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Posted on Friday, 3rd August 2018 by

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Recently, Greg asked, “how important is it to attend a retirement briefing or not?” He and his wife intend to travel the country for several years after leaving federal service.

I developed my retirement planning website because I attended two agency sponsored retirement seminars and came back with more questions than answers. That being said, that doesn’t mean I didn’t benefit from our personnel office’s retirement counselor briefings. They provided valuable benefit information, introduced me to the retirement application process, and outlined available options. After attending a briefing research and use all available resources to ensure you make the right decisions when you complete your retirement application. Retirement briefings along with your personal research will help you get it right the first time.

 

 

For information about specific retirement benefits search www.federalretirement.net and review our retirement planning article index to find guidance for just about any subject. Use other valuable sources such as OPM’s online retirement services and columnists like Tammy Flanagan who explains even the most complex issues in language that all can understand. Tammy’s recent article titled 13 things to Know About Your Annuity Option is an excellent example of how she drills down to the essential elements of an issue.

I receive numerous requests to provide one-on-one personal retirement planning counseling. Even though I manage a fulltime business including 10 internet properties, and just completed my 27th book, I make time to answer questions I receive from my site visitors and newsletter subscribers. There isn’t enough time in a day, especially when you add in family and our three beautiful grandchildren, for me to provide personal counselling services. Fortunately, there are options available for those needing one-on-one counseling and assistance.

A number of organizations provide fee-for-service retirement planning consulting, conduct on-site retirement seminars, offer comprehensive retirement planning reports, and/or host webinars that can answer even your most demanding questions. I’ll list several here:

  • Request a comprehensive 27-page Federal Retirement Report™ for $79 that evaluates your retirement benefits including FEGLI options and TSP investments, retirement eligibility, and annuity projections. They include a 1-hour, one-on-one, personal consultation with their federal retirement specialist to review your Report with you. This service comes with a 100% money back guarantee if not completely satisfied.
  • Retire Federal and Tammy Flanagan, their Principal Retirement Specialist, provide personalized federal employee retirement training and counselling on a fee for service basis. Tammy is a consummate professional that has worked in the federal retirement arena for many years and is well known for her expertise in this area. They also offer on-site retirement planning seminars.
  • Divorce consulting – If you are anticipating a divorce or currently in divorce proceedings talk to Ann Ozuna, our Divorce Forum Host. Ann works with employees/retirees and their lawyers on divorce matters such as dividing federal retirement, survivor benefits, and the Thrift Savings Plan. Here are two of Ann’s articles that you will find helpful if you are in this situation:
  • For those that would like to advance in their careers consider contacting CareerPro Global. Barbara Adams, the owner, has spent a lifetime working with federal employees to prepare a professional application package. Their services can dramatically improve your chances for promotions and thereby increasing your high-3 average pay that is used to calculate your retirement annuity. They also offer fee for service career counselling.

The more time and preparation that you devote to retirement planning the better off you will be when you finally walk out the door. Retirement planning can be compared to taking a journey. Greg and his wife plan to sell all of their belongings and travel the country when he retires. When you plan an extensive trip, you do your research; find the right motor home, select your destinations carefully, and project your income and expenses for the adventure. You don’t generally leave things to chance, you plan to make it a successful and safe journey.

Retirement planning uses the same process. You explore your options making sure you leave nothing on the table, project your expenses against income in retirement and so much more. You make the right benefit elections so you don’t jeopardize you and your family’s well-being and you must take your time to do it right.

If you don’t understand how a retirement benefit will affect you and your family reach out to your HR retirement specialist first, search our web site for answers and if necessary contact services such as those mentioned above to find the answer before making the election. A successful and financially secure retirement depends on making the right decisions to protect you and your family. Unfortunately, you can’t change many of your benefit elections after your retirement application is processed by OPM.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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    Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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    Posted on Friday, 20th July 2018 by

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    MY daughter and her husband recently applied for a passport. They took their birth certificates and required photos with them to the meeting. Unfortunately, the Post Office wouldn’t accept their birth certificates, they were told they were copies and originals or certificates reissued by the appropriate state vital records office were required.

    It’s important to have vital records available when needed such as an official marriage license to apply for survivor’s benefits or a service member’s DD-214 record to receive burial benefits for a deceased veteran. Now is a good time to review the records you have on hand and to take the necessary actions to either replace lost documents or obtain official copies for future use.

    It’s frustrating when confronted with a lost or stolen document or when discovering the documents you have are unacceptable copies. Even today, with so much information online, everything from driver registration and Medicare cards to marriage certificates and passports must be readily available. If you find documents missing take the following actions to replace them now and when they arrive store them somewhere safe. Either in a fireproof home safe, at your lawyer’s office, or in your bank’s safety deposit box.

    Birth Certificates, Marriage Licenses, and Divorce Records

    These documents are used to obtain benefits, apply for passports, and for other purposes. Those born in the United States must contact the vital records office in the state where they were born to obtain a new birth certificate. The vital records office will provide official replacements for a small fee. If you intend to apply for a passport or will need your birth certificate for some other purpose in the near future start the process as soon as possible. It can take several weeks or longer for your replacement to arrive. Use the following web site to find the appropriate office:

    Note: The government site listed above will direct you to your State’s vital records office and website. Many states allow you to complete an online form, print it out and send it in with the fee or even pay online in some cases. However, you will need to supply them with forms of identification such as a valid government photo ID or driver’s license. If you don’t have a photo ID you must supply two alternative forms of identification that you will find listed on the application.

    You will have to provide additional information when requesting marriage licenses and divorce records including date of the wedding or divorce, full names of both parties, and the county and city where it took place. These documents are filed at county offices initially by the minister or official that presided over the event. In my case I was married while serving on active duty and returned home to marry my childhood sweetheart. Since we flew to Mississippi several days after the ceremony, I never received a copy from the county. Our priest gave us a religious wedding certificate the day of the wedding. I need to request an official copy for our records.

    If you lost any of these documents contact your state’s vital records office. Generally, with a divorce you can get a copy of the divorce certificate from your State’s vital statistics office. A divorce certificate can be used to change your name on a driver’s license. To obtain a copy of a divorce decree, often needed when someone applies for Social Security Benefits based on an ex-spouse’s record, you must obtain a copy from the county clerk’s office in the city where you filed for a divorce.

    Passports

    You will need an official birth certificate and valid photo ID to apply for a passport along with a closeup headshot photo. To locate a facility near you use the State Department’s Passport Facility Search Page.

    If your passport is lost or stolen you can report the loss and apply for a replacement by contacting the State Department. It’s important to notify the State Department immediately to report the loss either online, by email, or phone. Regardless of which method you use to report the loss you must fill out a DS-64 (Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport) if you require a replacement. The DS-64 form must be submitted with your DS-11 Application for a new U.S. Passport.

    There are times when you need your replacement passport expedited for emergencies and for upcoming travel over the next two to six weeks. You can apply in person at designated locations nationwide to file for expedited service.

    Military Discharge DD-214 Forms

    The DD-214 form verifies military service and they are needed when applying for benefits and for other purposes. I recently used a copy of my DD-214 form to receive a $400 military discount when I purchased a new Kia Soul recently and had to take it into Lowes to have my service record added to their rewards program. Lowe’s gives all military members and honorably discharged veterans a 10% across the board discount on all purchases. It is also needed if a veteran applies for a VA loan or at the time of death to take advantage of the VA’s generous death benefits. When I was discharged from active duty in Topeka, Kansas they advised us to file the document at the local court house, which I did.

    To obtain a copy of your DD-214 record you will have to contact the Federal Records Center or if you filed a copy at the city court house where you were discharged you can contact them for a copy. It is good to have several copies available. I’ve used mine many times over the years.

    Social Security and Medicare Cards

    In today’s world the Social Security Card still has its uses. Some States ask for your card when applying for a driver’s license. If you should lose your card Social Security will replace it at no cost and you may be able to obtain a replacement online, depending on the state you reside in, at www.ssa.gov. You will need an active Social Security online account to request a replacement or you can file a Form SS-5 at your local Social Security office in your area.

    Today, a child’s Social Security number is applied for at birth. When our two children were born in the 1970s that wasn’t the practice. They didn’t apply for their card until they started to work. The Social Security web site is user friendly and it is easy to set up an account. With an account you can review your detailed Summary of Benefits and work record, apply for benefits, and search their site for needed information about your benefits. Setup your account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. I’ll be collecting benefits when I reach my 70th birthday and the sign up is automatic since I filed and suspended my SS benefits when my wife turned 66 so she could collect my higher spousal benefit. All I have to do is add my bank account information so they know where to send the monthly check.

    If you just lost your Medicare card, new ones are on the way. The original cards listed our social security number on the card with an appropriate prefix identify the program we are on. Medicare is no longer using Social Security numbers so if you haven’t already received the new one, a new card should arrive shortly. My wife and I received our new cards last month.

    To request a replacement for a lost or stolen Medicare card log on to your Social Security account. There is a box on the right side of the screen with options, select “Replacement Documents” then select “Mail My Replacement Card.” It typically takes 30 days to receive your new card. If you need it now for a doctor’s appointment you can request a “Benefits Verification Letter” that Medicare providers will accept until your new card arrives.

    Car License Plates

    This happened to me several years ago when I was 700 miles away from home in South Carolina. It was spring break in Myrtle Beach and college kids stole a number of license plates off of the parked cars at our hotel. The Canadians who lost a plate still had one remaining to make it home, they require two plates on their cars, front and back. I contacted AAA immediately and they could not help and couldn’t provide any guidance on how to proceed!

    I reported the theft to the local police and they issued me a letter that I could use if stopped on the trip home. We weren’t going home for several weeks and during the fist day I was stopped twice. Fortunately, I contacted my car dealer back home that I recently purchased the car from, they sent a new plate overnight and didn’t even charge me for it. Upon returning home I researched the replacement license plate process and published http://www.stolenplates.com to provide others with the guidance they needed to replace a stolen or lost license plate. If your plate is lost or stolen follow the guidance on my site to fast track a replacement.

    Additional Document Replacements

    There are many other valuable documents that you may need to replace such as property records, insurance policies, paper savings bonds, vehicle titles and so much more. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) publishes a comprehensive Fact Sheet titled “Replacing Lost Documents” that you will find helpful.

    Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

    Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

    Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

    Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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      Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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      Posted on Friday, 6th July 2018 by

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      I frequently talk about what is happening in my life as it relates to retirement. For example, when I signed up for Medicare and Social Security I outlined the process for others to follow. Recently I began searching for a small car for my wife, a car that would easily fit in the garage and that’s suitable for seniors. Can’t believe I referred to my wife and I as “Seniors!”

      I started the hunt in late April after receiving the 2018 Consumer Reports (CR) annual auto issue. Each Year I look forward to their “Best & Worst Cars, SUVs and Trucks” issue and digest it front to back. I was motivated this year. We have two large vehicles, a SUV and sedan, that my wife drives reluctantly. She wanted a smaller easier to handle car that would fit into the garage with room left over for my workshop and for general storage. I was also concerned that if anything would happen to me I wanted Mary to have a car that she was comfortable driving.

       

      Finding the Right Fit

      I started on the project this past winter by reorganizing the garage and installing a wall storage unit. Our empty stall isn’t as deep as the others. We limited our search to cars under 178 inches long, the shorter the better. We wanted a quiet comfortable riding reliable car that’s easy on gas. Plus, we wanted one with a little style, desirable amenities, and a sensible media console. A tall order for small cars today. Many of the media consoles are overly complex and it is difficult to access even basic car functions like the radio and climate control!

      CR helped narrow the field with their article titled “Best New Cars for Seniors.” I test drove 16 cars over a six-week period starting in early May. The car dealers were helpful and accommodating issuing me a Dealer Registration Plate Permit for all but one of the top 7 contenders. I was able to take 6 of the cars home for the day to try them out and show my wife. I initially looked at both new and used cars. Car Sense, a national used car dealer network, is easy to work with. They simply let you test drive any car of your choosing and they don’t tag along! I drove a used Hyundai Accent to our home for my first test drive for my wife to evaluate.

      When new car dealers offer incentives and rebates new car prices are often close to the cost of 2 and 3-year-old used cars with 20 to 30 thousand miles or more. We focused on new cars and were fortunate, I was able to negotiate anywhere from 15 to 23 percent off MSRP with several of the ones I tested. That’s a lot for a small car. Most of the time I’ve negotiated up to 20% or more off MSRP on midsize or large cars. Last December I was able to get my daughter 33% off MSRP for a fully equipped Ford Fusion she purchased!

      The smallest car I tested was the Chevy Spark at 143 inches and the largest was the Chevy Equinox at 183 inches. I test drove the following vehicles:

      • Chevy Equinox, Cruze, Sonic and Spark
      • Ford Focus and Fiesta
      • Honda HRV
      • Hyundai Accent
      • Kia Forte, Kia Forte5, and Soul
      • Subaru Forester and Impreza
      • Toyota Corolla iM, Prius and Yaris iA

      The Chevy Cruze, Chevy Equinox, and Subaru Forester were too big although they road well and our Chevy dealer was offering 20% off MSRP on the Cruze model. If I had more room in the garage the Cruze would have been a contender. For a small sedan the Cruze had sufficient power, was well appointed and comfortable to drive with less road noise than most. That same Chevy dealer was only offering $1,500 off the much smaller Sonic and Spark models making them only a few thousand less than the discounted Cruze.

      The Chevy Spark was a perfect fit for our garage and overall provided 33 miles per gallon (mpg). However, most of the small cars produced a high level of road noise and were under powered from my perspective.

      Ford gave us the best deals. They offered us a 21% discount on the Fiesta and we could have purchased it for just $13,848 NEW plus tax and fees and they offered us 23% off a Focus dropping the MSRP from $21,514 to $16,500! Great deals. The standard Focus was a little too long at 179 inches and the Fiesta was just 5 inches shorter. I did drive both models home. The two Subaru models were both larger than our garage would accommodate. They had a good feel providing a controlled and comfortable ride and good gas mileage ratings. Their rebates were limited which made them higher priced overall.

      None of the small cars that met our criteria created the desire to make a purchase. Then I test drove the Toyota Prius. I personally loved the car, it was well appointed handled well, and is rated at 50 mpg! It was too low to the ground for us and difficult getting in and out of. Plus, the information system and controls are unique to hybrids which we are unfamiliar with. It was also at the top end for acceptable car length and higher priced compared to similar sized vehicles.

      I also tested the Toyota Yaris iA and the Corolla iM. The Corolla iM was an excellent car and it had all the bells and whistles as they say including standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. It handled the road well with acceptable road noise and has a 31-mpg average rating. Toyota did offer 14% below MSRP for the iM however they don’t offer veterans a military discount, only active duty members. Other dealers extended the military discount to active duty and veterans that could provide a copy of their DD-214 discharge paperwork. The Corolla iM hatchback would have been a finalist if they offered the military discount to veterans. The downside to the iM for us was its limited storage, lower ground clearance, and the selling price was higher than the other models we tested.

      Towards the end of my search I discovered the Kia. CR ranks Kia #6 on a list of 34 as the best brands for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. I test drove the Kia Forte. The Forte handled surprisingly well with a rating of 32 MPG plus it looked luxurious inside with options and interior details like much higher priced vehicles. They only had the base LX model in stock and the Forte was too long for our garage. We decided to wait for the shorter Forte5 EX hatchback to arrive that included 16-inch alloy wheels and other amenities. Michael Fehl, our sales associate at #1 Cochran Kia, suggested I test drive the Kia Soul and I said flat out no, it was too unusual and didn’t think my wife would like it.

      When the Forte 5s arrived they only received a shipment of LX models with the smaller wheels and less options. Michael again suggested that I test drive the Soul. I agreed to give it a try and took it home to my wife and it fit in the garage like it belonged there. The ride was pleasant and road noise was muted compared to other small cars. The inside was spacious and comfortable. It had most of what we wanted in a car and the information system is intuitive, logical and easy to learn and use! The gas mpg rating is 27 mpg average and everything else exceeded our expectations including their 10-year drive train warranty.

      The Kia Soul is downright roomy and deceiving to the casual observer. Open either of the 5 doors and find a pleasant welcoming environment from the comfortable adjustable high front seats to the well-appointed interior details, two tone dash and seating, easy to use information system, and options. The winner from our perspective plus they offered us 17% below MSRP including a $400 military discount, added a spare tire with jack kit, pin stripping and mud flaps at no additional cost. With discounts like these you can buy a new Soul from the mid to high teens plus taxes and plates.

       

      A Perfect Fit For A New Soul

      Another pleasant surprise was the attention to detail and care we received from #1 Cochran Kia and Michael Fehl, our Kia sales associate. Michael spent a half hour in the car with us explaining every detail, paring our iPhone through Apply Play to the display, setting up GPS, activating other apps and much more.  The customer service was exceptional and they followed up several times after the sale to ensure we were satisfied and wanted to know if we had any questions or concerns.

      If you consider any of the smaller cars make sure they have a functional spare tire included. Manufacturers are substituting an inflation kit instead of a spare. Have them include the spare to close the deal and ask for winter matts, mud flaps, and a cargo net if not included. I forgot to ask for winter matts.

       

      Our 2018 Kia Soul

      Buying the Kia Soul served two purposes, first it is my wife’s primary car that she enjoys driving, and when my 2009 SUV goes the Soul will replace it and we will be down to 2 cars again. According to CR, “Though fundamentally a hatchback, the Soul can function as an SUV alternative.” It fits in a small garage or parking space at 163 inches long and 71 inches wide. The back seats are comfortable, not cramped like many small cars, and they fold almost flat so you can haul large items with ease. The soul has all the options available you would want in a car. They may look strange when you first see them but after owning it for several weeks I think it’s an attractive, functional, and fun to drive alternative for seniors that want a clear view of the road and surroundings, easy access and egress, space for their grandkids, and want a fun car to drive. CR goes on to say, “It packs abundant interior space, with chair like seats and big windows providing an excellent view out.” It is also rated above average by CR for reliability and satisfaction and has an overall 5 STAR Safety rating!

      Depending on your needs and desires you may find other vehicles preferable. However, it will be difficult finding a car of this caliber anywhere near the prices that we paid for our Kia Soul last month.

      Request a Federal Retirement Report™ today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

      The following information will help you plan your retirement:

      Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

      Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

      Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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        Posted in FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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        Posted on Thursday, 21st June 2018 by

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        There are a number of actions to take long before you retire to expedite retirement application processing. If you don’t correct certain errors prior to applying be financially prepared to live on a reduced interim annuity check for an extended period.

        One of our site visitors recently discovered that her ten years of military service wasn’t included in her electronic Official Personnel File (eOPF). She applied for military credit at a previous federal agency early in her career and a copy of the paid-in-full letter was missing from her record. Without the 10 years of military service her annuity would be substantially reduced. There are actions you can take to recover this information if it is missing from your file.

        Making a military deposit for time served isn’t difficult, however it does take time. You should start the process several years before your target retirement date, if possible, to give you time to pay it back through biweekly payroll deductions. You can pay the lump sum however it could be a significant amount depending on the number of years served and military pay grade. The military organization must recover your files and provide your estimated earnings for all service periods and it is a time consumer task. When I applied it took almost a year to get my estimate back and then several months more for payroll to accept the documentation and set up a payment schedule.

        Another federal employee had a break in service and his leave and earnings statement (LES) didn’t reflect federal service at a previous agency. Over the past 10 years agencies have converted hard copy OPF files to electronic versions and documents may have been missed during the conversion. It’s a good practice for all federal employees to check their eOPF at least once to ensure the file is up to date and includes all previous federal service.

        Check your LES for your Service Comp Date (SCD). Does it reflect all of your past federal service including part time work? If you filed the proper military credit paperwork you should find an entry in block 20 on your LES titled “MILBAL-DUE” and a dollar amount, mine showed a zero balance because I paid mine off long before I retired. Each agency’s payroll office may list this a little differently on their LES. If you applied for military credit and paid the amount off or are still making payments talk with your payroll office if you can’t find this entry on your statement.

        Long before filing your retirement paperwork confirm that your SCD date on your LES is correct and that all prior federal service is included in your record. Active federal employees have the right to review their eOPF upon request. You should find a payment-in-full letter in the eOPF if you applied for military credit and paid the total amount due. If you paid it in a lump sum provide a copy of the paid-in-full letter to HR and have them add it to your eOPF. If your military deposit is paid-in-full by payroll deductions, you must request a Paid-in-Full Letter through your human resources office or Customer Service Representative (CSR) and have them add it to your eOPF.

        All of my federal service, including my military time, was included on my original “Certified Summary of Federal Service” that I received from HR during the retirement application process. I didn’t have to make any changes and I signed the document and returned it for processing. If you find errors on your Certified Summary of Federal Service report during the retirement application process it can significantly delay processing until all of your service is listed. That is why it is essential to review your eOPF before applying for retirement.

        Request your eOPF review soon to ensure all creditable service is included and take whatever actions are needed now to correct and update your official records. A few hours of review now can save you considerable grief during the retirement application process.

        Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

        The following articles will  help you plan your retirement:

        Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

        Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

        Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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          Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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          Posted on Friday, 8th June 2018 by

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          When you require information about your benefits and retirement planning you need resources at your fingertips to make informed decisions FAST. OPM does have a comprehensive site, http://www.opm.gov, that you can search and find abundant information, however it is often difficult to locate what you are looking for. Plus they don’t offer advice such as the best route to take for your personal circumstances.

          That’s why I designed and published http://www.federalretirement.net in 2004, the year I retired from federal government. I attended several agency sponsored retirement planning seminars the year I retired and came back with more questions than answers. My intent from the start was to provide our site visitors an insider’s perspective derived from firsthand experience and from actual federal employees and annuitants. We have experienced guest writers and Forum Hosts working on our blog and website to keep it up-to-date and relevant.

          Beth, one of our retirement planning email newsletter subscribers, stated in a recent email message, “I’ve been a disciple of yours since my husband retired from SSA in 2015. Your columns are extremely helpful, thank you! I have an electronic file for them and can generally find exactly what I need. My husband will turn 65 early next year and I want to make sure we have all our ducks in a row to get him signed up for Medicare without doing something stupid. I have Part One of your Medicare and FEHB article referenced below, but I can’t seem to find Parts 2 and 3. Can you please point me to them?”

          I receive many requests like this and I’m able to steer them to the resources they need. Many times, the article is several years old and only now do they need the advice, such as Beth who ‘s husband will sign up for Medicare next year.  I wrote the Medicare series in 2014 when I was signing up for Medicare.

          We now have over 250 retirement planning articles posted on our blog and all of them were sent out to our newsletter subscribers concurrently with the blog posting.  If you are not already a newsletter subscriber, sign up now. Last month we set up a comprehensive retirement planning alphabetical article index for our site visitors and newsletter subscribers to use when searching for needed information. The index lists the title of the article and we highlight in BOLD the key words so that visitors can easily get to the subject they need. For example the article titled Medicare and FEHB Options – What Will You Do When You Turn 65? (Part 1)” is listed in the index under Medicare so if you go to the “M” listings. The second article of the series is titled “What to Consider Before Enrolling in Medicare B (Part 2).”  The bold text is the word we use to add it to the index so the index is defined by the subject you seek information about.

          There are several ways for you to search for the information you need on our sites. First, go to the home page and you will find a horizontal dropdown menu at the top by major subject area. This menu repeats on every page of the site. I spent over two months designing the menu structure to make it intuitive and easy to use. As you curser (move) down the page you will notice that the horizontal menu always stays at the top so you can get to it no matter where you are at on the page. I also added a Fast Track Menu on the home page further down for quick access to majors areas of interest. The link to the article index is at the top of the Fast Track Menu.

          All major  subject areas such as Retirement Eligibility, Annuities, Financial Planning, Benefits such as FEHB, FEGLI, Medicare, Social Security, all have their own pages that outline what you need to know, required forms, how to apply, etc. We provide direct links to OPM and other official sources on these pages and in the resource section at the bottom of each page.

          If you have a  question about Medicare you can go direct to our Medicare page to find the information you need. We integrate our retirement planning articles into each of the subject areas on our web site. For example, on the Medicare page you will find links on the Page Menu to the four part series that I wrote about signing up for Medicare. At the bottom of the page under “Resources” you will find direct links to the official Medicare site, Social Security, AARP Guides, etc. All of the information and additional resources you need for your research.

          Lastly, we have a search feature on most pages. Just type the subject of interest in the search box and click the search button. This feature will search all of our interrelated sites and provides links you can click on for needed information.

          Our retirement planning blog presents the most recent 12 articles for your review. To find other articles use the article index or you can search the blog site by author. All of the articles written by each author are listed, go to the author listing in the right column just below related links. Click on the author’s name or you can search though all of the articles written for a specific year.

          When you need benefits and retirement planning guidance visit our site and search for the topic of interest. You can also download our Master Retiree Contact List. This list provides important contact numbers and information that you can keep with your retirement planning file.

          It is frustrating when you need information and can’t get answers from OPM or your agency’s HR department. If you are retired and call OPM it can take days to get through, their line is always busy and you ultimately have long waits if you do get through.

          Visit our site and search for what you need and always work with your HR office or OPM to finalize your plans. You will find abundant information on our sites to get you started and that will help you until you can get through to HR or OPM. They are the ones that have access to your Official Personnel File (OPF) and other relevant information. I mentioned this before and it is important, if you are retiring soon be sure to capture needed information from you active service files BEFORE YOU LEAVE.

          If you are searching for information about a specific subject on our site and don’t find it, let us know. We update our sites daily and are always looking for ways to improve our services.

          Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

          The following articles will  help you plan your retirement:

          Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

          Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

          Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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            Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION, UNCATEGORIZED

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            Posted on Friday, 1st June 2018 by

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            There are many significant milestones in all of our lives. I attending Milton Hershey School for Boys in the late 1950s and early 60s, graduated from high school and college, received my draft notice in 1968, joined the U.S. Air Force, married my high school sweetheart, landed my first government job with the Department of Defense and later with the Federal Aviation Administration, raised two exemplary children, established my business in 1985, retired from government service, our grandchildren, and I could go on and on. Life is full of milestones and it isn’t so much getting to one, it’s what you do after you reach your sought after goals that really count.

             

            My most significant milestone – November 1969

            A milestone is defined as a significant event in life, progress, or development. A good number of those reading my column have attained many of these same milestones and others are anticipating much of what we have achieved, especially retirement. Sometimes… most of the time, a major milestone achievement leads to bigger and better things. For example, marriage and raising a family. If all goes well a married couple ends up spending the rest of their life together, experiencing the trials and tribulations of relationships, raising children, navigating the good and bad times, and spoiling their grandchildren. My wife and I will celebrate our 49th anniversary this November.

            Unfortunately things don’t always go as planned. A divorce can change everything and at least for a while make life miserable until you cope with the separation and move on. If you have young children tact and diplomacy is essential when dealing with custody issues and interacting with your ex spouse over school functions, vacations, and many other situations. However, you too can still move on to bigger and better things. A better relationship with a new partner and less drama in your life.

            A promotion is both a blessing and a curse for some. Supervisory promotions offer higher pay and at the same time increase our responsibilities taking time and attention away from family and other pursuits. Plus you have to deal with personalities that can be challenging and frustrating for even the best prepared.

            In my early 20s I was at a crossroad after being discharged from active duty and working as an avionics technician with the Air National Guard. I was looking at both private sector jobs with U.S. Air and at a government job with the Federal Aviation Administration. After talking with both and doing some research I told my wife that if I continued to work in government I could retire at age 55 with a great pension and my military time counted towards retirement! She still recalls that discussion all these years later. Had I went with U.S. Air I would have been laid off, they closed their maintenance hub in Pittsburgh and consolidated with another airline.

            Milestones are simply a destination and what we do when we get there determines the outcome. Many contemplate retirement long before they are eligible and it is one of the significant events in our lives. Retirement isn’t a final destination it’s a new frontier for all to explore and make it theirs. I retired at age 55 from federal service and 14 years later I’m still looking forward to new exploits, managing my business, playing with our grandchildren and enjoying life.

            Federal employees are fortunate to have a generous pension, 401K plan, and Social Security for most employees. There are still a few employees, less than 2% of the total workforce, covered under the soon to be phased out Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). The CSRS fixed annuity is higher than the newer FERS retirement system however many of the CSRS employees generally won’t collect Social Security because they didn’t work and pay into the Social Security System for a full 40 quarters.  No matter what plan you retire under you have options and opportunities if you prepare for life after work.

            When you reach your retirement milestone will you be prepared? I starting planning my retirement at age 25 when my wife and I discussed which employment option I should pursue. It is never too early or too late to start your plan however I do suggest start planning your exit long before you walk out the door.  It’s not wise to leave your future to chance and those who want a truly enjoyable retirement will need the resources and resolve to make it happen.

            Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

            The following articles will  help you plan your retirement:

            Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

            Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

            Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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              Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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              Posted on Friday, 18th May 2018 by

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              Are you prepared to live on reduced income until your retirement claim is processed? Those already retired know all about this, they received interim annuity payments until the final adjudication of their retirement. For me personally, it only took three months. I retired on December 31 and my first full annuity payment, with credits for underpayment, was received in early April. My first interim check arrived a little over one month after retiring and my lump sum annual leave payment arrived two weeks later.

              New retirees can expect to receive approximately 75 to 80 percent of their estimated annuity. That is a significant reduction and new retirees could wait up to six months or more before their retirement is processed due to backlogs, incomplete retirement applications, and staffing issues. Review my personal timeline to discover what to expect from OPM and your agency after you retire. OPM’s current backlog chart shows a range of from 48 to 75 days to process a retirement claim and the average time has decreased to 48 days over the past 2 years.

              Fast Track Your Retirement

              To avoid retirement processing delays apply for retirement and submit your application early, several months before your departure date, and confirm that your HR office has reviewed and verified your service record. Not all federal service is creditable for retirement eligibility or included in your annuity computation. For example and depending on what retirement program you are in, temporary service and active duty military time may be creditable depending on whether you made a deposit for that service.

              Work with HR when completing your retirement application, either the CSRS form SF 3107 or the FERS SF 2801 form. Even small errors can delay processing for extended periods. HR can answer your questions and they have access to your Official Personnel File (OPF) to verify your service. You can also request to review your OPF prior to retiring to confirm that the file has all of your federal service time. I reviewed mine before retiring because I worked for the DOD and the FAA plus served over three years active duty with the U.S. Air force.

              Agencies are refusing to accept certain retirement application forms that have corrections on them where the applicant either lined or crossed out the information and annotated the correct information above or beside the correction. Review the forms list and sections that must be original and not corrected. The PDF fill-in forms are easy to update and you complete them on your desktop computer.

              The following articles will also help you make a smooth transition to retirement:

              Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

              Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

              Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

              Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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                Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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                Posted on Monday, 7th May 2018 by

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                It’s a little early to be thinking of the next FEHB Open Season for 2019 benefits, yet it’s important to know what changes are coming down the pike.

                The Federal Benefits Open Season enrollment period, Nov. 12, 2018 through Dec. 10, 2018, runs concurrently with the TRICARE Open Season. FEDVIP Vision and Dental Plans, originally limited to federal employees and retirees will  be available for Military Families and Retirees starting  January 1, 2019.

                The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) will be offered for the first time to TRICARE eligible retirees and their families during the 2018 Federal Benefits Open Season. Active duty family members will be eligible to enroll in FEDVIP vision insurance.

                The TRICARE Retiree Dental Program will end on Dec. 31, 2018. Those enrolled in TRDP must choose a dental plan through FEDVIP to have coverage in 2019. Enrollment is not automatic. This change affects 1.63 million beneficiaries enrolled in TRDP and offers a choice to an additional 1.3 million eligible retired beneficiaries not currently enrolled in TRDP.

                According to OPM, most beneficiaries in a TRICARE health plan may enroll in a FEDVIP vision plan. This comprehensive vision coverage, including eyeglasses or contacts, is in addition to the routine eye examination benefit that many beneficiaries have under TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select.

                FEDVIP provides comprehensive dental and vision insurance at competitive group rates with 10 dental and four vision carriers for enrollees to choose from.

                For additional information, visit TRICARE.benefeds.com to sign up to receive messages, updates, and reminders on the FEDVIP throughout the rest of this year.

                Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

                Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

                Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

                Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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                  Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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