CSRS and Social Security: Are You Eligible?

CSRS and Social Security:  Can you receive both a pension from CSRS and Social Security?

Most Federal employees in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) do not pay into Social Security.

However, you may still be eligible to receive Social Security if...

  • You had another civilian job that paid into Social Security
  • If your spouse is eligible for Social Security

However, if you are eligible to receive Social Security based on another non-Federal job, or your spouse's work - you do need to know about the...

  • Government Pension Offset (GPO)
  • Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

Both of these items are designed to target CSRS and some State employees who generally don't pay into Social Security.

Let's take a closer look at these items and how they affect CSRS and Social Security... 

Work Outside the Federal Government

If you had another job, outside of the Federal Goverment, you probably did pay into Social Security, and therefore *may* be eligible for benefits.

The easiest way to find out if you are eligible to get Social Security is to look at your annual Social Security statement.

Every year, about 3 months before your birthday - the Social Security Administration mails out a personal statement that shows your history of wages and estimated SS benefit.

To qualify for Social Security, you must have 40 credits. You can earn up to 4 credits a year when you earn approximately $4,520 or more of wages that pay into Social Security.

The second page of your Security Statement will tell you if you have enough credits - or if you still need more.

If you have 40 credits then you are eligible to receive some benefit.

If you have less than 40 Social Security credits, you are not eligible for any benefits by yourself. Although you may be able to receive benefits based on your spouse's Social Security benefit. We'll talk about that more below... but first...

You need to know about the Windfall Elimination Provision. 

CSRS and Social Security: Windfall Elimination Provision

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) will affect you if...

  • You will be receiving a pension from CSRS
  • You have more than 40 Social Security credits
  • But you have less than 30 years of substantial earnings

If you have 40+ credits, but have less than 30 years of substantial earnings - your Social Security benefit will be reduced.

csrs and social security, windfall elimination provision reference

What Social Security calls 'substantial earnings' changes each year. For example, in 2012, the SSA considered $20,475 to be substantial earnings.

If you do not have 30 years of substantial earnings - your Social Security benefit will be reduced anywhere from 10% - 40%. 

If Your Spouse is Eligible for Social Security

If your spouse is eligible to receive Social Security - you may be able to receive a 50% of their benefit.

So let's say your spouse was eligible to receive $1,000 a month - you would receive $500 a month when you reach your full retirement age.

What Social Security calls full retirement age ranges from age 65 to age 67 and is based on when you were born.

However, if you are eligible to receive a 50% of your spouse's benefit - you need to know about the dreaded Government Pension Offset. 

CSRS and Social Security: Government Pension Offset

Normally, you are is entitled to receive the higher of 100% of your earned Social Security benefit or 50% of your spouse's Social Security benefit.

However, CSRS are subject to the Government Pension Offset (GPO). The GPO targets anyone receiving a pension from work that did not pay into Social Security.

csrs and social security government pension offset reference

If you are a CSRS, and you try to receive 50% of your spouse's benefit - your Social Security benefit will be reduced by a special formula.

50% of Spouse's Benefit - 2/3 of CSRS Pension = Your SS Benefit after GPO

If the result is negative - you don't owe the government any money, you just won't receive your Social Security benefit.

Let's take a look at an example... 

Example of Government Pension Offset

Let's say you're a CSRS, and your CSRS pension is $2,000 a month.

Your spouse worked in a non-Federal job and is entitled to a Social Security benefit of $1,000 a month.

You apply for to receive 50% of your spouse's Social Security, which would be $500 a month.

But, because you are receiving a CSRS pension - your Social Security will be reduced by 2/3 of your monthly CSRS pension.

Here is the formula...

50% of Spouse's Benefit - 2/3 of CSRS Pension = Your SS Benefit after GPO

so for our example...

$500 - $1334 = No SS Benefit

At the very least - your spouse's personal Social Security benefits will not be affected by your CSRS pension. Your spouse will still receive their full Social Security benefit - but you will not be eligible to receive the normal 50% spouse's benefit due to your CSRS pension. 

CSRS and Social Security

While you may be able to collect Social Security - you need to watch out for the two rules that affect CSRS and Social Security: the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.

Even though these rules can seem tricky - make sure you understand them and how they affect your benefits. 

Looking For Someone Who Understands Your CSRS Benefits?

Micah Shilanski, CFP®, is a financial planner for federal employees, and he understands CSRS and Social Security.  Micah can help you learn more about your benefits and make the best choices for your personal situation.

But Micah is different than most financial planners.

Find out how Micah helps his clients, and why Micah’s approach to federal benefits is unique.



Return from CSRS and Social Security to CSRS Retirement



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Who is Micah?

Micah Shilanski is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional who specializes in helping federal employees get the most out of their federal retirement benefits.  

Micah’s experience as financial planner for federal employees provide him with valuable insight into the unique planning needs of federal employees.

Micah helps his clients with tax planning, retirement planning, federal retirement planning, estate planning, and investment advice. Click here to learn more about how Micah helps his clients.






Micah Shilanski is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional who specializes in helping federal employees get the most out of their retirement benefits. Micah is a fee-based financial planner and works with a select group of clients. Micah works with each client to tailor a plan that is customized to their dreams, goals, and financial situation. Each client is unique, and so is their plan.

Plan Your Federal Retirement is not employed by the federal government and does not represent the federal government.

Plan Your Federal Retirement is a dba of Shilanski & Associates, Inc. Shilanski & Associates, Inc. is an independent financial planning firm headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska, that has been in business for nearly 30 years.

Shilanski & Associates, Inc., is an Alaska Registered Investment Advisor, with securities offered through Summit Brokerage Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Shilanski & Associates, Inc. is not affiliated with Summit Brokerage Services, Inc.

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