FERS employees must take the “elective deferral limit” into account in their investing. Once that cap is reached for a year, employee investments are shut off—as are the agency matching (although not automatic) contributions. Thus, in order to receive the maximum agency matching contributions, FERS employees need to pace their investing so that they are able to continue investing at least 5 percent of salary through every pay period of the calendar year.
The key dates for this purpose are your pay distribution dates, not the ending dates of biweekly pay periods. Typically a pay distribution is made within several days to a week or so after the end of a pay period. In most years you will receive 26 pay distributions, but in certain years you may have 25 or 27 pay distributions, depending on the calendar. Check with your payroll office to be sure.
Matching contributions also shut off if you take out a financial hardship in-service withdrawal—you cannot invest for six months after doing so—or if you stop investing for whatever other reason.
Once potential matching contributions are lost, they can’t be recovered.
Note: Employees under the Civil Service Retirement System receive no government contributions in any event.