Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Unscheduled hours, official hour of duty and annuity

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Q. I am a FERS employee who will retire in 2016 under the 20 years by age 60 rule. I went part time in 2010, with my official tour being 20 hours per week (40 per pay period); however, I usually work 24-30 hours per week due to clinic needs. I get paid for these unscheduled hours. I know my annuity will be prorated to account for my part-time work during my career; however, will the part-time portion be calculated using my official tour of 40 hours per pay period, or will the part-time calculations use the actual number of hours I worked?

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Part- and full-time work and high-3

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Q. How is my annuity reduced after working full time for seven years, part time for 10 years and then full time for an additional 13 years? Is it still the high-3, or is there a reduction because of less money contributed for those 10 part-time years?

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Calculating retirement from part-time work

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Q. I’m in CSRS. In the 1980s, I worked part time for a few years, and my SF-50 shows part time, 32 hours a pay period. I saved all of my leave and earnings statements, which show that I actually put in 70 hours per pay period. How will this service be viewed for retirement calculation purposes? This situation doesn’t fit into an electronic calculator!

A. The method used to compute part-time service is at www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C055.pdf. Scroll to Part 55B2.

Although this applies to FERS employees, as the result of a recent court case, it also now applies to CSRS.

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Part-time work and retirement benefits

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Q. I am a registered nurse and have been in the same job for 30 years. I am 60 and want to reduce my hours from 40 a week to 20 a week for the next six years until full retirement at 66½. My salary will decrease from $80,000 to $40,000 a year. Will this have a significant effect on my retirement benefits?

A. It will affect your annuity. Only you can decide if it would be significant. The methodology used to compute an annuity that includes part-time service is at www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C055.pdf. Scroll to Part 55B2, which now applies to both CSRS and FERS retirees.

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FEHB

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Q. I have been a part-time employee of DHS since September 2008. Not until fall 2008 was I told I could enroll in FEHB as a part-time employee. My FEHB was initiated during that open enrollment period and began in January 2009. If I retire next year at 70, will I be eligible to continue the FEHB Plan into retirement since I won’t have five years of creditable service but was not offered the plan earlier due to my part-time employment?

A. The law is clear. You must be enrolled for the five consecutive years before you retire or from your first opportunity to enroll. It doesn’t sound as if you enrolled from your first opportunity, which would have been when you were first employed in a position that would have allowed you to do so. I suggest you check with your personnel office to be sure where you stand.

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Work part time and collect full pension

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Q. I am planning to retire in about two years, after a 40-year career as a federal dentist with the VA. I would like to continue working (same job), part time (two days per week). However, I do not want to take a reduced pension, as it does not make economic sense. Is there a way to work part time (and receive a part-time salary, not a consultant fee, which is very little) and collect a full pension? Thank you

A. Only if you were hired under one of those rare authorities that allow you to keep both your annuity and your full salary. You’ll have to check with your agency to see if that’s possible in your case.

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Part-time work and benefits changes

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Q. I work for USPS. I have 27 years and am 59. If I switch to a 30-hour-a-week job, how will it affect my retirement at age 62 under Social Security or sooner if the agency offers VERA? I am under FERS and have all my quarters in Social Security.

A. Switching to part time would affect your annuity and your eventual Social Security benefit. The amount of the reduction would depend on how long you worked part time. Because both calculations would be based on your total years of coverage, the reduction in benefits would likely range from infinitesimal to minor.

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Creditable years

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Q. I was hired by the USFS in June 1995. I served in a full-time temp position for two years, after which the same position became permanent. Should this time count toward retirement?

A. Unless retirement deductions were taken from your pay, that period of employment isn’t considered creditable service for retirement purposes. If they were taken out, it is creditable.

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