Air Traffic Controller Retirement Benefits

Air Traffic Controller Retirement Benefits
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As employees of the Federal Aviation Administration, air traffic controllers get access to the same general retirement benefits as other federal employees. Specifically, any civilian air traffic controller hired after 1987 is a part of the Federal Employees Retirement System. It has three parts -- Social Security, a pension called the Basic Benefit Plan, and a 401(k)-like Thrift Savings Plan.

Basic Benefit Plan

The federal Basic Benefit Plan is a pension that gets calculated relative to your pay. The government takes the average pay you earned during your highest paid three years of service -- usually your last three -- and uses it as a base for your pension. It gives you 1.7 percent of that pay per year of service up to 20 years, and 1 percent for every additional year of service over 20. For example. If you served 25 years and had a high pay of $80,000, you would get 34 percent of it for your first 20 years, plus 5 percent for your last five This would give you a pension of $31,200, or 39 percent of your pay.

Thrift Savings Plan

The Thrift Savings Plan is a tax-deferred savings account in which you can invest your money in a choice of funds. You automatically get 1 percent of your income deposited for you as a part of your federal retirement benefits. The government also matches any additional income that you put in. The Internal Revenue Service limits contributions to as much as $52,000 per year including matching and automatic contributions, although you can generally put in only $17,500 of your own money. This gets reduced by what you put into your Roth retirement accounts, if anything. These limits are as of the 2013 tax year.

Social Security

Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, you also get to participate in Social Security. Every paycheck will have money deducted to fund Social Security. When you reach the retirement age, you can collect a Social Security check for the rest of your life.

Retirement Age and Requirements

Your ability to collect your retirement benefits depends on your age and the type of benefit you are collecting. Assuming that you have at least 20 years of service, you become eligible to retire at 50, and must retire by age 56. These are special limits for air traffic controllers. While you are waiting to get old enough to start collecting Social Security benefits, the government will give you a special supplement to help bridge the gap. You can also start withdrawing from your Thrift Savings Plan account without tax penalty once you turn 55.