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Most federal employees participate in one of two retirement savings programs, the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS), or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Employees in both systems also may participate in the federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
The Federal Ballpark E$timate, developed by OPM, is a savings goal worksheet. You can use the Federal Ballpark E$timate to automatically calculate estimates of future Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) retirement benefits and Thrift Savings Plan(TSP) account balances. It will to help you quickly identify approximately how much you need to save to fund a comfortable retirement and how well you are doing in meeting your savings goal.
The Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS)
The FERS Basic Benefit Plan is a defined benefit plan for federal employees hired after December 31, 1983. Federal agencies contribute funds to FERS on behalf of employees, in an amount defined by law. Upon retirement, FERS participants receive a benefit based on their highest three consecutive years of pay and number of years of service.
FERS participants are vested after five years of creditable civilian service, meaning they have a right to receive retirement benefits even if they leave federal government employment before retiring. You may find more information about FERS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)
The CSRS is a defined benefit plan that covers most federal employees hired prior to December 31, 1983. Upon retirement, CSRS participants receive an annuity that pays a monthly benefit based on:
- Age at retirement
- Years of service
- The type of retirement selected
- Average annual pay in the three highest-paid years (“high-3” salary)
- Deposit for service performed prior to October 1, 1982
- Provisions for survivors
Please visit the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for more information.
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
The TSP is a retirement savings plan for federal employees. It is a defined contribution plan, similar to the 401(k) plans that many private employers offer their employees. The retirement income you receive from your TSP account will depend on how much you put into the account, plus any matching contributions and the earnings on your investments.
If you are covered by FERS, the TSP supplements your FERS annuity and Social Security benefits. For those covered by CSRS or in the uniformed services, the TSP supplements a CSRS annuity or military retired pay.
There are many benefits available to TSP participants, including:
- Tax deferred contributions. Your contributions come out of your pay before taxes and your contributions and investment earnings are not taxed until you withdraw funds from the account in retirement.
- Minimal cost. You pay very low fees for the plan’s administrative and investment expenses.
- Automatic agency contributions. If you are covered by FERS, 1% of your base pay each pay period is automatically invested according to your instructions.
- Matching contributions. If you are covered by FERS, you are eligible to receive up to an additional 4% of your pay from your agency if you make the required contributions.
- Catch-up contributions. If you are age 50 or older, you can contribute more each year than employees less than 50 years old.
- Multiple investment options. You have a choice of investment funds, including lifecycle funds.
- Ability to transfer other retirement savings to TSP. If you already have money in other tax-deferred retirement savings plans, you may be able to transfer those accounts into your TSP account.
- Loans. Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to borrow from your TSP account.
- In-service withdrawals. Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to access your TSP savings while you are still employed by the federal government
Multiple withdrawal options. You have a variety of withdrawal options when you leave federal service.
- A TSP annuity is one of your options for withdrawing your TSP account after you separate from service. If you want a guaranteed stream of payments for as long as you (or your joint annuitant) are alive, an annuity may be the right choice. You can use your entire account balance to purchase a TSP annuity, or you can use a portion of your account balance to purchase an annuity and choose a different withdrawal option or options to withdraw the rest.