What You Need to Know
At a seminar last week I was asked to provide examples of common questions you should ask yourself and your HR office. Here are a series of lists, based on your years of service, along with some suggestions for preliminary research before you head over to HR.
For those with less than five years on the job:
- Which retirement system am I covered under? There is a box on your Standard Form 50 (Notification of Personnel Action) showing your retirement coverage. Most new hires all under FERS. For more information, see OPM's Retirement Information and Services page.
- How long do I have to work for the government to be eligible to retire with immediate or deferred retirement benefits? See OPM's FERS overview, or my previous column, Eligibility: Facts and Myths (July 6, 2007).
- If I have prior federal service, has it been documented in my official personnel folder? See OPM's information on Creditable Civilian Service and Creditable Military Service.
- Is my prior service creditable for future retirement?
- Do I have to pay a service credit deposit to make this service creditable? OPM has online resources on service credit payments for civilian service and post-1956 military service. In addition, see my previous columns, Getting Credit (Jan. 27, 2006) and Buying Retirement Credit (Feb. 10, 2006)
- How long does it take to be vested in the Thrift Savings Plan so all agency contributions belong to me, even if I leave federal service? See this summary from the TSP Board.
- How much will I have in my TSP by the time I am eligible to retire? Use this calculator to project your balance.
- How much income will I need to retire? The TSP offers a ballpark estimate calculator.
- How much income can I expect from Social Security? The Social Security Administration offers an online estimator.
For those with five to 15 years on the job:
- Should I update my beneficiary designations? See this previous column: Who's Your Beneficiary? (May 12, 2006)
- Are my TSP savings on track? Use this TSP calculator to find out.
- How much life insurance do I have? How much do I need? OPM offers a Federal Employees Group Life Insurance calculator. And here are two previous columns on the subject: Life Insurance Options, Part One (Sept. 15, 2006) and Life Insurance Options, Part Two (Sept. 22, 2006)
- Does my agency offer a midcareer planning seminar? If not, Management Concepts Inc. offers such a course.
For those with more than 15 years on the job, or who are within five years of retirement eligibility:
- Am I ready to set a date for retirement? The applications for CSRS and FERS are available online. Here's a previous column: The Retirement Process (June 22, 2007).
- Can I maintain my federal health insurance in retirement? OPM has answers to frequently asked questions on this subject. And here's a previous column: Ensuring a Healthy Retirement (June 16, 2006).
- What TSP withdrawal options do I have? The TSP has a publication titled "Withdrawing Your TSP Account After Leaving Federal Service", and offers online calculators. Here are two previous columns: Withdrawal Options (March 24, 2006) and Withdrawal Quiz (April 13, 2007).
- What are my Medicare enrollment options? Check out the official Medicare eligibility site and these previous columns: Medicare ABCs (April 21, 2006) and More on Medicare (April 28, 2006).
- Do I need to apply for Social Security? Check SSA's Web site and fact sheets.
- Does my agency offer a pre-retirement seminar? Most do. If yours doesn't, Management Concepts provides some options.
Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars. She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.
For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning live on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET on federalnewsradio.com or on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington metro area. This week's topic: Buy and Hold: Does It Really Work? Should I Stick With It? Guest: W. Kirk Taylor, CFP Taylor Wealth Advisors. Hosts: Bob Leins, CPA, NITP, and John Elliott, Federal Benefits Strategist.