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Learn some of the basics about retirement and pension benefits.

Learn some of the basics about retirement and pension benefits.

Social Security and How It Works

What’s Social Security?

Social Security is a federal government program that provides a source of income for you or your legal dependents (spouse, children, or parents) if you qualify for benefits. You also need a Social Security number to get a job.


Find how to apply to get a Social Security number or to replace your Social Security card.

How Do Benefits Work and How Can I Qualify?

While you work, you pay Social Security taxes. This tax money goes into a trust fund that pays benefits to those who are currently retired, to people with disabilities, and to the surviving spouses and children of workers who have died. Each year you work, you’ll get credits to help you become eligible for benefits when it’s time for you to retire. Find all the benefits Social Security Administration (SSA) offers.

There are four main types of benefits that the SSA offers:

  • Retirement benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Benefits for spouses or other survivors of a family member who’s passed
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

How to Open a “my Social Security” Account

If you receive or will receive Social Security benefits, you may want to open a “my Social Security” account. This online account is a service from the SSA that allows you to keep track of and manage your SSA benefits, and allows you to make changes to your Social Security record.

How to Find More Help

If you have specific questions about your Social Security benefits, you can review the Social Security Administration’s frequently asked questions or contact them directly.

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Protecting Your Private Pension Benefits

Avoiding Errors and Getting Help

If your job is covered by a traditional pension plan, make sure you get the pension amount you’re owed.

  • Find ways to protect yourself by reading these 10 common causes of errors in pension calculation.
  • Get free legal help if you’re experiencing a problem with your pension plan.
  • Find out whether your pension or annuity income is taxable.
  • If you have questions or complaints about your employer-sponsored pension plan, contact your human resources office or locate the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) regional office near you.

Federal Insurance for Private Pensions

If you’ve earned a traditional pension, you’re likely to receive it even if your company runs into financial problems.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC):

  • Insures most private-sector defined-benefit pensions that typically pay a certain amount each month after you retire
  • Covers most cash-balance plans, a type of defined-benefit pension that allows you to take a lump-sum distribution
  • Does not cover government and military pensions, 401k plans, IRAs, and certain other plans.

Is Your Pension Insured?

  • To see if your pension is insured, search PBGC’s list of single-employer and multi-employer plans.
  • If your plan is insured and it ends without enough money to pay all benefits, PBGC will pay you the money you’re owed, up to legal limits.
  • To learn more about PBGC-insured pensions, view these frequently asked questions.

Find an Unclaimed Pension

More than 38 million people in the U.S. haven’t claimed pension benefits they have earned. Find out if you, or someone you know, is owed a pension.

Civil Service Retirement

Federal Employee Retirement Planning and Management

If you are a federal employee planning to retire or a federal retiree looking for information about your benefits, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)’s Retirement page can help you:

  • Research and learn about retirement options.
  • Manage your benefits online.
  • Find options for signing up for direct deposit. If you receive paper checks now, you’ll soon be required to switch to direct deposit or Direct Express debit card.
  • Find answers to frequently asked questions about retirement.

If you are the survivor of a deceased federal employee or federal retiree, you may be eligible for death and survivor benefits. Visit the OPM website to report the death and apply for death benefits.

Thrift Savings Plan

In addition to the defined or basic benefits provided by your Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) plan, if you are a current federal employee, you can boost your retirement savings by participating in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP offers the same types of savings and tax benefits as a 401(k) plan.

Credit for Military Service

Military service does not automatically count toward civil service retirement.

  • To receive credit for military service performed after 1956, you must pay a deposit.
  • If you are a military retiree, you generally cannot receive military service credit towards your civilian retirement unless you waive your military retired pay.

Pension Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers an online tool and an online publication to help you determine whether or not your pension or annuity payment is taxable.

Contact OPM’s Retirement Operations Center

For benefits information or help with a transaction, contact OPM’s Retirement Operations Center.

State and Local Government Employees

If you are a state or local government employee and have questions about your pension plan, contact your agency’s personnel department. You can also contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) for help.




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