The following describes railroad retirement annuity formula components as applied to new awards. The cost-of-living adjustments applied to annuities are described previously in this chapter.
EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT ANNUITY
The amount of a regular annuity is the total of portions which are computed separately under different formulas and called tiers, plus any vested dual benefit payment also due.
The first tier is calculated in generally the same way as a social security benefit. Any social security credits of an employee are combined with his or her railroad retirement credits for tier I computation purposes.
In computing tier I, an employee's creditable earnings are adjusted to take into account the changes in wage levels over a worker's lifetime. This procedure, called indexing, increases creditable earnings from past years to reflect average national wage levels just prior to the employee's first year of eligibility. The adjusted earnings are used to calculate average indexed monthly earnings, and a formula is applied to determine the gross tier I amount.
The tier I portion of a railroad retirement annuity is calculated in generally the same way as a social security benefit.
For those first eligible in 2017, the gross tier I is equal to:
- 90 percent of the first $885 of average indexed monthly earnings, plus
- 32 percent of the amount of these earnings over $885 up to $5,336, plus
- 15 percent of these earnings in excess of $5,336.
For employees with less than 10 years of railroad service, tier I benefits are calculated only if the employee has at least 5 years of service after 1995 and an insured status under Social Security Act rules (usually 40 quarters of coverage), counting both railroad retirement and social security covered earnings.
Delayed retirement credits
Tier I benefits are increased by a certain percentage for each month an employee delays retirement past full retirement age, up until age 70. For those born January 2, 1943, or later, the delayed retirement credit is 2/3 of 1 percent per month (8 percent per year). Those born prior to January 2, 1943, earn a lesser percentage credit. Delayed retirement credits are not given to an employee with less than 10 years of railroad service even if the employee is over full retirement age when retiring from his or her railroad job, if the employee is also entitled to an age-reduced social security retirement benefit and the beginning date of that social security benefit precedes the beginning date of his or her railroad retirement annuity.
For employees retiring between age 62 and their full retirement age with less than 30 years of service, age reductions are applied separately to the components of an annuity. As mentioned earlier, the full retirement age is gradually rising from 65 to 67, depending on the year of birth. The maximum annuity reduction for retirement at age 62 is gradually increasing from 20 to 30 percent. This does not affect those who retire at ages 60 or 61 with 30 years of service.
Full Retirement Age
Social security legislation enacted in 1983 affected railroad retirement benefits through coordinating provisions of the Railroad Retirement Act. As a result, since the year 2000, the age requirements for some unreduced railroad retirement benefits have been rising just like the social security requirements. The minimum age requirements for railroad retirement benefits have not changed, but the maximum early retirement annuity reduction is increasing.
The full retirement age for employee and spouse benefits increases from 65 to 66 and from 66 to 67 at the rate of two months per year over two separate six-year periods. These changes also affect how reduced benefits are computed for early retirement. The increase in full retirement age from age 65 to age 66 affects those people who were born in the years 1938 through 1942. The full retirement age will remain at age 66 for people born in the years 1943 through 1954. The increase in full retirement age from age 66 to age 67 affects those who were born in the years 1955 through 1959. For people who were born in 1960 or later the full retirement age will be age 67.
Reduced benefits continue to be available but at greater reductions. The early retirement reduction factor for an employee is 1/180 for each of the first 36 months of the reduction period regardless of the age of initial entitlement and decreases to 1/240 for each month (if any) over 36, as mentioned earlier. This will result in a gradual increase in the reduction at age 62 to 30 percent for an employee once the age 67 retirement age is in effect.
If an employee has less than 10 years of railroad service and is already entitled to an age-reduced social security benefit, the age reduction in his or her tier I will be based on the age reduction applicable on the beginning date of the employee's social security benefit, even if the employee is already of full retirement age on the beginning date of his or her railroad retirement annuity.
Table 8.--Employee Retiring with Less than 30 Years of Service
|Year of birth
at age 62
|1937 or earlier
||65 and 2 months
||65 and 4 months
||65 and 6 months
||65 and 8 months
||65 and 10 months
|1943 through 1954
||66 and 2 months
||66 and 4 months
||66 and 6 months
||66 and 8 months
||66 and 10 months
|1960 or later
Age reductions are required in the tier I annuity amounts of 30-year employees who retired at ages 60-61 before 2002 and attained age 60 or completed 30 years of service after June 1984. The age reductions are applied only to the tier I annuity portion. If an employee affected by this provision was born before 1938 and attained 60/30 eligibility after December 1985, tier I is permanently reduced by approximately 20 percent. For those born after 1937 who retired before 2002, the reduction gradually increased as described earlier. In both cases, the tier I amount is frozen until the first month throughout which the employee is age 62. It is then recomputed to reflect interim increases in national wage levels and will become subject to future cost-of-living increases. There is no reduction if the employee retired at age 62 or older with 30 years of service, or at age 60 with 30 years of service and retirement is after 2001.
Workers' compensation or public disability benefit reductions
For employees who are under age 65 and receiving a disability annuity, the tier I amount is, under certain circumstances, reduced for receipt of workers' compensation or public disability benefits.
Social security reductions
After any required age reduction, the tier I amount is reduced by the amount of any social security benefits also payable but not to an amount below zero.
Reductions for public, non-profit, or foreign pensions
For employees who attain eligibility for both tier I benefits and certain government pension or other payments after 1985, a reduction may be required for receipt of a public pension based, in part or in whole, on employment not covered by railroad retirement or social security after 1956. This also applies to payments from a non-profit organization or from certain foreign governments or employers. Usually, an employee's tier I benefit will not be reduced by more than 1/2 of his or her pension from noncovered employment. However, if the employee is under age 65 and is receiving a disability annuity, the tier I benefit may be reduced by an additional amount if the pension from noncovered employment is a public disability benefit.
The second tier of a regular annuity is computed under a separate formula, and is based on railroad service alone. Tier II benefits are equal to 7/10 of one percent of the employee's average monthly earnings using the tier II tax base in the 60 months of highest earnings, times his or her years of service in the rail industry. The tier II component is reduced by 25 percent of any gross employee vested dual benefit amount due.
The tier II portion of a railroad retirement annuity is based on railroad service alone.
Age reductions required for those employees retiring between age 62 and their full retirement age with less than 30 years of service are also applied to the tier II component of an annuity. The reduction is 1/180 for each of the first 36 months the employee is under his or her full retirement age when his or her annuity begins and 1/240 for each additional month (if any).
Full retirement age is gradually rising as mentioned earlier. However, if an employee had any creditable railroad service before August 12, 1983, full retirement age for tier II purposes will remain 65.
Employees with 5-9 years of creditable railroad service, if at least 5 years were after 1995, are eligible for tier II benefits the first full month they are age 62. Their tier II benefits are subject to the same age reductions that apply to employees with 10 to 29 years of service. If they are eligible on the basis of total disability, a tier II benefit is not payable until age 62 and that amount is reduced for early retirement.
Amount of vested dual benefit
To determine this additional annuity amount for a retired employee meeting the vesting requirements, the RRB computes a social security benefit based solely on the individual's railroad service before 1975, and a social security benefit based solely on social security covered earnings before 1975. The vested dual benefit is the amount by which the total of these two computations exceeds a social security benefit based on combined railroad and social security covered earnings before 1975.
The vested dual benefit is increased by the cumulative cost-of-living percentage increases applicable to tier I benefits that occurred between January 1, 1975, and the date of retirement or January 1, 1982, whichever was earlier. The computed amount is then frozen; that is, no further cost-of-living increases are applied thereafter. The amount of any vested dual benefit due is added to the tier portions and paid as part of the regular annuity.
The same age reduction applied to the tier I component is applied to the vested dual benefit component of an annuity for those employees retiring before full retirement age with less than 30 years of service.
Supplemental annuity formula
The amount of a supplemental annuity awarded after 1974 is equal to $23 plus $4 for each year of service over 25, up to a maximum of $43. A fraction of $4 is added for each fractional year of service.
If a retired employee also receives a private pension paid for entirely or in part by a railroad, the supplemental annuity is subject to reduction. The reduction is equal to the amount of the pension paid for by the employer. If the employer reduces the private pension because of the supplemental annuity, the amount of the reduction is restored to the supplemental annuity but does not raise it over the $43 maximum.
There is no reduction in the supplemental annuity for any part of a private pension paid by the employee alone nor is there a reduction for a pension paid by a railroad labor organization.
The spouse annuity formula is based on certain percentages of the employee's tier I and tier II amounts.
The tier I portion of a spouse annuity, before any applicable reductions, is 50 percent of the railroad employee's unreduced tier I amount.
Spouse age reductions
Age reductions required for those spouses (between age 62 and their full retirement age) of employees retiring with less than 30 years of service are applied separately to each annuity component. Full retirement age for a spouse is gradually rising, just as for an employee. Actuarially reduced benefits continue to be available but at greater reductions. The tier I reduction is 1/144 for each of the first 36 months the spouse is under full retirement age when her or his annuity begins and will decrease to 1/240 for each month (if any) over 36. This will result in a gradual increase in the reduction at age 62 from 25 percent to 35 percent for a spouse once the age 67 retirement age is in effect. If an employee has less than 10 years of railroad service and the spouse is already entitled to an age-reduced social security benefit, the age reduction in her or his tier I will be based on the age reduction applicable on the beginning date of the spouse's social security benefit, even if the spouse is already of full retirement age on the beginning date of her or his railroad retirement annuity.
December 2001 legislation eliminated the tier I age reduction for employees ages 60 or 61 with 30 or more years of service whose railroad retirement annuities began January 1, 2002, or later. The spouses of these employees are also eligible for full annuities at age 60.
Age reductions required for spouses of employees with 30 years of service who attained 60/30 eligibility after June 1984 but whose annuities began before January 2002 are applied only to the tier I portion of the spouse annuity. If the employee attained 60/30 eligibility before July 1984, retired at age 62 with 30 years of service or begins receiving an annuity at ages 60 or 61 after 2001 with 30 years of service, the spouse tier I portion is not subject to these reductions.
If the employee's annuity is subject to 60/30 age reductions, the spouse of such an employee may receive a reduced tier I benefit, unless the spouse is already of full retirement age.
In reduced 60/30 spouse cases, the tier I benefit is equal to 1/2 of the employee's reduced tier I on the employee's annuity beginning date and is also frozen until the first full month throughout which both the employee and spouse are age 62. Then, it is recomputed based on 1/2 of the employee's age 62 gross tier I amount and reduced for each month the spouse is under her or his full retirement age at that time. If at the time of recomputation the spouse is already at full retirement age, or the spouse has a minor or disabled child in care, no age reduction would apply.
The spouse of a disability annuitant who is otherwise eligible for a 60/30 age annuity receives an age reduction if the spouse's annuity beginning date was before 2002. If the spouse's annuity beginning date is January 1, 2002, or later, the spouse can receive an unreduced annuity as early as age 60. If the spouse is entitled based on having a minor or disabled child in care, there is no age reduction.
Reductions for other benefits
After any applicable age reduction required for the spouse's early retirement, the spouse tier I amount is reduced by the amount of any social security benefit to which the spouse is entitled.
The tier I amount may also be reduced for certain Federal, State, or local government pension payments based on the spouse's own earnings. For spouses subject to the public pension reduction, the tier I reduction is equal to 2/3 of the public pension.
The spouse tier I amount may also be reduced if the employee under age 65 is receiving a disability annuity and a worker's compensation or public disability benefit.
While these offsets can reduce or even completely wipe out the tier I benefit otherwise payable to a spouse, they do not affect the tier II benefit potentially payable to that spouse.
The annuity of a divorced spouse is limited to the tier I amount and thus equal to what social security would pay.
The spouse tier II amount, before any applicable reductions, is 45 percent of the employee's unreduced tier II amount. If the employee is awarded a vested dual benefit, the employee tier II amount used in computing the spouse benefit is the amount after the 25 percent reduction for the employee's vested dual benefit entitlement.
As mentioned earlier, age reductions are gradually increasing. The tier II age reduction for spouses of employees retiring with less than 30 years of service is 1/144 for each of the first 36 months the spouse is under her or his full retirement age when her or his annuity begins and decreases to 1/240 for each month (if any) over 36. However, if a railroad employee had any creditable railroad service before August 12, 1983, the employee and spouse retirement age for tier II purposes remains 65. Age reductions are not applied to spouse annuities based on the spouse's caring for a child.
If a spouse is also a railroad employee annuitant and both the employee and spouse started railroad employment after 1974, the amount of any spouse or divorced spouse annuity is reduced by the amount of the employee annuity to which the spouse is also entitled.
If both the employee and spouse are railroad employees and either one had some railroad service before 1975, the spouse tier I amount is reduced by the amount of the railroad employee tier I to which the spouse is entitled and that initial reduction is restored in the spouse tier II amount. The spouse tier I amount cannot be reduced to an amount below zero.
A spouse who is also entitled to a survivor annuity on a different earnings record will receive only the higher benefit.