Earnings test for FERS retiree


Q. For a FERS retiree at 50, working air traffic controller, so no earnings test applies to FERS supplement until MRA of 56:

Assuming the retiree earns significant income, and birthday is June 1, when does the earnings test apply? There is some confusion about Social Security earnings test beginning at the end of the year in which they turn 56, and others say it would apply at the end of the month in which they were born.

A. The answer is at www.opm/gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C051. Scroll to Section 51A3.1-1D.


About Author

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


  1. I read through 51A3.1-1D. and it does not seem to answer his/her question specifically.
    Does the calculation begin on the birthday exactly or the end of the month of the birthday or what?
    For example if the person earns $19000 for the entire year but $5000 was earned before the 56th birthday would that be only $14000 earned. Yes? No?
    RI 92-22 says to report all 2015 earnings after retirement AND after you turn 56 years old.
    And would that be GROSS or NET earnings?
    Thank you!

    • The calculation begins at the end of the month preceding the person’s birthday. According to OPM, “If a retiree’s earnings exceed the exempt amount, the annual supplement will be reduced $1 for every $2 that is earned above that amount. Earnings, for purposes of calculating the earnings reduction, consist of the sum of wages for services performed in the year, plus all net earnings from self-employment for the year, minus any net loss from self-employment for the year. (See 42 U.S.C. 403.)”

      • This is happening to me. Air traffic, retired at 51 and have been receiving supplement. Birthday June 14 and turned 56 (MRA). I called OPM and they told me that I have to report the entire years earnings for 2016, including those earned before I reached my MRA. Huge difference. Where did you get the information about the month preceding the person’s birthday please? Thanks for any help.

        • That rule only applies to someone who is retiring at their MRA and immediately entitled to the special retirement supplement. The method used for those who reach their MRA after retiring is the one that was applied in your case.

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