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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

  • The program will become effective at the time set in the regulations to be issued.  Implementation of the program is an important goal of OPM, and this will be accomplished as soon as possible.  
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  • You can ask that your retirement contributions be returned to you in a lump sum payment. Or, you can wait until you are retirement age to apply for monthly retirement benefit payments. If you get a refund of your retirement contributions now, you will no longer be eligible to receive monthly payments when you reach retirement age. Refer to information about retirement eligibility.
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  • You should ask for a form SSA-7004-PC, Request for Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement, from your local Social Security Office or visit their website at http://www.ssa.gov. If you submit this form, you will get a statement that provides information on your future eligibility for Social Security benefits and estimates of these benefits at specified dates. These estimates do not reflect any reduction for the Government Pension Offset or the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).
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  • For more information regarding Federal income taxes, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov or call the IRS on 1-800-829-1040.
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  • You can voluntarily withhold Federal and State income taxes, checking and savings allotments, or allotments to other participating organizations. Federal Income Tax: Generally, unless you specify a monthly withholding rate or amount, we withhold Federal income tax as if you are married and claiming three allowances. Use Services Online to start, change, or stop the Federal tax withheld from your annuity payment or specify the dollar amount withheld. You can also call us or write us to change your withholding amount. If you write, your letter should include your claim number and the monthly amount in dollars you want withheld. If you write, we will send you a Form W-4P-A, "Election of Federal Income Tax Withholding," and instructions for making the change. The change in your withholdings will be made after we receive your Form W-4P-A. You may change the amount withheld whenever you think it is necessary. Please note that you may be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you do not have at least 90 percent of your yearly tax liability either withheld from your salary or annuity or made via quarterly payments to the IRS. If you need more information or assistance in determining whether or not you are having the right amount of Federal income tax withheld, see the Internal Revenue Service website at http://www.irs.gov. State Income Tax: You must specify the dollar amount of State tax you want withheld from your monthly payments. The withholding must be in whole dollars. The minimum amount we can withhold for State income tax is $5. Use Services Online to start, change, or stop the State tax withheld from your annuity payment. You can also call us or write us to change your withholding amount. If you write, your letter should include your claim number and the monthly amount in dollars you want withheld. If you do not know the monthly amount you want withheld, contact your State tax office for information or assistance. Check our list of State tax offices for information about participating States. If your State does not participate, please contact the State tax office for information or assistance. Savings Bonds: As of April 1, 2009, The Office of Personnel Management is no longer withholding for the purchase of savings bonds. Please contact your bank or other financial institution or the Department of the Treasury to purchase these bonds. For further information on Savings Bonds visit the Treasury Direct website or call 1 (800) 4US-BOND. Allotments to Organizations: You can start, change, or stop an allotment to participating organizations. Participating organizations include:
    • American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE);
    • Fraternal Order of Retired Border Patrol Officers (Museum);
    • National Association of Postmasters of the U.S. Political Action Committee;
    • National Rural Letter Carriers Association Political Action Committee;
    • National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU);
    • Northwest Plan Administrators; and
    • Treasury Employees Political Action Committee.
    If the organization for which you wish to make an allotment is not listed above, you should contact them and ask them to provide us with the banking information needed to forward payments. The organization can contact us by email at finance@opm.gov. Use Services Online or call our toll-free number to make one-time or recurring membership payments to organizations. Checking and Savings Allotments:  Checking and savings allotments are voluntary deductions for allotments sent by direct deposit to a checking or savings account in your name. You may have up to two allotments. The accounts must be maintained at a domestic financial institution. This does not include charities, savings bonds, garnishments or other court orders, union or other organizational dues. You must maintain at least $100 net annuity payment. The allotment must be for a minimum of $50. Use Services Online to start, change, or stop an allotment or call our toll-free number to establish a checking or savings allotment.
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  • When you get within one year of retirement eligibility, you should:
    • Confirm when you will be eligible to get a retirement benefit;
    • Decide when you want to retire;
    • Get information about other benefits to which you may also be eligible, such as Thrift Savings Plan payment options and any other entitlements based on employment, for example: Foreign Service, Social Security, pensions from private industry, and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA). You should have a fairly comprehensive picture of all sources of your retirement income and when each is payable.
    • Tell your supervisor about your proposed retirement date. You should give sufficient notice to allow for planning for someone to take your place.
    • Attend a pre-retirement counseling seminar.
    • Make an appointment with your personnel officer to review your Official Personnel Folder (OPF) or its equivalent to make sure all your records are complete and accurate, all service is verified, and your insurance coverage is documented.
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  • You should begin planning several years before the date you have set for retirement so that you will know what is required to continue certain benefits into retirement. There are many factors related to retirement planning, and it is literally never too early to begin. The federal annuity is only one element to consider in today's complex financial scene. You may need to start a Thrift Savings Plan or IRA schedule many years before considering actual retirement. Other considerations, such as Social Security may affect your benefits. However, the best place to begin is with your local personnel service center. They can provide personalized assistance and they have your employment records. Your health and life insurance coverages are of immediate concern now because you must carry coverage continuously for at least five years before your retirement or you may be ineligible to continue them.
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  • Survivors of Annuitants Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)- The maximum annuity for a spouse who survives an annuitant is 55 percent of the annuitant's benefit before it is reduced by the cost of the election to provide the survivor benefit. Generally, this equals 60 percent of the annuitant's current gross annuity. The survivor annuity will be less if the annuitant elected at retirement to provide less than the maximum benefit. For example, if an annuitant whose unreduced annual benefit is $31,003.24 elected to provide the maximum benefit, the survivor annuity would equal $31,003.24 x 55 percent = $17,051.78. Survivors of Employees Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)- The annuity payable to the surviving spouse of an employee whose death occurs while employed with the Federal Government is 55 percent of the annuity computed as if the employee had retired on disability as of the date of his or her death. An employee's surviving spouse receives 55 percent of the higher of:
    • An annuity computed under the formula based on the employee's service, salary, and sick leave. Refer to Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Computation for information about the computation of an employee's annuity.
    • A guaranteed minimum annuity which is the lesser of:
      • Forty percent of the employee's high-3 average salary; or
      • The regular annuity obtained after increasing the employee's length of service by the period of time between the date of the employee's death and the date he or she would have reached age 60.
    If, at the date of the employee's death, he or she was a law enforcement officer or firefighter who had at least 20 years of service as a law enforcement officer, firefighter or nuclear materials courier, the surviving spouse would receive 55 percent of the annuity computed under the special provisions for law enforcement officers, firefighters and nuclear materials couriers. If the employee performed service as a law enforcement officer or firefighter but was not employed in such a capacity at the time of his or her death; or, if he or she was a law enforcement officer or firefighter but was not age 50 with at least 20 years of law enforcement service or firefighter service, survivors can receive an annuity computation that is enhanced for the law enforcement or firefighter service on a pro-rated basis. If, at the date of the employee's death, he or she was age 50 and had performed at least 20 years of air traffic controller service; or, regardless of age, had at least 25 years of air traffic controller service, the surviving spouse receives 55 percent of an annuity computed under the special formula for air traffic controllers. Survivors of Annuitants Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)- Monthly Annuity- The maximum monthly annuity for a spouse who survives a FERS annuitant is 50 percent of the annuitant's benefit before it is reduced by the cost of the election to provide the survivor benefit.   The survivor annuity will be 25% of the annuitant’s benefit, if the annuitant elected at retirement to provide a partial survivor benefit. For example, if an annuitant whose unreduced annual benefit is $31,003.24 elected to provide the maximum benefit, the survivor annuity would equal $31,003.24 x 50 percent = $15,501.62. Survivors of Employees Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)- Monthly Annuity- The monthly annuity payable to the surviving spouse of an employee whose death occurs while employed with the Federal Government is 50 percent of the annuity computed as if the employee had retired as of the date of his/her death. The monthly annuity payable to the surviving spouse of the employee is 50 percent of the annuity computed under the special formula for law enforcement officers, firefighters, and air traffic controllers if, at the date of death, the employee was:
    • Age 50 or older and had at least 20 years of law enforcement, firefighter and/or nuclear materials courier service, or 20 years of air traffic controller service; or
    • Was any age with at least 25 years of law enforcement, firefighter or nuclear materials courier service, or 25 years of air traffic controller service.
    Basic Employee Death Benefit- Amount of the Basic Employee Death Benefit:
    • 50% of the employee’s final salary (average salary, if higher), plus
    • $15,000 increased by Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) cost-of-living adjustments beginning 12/1/87.  For deaths on or after 12/1/07, this amount is $28,093.53.  It will be updated by future CSRS cost-of-living adjustments.
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  • If you receive a Federal pension and are also eligible for Social Security benefits based on your own employment record, a different formula may be used to compute your Social Security benefit. This formula will result in a lower benefit. The Windfall Elimination Provision affects workers who reach age 62 or become disabled after 1985 and are first eligible after 1985 for a Federal pension. The Windfall Elimination Provision does not apply if:
    • You were eligible to retire before January 1, 1986; or,
    • You were first employed by the government after December 31, 1983; or,
    • You have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security.
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  • If no survivor annuity is payable upon the retiree's death, any remaining portion, representing either the remaining annuity and/or retirement contributions not paid to the retiree, is payable to the person(s) eligible under the order of precedence. If the court assigned payment under a court order, we will pay the lump sum in accordance with that court order. Otherwise, we will pay benefits under the following order of precedence:
    • to the designated beneficiary;
    • if there is no such beneficiary, to the widow or widower;
    • if none of the above, to the child or children, with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child (a court will usually have to appoint a guardian to receive payment for a minor child);
    • if none of the above, to the parents in equal shares or the entire amount to a surviving parent;
    • if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of the estate; or
    • if none of the above, to the next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where the retiree lived.
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