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

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House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision to retire in January will have not only a political effect — it will make a big difference for his pension.

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paul ryan

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  • House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that he would retire at the end of his term.
  • Ryan would receive significantly more from his pension by waiting until January to retire.

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 significantly affect his retirement benefits.

Members of Congress elected after 1984 are enrolled in the Federal Employees Retirement System, which includes a basic monthly annuity, or pension, based on years of service and salary as a member. Representatives elected before 2003 have the option to decline the FERS enrollment, so it's possible that Ryan, who has been a congressman since 1999, could have turned down these benefits.

Ryan, 48, would be able to draw his pension at age 50, since his time as a representative and as a staffer would combine to be roughly 24 years of federal service.

If Ryan did enroll in FERS, the timing of his retirement could affect his benefits. If Ryan retires in January, he will have been speaker for just over three years — he took over for John Boehner on October 29, 2015 — and the annual payment to a retired member is determined in part by calculating the three highest-paying consecutive years of their career.

In Ryan's case, retiring after October means he would have earned the speaker's salary of $223,500 for three consecutive years. If he were to retire immediately, however, his average would be reduced, as some of the so-called high-three salaries would include the $174,000 annual salary made as a representative.

Based on the FERS payments formula, Ryan could receive an annual pension payment of $84,930 if he remains on the job until January. But if Ryan were to retire earlier, he would receive less, because some of the non-speaker's pay would be factored in.

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