Retirement benefits depend on retirement system


Q. My wife started working under the Civil Service Retirement System in July 1982 and continued to work under CSRS until August 1989. She is re-entering the government workforce. She plans to stop working in eight years when she will be 57, and will have 15 years of government service. It appears she would be  eligible for deferred retirement benefits at age 62. How will her benefits be calculated?

A: It all depends. When she returns to work for the federal government, she’ll be covered by CSRS Offset (CSRS and Social Security), with the option of transferring to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS and Social Security). If she stays in CSRS Offset, her entire annuity will be calculated under the CSRS formula. When she applies for deferred annuity at age 62, her CSRS annuity would be offset by the amount of Social Security benefit she earned while covered by CSRS Offset. The dollar value would be the same but the money would come from two different sources. If she transferred to FERS when she applied for a deferred annuity at age 62, her CSRS time would be calculated under the CSRS formula and her FERS time under the FERS formula. Note: Because in both cases, she would be receiving part of her annuity from CSRS, a retirement system where she didn’t pay Social Security taxes, her Social Security benefit would be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who doesn’t have at least 30 years of coverage under Social Security.


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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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