Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS and Social Security

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Q. I retired in 2006 after 39 years of federal service under CSRS. I receive a retirement annuity every month.  I’m doing some contractor work and have over 10 years under Social Security. If I apply for Social Security benefits, will my CSRS monthly annuity be decreased by the Social Security amount? If so, what benefit is it to pay Social Security taxes if I won’t ever apply to receive them? Also, do you have to pay this tax?

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Social Security

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Q. I retired in 2011 as a CSRS annuitant at age 55 with 32 years of federal service. During those 32 years, I also had a part-time job, where I contributed minimally into Social Security. I have enough SS quarters to get a small amount at some point. Do I have to apply for Social Security, and at what age should I apply if I have to? Will I get more from Social Security if I wait until 70 and will my CSRS annuity be automatically reduced at some age?

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Windfall elimination provision wording

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Q. The Windfall Elimination Provision states: “The only work you did where you did not pay Social Security taxes was before 1957, or you have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security.”

Are these statements separate or combined? What does the year have to do with it? What is the formula for calculating substantial earnings? Take into consideration that at the time, single mothers with three dependents did not earn “substantial earnings.” By the way, how much is substantial? It seems to me that the date I began work eliminates the windfall, along with my almost 30 years of Social Security earnings, which should not be subject to the WEP. Starting in 1956, the college I attended helped me work two jobs to cover all my expenses.

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CSRS, Social Security and annuity

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Q. I retired in 2001 from the FAA under CSRS. I have 33 quarters of Social Security. If I go back to work and earn an additional seven quarters and apply for Social Security benefits, will that same amount of money be subtracted from my annuity?

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Substantial earnings

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Q. What is the definition of substantial earnings for purposes of the 30-year contribution requirement to eliminate any windfall elimination provision setoff?

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Substantial earnings

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Q. Please define “30 years of substantial earnings.”

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CSRS, Social Security and retirement

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Q. I plan to begin collecting Social Security at age 66 in CSRS. I have met my 40 quarters and 30 substantial salary requirements. Additionally, I took a two-year break to work in the public sector. When I retire at age 69 with 40 years’ service and begin collecting my CSRS annuity, will I be able to collect Social Security?

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CSRS employment and Social Security

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Q. I retired under full CSRS (none offset) in January 2010 with 35 years’ federal service as a GS 14/10. I am 59 and don’t have the 40 credits required to receive Social Security benefits when I turn 62.

Is it worth it to take a part-time job just to get my 40 credits in, or will there be a reduction to my federal retirement that will hurt more than it will help? I haven’t earned very much in the private sector — just a few years before I became a CSRS employee in 1977, including the time I served in the Army, which I bought back to add to my CSRS time (included in the 35 years), but still paid a very small amount to Social Security while serving in the Army.

I have an opportunity to start a small business (~$10,000 per year).

Would it be better to have the business in my wife’s name to add to her Social Security rather than affect my CSRS? Or will I expect to see a small Social Security check when I hit age 62 if I get my 40 quarters in with Social Security?

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CSRS offset and annuity

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Q. I received a refund of my CSRS contributions when I separated from federal service in 1993. Four years later, I returned to federal service. I am CSRS offset.

Because I withdrew my contributions from CSRS, and federal service where Social Security taxes are withheld is not affected by the windfall elimination provision, will withdrawing CSRS contributions change my Social Security benefit when I retire?

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CSRS and Social Security

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Q. I am retired under CSRS. I am 60. I have four years of military time that I have not paid back.

I have 22 quarters of Social Security. If I start working in the private sector, I will not acquire 40 credits by my 62nd birthday. Can I still have my CSRS retirement reduced if I acquire 40 credits after my 62nd birthday?

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CSRS, Social Security and WEP/GPO

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Q. My husband worked for the government for 25 years under CSRS and receives a pension. When he retired, we applied for spousal benefits because I had no qualifying employment. He then went to work in the private sector and will complete his 30 years of substantial earnings for Social Security next year. When he retires, he will receive another pension from his private job. As we understand it, we should not be affected by the windfall elimination provision. However, we are confused by the government pension offset. Will he not be entitled to draw his full Social Security at age 66 or later? How will it affect my half of his Social Security payments? How will it affect my spousal benefit of his federal pension should he die before I do? Am I correct in understanding that the pensions are not considered earned income and should not reduce the Social Security amount?

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Windfall elimination provision

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Q. I retired on disability in 1981. I have 30 years of Social Security, 27 substantial. I understand the windfall elimination provision does not apply to me, as I retired on disability before this law took effect, in 1984.

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Windfall elimination provision

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Q. I came to the Postal Service under CSRS in 1983. I paid back my four years of active duty into my retirement, which made my annuity date 1979. While continuing my postal career, I served 18 years in the reserve for a total of 22 military years. Those 18 years in the reserve put me over my 40 quarters for Social Security, but I did not pay them into my CSRS retirement. I’m now 60 with over 33 years CSRS and my military retirement just kicked in. I have a target of age 62 for retirement from CSRS.

My most recent Social Security benefits statement shows me receiving a fairly decent benefit. But I believe the windfall elimination provision will wipe out most if not all of it. How much of a reduction can I expect? Does the WEP version of the online calculator provide a fairly decent estimate?

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CSRS offset and not collecting Social Security

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Q. I am under CSRS offset. I am going to retire in three years at age 62. I know my government pension will be reduced by $213 when I turn 62. According to my Social Security statement, I should receive $888 if I collect at age 62. It states: “At your current earnings rate, if you continue working until 66, you will receive $1,366 a month.” What happens if I don’t collect Social Security at age 62 and wait until full retirement age? Will I receive $1,366 a month minus the $213 offset reduction, minus the windfall elimination provision? (I will have only 20 years under Social Security.) Or will the $1,366 be recalculated since I won’t be paying Social Security from age 62 to age 66? Also, I am divorced and not remarried. My ex-spouse is retired military and under FERS. He has remarried, but I am still entitled to his Survivor Benefit Plan under his military retirement plan. If something happens to him and I start receiving SBP, will my Social Security be affected?

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FERS, the WEP and Social Security

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Q. I have 22 years of service under FERS and 10 years under straight CSRS before 1977. I will be 64 this month. The windfall elimination provision chart on the Social Security site estimates the WEP reduction based on age 62 (and the number of years paying into Social Security at that age).

Does that mean that no matter how many more years I work, the WEP reduction will remain as it would have been at age 62 and less than 20 years paying into Social Security? Does it also mean the extra years worked will not count toward reducing the WEP reduction? I called Social Security, but the agent was not sure.

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Windfall elimination provision

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Q. I retired from CSRS with 30 years (U.S. Bureau of Mines closure). I started getting my government retirement the day after retirement because of forced retirement. I continued work in the private sector and, at age 66, started getting Social Security in October 2011. I had 26 years paid into Social Security and was hit with the windfall elimination provision. I was never told I could pay extra years into Social Security for some of the years that I was under CSRS until someone at the Social Security office in Pueblo, Colo., told me that. I do not know if that is true and if it is too late at this time. I am now 67 and still working, paying into Social Security even though I will not receive any extra benefits from Social Security that I can find.

First, I think my Social Security retirement with WEP might have been calculated incorrectly and would like to know where I can find rules for doing this. Second, I plan on working for years to come and would like to know if the additional years paying into Social Security will change the WEP reduction? And last, what is the status of WEP being stopped/removed/changed?

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Is military buyback worth it for me?

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Q. I will be retiring from civil service under CSRS with 40 years of service. I will also be drawing my reserve retirement next year when I turn 60. I have three years and nine months of unpaid military service, and it would cost approximately $26,000 to buy back the service. I know when I turn 62, the Social Security windfall elimination provision will reduce my Social Security annuity. I have less than 20 years of significant earnings. I’m wondering if it is worth paying the $26,000 to buy back the three years and nine months.

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Social Security quarters and CSRS benefits

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Q. If I retired with 34 years of CSRS benefits and have now earned 40 quarters Social Security, will I be able to draw Social Security benefits?

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Military buyback, federal retirement and Social Security

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Q. I retired from the FAA in 2003 with 21 years of service, and I receive 50 percent of my base pay. I also am qualified for Social Security. I bought back my military service. I know my Social Security benefits will be lowered as I receive a pension from OPM. I am planning on taking my Social Security benefits when I turn 62. Will I still receive my 50 percent pension from OPM?

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Former CSRS employee’s retirement options

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Q. I am a former federal CSRS employee who lost employment when the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was closed in 1995. I had about 15 years of service and left my contributions in the system. I was born in July 1956 and am 56. When can I apply for a pension, and what can I expect? Would I take a deferred pension? Also, I have met my 40 quarters for Social Security and have been employed for about 17 years with the School District of Philadelphia. I am thinking about retiring when I am 62 but would like to know my options as far as the WEP and such. Can you help?

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