Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Five-year rule

Bookmark and Share

Q. In the 2012 Federal Retirement Handbook, it states that if you meet the following age and service requirements — age 62 and five years — you are entitled to an immediate retirement benefit.

I will be 65 years old in May, so I already meet the first requirement. In June, I will have been a federal civilian employee for two years. However, I have 12.3 years of Air Force (1971 to 1984) service, and I plan to make the required deposit so the 12.3 years becomes part of my federal creditable service. Therefore, in June, I will have 14.3 years of creditable service. Does this mean I will be eligible to retire as soon as the Air Force years become part of my creditable service (since it’s more than five years)?

Said another way, is there a requirement that you need to be a federal civilian employee for five years before you are eligible to retire? I have not been able to find anything in FERS documents or government website that stipulates this requirement. All years are typically referred to as creditable service so that includes my Air Force time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Tax benefits of buyback

Bookmark and Share

Q. What are the tax benefits, if any, for buying back my military time into my FERS? In 2012, I paid close to $11,000 to buy back my military time into my FERS. Now I’m finishing up my 2012 taxes and I’m curious if there is any kind of adjustment/deduction for having shelled out $11,000 toward retirement?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Annual leave and cashing out

Bookmark and Share

Q. I will have approximately 503 hours of annual leave when I retire at the end of May (183 hours were carried over). I also have 24 hours of a time off award and 30 hours of home leave unused as a result of a previous overseas assignment. Will my payout for leave include the 24 hours of the time off award added to my 503 hours? Will I receive a payout for the 30 hours of home leave, will I simply lose it, or will it be added as creditable service in my retirement calculations?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Buyout eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I’m retiring at the end of this month. If there were to be an announcement of a buyout before 5 p.m. of my last day, would I qualify? I’m 62 with 29 years in the Postal Service.

A. Highly unlikely because the purpose of a buyout is to encourage employees to leave who wouldn’t do so without a financial incentive. Since you have already made the decision to retire and are on the verge of departing, your agency would have no reason to either offer or approve a buyout for you.

Tags: , , ,

RIF and leave

Bookmark and Share

Q. If I am subject to a reduction in force with just under 25 years of service (say, with 24 years and nine months), can I use sick or annual leave to make up the difference? If not, is there any recourse to take a retirement in lieu of a RIF when you are so close to the 25-year threshold? I am 46 years old.

A. While you may only use sick leave for purposes spelled out in law and regulation, your agency can allow you to use your annual leave to continue past the date on which you’d be separated if it will allow you to qualify for retirement.

Tags: , , , ,

Post-1956 deposit

Bookmark and Share

Q. The following statement was made in an answer to a question ask about post-1956 deposit: “You can’t get a refund of the deposit you made for your active-duty service. What’s done is done. If you retire at age 62 and aren’t eligible for a Social Security benefit at that time, you’ll never have to worry about losing those years and having your annuity recomputed.”

I will retire at age 60 and have paid in a post-1956 deposit. I am in CSRS and will have 41 years and eight months with the post-56 deposit (eight years, six months of military service). I have worked for 40 quarters and am eligible for Social Security (military service and work prior to the military). However, due to the windfall elimination provision, I do not plan to ask for Social Security benefits until I am 65 or older. Will my annuity be recomputed after I reach 62 even though I have no intention of requesting my Social Security benefit until 65 or 70? Can I expect some kind of reduction in my annuity? I understand my Social Security benefit will be reduced by two-thirds once I apply for it.

A. Because you made a deposit for your active-duty service, you’ll not only get credit for that time in your annuity computation but your CSRS annuity won’t be affected no matter when you apply for a Social Security benefit. However, as you noted, your Social Security benefit will be reduced because of the windfall elimination provision. That’s because you will be receiving an annuity from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes and have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Affordable Care Act vs. FEHB

Bookmark and Share

Q. I will have 20 years of congressional employment as of Jan. 23, 2014. I will be 60 years old three months earlier, in October. It is my understanding that members and congressional personal staff will be forced into Affordable Care Act health coverage as of Jan. 1, 2014. Can I retire Dec. 31 and keep my Federal Employees Health Benefits? How will this affect my FERS annuity?

A. If you retire as a FERS-covered employee, you would be entitled to a FERS annuity. And if you have five consecutive years under the FEHB program and retired before the Affordable Care Act is implemented, you would be able to carry that coverage into retirement. Neither of those entitlements could be altered by legislation that becomes effective after you retire.

Tags: , , , , ,

CSRS Offset retirement age

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a 58-year-old CSRS Offset civilian employee with 20 years of federal service. What is the earliest date that I can retire?

A. Because you have at least 20 years of service, you could retire on an immediate, unreduced annuity at age 60.

Tags: , , ,

Retirement calculator

Bookmark and Share

Q. Is there a calculator where you can enter your service type (FERS vs. CSRS), military buyback years and months, current high-3 and projected retirement age to get an accurate retirement estimate?

A. You’ll find what you’re looking for at www.fedbens.us.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Deferred annuity

Bookmark and Share

Q. My husband resigned from a Defense Department agency (non-civil service) after 29 years to work in the private sector. He was under CSRS, never converting to FERS. Before his resignation 10 years ago, he spoke to the agency’s personnel retirement representatives and was told he would still be able to collect retirement but only after he reached the age of 62. They told him that he should start the retirement paperwork six months from his 62nd birthday. Is this information correct? Does he lose the 2 percent for each year under the age of 62 he was when he resigned? He’s within a couple of months of that six-month target.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

CSRS Offset

Bookmark and Share

Q. I’m looking to retire sometime this year. I turn 66 on April 2, have 13 years at the Veterans Affairs Department, from which I withdrew funds. I worked in the private sector until 1995, when I started working for the Postal Service. I am under CSRS Offset, and I have essentially bought back my four years in the military. So the total years at the Postal Service would be 18 years + 4 years military = 22 years. Can you explain to me how the offset will apply to me? Will I be able to receive Social Security?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Medicare Part B premium

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am going to retire Jan. 1, 2014, and I realize that my modified adjusted gross income will cause my Medicare Part B premium to at least double. But once I retire, my income will go down. Does the Medicare Part B premium get adjusted annually? Or is it set for life as of your retirement date?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Five-year rule

Bookmark and Share

Q. I’m thinking about applying for a Transportation Security Administration position in Denver. How many years would I need to work to get health benefit coverage at retirement?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Government pension offset

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am under FERS with a CSRS component (10 years CSRS, 15-year break, FERS for the past 20 years). If my spouse receives Social Security benefits based on my work history and I predecease him, and he begins receiving an annuity, will his Social Security payments be reduced or possibly eliminated under the government pension offset? He has enough quarters to qualify on his own record and is receiving payments now. However, under my records, his payments would be higher. I will retire in a year, at age 66, and would like to know before we request that his payments be based on my work history.

A. If he receives an annuity from a retirement system where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes, such as CSRS, any Social Security spousal or survivor benefit would be subject to the government pension offset.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

WEP

Bookmark and Share

Q. I retired in 2011 with 30 years and three months employment with the Postal Service at the age of 56 years and six months with a CSRS pension. I had 32 quarters of paying in to Social Security when I retired. I worked part time from June 2012 to October 2012 for an insurance company and earned about $6,200. How many more quarters do I have to go to receive a supplemental Social Security pension, and is it also true that I will only receive about one-third of what I would normally be entitled to?

A. You have already earned four credits in 2012. If you earn $4,640 in 2013, you’d get four more credits and be eligible for a Social Security benefit.

Yes, it’s true that your Social Security benefit would be less than it would have been if you didn’t receive an annuity from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes. Because you do — and because you’ll have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security — you’ll be subject to the windfall elimination provision.

Tags: , , , , ,

Withdraw or defer

Bookmark and Share

Q. I have a little over 13 years of FERS service. I am 51 years old. I originally planned on retiring at 56 (MRA+10) but I have recently been contemplating retiring now under a deferred retirement.

1. If I retire now (deferred), will I be able to draw the retirement at 56, or will I have to wait until age 62?

2. If I choose to withdraw my retirement versus defer it, is there a calculator somewhere that can give me a general idea of how much I would get?

A. You can’t retire. What you can do is resign from the government, leave your retirement contributions in the fund and apply for a deferred annuity at age 62. There isn’t any calculator that would tell you what you’d receive if you took a refund of your retirement contributions. What I can tell you is that you’d receive every penny you contributed to the fund plus accrued interest based on variable market rates set by the Department of the Treasury.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave without pay and creditable service

Bookmark and Share

Q. As of January, I had 36 years of creditable federal service for retirement. This is based on a federal retirement benefits estimate I received from a company contracted by my agency to provide this service. I was on leave without pay while in a master’s degree program from June 23, 1984, to June 7, 1986. The company providing the benefits estimate counted all of this time as creditable for retirement. Is this correct, or would I only be allowed credit for a maximum of six months during each of the three calendar years covered by the leave without pay?

Secondly, I am in the CSRS Offset retirement program. Can I pay into my retirement program for the LWOP period, similar to what I was allowed to do for my military time? If so, where do I start? I am not in CSRS Offset because of the LWOP period but for a period between Aug. 23, 1988, and June 30, 1994, during which I taught two years at a University and completed a Ph.D. in my current field.

A. Periods of LWOP that are less than six months in a calendar year are considered to be creditable service and no deposit is required to get credit for it. LWOP that exceeds six months in a calendar year isn’t creditable service for any purpose, and you can’t make a deposit to get credit for it.

Tags: , , , ,

FEHB re-enrollment

Bookmark and Share

Q. Before retirement under FERS, I canceled my Federal Employees Health Benefits to be covered by my wife’s FEHB. Now my wife is resigning. She has no minimum retirement age with 25 years. She will not be allowed to continue FEHB. Am I allowed to re-enroll in self and family (code 2F) as a retiree with 35 years (33 self, two under wife) of FEHB? If I am, how soon can I re-enroll?

A. Yes. And you can do it from 31 days before the loss of coverage through 60 days after.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Military buyback

Bookmark and Share

Q. I will have 39 years of total service as of May 12, of which four years are military service and 35 years civilian service. I have my 40 quarters paid in. Will I have to buy back my military time to achieve my 80 percent at retirement (41 years, 11 months)?

A. Yes, you will. Otherwise, when you retire, those years of active-duty service for which you haven’t made a deposit will be eliminated and your annuity recomputed without them. That will happen at age 62, if you are retired, or when you retire if it’s after that.

Tags: , , , ,

CSRS annuity

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am planning to retire Aug. 15 with 37 years, two months and 12 days under CSRS. I will be 60 years old. I know if I stay more than 40 years, I will get 80 percent of my salary. What I don’t understand, according to my retirement estimates, is that after age 62, I will be getting less of an annuity each year. How can this be?

A. It can’t be. Something is wrong with either the estimator you are using or the data you are putting into it. Part of the problem may be that you misunderstand how long you have to work to receive an annuity that equals 80 percent of your high-3. It isn’t 40 years; it’s 41 years and 11 months.

Tags: , , , , ,