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

Get an Estimate

ARCHIVES
One of the most important tools available to federal employees in preparing for retirement is the official retirement estimate. These estimates are available to employees in a variety of situations, such as those thinking about retiring after a full career, contemplating an offer of an early retirement, involved in a divorce, facing separation due to a disabling condition, or planning to resign and eligible for a deferred retirement benefit.

You need to contact your human resources office to request an estimate. Here are some pieces of information you might be asked to provide:

  • Name, address, Social Security number, date of birth
  • Anticipated date of retirement
  • Type of retirement (regular voluntary, law enforcement, disability, etc.)
  • Current retirement system
  • Whether you've ever taken a refund of your retirement contributions, or repaid refunded contributions
  • Survivor benefit needs (full, partial or none)
  • Prior military service and military service deposits

Here are the top 10 reasons to request an estimate at least a year before your retirement date:

  1. To document your service. This is the most important benefit of an annuity estimate. Remember that the service computation date you might be familiar with was calculated to determine how much annual leave you should get. It's not necessarily the same date that will be used to figure your retirement benefit. If the date on your estimate is different from the one on your personnel action statement form (SF 50) or your leave and earnings statement, then you should find out why there is a discrepancy. It could affect your retirement eligibility and the amount of your benefit, not to mention the speed and accuracy of the processing of your retirement application.

  2. To identify deposits due. Sometimes employees have periods of service when they did not contribute to their retirement. This could be due to working in a type of service not covered by retirement contributions (such as military service, a temporary appointment, or seasonal work). Also, sometimes employees' contributions were refunded if they left government and then came back. A retirement estimate can inform you of how much you owe in deposits to fill such gaps and what happens if you don't pay them.

  3. To find out how much money you will get. You may want to request estimates for two different dates, between six months and a year apart, to show the benefits of working a little longer. Your length of service and the average of your highest three years of salary are used to compute your retirement benefit. Both factors are affected by the date you choose to retire.

  4. To show survivor benefits. Your estimate can be computed to include potential benefits for a surviving spouse or insurable interest.

  5. To see what will reduce your benefits. Choosing survivor benefits causes a reduction in your retirement benefits. There also might be a reduction applied for age, unpaid deposits and other factors. These reductions generally are permanent and affect the amount of retirement income subject to income taxes.

  6. To show what will be withheld from your monthly benefit. A retirement estimate can reflect the monthly withholding for health benefits, life insurance and sometimes even taxes. The details on your estimate will depend on the software your agency uses. Remember that retirement contributions, Thrift Savings Plan contributions and Social Security taxes are not withheld from your retirement benefit.

  7. To find out how much life insurance you will have. Most estimates show the current value of your coverage under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance plan and the options you can continue into retirement.

  8. To see how much unused sick leave is worth. If you are entitled to credit for unused sick leave under the Civil Service Retirement System, then your estimate will show how many hours were used to compute the credit.

  9. To see your FERS supplement. If you are taking an unreduced, immediate retirement under the Federal Employees Retirement System, you will be entitled to a supplement designed to bridge the time between your retirement and the age at which you qualify for Social Security. Keep in mind that the supplement might be subject to an earnings limit.

  10. For peace of mind. Requesting a retirement estimate will let you know whether your agency's estimate of your future benefits is about what you thought you'd receive. If you attend a pre-retirement seminar, you'll learn the math involved in computing your retirement (don't worry, it's only second-grade level). If there are discrepancies between your agency's estimate and what you think you are entitled to, you can try to work them out before your retirement date.

Keep in mind that your agency cannot provide a final retirement computation, since that task falls to the Office of Personnel Management. Since OPM will not finalize your computation until after you have retired, you must rely on your agency's estimate for planning purposes. Be sure to ask plenty of questions if something doesn't look right, or if there are things you just don't understand.

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 Inc. live on Monday mornings at 10 a.m. ET on federalnewsradio.com or on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington metro area.

 

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 www.tammyflanagan.com 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 NITPInc.com.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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