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Learn more about planning for retirement

FAQs and answers about planning for federal retirement benefits.

Questions and answers

We recommend picking a date 2 to 3 months in the future, at minimum. We need an exact date (month, day, and year) in order to start processing your retirement application and calculating your annuity benefits.

You should meet with your agency's HR office to learn more about the retirement process and how your retirement date can affect the start date of your annuity. They can provide you with information on when your benefit payments can begin based on your proposed retirement date and federal employment history, and discuss how your high-3 salary will factor into your annuity, provide a review of any cost-of-living adjustments, and more.

When you're within 1 year of retiring or retirement eligibility, you should:

  • Confirm when you'll be eligible to get retirement benefits
  • Decide when you want to retire
  • Request an annuity estimate from your agency's HR office
  • Tell your supervisor
  • Get information about other benefits you may be eligible for like Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) payment options, or any other entitlements like Foreign Service, Social Security, Medicare coverage, pensions from private industry, and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA)
  • Have a fairly comprehensive picture of all sources of your retirement income and when each is payable
  • Attend a pre-retirement counseling seminar
  • If you have prior military service, confirm with your agency's HR office if you're eligible to make a deposit to receive retirement credit for your military service or waive your military retired pay
  • Meet with your agency's HR office to review the retirement process, review your Official Personnel Folder (OPF) and all employment records are complete and accurate, verify all federal service, and confirm your health and life insurance coverage is documented

Learn how to keep your health benefits after you retire

Learn how to keep your life insurance benefits after you retire

You should start by contacting your agency's HR office.

Find your agency's benefits officer.

No. Your completed retirement application with your signature is equivalent to a letter of resignation.

If you're ever eligible for a federal retirement benefit, you should not resign from your position. Instead, you should plan on submitting a retirement application at a later date. This is because if you die after separating from the federal service but before filing the retirement application, then no annuity payment, no health care insurance, and no life insurance benefits would be available to your survivors.

Your OPF is the official record of all your federal employment history. We use the following information from you OPF when calculating your retirement benefits:

  • The beginning and ending dates for each period of employment, which is used for your benefit calculation
  • The effective dates for each promotion or within-grade increase during each period, that will be used to compute your high-3 average salary
  • The dates of pay changes or earnings and the pay rate, during employment periods when retirement deductions were not withheld from your salary
  • The tour-of-duty during any part-time employment (if you worked more hours than the official tour-of-duty, then document the hours actually worked)
  • A record of time actually worked during intermittent or "when-actually-employed" service
  • A record of any dates of military service

If any federal service is not verified or any of the required documentation is missing, you should get help from your agency's HR office.

If your agency gets approval from OPM to allow early optional retirements, eligible employees will be notified of the opportunity to retire voluntarily.

Your agency leadership may ask OPM to allow early optional retirement if:

  • The agency undergoes a major reorganization, reduction in force, or transfer of function
  • A significant percentage of the employees will be separated, or will be reduced in pay

Learn more about CSRS early optional retirement

Learn more about FERS early optional retirement

MRA+10 is a provision that allows you to retire with benefits beginning immediately, if you have 10 years of service and have reached the Minimum Retirement Age (at least 55). However, the annuity is reduced for each month you are under age 62. The reduction equals 5 percent per year (or 5/12ths of 1 percent, per month).

To avoid the annuity payment reduction, you can postpone payment. You can request deferred or postponed payments of your annuity by completing the Application for Deferred or Postponed Retirement (Form RI 92-19). You should submit the form 2 months before you want the postponed payment to begin.

Some of an employee's spousal, widow's, or widower's Social Security benefit may be offset if the employee has a government pension from working when they did not pay Social Security taxes. The offset does not apply to the employee's own Social Security benefit, only the benefit that comes from a spouse's, widow's, or widower's employment. If the Government Pension Offset applies, the spouse's, widow's, or widower's Social Security benefit will be reduced by two-thirds of any federal pension, based on employment not covered by Social Security.

Some employees are exempt from the Government Pension Offset. They are employees who are automatically covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) offset, and those who elected to transfer to FERS before January 1, 1988 or during the belated transfer period which ended June 30, 1988. Employees who were covered by CSRS and who elected FERS coverage after June 30, 1988 must have 5 years of federal employment covered by Social Security to be exempt from the offset.

The provision affects federal employees who reach age 62 or become disabled after 1985, and are first eligible after 1985 for a federal pension. If you receive a federal pension and are also eligible for Social Security benefits based on other employment in other jobs for which you did pay Social Security taxes, then a different formula may be used to compute your Social Security benefit. This formula will result in a lower benefit.

The Windfall Elimination Provision doesn't apply if:

  • You were eligible to retire before January 1, 1986
  • You were first employed by the government after December 31, 1983
  • You have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security

You should contact your local Social Security office to determine the effect of the Windfall Elimination Provision on your Social Security Benefits.

Voluntary contributions are payments made to your retirement fund in addition to the deductions that are withheld from pay. You can make these contributions only if you're covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or CSRS Offset and don't owe a deposit for a period of service when retirement deductions were not withheld from your pay. Employees covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) are not eligible to make voluntary contributions.

To make voluntary contributions, you should submit Standard Form 2804 (Application to Make Voluntary Contributions) to your HR office. Contributions will not be accepted until the application is submitted and approved by OPM.

The following guidelines apply to voluntary contributions:

  • You can make voluntary contributions in multiples of $25
  • Total contributions cannot exceed 10 percent of the total basic pay you received during all of your federal service
  • You can purchase additional annuity of $7 per year for each $100 of voluntary contributions, plus 20 cents for each full year you are over age 55 when you retire
  • By electing to take a reduction in the additional annuity, you can also purchase additional annuity for a surviving spouse who may receive a benefit after your death
  • Interest is paid on voluntary contributions at the rate of 3 percent annually until December 31, 1984. After that date, a variable interest rate is compounded annually on December 31st until service ends or a refund is paid
  • Voluntary contributions annuities are not increased by cost of living increases

View the table of variable interest rates

Some examples of causes for indebtedness include:

  • Outstanding travel advances
  • Overpayments of salary
  • Indebtedness for failure to return government property or for damage to government property
  • Advanced leave

You should resolve any financial indebtedness to your agency before retiring.

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