Retirement Planning Retirement PlanningRetirement Planning
Advice on how to prepare for life after government.

How Much Do You Deserve?


Last week, I started answering some questions I received recently following a webinar I conducted on short- and long-term retirement planning. This week, I’ll finish up by answering a few more.

It is very scary trying to calculate just how much you will receive, especially when there is no human resources assistance locally and everyone says that retirement computations provided are just an estimate. What happens if after you retire, your estimate is too far off and you really can't afford to retire? Can you come back without a break in service?

Once you separate from federal service, it can be very difficult to be reinstated. If your agency made a mistake by processing your retirement when you weren’t eligible to retire, then it’s possible you can get your job back. But if you simply miscalculated the amount of income you need to retire comfortably, you would have to get rehired, which might not be so easy.

Keep in mind your retirement estimate is based on two factors: the average of your highest three years of salary and your length of creditable federal service. You know what your salary rates have been and where and when you have worked for the federal government. When you receive your retirement estimate, look it over carefully to be sure all your federal service has been included and your salary rates were properly documented. For more information on the computation of federal retirement benefits, see this series of columns.

I received an annuity estimate and saw that a three-month block of time from the early 1980s when I was a student intern was not included. How can I ensure this time is included in my annuity?

Congratulations! You took a very important step in retirement planning by requesting a retirement estimate from your human resources office. As part of the estimate, you received a summary of your federal service so that you could verify all your past service was included. Now that you’ve noticed a period of missing service, you should contact the specialist who prepared the retirement estimate for help in locating the missing records. If you have any documentation in your own records that includes dates, that may be enough to have your internship included in your retirement service computation date. Otherwise, the missing records might be in storage at the National Personnel Records Center.

What is the difference between the two service computation dates? Why are they not the same?

Actually, there are more than two service computation dates. There are different ones for leave, retirement, the Thrift Savings Plan and reductions in force. The rules for getting crediting for service are different for each. For example, to count active-duty military service toward leave accrual, you must provide documentation of your active service. If you are retired from the military, then you will receive credit for combat time and campaign service. On the other hand, to receive retirement credit for military service, you may have to pay a deposit to the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System.

When you retire, do you pay the entire premium for your health insurance, including what the employer paid when you were working?

Retirees who are eligible to maintain Federal Employees Health Benefits Program coverage pay the same premium as active employees. The government continues to pay the employer share of the premium. The only difference is you will pay premiums on a monthly withholding from your CSRS or FERS retirement benefit as opposed to the biweekly withholding for active employees. Also, unlike current employees, you’ll have to pay income tax on the money that is used to pay your health insurance premiums.

How can I determine how much Federal Employees Group Life Insurance coverage I have?

Next to the withholding on your leave and earnings statement for FEGLI and also on SF-50 Notification of Personnel Action forms, you will see a code indicating your FEGLI coverage. Here’s a guide to these codes to help you determine the amount of your coverage.

Is cashing out my FERS balance completely not an option? If you’re referring to a lump-sum credit in your FERS retirement account (not your TSP account), then here are the rules: If you seek a refund of retirement deductions, you permanently void any retirement rights based on the period of service the refund covers, unless you’re rehired in a permanent federal position with retirement coverage.

To get the lump-sum credit, you have to be separated from federal service for at least 31 consecutive days and not be reemployed in a position that is subject to CSRS or FERS deductions. You must file an application with the Office of Personnel Management to get the refund.


Tammy Flanagan has spent 30 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits. She runs her own consulting business at and provides individual counseling as well as online training for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, Plan Your Federal Retirement as well as the Federal Long Term Care insurance Program. She also serves as the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars.

For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Federal News Radio on Mondays at 10 a.m. ET on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington-metro area. Archived shows are available on

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.