Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Annuity computation

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Q. I’m a law enforcement officer with 16 years federal service. I also have three years federal service (non-LEO).  I’m looking at deferred retirement next year with 20 years of federal service and being able to draw my retirement at age 60, I’m currently 52. According to all I have read, the following would be how I calculate the income.
Base pay  80,000 X 17years X 1.7 for law enforcement.
Base pay 80,000 X 3 years X 1 for non-law enforcement federal service.
I have bought back 13 years prior military service but not sure where this counts.
Could you please review this and tell me if I’m figuring the amounts out correctly? Read the rest of this entry »

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Military buyback

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Q. Is it possible to buy back military service credit even if I am not currently employed by the government? I may at some future date return to federal service, but not for several more years. My concern is that I would like to purchase my military service credit before I retire from the Army Reserve (one to two more years). My understanding is that once I retire from military service, I am no longer eligible to purchase military service credit. If it is possible to do this, who would I contact to begin the process? I was a FERS-covered employee from 1992 to 2012. I did not withdraw my retirement contributions when I left federal service. I have 10 years of active military service. I have not previously purchased any military service credit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. If I retire with MRA and 30, can I waive the special retirement supplement and draw the increased annuity at 62?

A. Even if you waived the special retirement supplement — which I don’t think is possible — it would have no affect on your FERS annuity. That annuity is set on the day you retire and doesn’t change until you reach age 62 and are first eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment.

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Retirement penalty?

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Q. I am FERS employee. I am 60 and this September I will have 29 years of service. Will I be penalized if I retire before I turn 62 and with only 29 years?

A. No, you won’t. You can receive an immediate, unreduced annuity at age 60 with as few as 20 years of service.

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Spousal annuity

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Q. In the FERS retirement system, do I have to be married at the time of my retirement  to obtain a spousal
annuity benefit, or can I get married after I retire and then change my status to spousal annuity? If I am married at the time of retirement and obtain a spousal annuity and later my spouse dies, can I change to the higher nonspousal annuity? Read the rest of this entry »

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FERS retirement

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Q. In an article entitled “Calculating CSRS, FERS annuities,” you indicated “that you could also retire early at age 50 with 20 years of service, or, if you have 25 years of service, at any age. I have 27 years and four months of service and I am 50 years old. Am I correct to understand that if I retire now, there would be no age penalty? Read the rest of this entry »

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Basic Life insurance

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Q. I have recently read an article that stated the following: The survivor of an individual who meets the definition of a FERS annuitant is not eligible for the FERS Basic Employee Death Benefit (BEDB), the BEDB is a lump sum payment made to the spouse of an individual who dies while still in federal service. This individual has not filed an application for retirement and has not separated from federal service.
So, does this mean as a retired annuitant, a spouse who was provided a spousal benefit cannot get any benefit for carrying the Basic Life into retirement? Read the rest of this entry »

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CSRS Offset

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Q. I started with the federal government on Aug. 18, 1986. I was recently reviewing my personnel records and noticed that from that day until Dec. 31, 1986, my retirement plan was listed on my SF-50 as CSRS Offset. Then on Jan. 1, 1987, it was changed to FERS. Were individuals who entered federal employment on Aug. 18, 1986, automatically changed to FERS the following January, or were employees given the choice to choose between CSRS Offset and FERS? Read the rest of this entry »

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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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FERS and VERA

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Q. If I accept a VERA with just over 30 years of service under FERS at age 54 and with just under 18 months to go before I reach 56 or my MRA, would I still be immediately eligible at early separation for the special retirement supplement under a VERA, or do I have to wait until I turn 56?

A. The special retirement supplement will begin when you reach your MRA.

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Severance pay

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Q. I am 52 with 17 years in the federal government (FERS). I am not eligible to retire yet and am not eligible for a discontinued service retirement. My agency field office is closing, and I have decided to decline their directed assignment outside of my state. I am eligible for severance pay due to the fact that it is not a reasonable job offer (it is outside of my commuting area, and I am not subject to a mobility agreement). I have submitted my information and found I am eligible to receive one year’s worth of severance payments. I know that if I receive severance payments but soon after get hired into another federal job, the severance payments will stop. 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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FERS annuity

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Q. I have 20 years of federal service, am 52 years old and currently work for a Federally Funded Research and Development Center. When I separated from federal employment, I was told I have an annuity based on my employment years (contributions made).

A. Assuming that you didn’t get a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you’d be entitled to a deferred annuity at age 60.

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Cumulative Retirement

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Q. Item 19 of the LES has “Cumulative Retirement” FERS:
What exactly does this number mean? Is it just a total amount in FERS, or something else? Monthly or yearly amount at retirement?

A. It tells you how much you’ve contributed to the retirement system.

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COLA, FERS increase

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Q. When I retire (I will be at my MRA and 31-1/2 years on Dec. 31, 2015) and start receiving the Social Security FERS Supplement, and I start my retirement for 2016, do I receive the Social Security COLA and the FERS percentage increase each year?

A. Neither your annuity nor your special retirement aupplement would be increased by COLAs. Your annuity would first be increased by COLAs when you reach age 62. At age 62 your SRS would end and you’d be eligible for a Social Security benefit.

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Best retirement date

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Q. I am in the FERS system and plan to retire Jan. 9, unless Dec. 28 would be a better date? I will have a large lump-sum leave payment and want to maximize any possible salary increases (i.e. 1 percent) that might be applied to the lump sum in 2015 without losing my maximum carry-over hours. I am willing to start my annuity the following month.

A. You’ve touched all the bases in your analysis. Since you are willing to forgo an annuity in the month you retire, you’ve already answered your question: Jan. 9 is the date that best fits your goals.

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Pre-MRA retirement annuity, and where sick leave goes

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Q. I am 51 and was born in 1961. I work in FERS. My MRA, I believe, is 56. I have 28 years in federal service. Will I get an annuity if I retire now before my MRA? If I do get an annuity, how big a reduction will it be from the pension I would get if I retired at 56?

Also, I have seven months of sick leave. Do I lose it all when I retire, or does it get applied as service credit?

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SRS and earnings limit

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Q. I can retire in June 2014 at 60 with 26 years in FERS. As it will be in June, I will have made more than the $15,000-plus earnings limit. If I max out my TSP contribution (approximately $11,000 for six months), my net working income will drop so I can get under the $15,000-plus earnings limit; will my special retirement supplement the following year be unreduced?

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Military and law enforcement service and retirement

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Q. I am a veteran with six years of active-duty service, and I am employed as a federal law enforcement official with seven years of service under FERS. I am considering leaving federal service. Am I eligible for any retirement benefits after age 62, or do I simply lose the 13 years that I have in military and civilian service?

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Special retirement supplement and Social Security

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Q. I am looking at retiring next year in FERS as a federal firefighter with 30 years of service at age 53. I will receive the special retirement supplement. Until I turn 62, I will not be (possibly) paying into Social Security, so does that reduce the amount of Social Security I will receive according to my current projected Social Security payments at age 62? If I’m not paying into Social Security during the period before drawing Social Security affects the rate, does that change at age 57 when the earning limitations for Social Security hit even though you are not paying into Social Security? Or is my Social Security statement set due to my firefighter retirement? Lastly, my TSP funds will be taxed as I receive payments as they were tax-deferred, but will they count against the earning limitations for Social Security? Will it make a difference if I purchase an annuity, roll it to another fund or just take a regular monthly payment from TSP in regard to how it relates to Social Security?

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