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

Midterm Quiz

It's the middle of the year and I thought it might be fun to review some of the topics I've written about so far in 2011. So here are two true-false quizzes: one for employees covered under the Federal Employees Retirement System and another for those under the Civil Service Retirement System. I've even provided a cheat sheet for each question in the form of a link to a previous column, so everyone should pass with flying colors.

By the way, if there are topics not covered so far that you want me to explore during the second half of the year, let me know in the comments section below.


  1. Current FERS employees who have had a break in service and received a refund of their retirement contributions can pay back the money with interest to receive credit for the service toward eligibility and computation of their future retirement benefit. If the redeposit is not paid, the service will count toward eligibility, but not computation of the benefit. Cheat sheet

  2. Under a recent legislative change, future retirees will have their FERS benefit computed on the highest five consecutive years of service rather than on their high-three average salary years. Cheat sheet

  3. A service credit deposit applies only to the CSRS retirement system and is simply a payment that employees make to the federal retirement fund that enables them to receive credit toward their retirement benefit for certain types of previous military and civilian service. Cheat sheet

  4. There are some situations where it might make sense for a FERS employee to retire in the middle of a month. Cheat sheet

  5. Under FERS, paying a military service credit deposit for four years of active duty could increase your retirement by 4 percent of your high-three average salary. It also could make you eligible to retire four years sooner if you have the age, but not the service, needed for retirement. Cheat sheet

  6. Kevin was a smoke jumper for the Forest Service during two of the summers of college. The first appointment was during the summer of 2001 and the second was in 2002. He is now a civilian federal employee, covered under FERS. Kevin can pay a deposit to credit these two summer appointments toward his eligibility and computation of his FERS basic retirement benefit. Cheat sheet

  7. If you return to federal service after a break in your career, your new agency will automatically inform you regarding any money that you might owe to the retirement system. This is called a "service credit deposit" and is always included with the new employee orientation. Cheat sheet

  8. If you are married to a federal employee or a federal retiree, it is possible for you to elect survivor benefits for each other. If one spouse should die before the other, then the survivor can receive 50 percent of the deceased spouse's unreduced FERS retirement benefit and the survivor's own retirement benefit will be restored to the unreduced amount. Cheat sheet

  9. If you become widowed and you meet the requirements for a Social Security widow's benefit, you will receive the larger of the Social Security benefit that you've earned for yourself, or the Social Security benefit your spouse has earned for you. Cheat sheet

  10. If your spouse inherits your Thrift Savings Plan funds, then the TSP will establish a beneficiary account in his or her name. If anyone else inherits your TSP account, they will receive the payment directly unless it is directed to a beneficiary IRA. Cheat sheet

Ready for the answers? Click here.


  1. Federal employees are helpless to prevent cuts in their future benefits that have been proposed in Congress. Cheat sheet

  2. There are two factors that influence the value of your CSRS retirement benefit: high-three average salary and total length of service, including unused sick leave. If you work longer, then both of the factors will increase, causing your retirement benefit to be larger. Cheat sheet

  3. Besides learning how much you can expect your monthly retirement benefit will be, requesting a retirement estimate from your human resources office will provide valuable information on your history of creditable service. Cheat sheet

  4. Under CSRS, the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of the month -- are sometimes good days to retire, because you will become an annuitant the following day and the extra days might provide an opportunity to earn an additional leave accrual and a few more days of salary and service. Cheat sheet

  5. Everyone needs to replace 75 percent of their pre-retirement income to retire comfortably. Cheat sheet

  6. CSRS employees who were first hired before Oct. 1, 1982, will receive credit for their post-1956 military service without making a military service deposit as long as they are not entitled to receive a Social Security retirement benefit at age 62 (or at retirement, if later) and as long as they are not retired from the military and receiving military retired pay. Cheat sheet

  7. If you have performed civilian federal service before Oct. 1, 1982, and did not make CSRS retirement contributions during that service, the time will still count for eligibility and computation of your CSRS retirement benefit even if you don't make the deposit for the missing contributions. This could have been temporary service and seasonal work that was performed early in your career. Cheat sheet

  8. In order for your surviving, nonfederal spouse to be entitled to continue federal employees health benefits, you must elect a full or a partial survivor annuity for them when you retire. In addition, you must be covered under a self and family enrollment on your date of death. Cheat sheet

  9. There are two beneficiary designations you have to maintain and update throughout your federal career and even into your retirement years. Cheat sheet

  10. A good date for CSRS employees to consider for retirement is Jan. 3, 2013. Cheat sheet

Ready for the answers? Click here.

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 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 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

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