What Is the FERS Minimum Retirement Age?

57 is the golden age for many federal employees

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The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) has a minimum retirement age (MRA) that is less than 65. This minimum retirement age establishes the youngest age at which a federal employee can retire. The exact age can vary by the year of an employee's birth.

Minimum Retirement Age

The minimum retirement age is 57 for much of the federal workforce, but employees who were born before 1970 can retire a little earlier. How much earlier depends on exactly how old they are. The lowest minimum retirement age was 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 for each year through 1970, topping out at age 57 for those born in that year or later.

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 in order to be eligible for retirement.

How It Works

Let's say that an employee begins federal service right after college at age 22. After 29 years of service, he reaches age 51. The employee has satisfied the rule of 80, but he hasn't yet reached the minimum retirement age. At an MRA of 57, the employee has six more years left until retirement eligibility.

Assuming our example employee wants to retire as soon as he's eligible to do so, FERS gains six more years of retirement contributions from him and forgoes six years of annuity payments to him by forcing him 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.

The Social Security Administration allows citizens to take early retirement at age 62, so this is a popular retirement age among public servants at all levels of government as well.

Other Retirement Circumstances

FERS has rules in place to accommodate various other retirement scenarios as well.

Early retirement is possible under some narrow circumstances, including involuntary separation and separation that occurs in conjunction with reduction or reorganization of the federal workforce. If the employee is at least 50 years old, she must have a minimum of 20 years of service to qualify for early retirement under these conditions. Otherwise, she must have 25 years of service.

Disability retirement is available through FERS as well. A worker must have at least 18 months of service and be disabled to the extent that she cannot adequately serve in her current position due to injury or illness. Her agency must make a certification that it cannot accommodate her disability in her current position.

An employee also can delay or defer benefits if she stops working before she's eligible for immediate retirement. She must have five years or more of creditable civilian service by age 62. If she has at least 10 but fewer than 30 years of service, her benefits are reduced by 5% for each year she is under age 62 unless she's reached 20 years of service and retires at age 60 or older.

Immediate Benefits

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 minimum retirement age is entitled to immediate benefits after 10 to 30 years of service. Again, if he has less than 30 years in service, his benefits are reduced by 5% for each year he is under age 62 unless he's reached 20 years of service and retires at age 60 or older.