Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Survivor annuity

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Q. I have a CSRS law enforcement retirement. I am 63 and have been retired for 13 years. I married under recent same sex Defense of Marriage Act ruling. Is there any way I can elect to sign up for reduced survivor  benefits for my spouse, say 5 percent to 10 percent, to preserve her federal health  benefits should I predecease her? A retired postal worker said such an option exists and would also require me to make a “reduced” survivor benefit deposit, as well.

A. You can elect a survivor benefit for your spouse. To pay for it, there will be two reductions in your annuity. First is the standard reduction that would have applied if you had been married and elected a survivor benefit when you retired. The second is a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit deposit. The deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid you each month since you retired, plus 6 percent interest. The reduction is determined by dividing the amount of the deposit by an actuarial factor for your age on the date your annuity is reduced to pay for the survivor benefit. You are free to elect the amount of survivor annuity you want to provide. Expressing it as a percentage of your own annuity assured that it will continue to keep pace with the amount your annuity changes over time.

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