Expert's View

Reg Jones

It’s easy to get complacent and think that mistaken beliefs about retirement which used to spread like wildfire—sometimes by interoffice mail or fax, remember those?—are a thing of the past. Not so. I just bumped into one that I thought was dead and buried long ago. Here it is:

When you are old enough to retire but don’t have enough years of actual service to do so, your unused sick leave can be counted as time served. If you have enough of it, your unused sick leave can make you eligible to retire days, weeks or even months earlier than if you had to keep working to reach that goal.

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Wrong! Sick leave can only be added after you have met one of the combinations of age years and service to be eligible to retire. The service requirement means actual service; you cannot add unused sick leave to actual service.

However, once you have met a combination of age and service—again, actual service–unused sick leave will increase your length of service–by a considerable amount, if you’ve had a long and healthy career–which will pay off handsomely when your annuity is computed.

Since we’re on the topic, let’s take another look at how time is credited when calculating a basic retirement benefit. Simply stated, you receive credit for all years and full months of service. Any leftover hours are discarded unless you have some unused sick leave to your credit. In that case, those unused sick leave hours will be added to your leftover hours of actual service. If there are enough of them, they will be used to increase the total number of months used in your annuity computation.

Here are hours needed to create additional months of service:

174 hours   = 1 month

348 hours   = 2 months

522 hours   = 3 months

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696 hours   = 4 months

870 hours   = 5 months

1044 hours = 6 months

1217 hours = 7 months

1391 hours = 8 months

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1565 hours = 9 months

1739 hours = 10 months

1913 hours = 11 months

2087 hours = 12 months

If you have more than 2087 hours of actual and unused sick leave, just go back to the top of the chart and keep on counting. The more hours you have the greater the impact will be on your annuity.

Since some of you were former CSRS employees who converted to FERS, I need to point out one wrinkle in the crediting process. The only hours of sick leave that can be credited in the computation of the CSRS portion of your annuity are the ones you had on the books the day you converted to FERS. If there are any hours of CSRS service and sick leave hours that don’t add up to a full month, they will be dropped. Unfortunately, they can’t be rolled over and used in the computation of the FERS part of your annuity.

And remember this above all: Unused sick leave hours don’t help make you eligible for retirement in the first place.

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Calculating Service Credit for Sick Leave At Retirement

What it Takes to Be an Average Retiree

Making a Deposit to Capture Retirement Service Credit

How to Estimate a FERS Special Retirement Supplement

FERS Retirement Guide 2021