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Advice on how to prepare for life after government.
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How Ready Are You For Retirement? A Quick Quiz

Whether you’re concerned about proposed congressional changes that could impact your future retirement benefits or you’re simply at or near eligibility for retirement, you may have been thinking lately about your future plans.

If you’re considering leaving sometime soon, it’s a good idea to think about how prepared you are. Here’s a quick way to assess where you stand.

For each of the 10 questions below, choose the answer that best describes your situation.

Which of the following best describes your contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan?

  1. I’ve increased them within the last two years
  2. I plan to increase them with my next salary increase
  3. a and b
  4. I’m already contributing the maximum
  5. I can’t contribute due to a six-month ban on contributions after taking a financial hardship in-service withdrawal (there’s an exception to this for recent hurricane victims)
  6. I can’t afford to contribute more than I currently am contributing
  7. I do not participate in the TSP

When was the last time you reallocated your TSP funds or rebalanced your overall retirement investments?

  1. Not recently, because I am invested 100 percent in one or more of the lifecycle L Funds...

Potential Benefits Cuts: Where Things Stand

Earlier this year, I wrote about the proposed cuts to federal retirement benefits included in President Trump’s budget. Here, to recap, is what the budget proposal included:

  • Cost-of-living allowances for current and future FERS retirees would be eliminated altogether.
  • COLAs for CSRS retirees would be reduced by 0.5 percent each year from what they would have been otherwise.
  • FERS employees would see employee contributions to their annuities increased by 1 percent each year for the next six years, without any corresponding benefit increase.
  • The FERS annuity supplement would be eliminated for new retirees starting in 2018. That change alone would save the federal government $5 billion by 2026.
  • Federal pensions would be based on the average of the highest five years of salary instead of the highest three. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, that change would save the federal government $2 billion from 2018 to 2026.

These would clearly be dramatic changes to the federal retirement system, and they have caused alarm among some federal employees. But they have to be approved by Congress, and many lawmakers share employees’ concerns about their impact.

So where do things stand now? To give you an idea, here are some...

Best Dates to Retire 2018

Download the Best Dates to Retire 2018 Calendar

Once you’ve made the decision that you’re ready to retire, it’s time to select a specific date within your desired timeframe. Last week’s column provided a general guide to deciding when to go. Now let’s look at some specifics related to picking a date next year.

Your retirement coverage under the Civil Service Retirement System (including CSRS Offset) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (including transfers to FERS) will be an important factor in choosing the best date.

CSRS

You can choose a retirement date on the first, second or third day of any month and your retirement will commence the following day. So, for example, if you retire on Oct. 1, your salary will end close of business that day and your first retirement benefit will be paid on Nov. 1, covering the remainder of October. If you retire on any day after Oct. 3, then your first retirement benefit will be paid on Dec. 1, covering the month of November. You would forfeit the October CSRS retirement benefit.

The best dates for CSRS in 2018 will be Jan. 3, Feb. 2, March 2, March 31...

Picking a Date to Retire

Is there such a thing as a best date to retire? I should probably know by now, because I’m known for coming up with an annual calendar of such dates.

As more and more federal employees are now retiring under the Federal Employees Retirement System, I have been rethinking the idea of a best date for retirement. Although it is important to carefully choose your exact retirement date, it is even more critical to complete the steps leading up to choosing the day on which you’ll go.

Next week, I’ll present the annual best dates calendar, as usual. But this week, I want to talk about assessing your retirement readiness in preparation of selecting the date that’s best for you.

Civil Service Retirement System

CSRS was designed as a single benefit plan providing a complete retirement all in one monthly retirement payment. An employee who works in government for 40 years under CSRS gets a benefit equal to more than 75 percent of his or her high-three average salary—with immediate cost-of-living adjustments and a survivor annuity for those who elect a reduced benefit.

Most federal employees hired before 1984 retire under CSRS, and they’ve...

How to Know When It’s Time To Go

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be exploring a topic of perennial interest—picking the best date to retire. But before I do that, I thought it would be worth taking a quick look back at the subject of deciding whether and when to leave government.

So here, in case you missed them (or just want a quick refresher), are links some of my recent columns that address issues related to moving on from a federal career—especially during these turbulent times.

Thinking About Getting Out of Government? Here’s What You Need to Know

I always try to point out the value of working long enough in government to retire and be eligible for lifetime health benefits and other advantages enjoyed by federal retirees. But some employees are going to leave government service before they are eligible for immediate retirement. If you’re in this group, here are some things you should know before you leave.

With Cuts on the Table, Is It Time To Go?

With significant cuts to retirement benefits included in the president’s budget, some employees are asking if they should move up their retirement date to August or September so they can...