Expert's View

This week I’m starting a series on retirement, beginning with what retirement system you are in – and if you’re in the right one – what service is creditable and how to calculate your annuity. I’ll finish with a post-retirement series on insurance, cost-of-living adjustments, and survivor benefits. Let’s begin at the beginning.

If you are like most federal employees, you are covered by either the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).


You are covered by CSRS if you had at least five years of creditable service under your belt before January 1, 1987.

CSRS Offset
If you had a break in service that lasted less than one year and returned to work for the government after December 31, 1983, you’d continue to be covered by CSRS. If you returned after one year, you’d be placed in CSRS Offset (CSRS and Social Security).

If you were first hired on or after January 1, 1987, you’d automatically be covered by FERS. The same is true if you were hired before that date but had less than fivc years of CSRS service when FERS came on line as of that date. In the latter case, you’re CSRS service would automatically be converted to FERS service.

If you returned to federal service on or after January 1, 1987 and were covered by either CSRS or CSRS Offset, you’d have the option to transfer to FERS. If you transferred, you’d have a CSRS component in your annuity.

Next week, I’ll fill you in on what to do if you ended up in the wrong retirement system.