Retirement Planning Retirement PlanningRetirement Planning
Advice on how to prepare for life after government.

Really, You Can Retire!

My recent column on projecting your retirement income attracted a lot of reader feedback. Here are excerpts from some of the messages I received, with my responses:

When proposing retirement calculations, please use a more statistically "average" retiree for your calculations. [According to] the Federal Civilian Workforce Statistics "fact book," that would be a GS-9 to GS-10, not a GS-13, step 6 (in the "rest of U.S." category for 2006), as your $85,000 would indicate.

I used a higher salary since this article was written for Government Executive. (This is actually a low salary for an executive).

Great article. However, I disagree with including the Flexible Spending Account as a deduction from current net income, since it's money that still can be spent. In my case, with four family members who all wear glasses and one who is in the midst of braces, it's money I would spend anyhow -- whether I work or am retired. If FEHBP covered dental better and vision at all, it might be different.

I agree that money set aside for FSA will still be spent after retirement, but I included it on the salary side since it affects taxable wages.

Re: Federal income tax, there's no explanation of how it's computed. Suggest a footnote or a link to the exact page on the IRS website to determine what your post-retirement taxes will be.

There is no way to compute actual taxes without more information. I'm trying to capture a snapshot using a worksheet that should only take someone a few minutes to complete. I used a very general estimate of about 22 percent total federal/state withholding. The idea is to realize that taxes on a full salary are not the same as taxes on a retirement benefit. Also, I only applied the tax to the salary after FSA, FEHBP and TSP withholdings.

How does a 56-year-old FERS employee with 34 years of service making $85,000 per year only get a gross retirement pension of $17,765? That's less than 21 percent. Don't FERS employees who retire before age 62, but who still reach the minimum retirement age with 30-plus years of service get 1 percent per year -- thus a 34 percent pension (presuming that the $85,000 is the high-3 average salary)?

Many FERS employees who are currently eligible to retire have spent a portion of their career in another job (in the private sector or the military). Since FERS covers employees hired after 1983, the most FERS service someone could have right now is about 22 years.

My example covers a FERS employee who is eligible for Voluntary Early Retirement. The requirements for VERA under FERS are age 50 with 20 years of service or any age with 25 years of service (same as CSRS). There is no age reduction under FERS and the FERS supplement is payable at the minimum retirement age (55-57).

As a government employee who has to pay my former spouse a court order award, there is no way to figure that amount to determine if I can afford to retire. I have been told that OPM will compute how much my former spouse will receive from my divorce decree; therefore, that computation cannot be performed until after I retire.

If you wish to find out how much your former spouse will receive based on the court order, I recommend getting a retirement estimate from your personnel office and having the attorney who drafted the court order compute the amount to which the former spouse is entitled.

Overall, my main thought when I wrote my previous column was to provoke employees to think beyond the retirement estimate. I have had several conversations with employees in recent weeks who have worked for 30-plus years and felt that they couldn't afford to retire. They were comparing their "gross" income to their "gross" retirement. Once we looked at the "net" it was much more comforting!

Thanks for all of your comments, and keep 'em coming, using the "See Reader's Comments/Add Your Own" link at the top of the page.


Tammy Flanagan has spent 30 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits. She runs her own consulting business at and provides individual counseling as well as online training for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, Plan Your Federal Retirement as well as the Federal Long Term Care insurance Program. She also serves as the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars.

For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Federal News Radio on Mondays at 10 a.m. ET on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington-metro area. Archived shows are available on

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.