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 that is less than 65. This minimum retirement age establishes the youngest age at which a federal employee can retire.

Minimum Retirement Age

The minimum retirement age is 57 for much of the federal workforce, although 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 is 55 for workers born before 1948. Here's how it breaks down.

Two months are added for each subsequent birth year from 1948 through 1952. For example, those born in 1948 would reach minimum retirement age at 55 and two months. Those born in 1950 would reach minimum retirement age at 55 and six months.

Those born in 1953 through 1964 reach minimum retirement age at 56, then the two-month rule takes over again, topping out at age 57 for those born in 1970 or later.

The Rule of 80

Like many retirement systems, FERS uses the "Rule of 80." This rule states that an employee must reach a combined 80 years when adding age and federal service in order to be eligible for retirement. Upon examination of this rule, it's easy to see why FERS has added the MRA.

An Example of How the FERS Minimum Retirement Age 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, he must have a minimum of 20 years of service to qualify for early retirement under these conditions. Otherwise, he 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 can also 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 percent 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 she has less than 30 years in service, her benefits are reduced by 5 percent for each year she is under age 62 unless she's reached 20 years of service and retires at age 60 or older.