Fedweek

A Congressional Research Service report on federal retirement trends underscores the continuing shift in the federal workforce from CSRS to FERS as the dominant retirement system.

The FERS program in general covers those first hired in 1984 and later, making CSRS–up to then the only federal retirement system–by definition a cadre of generally older employees. The report says that of 2016, there were no CSRS-covered employees below age 45 and only 41 below age 50. Of the rest more than 72,000, or 46 percent, are in their 50s and more than 86,000 are in their 60s–almost 34,000 of them, 21 percent, are age 65 or older.

Among FERS employees, in contrast, 54 percent are under age 50, 33 percent in their 50s and 13 percent in their 60s. The figures include U.S. Postal Service employees.

Think history can’t repeat itself? Ask someone who was a federal employee before about 1980 if they ever expected CSRS to be replaced by a hybrid involving Social Security, a smaller civil service annuity and a tax-favored savings plan.

The FERS system became the majority system within the federal workforce only about a decade after it was launched; by fiscal 1996, it accounted for 53 percent of current employees to 47 percent for CSRS. That share steadily grew as the generally older CSRS employees retired so that now only 6 percent of current employees are under CSRS, the report said.

Of current retirees, 67 percent are under CSRS. Separate OPM data show that just about the same share, 69 percent, of those who retired in 2015 were covered by FERS, however, making it also the dominant program among new retirees.