Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

FERS survivor benefits

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Q. I am revisiting my life insurance needs and want to ensure I understand FERS survivor benefits. I have more than 20 years of 1811 experience, but I won’t turn 50 until next year. If I die before I turn 50, will the survivor annuity be calculated at 10 percent for my first 20 years of 1811 experience or at 17 percent for those years? If I die after I turn 50 but am still employed by the federal government, will the survivor annuity be calculated at 10 percent for my first 20 years of 1811 experience or at 17 percent for those years? If I die before I retire, will my sick leave be added to my years of service for the survivor annuity calculation; if so, will it be 50 percent of my sick leave balance before Jan. 1, 2014, and 100 percent of it after?

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SRS and reductions, COLA

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Q. I am 58 and have 23 years of service with the IRS. Two items I have yet to see specifically addressed on the special retirement supplement are: Will my FERS retirement benefits be reduced or lower in any way if I draw the SRS? Also, the amount of the SRS is fixed on the day it is first calculated and isn’t increased by cost-of-living adjustments. Is the non-SRS portion of a FERS employee’s retirement pay still subject to cost-of-living adjustments when the employee is drawing the SRS?

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Special category employee retirement and new income

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Q. I am 51 and retired with 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In our agency, we could retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25 years of service. Our maximum retirement age is 57. I thought I understood from retirement training that in our special circumstances, earnings rules did not apply until we reached age 57, or when we would have been forced to retire. In other words, after early but full eligibility retirement, we could work and we would not be penalized or limited with new income, in that it would negatively affect our current retirement annuity. That includes a Social Security supplement that law enforcement retirees receive. A retired co-worker/friend says I am wrong about that. He says we actually are limited until age 57, at which time we can earn as much as we are able without it affecting our retirement and Social Security. Please advise. I am being offered a job with which I would really like to be involved, but I am concerned that it will pay me too much if my co-worker is correct.

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Mandatory retirement age

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Q. Is there a rule that says a federal employee must retire from federal employment? In other words, if a person chooses to, could they work until they die? This question applies to a person who is 57, has no retirement plan and has been a federal employee for two years and so will never build up any reasonable retirement.

A. Only special category employees, such as a law enforcement officers or firefighters, are subject to mandatory retirement at a specific age. Other employees aren’t. If you are one of the latter, you can work until the paramedics carry you out in a body bag.

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GS-08 retirement pay

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Q. My question is regarding special category employees. I’ve heard that over 16,000 employees would be affected by this. If an employee is promoted to GS-08 before he reaches 20 years of service, he would not be entitled to special category retirement pay. Is this true? If it is, what can I do to retire as a special category employee?

A. To be eligible to retire as a firefighter under the enhanced benefit formula, you need to be employed for 20 years in a covered position. While you must start in a primary position, you may later transfer to a secondary position. If being promoted to a GS-08 position would result in your being in a noncovered position before you had accumulated 20 years of covered service, don’t accept the offer.

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