Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Social Security

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Q. My husband is a retired federal employee receiving a CSRS pension. I have been paying Social Security taxes based on my own employment earnings since before we were married.

1. As the wife of a federal employee who is receiving a federal pension, will I receive my full Social Security benefit when I reach retirement age?

2. If I outlive my husband, how much of his federal pension would I receive, and would I also continue to receive my full Social Security?

3. Will he receive Social Security benefits based on employment earnings in nonfederal jobs he held prior to and after his federal employment?

4. If, as a retired federal employee, he will never be eligible for Social Security benefits, should he be paying Social Security taxes — which he has in the past and is doing in nonfederal jobs?

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Social Security and FEHB with FERS annuity

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Q. I will be 70 years old in October 2015. I understand if I wait to collect Social Security benefits until that time, my monthly benefit will approximate $3,030. As of August 2010, I started working for the federal government as a GS-13. I plan on retiring under FERS in September 2015, at which time I will have completed 60 months of continuous civilian service. I understand that my monthly FERS annuity will approximate $500. Is there any offset to either Social Security or FERS monthly annuity benefits based on receiving both of these benefits simultaneously?

Assuming continuation of excellent health, I will likely also have additional income at that time. Should I anticipate restrictions on the amount of active or passive additional income that I can earn or any offset to either social security or FERS annuity?

A second question involves health benefits after retirement. I understand that after completing 60 months of civilian service, I can retain current Blue Cross/Blue Shield health benefits with the exception that I must pay both the employee and employer premiums myself. The real benefit is having access to this coverage under group rate available to the government.

Where would I look to find comparative benefit information for Blue Cross/Blue Shield after retirement with those typical benefits through Medicare and those benefits through the Affordable Care Act?

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Medicare

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Q. I received notice that as of this month, Medicare will be deducting about $104 a month from my Social Security. My wife is 55 and employed. I am on her coverage. Must I have Medicare now if I am covered by my wife’s plan for another 10 years?

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Annuity reduction

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Q. I served three years on active duty from 1966 to 1969. I was hired as a federal employee in 1970. I retired in 2009 at age 61 and not eligible at that time for any Social Security benefits. I did not buy back my military service because of the provision under section 22A5.1-3G of the CSRS/FERS Handbook, where it states that “employees who retired prior to age 62; and are not eligible for Social Security at age 62; continue to receive credit for the post-1956 military service even if they become entitled to Social Security at a later date and the military deposit was not made.”

Because of some part-time work I have been doing over the past four years, I am now eligible for Social Security benefits. If I apply for such benefits, will it affect my CSRS annuity? I understand that the windfall elimination provision will apply to me.

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WEP and taxes

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Q. I am having half of my Social Security benefit reduced because I have a CSRS retirement and I earned enough Social Security credits separately for a Social Security benefit because of Army Reserve service.
Will the amount of my Social Security benefit be reduced because of the windfall elimination provision? Will it can count on my IRS Form 1040 as taxes paid or a deduction?

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Retiring now

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Q. I am 64 years old with 28 years in the post office, all FERS. I would like to retire in March. How long will it take for my Social Security checks, my Thrift Savings Plan account and my Postal Service pension checks to begin? I would like to continue my current health plan and apply for Medicare ASAP. I would also like to keep my current life insurance plans.

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Earnings limit

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Q. I am FERS-covered and will retire this year with 20 years at age 62. My annual FERS annuity is about $25,000. After retirement, I plan to work in a private company in a foreign country for an estimated annual $90,000 salary. I will roll over my Thrift Savings Plan savings to a traditional IRA. I will not withdraw my Social Security until I reach my full retirement age at 66 when I will no longer have any wages.

1. Am I allowed to draw FERS annuity while living in a foreign country?

2. How will my salary from the private company affect my FERS annuity? That is, will my FERS annuity be reduced due to an earnings income limit?

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Military service deposit

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Q. I would like to know if I can get back the money I returned (bought back) for my military time. I served three years (May 1974-May 1977), started federal civil service in November 1977 and retired in November 2009 with a total of 35 years — three military and 32 civil service. I bought back my military time because no one knew for sure at that time how it worked. I will not be eligible for Social Security at 62, or after, so it is my understanding that it will not affect my annuity. Is this correct? They will not deduct 2 percent for each year of military service (6 percent) at age 62. The way I see it, I paid that money back (did not need to), so I should be able to get it.

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CSRS or FERS?

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Q. I served on active duty in the Air Force from February 1983 to January 1992. I joined California state government in August 1993 and recently retired after 20 years and paid into Social Security the whole time. I am now considering working as a civilian for the federal government.

Because military time, if purchased back, qualifies as CSRS time, does this mean that if I become a federal civilian employee now, that I will be under CSRS instead of FERS? Or because I have never been a federal civilian employee in the past, I must go under FERS and am not eligible for CSRS, but could buy my military time?

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Disability retirement vs. regular retirement

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Q. I’m a letter carrier with 32 years of federal service under FERS. I have 2½ years to go before I meet my minimum retirement age. I’m considering disability retirement because my health has been keeping me from work. What will I lose or gain (pros and cons) between regular retirement and disability retirement. Which is stronger financially?

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CSRS Offset

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Q. I am CSRS Offset. I’ve been paying into Social Security for many years and I plan on retiring before I’m 62 years old. Once I retire, will I stop paying into Social Security? Also, will I be eligible for the special retirement supplement before I’m eligible to collect when I’m 62 years old?

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Government pension offset

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Q. I have worked 39 continuous years as a CSRS employee and am in the process of getting divorced from my wife of 37 years. We will be dividing the CSRS pension. My wife has sufficient Social Security quarters in the private sector that she will receive a Social Security retirement benefit based on her own record. Her lawyer and the Social Security office in Alabama say that she will incur a government pension offset because she is receiving a pension from which she didn’t pay Social Security. I think they are actually calling this a Social Security Offset. I’ve explained that this shouldn’t apply as she didn’t earn this pension and the GPO only applies to me. I contacted the Office of Personnel Management and have read your blogs on this question and both say her Social Security retirement wouldn’t be affected. What is the correct answer, and is there any direction or publications I can reference to steer us to the right answer?

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Early retirement and spousal Social Security

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Q. My husband is 66 years old and retired last year with full Social Security benefits.  My daughter is receiving Social Security benefits until she graduates from high school at age 18. I was told that had my salary not exceeded the maximum amount allowed, I would also receive some benefits until my daughter turns 18.

I am 54 years old, a federal worker under FERS with 23 years of service. My office is going through a major reorganization. I understand that if I am offered an early retirement, I will have immediate annuities without the 5 percent reduction each year under 62), will have Federal Employees Health Benefits and have the special retirement supplement when I am at my minimum retirement age.

1. I assume that since I won’t have a job, I will be able to receive Social Security benefits until my daughter turns 18 and graduates from high school in June 2016. I will be at my MRA in January 2015. At my MRA, will I be able to continue receiving my Social Security benefits and the special retirement supplement simultaneously?

2. When I turn 62 and the special retirement supplement stops, should I apply for Social Security benefits from my husband’s retirement until I am at my full retirement age (66 and 10 months)? This way, I would have my own full Social Security retirement benefits without reduction. Am I correct?

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Social Security for spouse

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Q. My wife is retired under CSRS and does not have the 40 credits to qualify for Social Security on her own. Can she qualify for Social Security benefits as my spouse? If she does, will the Social Security simply offset her CSRS annuity?

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FERS retirement, Guard retirement and Social Security

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Q. At age 60, I will be eligible for FERS and Air Guard retirement. I bought back two years and four months of active Air Force time. Will I receive my full Air Guard retirement, which includes those active-duty points? Or, since I bought those points back, will they be deducted from my Air Guard retirement? Also, at 62, when I am eligible for Social Security, will I draw full FERS, full Air Guard and full Social Security?

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Special retirement supplement and Social Security

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Q. I am a 58-year-old Postal Service employee with 30 years of service. If I collect the special retirement supplement until age 62, does that reduce the amount of Social Security I receive at 62?

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FERS, state job and Social Security

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Q. I just retired from federal service with 23 years plus four years military bought back. I am starting a job with the Teachers Retirement System of Texas, in which I do not pay into Social Security. How will this affect my Social Security benefits later, when I start to take them?

Let me ask two examples:

1. I am 51 now. If I choose to work for TRS for 12 years, retire and take a partial retirement from TRS (vested after five years) along with my FERS retirement, and then want to start taking Social Security payments at, say, age 63, what will be the effect at that time on my Social Security payments?

2. If I work for 12 years with TRS but leave service (not retire, just leave), will this have any effect on my Social Security payments when I start to take them? Can I take the funds from my TRS account and roll them over into another retirement account without paying federal tax or paying a penalty?

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Spouse’s death and Social Security

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Q. My father was a retired Postal Service letter carrier. He recently passed away at age 64. My mom, who is 63, will be receiving his pension. He did not pay into or collect Social Security. Does this affect the Social Security benefit that she has been collecting on her own from her own contributions?

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CSRS Offset

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Q. I started working for the Postal Service in 1983. I also worked before that for the Navy and other places and have received a Social Security Administration statement saying I will be eligible for Social Security benefits at age 66. Is there a percentage that is deducted from either my Postal Service retirement or Social Security benefits? What is CSRS Offset? Am I in that, or would I know if I were?

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FERS and Social Security disability

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Q. If a federal employee is eligible for retirement under both FERS and Social Security disability, can that employee, once retired, still work and earn up to $1,000 or $1,100 per month (whatever the maximum is), which is what an SSDI recipient may earn without jeopardizing his or her SSDI benefits?

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