How Long Can You Draw From a FERS Retirement?

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The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) was established in 1986 for the benefit of United States government employees. It is comprised of three parts. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a 401(k)-type program that can build a cash value. Social Security and FERS basic annuity pension programs provide a defined monthly withdrawal amount during retirement years.

Pre-Retirement

In most cases, funds may not be drawn from any FERS program before retirement unless an employee becomes disabled or passes away. Exceptions to this rule are financial hardship withdrawals and if you achieve the age of 59-1/2. Financial hardship withdrawals are subject to a 10-percent tax if you’re under age 59-1/2. Only one age-based withdrawal is allowed from each account during employment. There are no penalties for removing funds. FERS and Social Security disability annuity payments may be made before normal retirement age.

Vesting

FERS plan contributions made by the government become yours over a number of years through vesting. Any contributions you made to the plan vest immediately. At retirement, funds may be withdrawn normally. TSP government contributions usually vest over three years. FERS pension benefits are reduced by five percent for every year taken before normal retirement age, unless the employee worked for 30 years or participated in an early-retirement package offered by the government.

Thrift Savings Plan

TSP participants may invest in six different funds and manage them to supplement Social Security and FERS Basic and Supplemental Annuity payments. After separation from service, these funds may be taken until cash in the account is depleted. If you’re under age 55 and take funds, you’ll pay a 10-percent IRS penalty for early withdrawal. Fund withdrawals must begin by age 70-1/2.

Social Security

Social Security payments last as long as the system remains solvent. Individuals are eligible if they contribute for at least 40 quarters. Payments are based on age, years of service and contributions. Depending on birth date, normal retirement age is a sliding scale with respect to Social Security. Older persons may have a normal retirement date of 65, while younger workers may have age 66 or 67 normal retirement. Age 62 is the first opportunity to receive Social Security payments, but payments are discounted for early withdrawal.

Basic and Supplemental FERS Annuity

These pension plans may be taken at any time after separation from service. Normal retirement age is based on a FERS chart that factors in years of service and your age. Employees must attain a minimum retirement age to be eligible for benefits. There are penalties for taking money before your normal retirement age, but after the minimum eligible age. Persons working beyond normal retirement build funds at a slightly faster rate. Annuity payments occur monthly through your lifetime. Participants may extend benefit payments to survivors by electing 50 or 25 percent survivor benefit options at retirement.

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