The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) has a minimum retirement age that is less than 65. This minimum retirement age establishes the youngest age at which a federal employee can retire if they have enough years of service. The exact age can vary by the year of an employee's birth.
Minimum Retirement Age
The minimum retirement age (MRA) for eligible employees is 57 for anyone born in 1970 or later. The lowest minimum retirement age is 55 for workers born before 1948, and 56 for workers born in 1963 or 1964. All workers born in 1963 or earlier will have reached the minimum retirement age prior to 2019 (or by their birthdate in 2019 if they were born in 1963). For those born after 1964, two months are added to the MRA for each year through 1970.
How Federal Retirement Eligibility Is Calculated
Like many retirement systems, FERS uses the "Rule of 80." This states that an employee must reach a combined 80 years when adding age and federal service to be eligible for retirement.
Let's say an employee begins federal service right after college at age 22. After 29 years of service, they reach age 51. The employee has satisfied the rule of 80, but hasn't yet reached the minimum retirement age. At an MRA of 57, the employee has six more years left until retirement eligibility.
Assuming this employee wants to retire as soon as they're eligible to do so, FERS gains six more years of retirement contributions from them and forgoes six years of annuity payments by forcing them to wait until age 57.
Retirement can be tempting at age 51. An employee can decide to do something different and still have enough time left to make a real career out of it. Retirement is still tempting at age 57, but many employees choose to ride out federal service until retiring sometime in their early 60s.
Other Retirement Circumstances
FERS has rules in place to accommodate various other retirement scenarios:
- Early separation: Early retirement is possible in the case of involuntary separation and separation that occurs in conjunction with the reduction or reorganization of the federal workforce.
Age 50 and up: Minimum 20 years of service (10 short of the "rule of 80")
Below age 50: 25 years of service.
- Disability: Agency must certify it cannot accommodate the disability in the current position.
A worker with at least 18 months of service and disabled to the extent they can't adequately serve in their current position due to injury or illness.
An employee also can delay or defer benefits if they stop working before they are eligible for immediate retirement. They must have five years or more of creditable civilian service by age 62. With at least 10 years of service, but fewer than 30, benefits are reduced by 5% for each year under age 62, unless they've reached 20 years of service and retire at age 60 or older.
Employees become eligible for benefits within 30 days of their last day of employment depending on their years of service and their ages. At age 62, an employee must have at least five years of service. This increases to 20 years of service at age 60.
An employee who has reached a minimum retirement age is entitled to immediate benefits after 10 to 30 years of service. Again, if they have less than 30 years in service, benefits are reduced by 5% for each year they are under age 62 unless they've reached 20 years of service and retire at age 60 or older.