CSRS – FERS — What’s The Difference

I promised I’d post more articles here to try to “de-geek” some of these subjects. I already have pages of arcane detail about CSRS and FERS, but darn little that compares the two in a manner an non-geek might understand. Here’s a neat article from an expert that gives a good start:

According to a recent survey of cows in England, Bosnia, Mongolia or someplace over there, the grass really is greener on the other side!!! You can look it up.

But the investigative journalist in me is skeptical. Why? First, only a handful of cows, Holsteins, I think, took part in the survey. Second, is there really a place called Bosnia? And third, what do cows know? I mean, really!

Like cows, we humans have long pondered the grass-is-always-greener issue. Especially at the workplace. And it’s alive and well in many federal offices. There the divide is between people under the old, CSRS retirement plan and FERS, which replaced it.

Most working feds, about 7 out of 10, are under the newer FERS plan which replaced CSRS in the mid-1980s. But most people who are actually retired, that is 1.5 million as of FY 2005, are under the old CSRS system. A much smaller number, 220,000 at that time retired under the FERS system. (Rest of Mike’s Article Here:)

To hit the highlights, especially if you didn’t take the time to read all of Mike’s article:


  • Higher annuties
  • Immediately indexed to inflation
  • Full cost of living adjustments at retirement
  • Higher contributions to retirement fund
  • No Social Security contributions – Medicare only
  • Add unused sick leave time to service time


  • FERS employees pay the full Social Security tax
  • Smaller portion of salary into the FERS retirement program.
  • FERS workers also get matching contributions to their Thrift Savings Plan
  • FERS retirement formula is less generous than CSRS
  • TSP investments can make up the difference
  • FERS retirees don’t get COLAs until age 62 (in most cases)

So there are some of the basic distinctions to help learn your way around this particular bowl of the alphabet soup. Let me know if there’s more interest in general education articles like this.Ads by AdGenta.comTags: , , , ,

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  1. Im under FERS in divoprce settlement my ex husband get my Fers retirement does that mean only Postal not TSP and Social Scurity?

    • Hi Maria,

      To know exactly what your ex-husband gets, you need to know exactly what the divorce settlement says. If it just says your husband “gets your FERS” he probably gets nothing, because there has to be a separate COAP (Court Order Acceptable for Processing) that defines precisely how much and in what manner your FERS Annuity (retirement check) is to be divided. There is no way I know of that your ex could get _ALL_ of your FERS, typically the largest fraction a former spouse can qualify for is 50%. Do you have such a document? Did you use an attorney? If so you should ask her/him for guidance on this.

      Whatever portion of your FERS annuity your ex may be getting, the TSP is a completely different “piece of property” and it must also be divided by a separate court order to the TSP manager. FERS retirement and the TSP are two totally different issues, managed by different agencies and under different sets of rules.

      Likewise Social Security is under a totally different set of rules, and there’s no such thing as “dividing” Social Security at the time of divorce. If your husband was married to you for 10 years or more, and he reaches full retirement age, and his own Social Security benefits would be less than yours, he can collect half of what you would revive. This has no effect on your benefits.

      You need a lawyer, and you need to be demanding answers from your attorney, because it’s pretty clear to me that you have not been advised fully on the aspects of a FERS divorce at all. I’ll answer this comment privately to the email you used here, please check for a message and write back if you need more help.

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