Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS Offset

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Q. I am a CSRS Offset employee. I had seven years and 10 months of CSRS service when I left and took my funds out. I returned as CSRS Offset after a 15-month break, did not make a redeposit and now have an additional 26 years of service.

I am looking at retiring in 4½ years at age 60. In addition, I am divorced (married 28 years and one month, not remarried). My ex-husband has always made substantially more. Based on the scenario stated, I am of the opinion that:

1. The windfall elimination provision will not apply since I will have 30½ years of paying into Social Security.

2. The government pension offset does not apply since I am CSRS Offset, and

3. I can collect Social Security based upon my spouse’s earnings since his income was substantially more than mine.

I need to know whether these assumptions are correct, and whether there are any other “offsets” as it will make the difference on whether or not I can afford to retire or need to keep working until full (Social Security) retirement age.

A. Because you took a refund of your retirement contributions before March 1, 1991, you’ll get credit for that time in determining your total years of service. However, unless you redeposit that money plus accrued interest, your annuity will be actuarially reduced based on the amount you owe.

The windfall elimination provision will apply only if you have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. The earnings required to qualify as substantial are higher than those to earn Social Security credits. For example, in 2013, you would only have to earn $4,610 to receive four credits; however, for those earnings to be considered substantial, you would have to earn $21,075.

Because you have worked for at least 60 months under CSRS Offset, you wouldn’t be affected by the government pension offset. However, whether you would be entitled to a spousal or survivor Social Security benefit is something I don’t know. I’m not qualified to answer questions about divorce or court-ordered settlements. You’d need to check with the Social Security Administration. Give them a call at 1-800-772-1213.

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