Q: I am a federal firefighter (GS-081 series) covered by the Civil Service Retirement System. I work for the National Park Service. My department is being abolished this year, with a local city department taking responsibility of fire supression. RIF notices are coming out next month. I am under CSRS retirement. I have 27.5 years in, I am 48.5 years old. I can retire at age 50. The Park Service has said that they can’t place me anywhere else because they have no GS-081 positions anywhere. They want to give me an early retirement. Will I face any penalties for retiring a year and a half early, and if so, how much am I looking at?
A: If you were to take early retirement, your annuity would be computed using the standard CSRS formula, not the enhanced formula used for firefighters. If you can’t find a firefighter position in your own agency, look for one somewhere else. Alternatively, try to find a non-covered position anywhere in government that is covered by retirement deductions. As soon as you reach age 50, you would be eligible to retire with the full benefits of a firefighter, regardless of where you are working at the time. Your annuity would be based on your highest three consecutive years of average salary, no matter when that occurred in your career; therefore, working at a lower grade wouldn’t have any significant effect on your final annuity.