Civil Service Retirement System

This article briefly explains the Civil Service Retirement System and provides additional resources for finding more detailed information.

The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) is a qualified retirement plan that provides retirement benefits for employees of U.S. federal government and agencies who were first employed prior to 1987. The CSRS was established in 1920.

Federal employees first hired after 1987 are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS.) Some employees under CSRS can voluntarily switch to FERS. (See the OPM website for details.)

Employees covered by CSRS contribute between 7 and 8% of their pay, but they do not pay into the Social Security system. However, they do pay Medicare taxes.

CSRS employees have the option to contribute up to 10% of their pay to their CSRS account. The employing agency matches the employee’s CSRS contributions.

Voluntary Early Retirement

The minimum service for CSRS benefits is 5 years. The various eligibility ages and service terms are shown in this chart, from the OPM website.

OPM civil service voluntary retirement

Additional Savings Option: TSP

Federal employees in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) also have the option to contribute earnings to their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account. Contributions are tax-deferred. The TSP is the Federal employee's equivalent to the 401k plan.

There is no agency/employer match for TSP contributions for CSRS covered employees.

FERS covered employee contributions up to 5% are matched with agency contributions (except Uniformed Services). The matching contributions are subject to a vesting period of (usually) 3 years. Also, even if you make no contributions, the agency automatically contributes 1% to your TSP account. This guaranteed amount is part of the 5% maximum match. Go here for the TSP website.

Mandatory Retirement Age

Air traffic controllers (employed after May 15, 1972) - age 56

Federal firefighter, law enforcement officer, nuclear materials courier, Capital or Supreme Court police member - age 57 or (20 years of service if later)

Both CSRS and FERS are managed by the Office of Personnel Management. Information on eligibility, early retirement, benefit computation examples, and more, can be found on the OPM website.

Sources:

IRS Publication 721 on CSRS and FERS retirement plan taxes

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) History

Office of Personnel Management about CSRS retirement plan

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