Understanding Retirement Calculations for Federal Employees
One of the tasks that consumes the time of would-be retirees is figuring out what their annuity will be. They run the numbers by themselves or with the help of agency benefits specialists, and sometimes pay good money to have private sector consultants do the figuring for them.
CSRS vs FERS
How close these calculations come depends in large part on which retirement system you are in. If you are covered by CSRS – including CSRS Offset – you can get close. On the other hand, if you are covered by FERS – whole or part – you can’t, mainly because you are also covered by Social Security. You can get them online through the personal account feature at ssa.gov.
Factors Affecting Retirement Calculation
CSRS and FERS are both defined benefit systems, ones where what you will receive is based on three factors:
- Your years and full months of service
- Highest three consecutive years of average salary
- A formula
What agitates the simple mechanics of a retirement calculation are such things as:
- Service – including active duty military – for which you have (or haven’t) made a deposit
- Service where you took a refund of your retirement contributions and for which you have (or haven’t) made a redeposit
- Unused sick leave
- Any days of total service that don’t add up to a full month
In the latter case, days that are left over are discarded and not included in your annuity computation.
OPM’s Role in Determining Annuity
The final determination of what your annuity will be rests with OPM. It will do its first screening at the Retirement Operations Center in Boyers, Pennsylvania. This screening can either lead to a request for more information from you or your placement in what’s called interim pay. Interim pay is an amount which is less than the full amount that it appears at first glance you would be entitled to receive.
Special Retirement Supplement
As a part of that process for FERS retirees, OPM will determine if you are eligible for the special retirement supplement, which approximates the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while covered by FERS.
Disputing OPM’s Decision
If you believe that what they come up with is wrong, the door is open to dispute their decision. While errors can occur, they are rare and often a difference is due to a misunderstanding by the retiree about what kinds of service are creditable for retirement purposes.
Understanding the intricacies of retirement calculations can be complex, especially for federal employees. It is important to consult with agency benefits specialists or seek professional advice to ensure accurate calculations and a smooth transition into retirement.