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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.
TSP benefits differ depending on your retirement system (FERS, CSRS, or uniformed services). 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.
The TSP website (TSP.gov) explains the benefits available to TSP participants and provides account information, including online statements. You may allocate contributions, make inter-fund transfers, and initiate loan and withdrawal requests online.