The Numbers That Matter in 2021

Do figures like 300, $172,500 and 1.3% mean anything to you?

It’s a new year (thank goodness!), and that means there are new numbers to be aware of that may affect your retirement planning. Your leave and earnings statement or February retirement statement will show the effects of health insurance changes if you made them during the 2020 open season. If you were affected by the payroll tax deferral in 2020, your payroll office has begun the process of repayment that will extend through 2021.

Here are some other numbers of significance:


The amount, in hours, of annual leave that most federal employees are able to carry over into 202, under rules laid out in Section 1111 of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Federal employees are typically allowed to carry over 240 hours of annual leave from one year to the next. But the new law gives the Office of Personnel Management director the authority to establish a higher carryover limit due to employees’ inability to use leave during the Covid-19 pandemic. The excess leave must be used in the 2021 leave year and may not be included in the lump sum payout of annual leave when you retire or separate from federal service.


The new salary cap for General Schedule employees, up from $170,800 in 2020.


The cost of living adjustment in federal retirees’ payments received on Jan. 4. Social Security recipients also got a 1.3 percent increase in their benefits.


The maximum Social Security taxable wage limit in 2021, up from $137,700. The earnings limit for Social Security beneficiaries who are under their full retirement age increased from $18,240 to $18,960.


The interest rate for civilian and military service credit deposits and Civil Service Retirement System voluntary contributions, down from 2.25% in 2020.


The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B, up from $144.60 per month last year.


The elective deferral limit for Thrift Savings Plan contributions, unchanged from 2020. The limit on catch-up contributions also remained at $6,500. The big change is that if you are 50 or older and you reach the elective deferral limit before the end of the year and continue to save, then your contributions will automatically continue toward the catch-up limit. That also extends to those who are 49 but will turn 50 by the end of 2021.