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

Plan Ahead and Reap the Benefits You’ve Earned

This week, I had the pleasure and honor of addressing the annual leadership training conference of Women in Federal Law Enforcement in Houston. I’m always inspired by the bravery and integrity of these officers as I hear stories of their challenging and sometimes dangerous careers. Besides leadership and other work-related training sessions, there were awards ceremonies honoring courage, heroism and outstanding service.

All of these women are very proud of the work that they do and are grateful to the women who entered the law enforcement field before them. The event highlighted for me why it’s so important for these and other federal employees to receive their earned retirement benefits after completing dedicated and productive careers in public service.

What I love most about presenting to the WIFLE audience is the fact that understanding retirement benefits and planning for the future is just as interesting and important to the Drug Enforcement Agency agent who has less than five years of federal service as it is to the Customs and Border Protection officer who is at midcareer. And of course, it’s definitely on the minds of the agents, analysts, and officers who are ready to retire within the...

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

Lately, it seems like I’ve been conducting seminars for as many mid-career employees as for those nearing retirement. It’s great to see younger workers planning for the future.

One difference with midcareer employees is that many of them aren’t planning to complete their careers as federal employees. I always try to point out the value of working long enough to retire and be eligible for lifetime health benefits and the other advantages enjoyed by federal retirees. Still, some employees are going to leave government service before they are eligible for immediate retirement.

If you’re in this group, there are some things you should know before you leave.

Deferred Benefits

Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, even if you leave early, you may be entitled to a deferred retirement benefit. To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have at least five years of civilian federal service before you resign.
  • Do not elect to receive a refund of your FERS retirement contributions.
  • File for your future retirement benefit as early as your minimum retirement age (55-57, depending on your year of birth) if you had at least 10 years of prior service. The benefit will be reduced...

4 Things You Need to Know About Retirement Rules

On many occasions, someone tells me that they’re worried that there is something about their retirement that they may not realize that they don’t know. Often, this is why they attend a retirement seminar or end up hiring a professional to provide advice.

There are good reasons for federal employees to be concerned about gaps in knowledge about their retirement benefits. Let’s look at a few.

The rules have changed many times over the years.

Civilian employees have had retirement benefits for almost 100 years. In that time, the rules that apply to it have been overhauled and amended many times. Here’s just one example: differences between the newer Federal Employees Retirement System and the old Civil Service Retirement System. Under FERS, civilian service that was not covered by retirement deductions is not creditable towards eligibility or computation of the basic retirement benefit if it was performed after 1988. This includes most temporary service, such as seasonal work for the National Park Service. However, if such service was performed before 1989, it can become creditable by making a contribution to FERS (with interest) prior to retirement.

Under CSRS, this type of service counts towards eligibility and...

Weighing Your Life Insurance Options

In last week’s column, we took a look at the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program. FEGLI is a form of group term life insurance. It has no cash value, and once you’re insured, you can choose to keep it throughout your life. For most of people, term life insurance is the best way to cover their insurance needs.

Permanent or whole life insurance is different. It generally has a fixed premium, it maintains its value throughout your life and there is a cash value component you can access. In a Kiplinger’s article about how to determine your life insurance needs, Kimberly Lankford writes that the best reason to consider whole life insurance is if you’ll need coverage beyond 20 or 30 years -- or after age 65, when term insurance gets expensive. You might want permanent insurance, for example, if you need to protect kids with special needs who will always rely on you (or your estate) for support.

There are also enrollment issues to consider when weighing your insurance options. FEGLI rarely holds open enrollment periods, when you can increase your coverage without medical underwriting. (There was one last year.) You can sign up when...

Your Money and Your Life Insurance

As federal employees plan for retirement, it’s important that they reevaluate their insurance needs. This includes health, long-term care, and life insurance. The unexpected need for expensive medical care, personal care due to a physical or mental impairment or an untimely death can throw a monkey wrench into the best-laid retirement plans.

In recent columns, we’ve looked at the cost of prescription drugs and assessing whether you need Medicare if you have federal health benefits coverage. In this week’s column and next week’s we’ll zero in on evaluating the Federal Employee’s Group Life Insurance program to determine if it is the best option for your life insurance needs. FEGLI may be the best choice for you, or you might find a better fit if you shop around. Just to be clear, I don’t sell life insurance products. I’m just here to help guide you through your options.

This week, we’ll look at FEGLI, and next week we’ll cover some of the other options.  

When it comes to life insurance, FEGLI is an easy option for federal employees. It’s offered by the federal government,  and the premium is deducted automatically...