since that time, new Federal civilian employees who have retirement coverage are covered by FERS. The FERS plan consists of three parts:

  1.  Social Security Benefits
  2.  Basic Benefit Plan (Annuity)
  3.  Thrift Savings Plan

Civil Service employees pay Social Security taxes and contribute to the Basic Benefit Plan. Additionally, your agency contributes an amount equal to 1% of your basic pay into your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account. You are able to make tax-deferred contributions to the TSP and a portion is matched by the Government. The elective deferral limit for 2019 is $19,000 and $6,000 for catch up contributions over age 50 .

FERS Eligibility Charts 


Federal Employee Retirement Benefits eligibility is determined by your age and number of years of creditable service. In some cases, you must have reached the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA) to receive civil service retirement benefits. Use the following chart to figure your minimum retirement age.


Minimum Retirement Age
If you were born Your MRA is
Before 1948 55
1948 55 and 2 months
1949 55 and 4 months
1950 55 and 6 months
1951 55 and 8 months
1952 55 and 10 months
1953 - 1964 56
1965 56 and 2 months
1966 56 and 4 months
1967 56 and 6 months
1968 56 and 8 months
1969 56 and 10 months
1970 and after 57


Immediate - Immediate retirement benefits start within 30 days from the date you stop working. If you meet one of the following sets of age and service requirements, you are entitled to an immediate retirement benefit:


AGE Years Service
62 5
60 20
MRA 30
MRA 10

If you retire at the MRA with at least 10, but less than 30 years of service, your benefit will be reduced by 5 percent a year for each year you are under 62, unless you have 20 years of service and your benefit starts when you reach age 60 or later.

Early - Refers to special eligibility rules.  

The early retirement benefit is available in certain involuntary separation cases and in cases of voluntary separations during a major reorganization or reduction in force. To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:


AGE Years Service
50 20
Any Age 25


Refers to delayed payment of benefit until criteria are met, as follows:
If you leave Federal service before you meet the age and service requirements for an immediate retirement benefit, you may be eligible for deferred retirement benefits. To be eligible, you must have completed at least 5 years of creditable civilian service. You may receive benefits when you reach one of the following ages:

AGE Years Service
62 5
60 20
MRA 30
MRA 10


If you retire at the MRA with at least 10, but less than 30 years of service, your benefit will be reduced by 5 percent a year for each year you are under 62, unless you have 20 years of service and your benefit starts when you reach age 60 or later.

How to initiate an annuity after leaving federal service

NOTE: Use the first business day of the month following your 62nd birthday for the commencing date on your application. All benefits are retro-active to that date. If you neglected to apply at age 62 you will receive a lump sum payment for the time between the commencing date and the date you apply. For example, if you apply at age 65 you would receive a lump sum payment for 3 yrs.

Many leave federal service for the private sector and often forget about their FERS contributions and annuity. If you worked for the civil service or postal service for at least five years before leaving, and didn't withdraw your funds, you can either collect a FERS annuity at the ages specified in the above chart as early as age 60 with 20 years service or age 62 with 5 years of service or accept a lump sum payment. The annuity is computed as a regular FERS annuity, see: to estimate your monthly payment.  

To collect your deferred annuity complete OPM form R1-92-19 (Revised May 2012) and send it to the address listed on the form. The form has 9 pages of detailed instructions and general information about eligibility and payments, print it out for detailed guidance. Contact OPM directly if you need assistance or to obtain a copy of this form with your service dates. The first part of the form is completed by OPM and includes a summary of your federal service. To estimate the amount of the FERS annuity and/or the amount of the refund of the retirement contributions go to the FERS annuity page. There is no reason to delay applying for the annuity beyond your eligibility date as determined by your MRA, age 60 or 62. If you withdraw the funds, consider placing the money in a Roth or Traditional IRA with potential for growth.  If you decide on the FERS annuity - the annuity will not increase by waiting beyond the date you are first eligibility for the annuity.

OPM advises that to apply for deferred retirement benefits, wait until 60 days prior to your eligibility date as listed above in the table and then contact OPM for an “Application for Deferred Retirement”.  OPM can be reached by calling toll-free 1 (888) 767-6738, or writing to: Office of Personnel Management, PO Box 45, Boyers, PA 16017.  

All requests need to include your name, other names used while employed, current mailing address, Social Security number, date of birth, dates of service, and, the retirement system you contributed to, if known.  If you choose to use e-mail, please keep in mind that there are risks associated with sending personal information over non-secure networks on the Internet. Contact OPM for assistance.

How a survivor can initiate a deferred annuity

If a former federal employee dies before collecting the deferred annuity the surviving spouse is eligible to receive 50% of their annuity payable starting on the date the deceased employee attained the age and service requirements for the annuity. Lesser amounts are payable if the surviving spouse wants to collect earlier. Review the process above and contact OPM to initiate your annuity.

For additional information on deferred retirement see:


Questions & Answers (Deferred Annuities)

  • QUESTION: The annuity section states that employees at 62 and over with 20 years experience use a factor of  1.1% to determine their annuity.  Does this mean that if I work 40 years but retire under the age of 62 I am only entitled to use a factor of 1.0%?  This seems illogical.
    • Answer: You are correct.  You must be 62 or older with at least 20 years of service for the 1.1% calculation to apply.  Keep in mind that these laws are written by Congress and logic has never been a requirement.  However, the difference is likely because the FERS annuity supplement only applies for those who retire younger than age 62.  For more information on the FERS annuity supplement see:
  • QUESTION: If I leave service after 20 years but don't start to collect (i.e.,
    defer the collection of my annuity) until 62 would I be entitled to the
    1.1% factor?
    • Answer: Yes, according to OPM, you could defer your annuity until you are age 62 to receive the 1.1% calculation.    This may be a great option if you continue working until age 62 in your next career.
  • QUESTION: I am presently 48 with 23 years service (my MRA would be 56 and 30 years) and I would like to quit and do something outside of the government.  Will I lose any retirement benefits and if not, when could or should I  start collecting the annuity?

    • Answer: If you left federal service, you could apply for a deferred annuity at age 60 or age 62.

  • QUESTION: I have 30 years service at age 52 and would like to retire. How will this impact my benefits.

    • Answer: Unfortunately, you are not eligible to retire until you reach the minimum retirement age (MRA).  If you leave prior to your MRA with 30 years of service, you would be eligible to apply for a deferred retirement when you reach the MRA, but with a deferred retirement you will not be eligible for the FERS supplement, life insurance or health benefits. Another factor to consider is that that you would not receive an annual COLA until you actually start your deferred retirement.

      If you wait to retire at your MRA, and you have had Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) coverage for the past five years, then you can continue FEHB into retirement at the same rate paid by federal employees.   

Related Links

Sign Up For Our FREE Federal Retirement E-mail Newsletter

FERS Publications  
FERS Creditable Service:
FERS Disability Retirement  
FERS Transfer Handbook   
FAQs (Excellent List by OPM) - 
Annuity Calculator - FREE Calculator Software


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