Question Time

By Tammy Flanagan

May 7, 2010

It's time again to take a look at some questions generated by recent columns.

I read an earlier column of yours about retirement pay being based on what you would have been earning at the end of your actual time, counting leave you sold back. I understood that if I sold back 448 hours of leave, my retirement pay would be based on what I would have been earning at the end of 448 hours. I would be entitled to any future increases if they occurred. Is this correct? My agency told me it was not. Also, does the same thing apply to sick leave that is used for earning more service compensation time?

I'm sorry, but you misinterpreted my column. Let me try to clear things up:

I am a federal agent who will turn 57 at the end of January 2013. I will have 32 years and nine months of service under the Civil Service Retirement System by then, including 29 years and six months as a federal law enforcement officer. I wasn't sure when the best date would be for me to retire, but thanks to your column, it looks like Jan. 3, 2013, would be best, because my annuity would begin the next day, and I also can maximize my lump-sum annual leave payment.

I'd actually suggest you consider Jan. 12, 2013, the end of the 2012 leave year. This would allow you to receive the maximum leave accrual before you have to use or lose any. Also, you'd have the unique benefit of your retirement beginning the day after you retire, since this is the month you are subject to mandatory retirement. The three-day rule doesn't apply in your situation. The Office of Personnel Management's Retirement Handbook has more information.

I'm under CSRS, looking to retire July 1-3, 2014. I will be 59 yrs old with 38 years, eight months and six to seven days of service (that includes 1,044 hours of sick leave). Can you tell me what percentage of my high-three salary I'll receive? I always carry 240 hours of annual leave, so I would receive a lump-sum payment for 240 hours for 2013, plus whatever I've earned up to my retirement date, correct?

Here's a shortcut computation for CSRS retirements:

Years/months of service - 2 x 2 + 0.25 = the percentage of your high-three average salary that will become your unreduced retirement.

For example:

38 years and 8 months = 38.66 - 2 x 2 + 0.25 = 73.57%

In addition, you would receive a lump-sum payment for your accumulated and accrued annual leave.

I am a 50-year old CSRS employee with almost 28 years of service. I worked part time between 1997 and 2007. I worked several part-time schedules -- including 36 hours per pay period, 54 hours per pay period and 64 hours per pay period -- as my children got older. I returned to full-time work when telecommuting and maxi-flex schedules were instituted at my agency. I have been told there is a formula that will be used to reduce my pension to account for the years I worked part time, but have not been able to locate that magic formula. How will I know when I retire (I am considering retiring at 55 with 32 years of service), that my pension is being calculated correctly for those years I was part time?

I have written about part-time computations in the past. It is not an easy concept to understand, but I attempted to explain it in this column: New Calculations (Nov. 6, 2009). I suggest you look that over and then request a retirement computation from a specialist in your agency's human resources office.

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.

By Tammy Flanagan

May 7, 2010