By Mike Miles
May 9th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. If I start taking my retirement now at 62 — FERS, Thrift Savings Plan payments and Social Security — and end up being picked back up at some point in federal service: I understand my FERS benefits would be cut by the amount I make in a new job. What about TSP payments? Are they exempt from penalties of re-employment?
A. If you are rehired, your automatic monthly payments will stop and you will be subject to the in-service withdrawal rules.
May 6th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I recently retired from the federal government due to becoming permanently disabled at age 61. I received my disability approval from the Social Security Administration. I withdrew a portion of Thrift Savings Plan funds to cover expenses as a result of not being able to work. Why was 20 percent tax deducted from the distribution of funds at age 61 and with the legal purpose of being disabled?
A. Because that is the default federal income tax withholding rate for the distribution. The money has been applied toward your tax liability for the year.
April 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I’m retiring June 1. I’m 62 and will be 63 in September. I’m in CSRS Offset with 36 years and five months. Accrued sick leave will give me 37 years and six months. I’d like to hold off on taking Social Security. I might work when the dust settles in retirement. I have 35 years of covered Social Security earnings, so no windfall elimination provision reduction, just the CSRS Offset.
Would it be wiser to take an annual 4 percent draw from the Thrift Savings Plan, wait until I’m 66 and then take Social Security? I have $205,000 in TSP. Interest rates might increase as well, and then decide on an annuity.
I receive a survivor annuity from my wife’s CSRS record. I’m getting married two weeks before I retire. My spouse will have a nonfederal pension and Social Security when she retires. She will also be the recipient of my survivor benefit in CSRS.
A. You’re asking for individual financial planning, which can’t be provided responsibly through a forum like this. The answer to your question depends upon your goals, resources and constraints, and will require some analysis to determine.
April 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. When I retire, I will be 59½ and will have 30 years of service at the Postal Service. I will not have any earned income from that point on. I understand federal and state taxes will be taken out of my FERS annuity and any money I take out of my Thrift Savings Plan. Will I also have Social Security deducted from these two sources? Also, will my special retirement supplement and — when I turn 62, my SSI benefit — also be subject to federal and state taxes?
A. Mike: Your TSP withdrawals are subject to income taxation, but no employment taxes, like Social Security, Medicare or unemployment insurance.
Reg: Your special retirement supplement will be treated as ordinary income. To find out to what extent your Social Security will be taxable, see IRS Publication 721.
April 9th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I will have approximately $550,000 in my Thrift Savings Plan when I retire this year at age 60. In addition, I have other investments and will be receiving a federal pension. Using a 4 percent investment withdrawal rate and anticipating future Social Security benefits, my income will exceed expenses by 20 percent, so I may dial back the 4 percent to something less. Considering this and with a willingness to accept a moderate amount of risk, what would be an appropriate TSP fund allocation for a younger retired person?
A. I can’t tell you what is right for you without a lot more analysis and understanding. The exact nature of your financial goals and the timing of cash flows is critical to the decisions you face. It’s kind of like saying your head hurts and asking what you should do. The truth is that you should put the effort into figuring out the right thing to do before you do anything else. Otherwise, you’re just guessing and you’ll pay the price if you guess wrong.
As I have written many times, however, if you don’t KNOW what to do, you should consider choosing the TSP L Fund that most closely corresponds to your life expectancy, or your joint life expectancy if you’re married. This doesn’t guarantee that your goals will be met, however.
March 19th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I am a letter carrier, age 52, started in 1985 and have 28 years of creditable service.
If I understand what I’ve gleaned from the posts here and the Postal Service were to offer me a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority this year,
1. Would I begin my annuity immediately?
2. Would I have no reductions in calculations of my annuity? (average high-3 x 1 percent x 28)
3. Would I receive credit for half of my sick leave and all of my annual leave? (How are these applied?)
4. Would I receive the special retirement supplement beginning at age 56 (my minimum retirement age), and receive it until I reach age 62?
5. Would I be able to continue carrying my current health and life insurance at non-USPS rates? (I couldn’t find how long these could be carried. Until death?)
6. Could I begin receiving Social Security as early as age 62?
7. Any withdrawal from my Thrift Savings Plan prior to age 59½ would be penalized 10 percent as per Internal Revenue Service regulations? (Can I continue to contribute to TSP after retirement?)
8. As a FERS annuitant, is there no limit to what I can earn after separation from the Postal Service as it pertains to my annuity payment?
9. At age 56 (my MRA), the special retirement supplement from Social Security would begin and would be subject to yearly income limits. Would supplement payments be reduced by approximately $1 for every $2 I earned above that year’s Social Security income limit?
10. At age 65, I’d be eligible for Medicare parts A and B? (Would this affect my health insurance coverage through Federal Employees Health Benefits?)
11. Would there be cost-of-living increases at any point for my annuity?
12. Is there a date during the year that maximizes the benefits of retirement?
Did I get this right, and are there any other things I should know before considering a VERA if it is offered?
A. Reg: 1. Yes.
3. Yes. Half of your unused hours of sick leave would be added to any hours of service that were left over when your annuity was computed. Any additional months created would increase the amount of your annuity. Any unused annual leave would be paid to you in a lump sum at your current hourly rate.
5. Yes. And those enrollments would continue until your death.
Mike: 7. You will be subject to the early withdrawal penalty until you reach age 59½ unless you can qualify for one of the exceptions listed on Page 7 of the notice: https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/tsp-536.pdf. You may not contribute to the TSP after you retire, but you may transfer eligible balances into the TSP from other retirement accounts such as IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc.
Tags: 401(k), 403(b), age, annual leave, annuity, catch-up contributions, cost-of-living adjustment, early withdrawal penalty, FERS, health insurance, income, IRA, IRS, life insurance, lump-sum, Medicare, Minimum Retirement Age, Postal Service, sick leave, Social Security, Special Retirement Supplement, TSP, VERA
March 5th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. According to a letter I received from the Thrift Savings Plan, I’d save in account management fees if I transfer traditional IRA to TSP. I don’t feel comfortable with this transfer. How would we know that the federal government won’t decide to use our funds, like they borrow Social Security funds, and then it won’t be there when we want it? What are your thoughts on this?
A. What you’re worrying about is against the law. I think you are worrying needlessly. Your money is probably at greater risk in an IRA.
March 5th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I am a retired federal employee, having worked for the Social Security Administration. I have funds accumulated in the Thrift Savings Plans. I am getting close to age 70 and am considering the purchase of a life annuity with some or all of those funds, and know that those payments will be taxed by the Internal Revenue Service. But what about the states — particularly, for me, Alabama? Are these TSP annuity payments taxable by Alabama?
A. I don’t give state tax advice for each of the 50 states. You should ask an Alabama CPA for specific advice.
February 27th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I will have about $1.5 million in my Thrift Savings Plan when I retire. I am planning on getting an annuity with those funds. Because it is part of my retirement funding, will this be counted against me with respect to the Social Security earnings limits? In other words, will I have to pay additional taxes on what I have earned in my retirement account because my income will be in excess of the Social Security earnings limits?
A. The income will not be counted as earned income for means testing but will be counted as income for determining the taxability of your Social Security benefits.
February 20th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I am 65 years old and will collect my first Social Security retirement check this month. I have been employed by the federal government for the past nine years; therefore, I have been enrolled in the Thrift Savings Program. If I retired today, my TSP benefit would be approximately $400 a month. Will my Social Security or TSP benefit be penalized because I am drawing benefits from both accounts?
A. It is possible that the taxes you owe on your SS benefits could affected by your annual income, including TSP distributions. See www.irs.gov/uac/Are-Your-Social-Security-Benefits-Taxable%3F for more info.