Social Security, annuities


Q. Thank you so much for your article entitled “Making sense of 2 types of annuities.” It was very informative to the fifty-something people in my office. Assuming FERS, two questions. When you refer to annuity, are you referring to 1) the person’s pension or 2) the person getting the equivalent of some of type of early Social Security benefits? And if the answer to the above is the person’s pension, is it possible for one to start collecting Social Security benefits (or the equivalent of) once they do early retirement (for example, age 57)? Obviously, if this was so, it would be at a reduced rate; I have 27 years at age 56 (assuming early-out provided).

A. In the federal employment arena, the monthly benefit you receive after retiring is referred to as an annuity. You can only receive it when you meet the eligibility requirements. With the exception of those who are totally disabled for all work, no one can receive a Social Security benefit before age 62. However, most FERS employees who have retired before age 62 and have reached their minimum retirement age (MRA) are eligible for a special retirement supplement (SRS) that approximates the Social Security benefit they earned while employed under FERS. The SRS is paid out of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and is intended to bridge the gap between retirement and age 62, when retirees are first eligible for a Social Security benefit. Those who retire under the MRA+10 provision aren’t eligible for that benefit. The SRS can be reduced or suspended if a retiree earns more from wages or self-employment than allowed under the annual Social Security earnings limit. In 2010 that limit is $14,160.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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