Paul Ryan's decision to wait until January to retire includes an under-the-radar benefit

Paul Ryan's decision to wait until January to retire includes an under-the-radar benefit

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  • House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of his current term.
  • By retiring in January, Ryan will have served 20 years in the House and three years as Speaker.
  • Ryan would receive significantly more from his pension by waiting to hit these totals.

In addition to preserving consistency in GOP leadership through the midterm elections, House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision to wait until the end of the term in January to retire could have a significant effect on his retirement benefits.

Members of Congress elected after 1984 are enrolled in the Federal Employees' Retirement System, or FERS. For members, the FERS plan includes a basic monthly annuity, or pension - it's based on years of service and salary as a member.


House members elected before 2003 do have the option to decline the FERS enrollment, so it is possible Ryan could have turned down these benefits. A spokesperson for Ryan did not immediately return a request for comment.

If Ryan did enroll in FERS, the timing of his retirement could have a significant effect on his benefits for two reasons:

  1. There is a service requirement of 20 years for a member to begin to draw their full pension at the age of 50. If a member serves less than 20 years, they must wait until 62 to receive a full pension - or wait until 57 for a reduced pension, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service paper on congressional retirement benefits. Ryan first took office on January 3, 1999, meaning that by serving through January 3, 2019, the speaker will just make the 20-year service requirement.
  2. Additionally, a January retirement means Ryan will have served for just over three years as speaker. Ryan took over for John Boehner on October 29, 2015. The annual payment to a retired member is determined in part by calculating the three highest-paying consecutive years of a member's career.

    In Ryan's case, retiring after October means he would have a three-year stretch earning the speaker's salary of $223,500. If Ryan failed to hit those three years by retiring immediately, his average would be $207,000: two years at the speaker's salary and one at the typical member salary of $174,000.

Based on the FERS payments formula from the Congressional Research Service, Ryan would receive an annual pension payment of $75,990 if the speaker remains on the job until January (the average of $223,500, times a 0.017 accrual rate, times 20 years of service).


If Ryan were to retire early, and not meet the 20-year threshold, he would have to wait another 12 years to receive the benefits - and receive about $66,861 a year.

Of course, Ryan could also have other retirement savings from time in the private sector or the congressional Thrift Savings Plan, which functions like a 401(k).