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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

General

  • Unless you choose FERS, there is no additional cost to you. If you choose FERS, you will only incur additional costs if you decide to make additional TSP contributions (known as make-up contributions). These are contributions that you could have made if you had been correctly covered by FERS. Of course, you're the one who chooses how much additional contributions you want to make.
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  • Retirees have the same choices under FERCCA that active employees have.
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  • No, FERCCA is not an Open Season. Most employees are unaffected by FERCCA because they were never put in the wrong retirement plan. If you were ever put in the wrong retirement plan, please see the questions under Eligibility to see whether FERCCA applies to you.
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  • Yes. FERCCA does not give you a choice about your retirement plan if:
    • If your agency corrected your records to FERS when it discovered an error and you later separated and took a refund of all FERS retirement deductions, or
    • If you belonged in FERS and your agency corrected your records when it discovered the error and you chose to withdraw your TSP contributions. See the question, I belonged in FERS. My agency discovered the mistake and corrected my records. I withdrew my TSP contributions. Can I now make an election under FERCCA? for the kinds of withdrawals that will prevent you from having a choice of retirement plans under FERCCA, or
    • If you received a payment ordered by a court or provided as settlement of a claim for losses resulting from a retirement coverage error, you may not make an election under FERCCA unless you repay the amount you received or OPM waives repayment.
    You also do not have a choice about your retirement coverage if: You are in: And you belong in: Your coverage must be corrected to: CSRS Offset CSRS CSRS CSRS CSRS Offset CSRS Offset Social Security-Only CSRS CSRS CSRS Offset CSRS Offset FERS FERS
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  • No, you can't elect to change your FERS retirement coverage if you took a refund of all FERS retirement deductions.
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  • In the coming months, OPM will be providing agencies and employees with detailed information about FERCCA, the different retirement plans, and how you make an election. OPM wants to make sure that you receive complete counseling about your options before you make your election. Once you make your election, you cannot change it. OPM will contact you and provide you with detailed information regarding your options under FERCCA. For example, you will know how much you can expect to receive under each retirement plan, including Social Security and Thrift Savings Plan benefits. You do not have to make an election until you have had the opportunity to ask all questions you have about your retirement benefits. We at OPM realize that some of you may be postponing retirement or other major events until your retirement coverage error is resolved. While we will provide election information and benefits counseling as soon as possible, we will make special provisions for those individuals who need to make an election immediately.
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  • TSP stands for the Thrift Savings Plan. The TSP is an important benefit designed to help you save for your future. The TSP is comparable to a private-sector tax-deferred 401(k) plan. You can participate in the TSP if you are covered by FERS, CSRS, or CSRS Offset. The TSP offers all participants:
    • Tax deferral on contributions
    • A choice of 5 investment funds
    • A loan program
    • In-service withdrawals for financial hardship or after age 59
    • A choice of post-separation withdrawal options
    • The ability to transfer money from other eligible retirement savings plans into your TSP account
    The TSP is especially important for FERS employees because it is one of three parts of your retirement coverage. Beginning July 1, 2001, FERS employees can contribute as much as 11% of basic pay each pay period, up to the IRS annual limit. (The IRS limit for 2001 is $10,500.) As a FERS employee, you can receive 2 types of agency contributions to your TSP account, which together can equal as much as 5 percent of your basic pay.
    1. Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions. When you become eligible, your agency automatically deposits into your TSP account an amount equal to 1% of your basic pay each pay period, even if you do not contribute your own money. After 3 years of Federal civilian service (or 2 years in some cases), you are vested in these contributions and their earnings.
    2. Agency Matching Contributions. When you become eligible, your agency will match the first 3% of basic pay you contribute each pay period dollar for dollar. Each dollar of the next 2% of basic pay will be matched 50 cents on the dollar. You are immediately vested in the matching contributions.
    CSRS employees do not receive any Government contributions in their TSP accounts. However, CSRS employees can still take advantage of the TSP to provide a source of retirement income in addition to your CSRS retirement benefit. Beginning July 1, 2001, CSRS employees can contribute up to 6% of basic pay each pay period.
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  • If your retirement coverage error was corrected in the past, you have until September 19, 2002, to make your election. Your agency and OPM have the authority to waive this deadline. If you are currently in the wrong retirement plan, you must receive written notice of the error and of your options under FERCCA. If you qualify to choose another retirement plan, you have 6 months from the date you are notified of the error to make your election.
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  • If your agency put you in: If your agency put you in: And you belong in: If your agency put you in: Then you may choose between: CSRS or CSRS Offset FERS CSRS Offset and FERS coverage Social Security only CSRS Offset and Social Security-only coverage FERS CSRS FERS and CSRS coverage* CSRS Offset FERS and CSRS Offset coverage* Social Security only FERS and Social Security-only coverage* *If you already had this choice, you do not have an opportunity to change your election under FERCCA. See the question, My agency put me in FERS by mistake. When it discovered the error, my agency let me choose whether I wanted to remain in FERS. Do I get another choice under FERCCA? for an explanation.
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  • Social Security benefits are based on earnings averaged over most of a worker's lifetime. Your actual earnings are first adjusted or "indexed" to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then the Social Security Administration calculates your average monthly indexed earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. The Social Security Administration applies a formula to these earnings and arrives at your basic benefit, or "primary insurance amount" (PIA). This is the amount you would receive at your full retirement age. As you can see from the above, the benefit computation is complex and there are no simple tables that we can give you that will tell you how much you will receive. However, there are several ways you can find out how your Social Security retirement benefit is figured:
    1. Request a Social Security Statement. You can make your request over the Internet and the Social Security Administration will mail you a detailed report of your lifetime earnings and an estimate of Social Security retirement, disability and dependent benefits: www.ssa.gov/statement.
    2. Compute your own Social Security benefit estimate using a program that you can download from your PC: www.ssa.gov/OACT/ANYPIA/anypia.html.
    3. How Your Retirement Benefit Is Figured is a publication that walks you through the formula for computing your retirement benefit: www.ssa.gov/pubs/10070.html.
    4. See examples of how Social Security benefits are computed at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/ProgData/retirebenefit1.html.
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