Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Years to be vested

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Q. I’m in the FERS program. Do you know how many years of service are required in order to be vested? If I leave government service after almost eight years, will I be vested in my TSP and annuity? Will I receive a pension?

A. You’ll be vested in the retirement system when you have five years of full-time service. If you leave your contributions in the retirement fund and leave government, you’ll be entitled to a deferred annuity at age 62.

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Vested employee

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Q. Once I get vested after five years of being in the federal system, and perhaps I leave the job a month later. Where can I find, or how can I calculate, how much I’ll get when I retire?

A. If you leave you contributions in the retirement system, you’d be entitled to a deferred annuity at age 62. That annuity would be computed using this formula: .01 x your high-3 x your years and full months of service.

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Excess contributions

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Q. I began my civilian federal employment in May of 1974. I am a Vietnam era veteran with three years military time and paid back that time. My service comp date for retirement is May 1971. I am going to retire at the end of this year. Based on the above, will all CSRS contributions I paid after reaching 41 years, 11 months, qualify for refunding to me?

A. If you have 41 years and 11 months of service from which retirement deductions were taken (or a deposit made), any excess deductions will be refunded to you with an option to purchase additional annuity.

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Maximum earnings

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Q. You recently answered a question regarding the maximum earning amount for 2014 is $15,480 before the Social Security benefit would be reduced. Does the SSA consider military retirement, VA disability pay, along with TSP disbursements as “earnings”?

A. Those aren’t earnings. Earnings are income received from wages or self employment.

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Federal vesting

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Q. I keep hearing that it takes five years to get vested in the federal government. However, no one seems to know what happens after five years of employment, and I keep hearing different stories.  Do you happen to know what happens at the five-year mark?

A. I can’t imagine what stories you’ve been hearing. When an employee has worked for the federal government for five years full-time (or its part-time equivalent), he has secured an entitlement to an annuity when he meets the age and service requirements to retire. If he leaves before having five years of service, he’s only entitled to a refund of his retirement contributions.

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Annuity calculation

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Q. I worked 22 years for the federal government, and five of those years were as a CBP officer with 6C coverage. I retired at age 62. My high-3 salary used to calculate my annuity was $88,115, which means that 17 years should be calculated using 1.1 percent and the other five using 1.7 percent. I have been calculating my numbers but they don’t match up with the $1,892 annuity I receive monthly. I wrote a letter to OPM asking for the formula they used, but I have not received an answer. According to my numbers, I should receive about $400 more each month. What can I do to receive a copy of the calculation used for my pension? Read the rest of this entry »

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Location and high-3

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Q. I am a Defense Department employee in Washington D.C. If I change my locality three months before I retire Jan. 1, when I retire would the lesser locality pay kick into my base and be used as the high-3?

A. How may times do I have to say this? Your high-3 is your highest three consecutive years (78 pay periods) of average basic pay, regardless of when they occur in your career.

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Annuity taxes

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Q. I’m a recent federal retiree and I’m trying to project my income for the year. Is the starting point for the taxable portion of my monthly annuity the amount before or the amount after the survivor’s benefit is deducted? From what I gather from IRS Pub 721, the deduction is a pre-tax deduction, but it lowers the tax-free portion amount of my monthly annuity. Is this correct? Read the rest of this entry »

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Lateral transfer, step increase

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Q. I was approached with a lateral transfer from a GS-1071-9 Step 4 to a a GS-1030-9. I told them I would consider it with monetary compensation (I had a step increase in mind). They responded that they couldn’t do that and would open the position to the outside. Is this true that I could not request a step increase to go with the lateral transfer?

A. Yes, what you were told is correct.

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Night differential

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Q. Is night differential (shift work) added to my high-3 when calculating my retirement annuity?

A. No, it isn’t, unless you are a wage system employee. Then it is.

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High-3 computation

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Q. Between 2009 and 2012, I served two deployments in Afghanistan as a GS employee (CSRS). Can my salary during those deployments be used in the computation of my high-3?

A. No. Only actual basic pay earned while a federal civilian employee can be used in that computation.

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Withdrawn CSRS contributions

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Q. I left government service in 1995 and withdrew all of my CSRS contributions so I could start a business. I have never returned to federal service. I had over 15 years service including my military service time. Even though I withdrew my contributions, do I still have any pension available to me? Also, is it possible at this point to repay those contributions? I am now age 68. Read the rest of this entry »

Government contributions to retirement fund

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Q. I’m a CSRS employee with more than 41 years of service and plan to continue my federal employment well beyond 41 years. I understand that CSRS employees contribute 7 percent of their salary into the retirement fund and that the government matches that 7 percent contribution into the fund. I’m told that, after completing 41 years, 11 months of service, I will reach the maximum annuity benefit of 80 percent. At that point, the 7 percent retirement contributions will continue to be taken from my pay and placed into an interest-bearing account to be refunded when I retire. When that happens, does the government continue to pay its matching 7 percent contribution into the interest-bearing account as well? Read the rest of this entry »

Federal, state annuity offset

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Q. I am CSRS and worked 20 years between 1983 and 2004. I am considering taking a job in a Texas school district.  Will there be any offset between my CSRS annuity and my Texas state annuity?

A. No, there won’t.

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Supplement calculation

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Q. As a retired federal law enforcement officer who earned a law enforcement retirement under FERS, I am approaching my 56th birthday. Since the SRS supplement will be discontinued or reduced at age 56 (MRA), I am curious as to how this amount is calculated? I am aware it will be reduced for anything I earn over $15,480 annually, not counting my pension. Will OPM send me an inquiry, or is this something I am supposed to submit? Do they base it on my earnings when I turn 56, or the previous year’s earnings? I would like to keep the full amount, so I am considering when to leave my current employment. Read the rest of this entry »

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Deferred retirement

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Q. I am 50 and I have been in government for 27 years. I am going to apply for a deferred retirement at age 60 or 62.  I thought I read somewhere that the “high-3″ was consecutive. If I was a GS-13 and due to BRAC had to come back into the government at a much lower grade, could I still use my high-3 including grades 11-13 or am I required to use the last grade I held?

A. Yes. Your high-3 is the highest three consecutive years of average basic pay (78 pay periods), regardless of when they occur in your career.

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TSP and taxes

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Q. I intend to make a lump-sum payment this year to pay off the balance owed to recapture my military service for inclusion of this time toward my FERS retirement. I am paying it with after-tax dollars I have saved. Can this amount be claimed as a tax credit or claimed as a tax deduction? Which document says what can be claimed or that neither can be claimed?

A. No. It can neither be claimed as a tax credit nor a tax deduction.

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Social Security earnings

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Q. I am 62 and would like to retire and receive my social security. What is the most I can earn per week without my benefit being cut?  Read the rest of this entry »

VSIP Amount Calculation

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Q. I received $19,100.00 severance pay in a RIF in 1996. In 2000 I was re-employed by the Federal Government. I am now considering a VSIP. What amount can I expect? I am 72 years old with 20 years of service. Read the rest of this entry »

Lump sum for unused annual leave

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Q. How soon would I receive my lump sum payment for unused annual leave when I retire?

A. Only your agency payroll office can answer that question.