Combing service for a 20-year retirement


Q. I’m currently on active duty and will soon have 16 years in. I want to know if I can resign, take a federal/civil service job for four years and then “retire” to get a “20 year retirement”; I am 40 years old now. 1.) Is this possible? 2.) Would it require a “buy back”? 3.) How would the retirement pay be calculated? 4.) Would the benefits be the same as a 20 year military retirement? The goal would be to get a 20-year retirement in four years so I could pursue another career after that. I would also join the reserves for those four years to supplement my income. I read an answer to another post that five years of service is required to get a retirement and I now assume this would apply in my situation as well?

A. Unfortunately, you can’t do what you want to do. While five years of civilian service is the minimum amount needed to qualify for a retirement under the Federal Employees Retirement System, that’s only part of the story. You must also meet the age requirement. Under FERS, the age and service requirements are as follows: 62 with 5 years, 60 with 20 years, and 30 at your minimum retirement age (MRA). You could also retire at your MRA with at least 10 years of service; however, there would be a 5 percent per year age penalty for being under age 62. MRAs range between 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth. Since you are only 40, your MRA would be 57. Active-duty service in the armed forces can be combined with civilian service but only if you make a deposit to the civilian retirement system of a percentage of your military base pay.


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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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