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The Most Common Question About Federal Retirement

For the first column of the new year I thought I would go back through my emails and find the most common question from 2017. Since many of the employees and retirees who send me emails are either retiring soon or have already retired, it is not surprising that the winner is…

Should I sign up for Medicare Part B?

There were, of course, many variations on that general question, depending on the circumstances of the individual emailer. But there are some general principles that apply to all of those facing this decision.

First, here are some basic facts: Medicare Part A pays for inpatient hospital stays, care at skilled nursing facilities and some home health care. Part B, which is expensive, is insurance that helps pay for doctors' services and outpatient care. It also covers other medical services, such as physical and occupational therapy, and some home health care.

Your Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plan will cover you after you turn 65 even if you do not enroll in Medicare. But your FEHBP plan would like for you to sign up for Medicare, since Medicare would then be the primary payer of your health expenses. Many FEHBP plans...

Developing a TSP Withdrawal Plan

We’re in the midst of the end-of-year retirement season for federal workers who are ready to make the big transition from employee to annuitant.

In January 2017, the Office of Personnel Management received more than 15,000 new retirement claims for employees who filed at the end of 2016. The numbers for end-of-2017 retirements won’t be available until February 2018, but they’re likely to be high, too.

In addition to filing claims for retirement benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System, many retiring employees also file withdrawal elections for payments from their Thrift Savings Plan accounts.

Most employees file for CSRS and FERS retirement benefits long before their planned retirement date. The TSP, on the other hand, can’t process a post-separation withdrawal form until they have been notified by your agency’s payroll office that you no longer work there. The earliest a new retiree should submit a request for a TSP withdrawal is about 30 days after their retirement date. For example, if you are retiring on Dec. 31, 2017, then you may want to wait until after Jan. 31, 2018, to submit your application for a partial or full...

5 Things to Remember Before You Tap Into Your TSP

So you’ve accumulated a handsome sum in your Thrift Savings Plan account and are close to being eligible to retire under the Federal Employees Retirement System. Congratulations! Have you considered how you will draw down the balance of your retirement savings? Because you will soon have more options, due to the enactment of the TSP Modernization Act.

The TSP published a fact sheet this week outlining some of the frequently asked questions about the new law. TSP officials are clearly aware of the excitement among participants about greater flexibility in drawing on their savings, but they’re also asking for some patience while they revamp their systems to roll out the new options.

In the meantime, let’s revisit some general principles about tapping into your TSP after retirement. Here are a few things to think about before making a post-separation withdrawal election:

You may want to delay your request if you don’t need the money. If you plan to go back to work after you retire, you probably won’t need to begin using your retirement savings. Many employees who retire under FERS (as well as the Civil Service Retirement System) may not be financially ready to...

3 Steps to Navigating Open Season

The end is near! The end of the 2017 health insurance open season, that is. It comes Monday, Dec. 11. As I am writing this column, there are only 3 days, 16 hours and 9 minutes left. (The Office of Personnel Management has a countdown clock.) By the time you read this, it’ll be crunch time. If you’re still not sure how to navigate your open season options, here’s a three-step guide to help you.

Whether you’re actively employed or retired, open season is an opportunity to tailor your insurance needs to your stage in life and you and your family’s needs. It may also be an opportunity to lower your taxable income by participating in premium conversion, flexible spending accounts, or health savings accounts. If your health has changed recently, it’s an opportunity to explore other options that might better serve you.

Before you follow the steps below, it’s a good idea to visit the Office of Personnel Management’s guide to making open season changes, where you’ll find forms, links to plan websites, comparison programs and much more laid out in a very user-friendly format.

Step One: Choose Your Health...

5 Year-End Money Saving Tips

I don’t know about you, but it seems like this year flew by faster than usual. We’re already in the midst of the annual health insurance open season (the last day is Monday, Dec. 11), some of you are winding down the final days of your career, those who are staying are waiting for the announcement of the 2018 pay increase, and everybody seems concerned about a possible government shutdown.

Employees as well as retirees are certainly relieved that the year is ending with only positive changes to federal retirement benefits, thanks to the passage of the TSP Modernization Act. A 2 percent cost-of-living allowance for federal retirees goes into effect as of Dec. 1. (Retirees will see the increase in their December benefit, payable on Jan. 1, 2018.)

I thought now might be a good time to pass along a few tips that might make a difference to your end-of-year retirement planning:

Avoid taxes by saving in a health savings account. For 2018, self only enrollees in a high deductible health plan can contribute $3,450 tax-free to a health savings account. Self plus one and self and family enrollees can contribute $6,900 tax-free. If you...