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Advice on how to prepare for life after government.
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Leaving Government Now and Taking Retirement Later

Not all federal employees retire from federal service. Some work in government for several years, but leave before they’re eligible for immediate retirement benefits. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, those who have at least five years of creditable civilian service may be eligible for a deferred retirement at age 62 or earlier, if they have completed 10 years or more of creditable service. Only five of those years must be civilian service.

I’ve written a couple of columns in the past about deferred retirement:

I recently received the following question, which made me realize it’s probably a good time to take up the issue again:

I am a federal employee with 31 years of service in the FERS system. I have the service years required to retire but not the age. I have another seven years until I reach my minimum retirement age (MRA). I have been thinking about leaving the federal government to pursue other interests. I have read scenarios for retirement where the employee has the age but not the service years but have not found any information about acquiring the service years ...

The Importance of Accurate Information

In some federal agencies, retirement counselors and specialists have very little experience these days. There’s little incentive to stay in the job of human resources specialist if there are no opportunities for advancement. Recently, I learned that one agency requires their retirement counselors to move to a different job after two or three years in the position.

Here’s why this bothers me: Would you expect your heating and air conditioning technician to move on and become a plumber after two or three years -- and then after that become an electrician? After two to three years as a retirement specialist, you’re barely ready to work without supervision.

I’ve been a retirement specialist since 1986. Every year, I build on the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in the past. This is what makes my services valuable to the employees I meet.

When I first started, I worked with a supervisor who would review my work before it was sent on to the employee or to the Office of Personnel Management to be sure that it was accurate. Employees have shown me retirement estimates that contain multiple errors. Such incorrect information can cause employees to become alarmed and ...

A Critical Part of Planning, By Any Estimation

Some years only have one Friday the 13th, but in 2015, there are three--and of course, one of them is this week. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about unlucky or unfortunate federal employees who are trying to plan for retirement. This week, when I visited two different federal agencies, I heard some troubling news.

Employees at some agencies are being told they can’t request a retirement estimate unless it is part of their application for retirement. Others have been told they must rely on an online estimator until they are within a year of retirement, at which point they can request an estimate from a human resources specialist.

A retirement estimate provides valuable information to employees that not only helps them to plan for retirement, but to make sure they’re getting credit for all the federal service they’ve performed.

A thorough review of an employee’s service history will allow the employee to make sure that the agency has a record of his or her entire federal career. If something is missing from the employee’s service history, early detection will allow time for the agency to help in locating missing records while the ...

What Happens When You Say 'I Do'

There are many benefits to working for Uncle Sam, but for some, the biggest one has been meeting their future spouse and creating a union of two federal employees. The human resources/benefits office at your agency calls this a “life event.” By the way, if you are getting married—it doesn’t matter whether you are marrying someone who is also a federal employee or retiree—this is a time to review your benefits and consider what changes might be in order. Life events also include divorce, birth or adoption of a child as well as the death of a family member.

I want to share a recent email exchange with a federal employee who has found love with a fellow federal employee:

Dear Tammy,

I turned 52 earlier this month and my “boyfriend” will turn 62 in July. We’re both feds, and we started seeing each other about six months ago. It’s pretty serious. Neither of us ever has been married and we have no children or dependents between us; marrying would seem to be folly.   

When I turned 50, I consulted an attorney who drew up all of my estate planning documents, including a medical ...

Three (or More) Helpings of the TSP

My column last week on Thrift Savings Plan withdrawals attracted several responses like this one:

I do not understand what the following statement from your column is saying: “If you want to take out money on an ‘as-needed’ basis, the TSP doesn’t offer the ability to take more than three partial distributions.”  Would really appreciate an explanation!

Or this:

I was aware of the ability to take two partial distributions, but how do you take the third?

Many people think that there is only one partial TSP withdrawal available after you separate from federal service and that you then must take a full withdrawal. But to every rule, there are exceptions.

Here are three ways -- and maybe four -- that you can take partial withdrawals after your federal service has ended.

Partial Withdrawal No. 1

There is a post-separation, one-time partial distribution. This allows separated employees to withdraw a portion of their TSP balance and leave the remainder invested until later. Use Form TSP-77 for the withdrawal.

There’s also an option for employees who stay in federal service beyond age 59 ½ to exercise this one-time partial distribution as an “age-based in-service withdrawal” by using Form TSP-75. If you make ...