Q: I was a federal employee for 23 years in the legislative and judicial branch. I spent about a year and a half of that time as a congressional staffer. About two years of my time at the judiciary were part time (four days a week). I left federal service at age 43. I was under the Civil Service Retirement System and left my money in the system when I left.
I could go back to work for Congress for a few years. I understand that I would have to go into the Federal Employees Retirement Service. What would be the impact on my retirement if I were to return to work for Congress? How long would I need to work?
A: First, let me correct a misunderstanding. If you went back to work for the government, you would be covered by CSRS Offset (CSRS and Social Security), with the option of electing to be covered under FERS. If you stayed in CSRS Offset, your eligibility to retire would be determined by CSRS rules, as would your annuity computation. Under CSRS, you would be able to retire at age 55 with 30 years of service, at age 60 with at least 20, or at age 62 with at least five. If you retired before age 62, at age 62 your CSRS annuity would be reduced by the amount of the Social Security benefit you earned while covered by CSRS Offset; if you retired at age 62 or later, the reduction would occur on the day you retired.
On the other hand, if you elected to be covered by FERS, your eligibility to retire would be determined by FERS rules, as would your annuity computation. However, because you had at least five years of coverage under CSRS, your annuity would have a CSRS component in it and your annuity for that portion would be computed under CSRS rules. As an FERS employee, you would be able to retire at your minimum retirement age with 30 years of service, at age 60 with at least 20 years of service, or at age 62 with at least five. MRAs range between 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth. Note: If you retired with at least five years of service as a congressional employee, that portion of your annuity would be computed using a more generous formula.