Pop Quiz

By Tammy Flanagan

September 10, 2010

Since it's back-to-school time, I thought it would be fun to have a pop quiz to test your retirement planning knowledge. These questions and answers are taken from my pre-retirement seminars. Beware, some of the wrong answers are things many employees actually believe to be true.

1. Who will determine the exact amount of your CSRS or FERS retirement benefit?
a. You
b. Your agency's retirement specialist
c. The Office of Personnel Management
d. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board

2. When will your retirement be finalized so you will know exactly how much you will receive in benefits each month?
a. Three months before your retirement date
b. Usually within three months after you retire
c. By the week following your date of final separation
d. You can request a final computation as long as you are within a year of retirement eligibility

3. When should you submit your retirement application?
a. One year prior to retirement
b. Two weeks before your retirement date
c. Two to three months before your retirement date
d. On the Monday following your last day on the job

4. If you owe a civilian or a military service credit payment (also known as a deposit), how do you determine if it is worth paying or not?
a. Roll a dice: Odd number, pay it; even number, don't
b. Ask a coworker what he or she did and do the same, because all unpaid deposits have the same effect on your retirement
c. Ask your agency's retirement specialist if it's a good idea to pay the deposit
d. After finding out how much you owe and what happens to your retirement if you don't pay a deposit, evaluate if paying it is the best use of your money

5. Which of the following statements true about Social Security:
a. It is a Ponzi scheme
b. Even without any changes to the current system, the benefit you receive may replace less than one third of your pre-retirement income -- even less if you are a high-salaried employee
c. Without future changes, the Social Security program will end in 30 years
d. Very few Social Security beneficiaries rely on Social Security as their main source of income in retirement

6. Spousal survivor benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System provide all of the following except:
a. Lifetime income to the surviving spouse
b. Entitlement to remain in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program if the annuitant was covered by a self and family enrollment at the time of death
c. The choice for surviving spouses of a lump sum payment or monthly payments
d. Annual cost of living adjustments before and after the death of the employee annuitant
e. A reduction to your taxable retirement income based on the reduction to your retirement

7. If you leave federal service prior to retirement under FERS, how much of your Thrift Savings Plan funds do you take with you?
a. All of them, as long as you completed at least three years of government service
b. Only your contributions; the agency matching and automatic contributions only belong to you if you stay long enough to retire
c. Only what you've invested in the G Fund
d. Only the interest and your contributions; anything your agency put in for you is forfeited

8. The choices for withdrawing your TSP investment after you separate from federal service include the following except:
a. A single lump sum payment
b. A catalog of items to purchase with your investment that includes cars, vacations and farm equipment
c. A life annuity
d. A series of monthly payments
e. A combination of a, c, and d
f. A one-time partial withdrawal

9. Which of the following statements is not true:
a. Medicare is health insurance for people who are 65 and older as well as some disabled people and people of any age who need dialysis or a kidney transplant
b. Federal retirees will lose their FEHBP coverage at 65 if they do not enroll in Medicare
c. If you are enrolled in Medicare, it becomes the primary payer when you are over 65 and retired (and no longer covered by employer sponsored health insurance)
d. Medicare was implemented in 1965
e. Federal employees have been paying the Medicare tax since 1983

10. Which of the following statements is true:
a. Only CSRS employees will receive credit for their unused sick leave towards their retirement computation
b. FERS employees now receive credit for 50 percent of their unused sick leave, but if they retire after 2013, they will receive full credit for their unused sick leave towards the computation of their retirement benefit
c. CSRS employees have been able to credit their unused sick leave towards the computation of their retirement benefit since 1970 and FERS employees have received credit since the implementation of FERS in 1987
d. Unused sick leave credit can be used to make you eligible to retire sooner

Ready to check your score? Click here for the answers

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 federalnewsradio.com or on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington metro area.

By Tammy Flanagan

September 10, 2010