Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
I am a new federal employee who was hired in 2012. I was told that I have to pay into the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) Annuity. My questions are:
- Am I required by law to participate in the FERS annuity program or can I opt out?
- How does paying into this system benefit me and how does this work?
- If I leave the federal government before I retire, will I get my money back? If not, what happens to the money?
- How is this different from Social Security?
- You cannot opt out of FERS.
- You pay in and receive an annuity once you are vested with five years of service. If you also meet minimum retirement age, you may receive an immediate annuity. Otherwise you can receive a deferred annuity at age 62.
- If you are not vested or are not interested in a deferred annuity, you can receive a refund of your FERS contributions upon leaving federal service.
- FERS is an annuity that is separate from and in addition to Social Security benefits. FERS does not affect your social security entitlements.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.
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