Posted on Friday, 22nd August 2014 by

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If you know of someone approaching age 65 or younger and signing up for Medicare send them a link to this article. It provides the information that federal employees and retirees need to consider before they sign up.

If you are already collecting Social Security benefits you will be automatically signed up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. You can opt out of Part B coverage if desired. For those who are not collecting Social Security at age 65, you have to apply either online or you can visit your local Social Security office. If you don’t sign up for Part B when first eligible you face a 10% penalty for each year you delay enrollment.

When you sign up for Medicare you have two options to consider. Medicare A (hospital insurance) doesn’t require a monthly premium for most because they paid Medicare taxes while employed. If you don’t receive Part A premium-free, you must pay up to $426 monthly. Thankfully federal employees pay Medicare tax so your hospital Part A does not require premiums when you retire and apply for benefits.

Part B (medical insurance) requires a monthly premium that is based on your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI). The standard premium for 2014 is $104.90 for individuals with an income of $85,000 or less or for a couple filing jointly earning $170,000 or less. There are five premium rates based on your income with the highest premium currently at $335.70 per month.

Signing up for Part A makes sense for most and OPM recommends you sign up because you already paid for this coverage while working through your Medicare taxes. Whether or not you take Part B medical coverage is up to the individual. Our FEHB plans continue to cover medical insurance even if you elect not to apply for Part B coverage. My article titled “What to Consider Before Enrolling in Medicare Part B” discusses your options and how your FEHB program works either way.

If you aren’t collecting Social Security you have a 7 month window starting three months before your 65th birthday to apply without a penalty. I decided to apply in the 7th month because I converted one of our retirement accounts to a ROTH two years ago. Part B Medicare premiums are based on your income and Social Security uses income from 2 years back to determine your Part B premium. When you convert to a ROTH the total amount of the conversion is included as income for that year. I thought that if I applied later in the year Social Security might have received my 2013 income information from the IRS to use for the Part B premium calculation. Another reason for waiting is that I won’t have to pay Part B premiums until November or December since it takes three months to process a Medicare application.

Signing up only for Medicare online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov was easy especially if you already have an online account set up. It took me about 20 minutes, only because I read several of their notices about the program first. I signed in and clicked on the “Help Center,” then clicked on “Apply For Medicare” to start a new application. If you are only applying for Medicare, and not for your Social Security benefits, you only fill out 3 blocks of data. They issue you a Re-Entry number in case you can’t complete the form in one sitting and you will receive a confirmation number as well to check the status of your application online.

You will receive a determination letter from Social Security concerning the status of your application and it will list your monthly part B premium. Since you are not currently collecting Social Security benefits, in this case, you will be billed every three months for your premiums. After you apply for Social Security benefits your premiums will be deducted from your monthly payment.

If your Part B premium was based on higher income from 2012 you can file a Form SSA-44 (Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount – Life Cycle Changing Event Form) to reduce your Part B premiums. Basically, you have to take this form and a copy of your 2013 income tax return to your local Social Security office. If your income in 2013 is in a lower Part B payment bracket they will adjust your premium accordingly. Small business owners with decreasing current year revenue can also submit this same form with supporting documentation, such as previous year and year to date profit and loss statements, to support and justify a lower Part B premium.

The advantages for most FEHB participants is that your deductable, coinsurance, and copayments are waived by your plan when you sign up for Medicare A & B. If you only elect Part A (hospital coverage) Medicare will be your primary insurer for hospital care and your FEHB plan will remain primary for medical expenses. Another advantage for Part B participants is that you can go to any doctor that accepts Medicare. Blue Cross Blue Shield basic FEHB members are limited to doctors within their provider network. However, if you have to go to an out-of-network provider that accepts Medicare, Medicare will cover the visit. In this case, Blue Cross Blue Shield will not cover any of the coinsurance or copayment since you went out of network.

The following resources provide links to the four part series I wrote about Medicare enrollment last year. If you know of anyone approaching 65 send them a link to this article to help them make informed benefit decisions.

Additional Resources:

Next on my agenda is to file for Social Security benefits at age 66 next year. I’m not sure if I’ll file or file and suspend just so my wife can collect my higher spousal benefit. If I file and suspend my benefit will increase about 8% a year until I start collecting, possibly at age 70.

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

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    Posted on Thursday, 14th August 2014 by

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    On August 8, 2014, the guidance allowing a “Phased Retirement” option for federal employees was published by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Under this option, federal employees eligible for retirement can work half-time while receiving partial retirement benefits before they fully retire. According to Katherine Archuleta, OPM Director, “Phased Retirement offers an innovative alternative to traditional retirement for the 21st century workforce.” Below are important details of this new benefit.

    What are the features of Phased Retirement?

    As a phased retiree you:

    1. Work half-time per pay period.
    2. Receive half of your retirement annuity. If you enter into phased retirement, you will have your annuity payments calculated twice – once when you enter into phased retirement and again when you fully retire.
    3. Spend at least 20% of working time mentoring co-workers to pass on your knowledge and skills. United States Postal Service workers are exempt from this requirement.
    4. Are treated as a part-time employee for most employment purposes, including leave and pay. You continue to receive the full contribution from the government under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB).
    5. Can fully retire at any time; conversely, you can return to a full-time work schedule with your agency’s approval.

    Your agency has broad discretion in deciding how to implement phased retirement, including which jobs are eligible for it, defining mentoring activities and determining how long an employee can remain in the program.

    When does Phased Retirement start?

    Phased Retirement regulations are effective November 6, 2014.

    Who is eligible for Phased Retirement?

    Participation is voluntary and requires the mutual consent of both you and your agency. In order to participate, you must have been employed on a full-time basis for the preceding three years. You must be eligible for immediate retirement under Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

    Who isn’t eligible for Phased Retirement?

    Employees subject to mandatory retirement such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, nuclear materials couriers, air traffic controllers, some Customs and Border Protection officers, or members of the Capitol Police or Supreme Court police are not eligible for phased retirement. Also, non-CSRS and non-FERS employees such as those in the Foreign Service retirement system aren’t able to participate.

    How do I apply?

    If you are interested, the first thing to do is check with your manager and /or your Human Resources office. If you are eligible, you will need to fill out an application. Once your agency approves it, OPM will process it beginning November 6, 2014. If you change your mind after applying, you can withdraw your application before it becomes effective but not afterwards.

    Can I make a military service credit deposit?

    If you desire to make a military service credit deposit for military service performed, it must be made prior to entering phased retirement status. A military service credit deposit for military service performed prior to an individual’s entry into phased retirement status cannot be made after the effective date of phased employment and the commencing date of phased retirement annuity.

    How will my retirement benefits be affected if I participate?

    Your annuity will be computed as if you are fully retired. (Unused sick leave is not credited as creditable time serviced.) Half of the computed annuity amount will be payable during phased retirement. There is no reduction for survivor benefits from the phased annuity. You will keep accruing additional service credit toward your final annuity.

    If you are under FERS and not eligible for Social Security you will not get the FERS supplement. That supplement pays traditional FERS retirees who are not yet 62 the amount they would have gotten from Social Security if they had been eligible.

    You do not receive a lump-sum annual leave payment until you fully retire from the agency.

    Can I change my mind and return to full-time work?

    With your agency’s approval you can return to full time work in the agency. The phased retirement annuity would terminate. You would become ineligible for phased retirement in the future.

    What happens at the end of Phased Retirement when I fully retire?

    Once you fully retire, the annuity is recalculated to take the additional working time into account with the time in phased retirement treated as part-time service. Survivor benefit elections would be made at that time. The annuity will be more than if you had fully retired before you started phased retirement but less than if you had worked full time.
    Phased Retirement is a creative retirement option that appears to be worth considering if you’re looking for a way to test out the “retirement waters” before jumping in. You get the ability to transition into retirement by working half-time, get half your annuity and help your agency in mentoring junior workers.

    References:

    Section 100121 of Public Law 112-141, the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” or “MAP-21,” approved on July 6, 2012.
    Federal Register – Phased Retirement- A Rule by the Office of Personnel Management (August 8, 2014)

    Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

    Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

    Visit our other informative sites

    The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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      Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE

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      Posted on Thursday, 7th August 2014 by

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      I discovered four years ago that my hearing loss was significant enough to warrant wearing hearing aids. I purchased my first set, a Starkey model,  from the audiology department that is located in the same office as my Otolaryngologist . An otolaryngologists diagnoses and manages diseases of the ears, nose, and throat.

      They did improve my hearing and for the first time in years I could hear rain on the roof and locust in the summer but I still had difficulty hearing TV programs, movies, and discerning speech. It got to the point where I couldn’t watch movies or TV series because I missed most of the dialog and it was frustrating to say the least.  I also would find it difficult hearing conversations and was constantly asking family and friends to repeat what they said.

      I scheduled several follow-up meetings with my doctor to have my ears checked plus visited the audiology department for assistance. They recommended bring in the aids for recurrent cleanings and I asked them several times to readjust the aids which didn’t resolve the problem.

      I wrote about my hearing problem initially and received a helpful reply from Dr. Cynthia Compton-Conley who suggested many ways to improve my hearing including activating closed caption through our cable company. This year Cynthia joined with us to host our Hearing Loss Help Forum and she is helping many find relief.  Her article tilted How To Manage Your Own Hearing Health Care is required reading for anyone who is experiencing hearing problems.

      One of my hearing aids recently failed and I had to pay $250 to have it reconditioned. Several months later the other aid began to act up so I decided to search for hearing aids that would better serve my needs.  I  have Blue Cross and Blue Shield basic family FEHB insurance and they now cover up to $2,500 for hearing aids every three years.  They do not have preferred providers for hearing aid purchases so you can use whichever vendor suits you best.

      After visiting my doctor and the audiologist that I purchased my first hearings aids from I decided to explore other options and followed Doctor Compton-Conley’s advise.  She recommended a number of tests for my condition.

      I first visited Costco to discuss their options and also set up an appointment with a provider that promised savings of over 50% on name brand models.  When I went in for the hearing test from the discount seller there wasn’t a sound proof booth. They used a standard head set and the room was very noisy, I could hear traffic outside and others talking in an adjacent office. I should have walked out immediately when I discovered they didn’t have a sound proof booth, they charged $75 for the hearing test. They only offered two models ranging in price from $2,900 to $4,000 for the pair! Nothing like they promised.

      I ended up at Costco. They offered many name brands including Rexton, Resound, Phonak, and Benafon. Not only was the hearing test FREE but it was one of the most comprehensive hearing tests I ever took and I’ve taken many over the years, especially early on in the military. The test was over an hour long and they use the most advanced technology including open headsets that go direct into each ear. They were able to do all of the tests recommended by Dr. Compton-Conley and they explained everything in great detail.

      I purchased their Kirkland Signature 5.0 brand (made by Resound ) for $1899 including a remote, 25 batteries, carry case, and more. It comes with an extensive warranty even loss protection. If you lose the hearing aids they will replace them one time and you get unlimited service and follow-up visits at no additional cost. When the hearing aids arrived Jean Hanson, their local hearing aid dispenser, spent over an hour fitting them making sure they properly worked to my satisfaction and she really took her time with the “Real Ear” test that is necessary to ensure a proper fit and level adjustments.

      I also purchased their TV streamer that pairs direct to your wireless capable hearing aids. This was not covered by my  insurance however the cost was well worth it. The new hearing aids far exceeded my expectations and I was able to hear conversations clearly and even understand the dialog on most TV programs. My wife noticed immediate improvement and I no longer had to run into the room next door to ask Mary what she had just said.  My hearing improved tremendously. I don’t know if it was the hearing aid brand change or that Costco’s hearing center specialist properly fitted my hearing aids. It is probably a combination of both plus newer technology for the new models.  Overall I have to say that Costco’s hearing center personnel are professional, explain the pros and cons of various models, and base their recommendation on the severity of your hearing impairment rather than on simply what you want to pay for your aids.  Their prices beat all of the competition and I contacted at least four providers before deciding to buy from Costco’s hearing center.

      The TV streamer is unbelievable. For the first time in many years I can hear about every word no matter from what venue; TV shows, movies, cable, and DVDs. The streamer hooks direct to the optical audio source on your TV and you simply pair your hearing aids to the TV streamer one time and your done. It took me 5 minutes to hook it up and pair my hearing aids to the device. You also have the option to connect it to either an analog or headphone mini-jack if that is what your TV has available. Now my wife is asking me what they said especially when the show has foreign actors or they have heavy accents.

      I was also impressed with the Blue Cross Blue Shield funding and reimbursement process.  At first I was apprehensive about buying from Costco because they don’t submit your claim to your insurance company. You have to pay in advance and submit a claim form.  I submitted the claim on July 9th and received the check for the full amount on August 2nd, several days before picking up my new hearing aids.

      If you have Blue Cross Blue Shield you can download their claim from direct from their  web site at www.fepblue.org.  Click on “Benefits + Services” from the top menu bar and then click on “Form Library” in the left column on this page.  Select the “Claim Form” on this page, it is a PDF file that you can fill in for most parts on your computer before printing it out. Several of the fields have to be entered by pen including the enrollment code and identification number.  After completing the form send it to the office in your state.  You will find the address for your state located in the right column on the “Form Library” page.

      You have to include the following codes, that Costco provides, on your claim form. I included them under item six of their claim form below the providers name:

      • CPT Procedure Code
      • Diagnosis Code
      • NPI
      • Product Code

      I also attached the following documentation:

      • The Costco itemized bill
      • My doctor’s confirmation of my need for hearing aids
      • A copy of the Costco hearing test

      Overall you can’t beat our FEHB program and Blue Cross Blue Shield covers up to $2,500 for hearing aids. Many providers cover much less. This is one reason why I switched back to Blue Cross Blue Shield last open season.

      Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

      Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

      Visit our other informative sites

      The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

       

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        Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, WELLNESS / HEALTH

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        Posted on Friday, 1st August 2014 by

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        I’m sure all of you remember Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper.  Briefly, it’s about the ant that toiled through the summer to store food for the winter.  The grasshopper hopped about and sung to its heart’s content.  He had plenty to eat and didn’t see a need to work hard to store food.  Once the winter came, the ant had plenty of food stored but the grasshopper had nothing to eat.  The moral of the story is “Prepare today for tomorrow.”  Although you may not be in the “Spring” or “Summer” of your career, it’s never too late to continue preparing and providing for retirement. Most of us can expect to live well into our 70s and 80s so being prepared is a necessity.

        Federal retirement benefits unlike many retirement benefits in the private sector are generous and allow us to prepare much like the ant for a nice retirement.

        Below are 5 essential tips as you prepare for your retirement.

        1) Review your Official Personnel Folder: You must review your Official Personnel Folder (OPF) to verify all of your civilian and military service.  If any of the records are missing, contact your HR office and obtain any missing records.

        2) CSRS or FERS? – Understand your Retirement System:    Thereare two retirement systems in the civilian Federal Government which provide retirement, disability and survivor benefits for most civilian employees.   The simplest and oldest (since 1920) is the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).  It is a defined benefit retirement system with employees contributing 7 ½ to 8 %.  Employees don’t pay Social Security taxes but pay Medicare tax. The annuity can’t exceed 80% of your high-3 average salary.  The minimum retirement age (MRA) is 55 if you have at least 30 years of service.

        Federal employees hired in 1984 or later are covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) which replaced CSRS.  FERS is a three tiered system consisting of a smaller defined basic pension, Social Security and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) which is similar to a 401k. Employees under FERS are covered by full Social Security Taxes.  Employees pay the pension benefit (.8% before 2013 or 3.1% starting in 2013 ) and Social Security ( 6.2%) through payroll deductions.  Under the TSP portion, the US government automatically deposits an amount of 1.0% of your pay to TSP.  The minimum retirement age is 55 if you were born before 1948, 56 if you were born between 1953 and 1964 and 57 for those born in 1970 or later.

        Both FERS and CSRS allow retirement with an unreduced pension at the age of 60 for employees with 20 or more years of service and at the age of 62 for employees with at least 5 years of service.

        3) Contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan: The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a tax-deferred retirement savings and investment plan similar to the 401(k) plans provided by many employers in the private sector. In 2014, employees covered under either CSRS or FERS can contribute up to $17,500 to the TSP. Employees aged 50 and older can contribute an additional $5,500 to the TSP. Employees under FERS receive employer matching contributions of up to 5% of pay from their federal agency by which they are employed. (If you’re covered under FERS, you should definitely be contributing at least 5% of your salary since the government is matching it!)    Federal workers covered by CSRS also can contribute to the TSP, but receive no matching contributions.

        4) Mange Your Sick and Annual Leave: Whether you are covered by CSRS or FERS, you’ll receive a lump sum payment for any unused annual leave you have to your credit when you retire. That time can’t be used to increase your length of service or calculate your high-3 salary, but comes to you in the form of a cash payment.  Many employees save their annual leave hours before retiring to get the biggest payment possible. The lump sum minus taxes normally is paid between 60 to 120 days after you retire.  You’ll need to check with your agency and not OPM, since your agency is responsible for paying the lump sum payment.

        Federal employees are not compensated for their unused sick leave. But when you retire, the balance of your sick leave is converted to months and days of service and added to the length of service used to compute your retirement benefits. For employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), credit toward the annuity computation will be based on the full sick leave balance at retirement. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, only half the sick leave balance will be credited for employees who retire before Jan. 1, 2014.  100 percent is credited for employees who retire beginning January 1, 2014.

        5) Have Enough Years in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHB): One of the great benefits that Federal retirees have is the ability to continue health insurance coverage into retirement. Many private sector employers do not allow their employees to carry their health insurance into retirement.   Generally, to continue health insurance coverage, you must be covered by a FEHB insurance for five years immediately before retiring when you retire.  A few more tidbits: If you are a Federal annuitant enrolled in the FEHB Program and decide to cancel your enrollment, you can’t re-enroll and if you die, your survivors will not have FEHB.

        Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper should be an inspiration to each of us in helping us prepare for our retirement.  It’s never too late!!  If you need help, seek it out.  Take a pre-retirement seminar to understand your retirement benefits. In addition, there is information  available online and through your HR office. Visit OPM’s site (http://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/) and (http://www.federalretirement.net) for in-depth information on the federal retirement benefits discussed above.

        My next article will provide 5 more tips regarding your benefits that are essential in preparing for retirement.

        Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

        Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

        Visit our other informative sites

        The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

         

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

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          Posted on Monday, 14th July 2014 by

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          Federal employees have valuable knowledge, skills, and training that can be highly beneficial to companies after retirement or that can be used to start your own business. Today many companies recruit active federal employees.  FERS employees are more easily persuaded to change careers because most of their benefits can go with them, unlike CSRS employees who don’t pay into Social Security or have a 5% TSP match.

          Retirees go back to work for many reasons including financial necessity, volunteering to serve their community or church, and for others it’s simply a matter of staying active and involved. For some it’s to maintain a sense of purpose or to simply share what they’ve spent a life time learning with others.

          The retiree stereotype today is profoundly different from what it was for our parents who were expected to retire, disengage, and simply take it easy. Retirees that don’t go back to work have avocations to pursue, travel, and do what they love to do and often do more of it than previous generations.

          There isn’t a defined retirement path to follow, being an active and involved retiree can be whatever you want it to be as long as you put a plan into action. It’s a personal journey that can take you to new heights and expand your horizons beyond what you could have ever imagined.

          Chuck Jumpeter, a former FAA associate, retired in 2006 and worked to expand a part time business he and his wife started while still working for the FAA. After being retired several years he discovered his true passion; golfing. He completed the United States Golf Teachers Federation (USGTF) instructor training courses and is now the golf pro at the Sand Springs Golf Club in Drums, PA. Plus, he teaches in the US Golf Little League program. He is living his dream and spending quality time imparting his talents to others and enjoying each and every day.  Here is a link to one of his golfing tips videos that he made for a local TV station. He also takes time to spoil and watch his 9 month old grandson.

          Many retirees continue working by expanding part time businesses or building on their interests and hobbies while still employed. This approach has a distinct advantage over starting a business from scratch. You build the framework while still employed with Uncle Sam and transition the business to full time after you leave. That is what I did when I retired in 2005. I knew early on in my career that I would retire at age 55. That was my goal and my established business made the transition from and active federal employee to a fully employed retiree easy.

          Several of our Forum Hosts, all of which are retired federal employees, pursued this path. Ann Ozuna, a retired CSRS Personnel Management Specialist and owner of  Personnel Solutions Federal Benefits Counseling hosts our Divorce & HR Forum.

          Cynthia Compton-Conley Ph.D., our Hearing Loss Help Forum Host, is a Board Certified Doctor of Audiology, Professor of Audiology, and Hearing Industry Consultant. She is a retired Professor of Audiology who taught at Gallaudet University for 32 years and retired in the CSRS system. In 2013 she founded Compton-Conley Consulting.

          Herbert Casey, recently signed on to host our HR & Benefits Forum. Herb is a human resource (HR) professional with over 35 years experience in the public sector. He served in HR managerial positions for various federal agencies, domestically and abroad and retired in November, 2013 from the Department of State. Herb is also an Adjunct Professor (Human Resources) at the Catholic University of Washington.

          Nancy Holston, host of our Travel Forum is a veteran and retired in 2008.  She travels around the world and shares her many travel experiences with our site visitors. Her last article, titled An African Photo safari, was featured last week in our newsletter and blog.

          Simply put, take all that you learned, enjoyed, and experienced while still employed and use it to your advantage when you leave. Become a consultant, write about your experiences for associations and related blogs, take on a part time job in an occupation of interest, work for contractors that serviced your agency while employed or jump start a profitable hobby.

          There are many traditional full and part time jobs posted on our retiree jobs board.  Contracting firms, state agencies, and others post job vacancies specifically targeted to federal retirees that have the skills they need. Search our extensive listings to find opportunities in your area.

          There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t find another retiree employment opportunity. Here are just a few examples to mull over.

          Grounds Keeper – I often drive by large homes that owners neglect to maintain between annual maintenance when they have landscapers weed, mulch, edge the beds, and generally clean up around the exterior of the home.  I do this myself and use herbicide bi-weekly, trim, weed, and clean up small branches, leaves, etc. Many don’t bother and each year it costs them far more for the annual maintenance than what it would cost to have a local grounds keeper (a retiree that loves working outside), come bi-weekly or monthly to spruce up the grounds, weed, plant flowers, and spray herbicide.  Minor work only, leaving the heavy landscaper chores to the professionals. How much would you charge to spend an hour or two every other week to provide this service? You could establish a relationship with several owners and give it a try and your business will grow by word of mouth. No advertising necessary.

          Doggie Foster Care – According to the American Veterinary Medical Association there are over 69,000,000 dogs in America.  Dog owners often forgo going on day trips or vacations, where they can’t take a pet, for fear of kenneling their dogs. Many pet owners would travel more if there were dog sitting services in a home environment. You could charge $25 or more a day just to keep a trained pet in your home and adopt the pet for short periods. Something like short term foster care for a favorite pet! This would be especially good for retired pet lovers who don’t want the responsibility and expense of owning their own pet after retirement. Pet owners would pay for this service willingly to have the peace of mind knowing that their pet is being kept in a compassionate and caring family home while they are away.  It would be easy to find a half dozen or so families that would want to take advantage of this service from time to time and you could expand it to visiting their home for short day trips to walk the dog, feed the fish or cat, and perform other services such as picking up the email and papers and just looking in on the house for an extended trip.

          Sewing Work – Recently I tried  finding a sewing service to make a 38″ x 20″ x 2″ high pad for an alcove in my study. I even have the material. After numerous online searches I came up empty. I even called local fabric shops and a sewing center asking if they had referrals without success. Avid sewers could make a few bucks doing small jobs like this by advertising their services in local papers, on Angie’s List, or posting a notice at local fabric shops.

          Baking & Hobbies – I went to a local computer recycling center this morning and passed a Farmers Market along the way. On the way home I stopped in and to my surprise found many tables set up for everything from baked goods and specialty foods such as homemade jams and jellies to nut breads, candles and collectables. If you enjoy wood working, collect and restore watches, toys, classic cars, or just about anything along that line, turn your passion into profits. It would seem to me that being out in the open air, selling something you made and love doing, would be a winning and profitable proposition.

          I have to mention this last one. When I was in my pre-teens, in the late 1950s, I would search for pop bottles to turn in at the local grocery store for from 2 to 5 cents each. I would do just about anything to make a few cents back in those days. We have an Aldis grocery store in our area and you have to use a quarter to unlock and use a grocery cart. In my younger days I would have been in the parking lot offering to unload your groceries and returning the shopping cart for the quarter that you get back when you return the cart to the parking station. Many of our teenage children and grandchildren can’t find traditional work, they too have to be creative to earn some spending money other than just relying on mom and dad.

          If you are considering working after retirement there are other benefits. CSRS employees could earn sufficient quarters to collect Social Security which could pay for your Part B Medicare premiums and more. If you work for a company with a 401K plan you can contribute while deferring taxes and increase your retirement income down the road. Work keeps your body and mind active, a wining proposition for anyone.

          Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

          Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

          Visit our other informative sites

          The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and financial information is subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact your benefits coordinator and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

           

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            Posted in EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE

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            Posted on Sunday, 6th July 2014 by

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            Tanzania, Northern Circuit Safari

            Waking up in the Serengeti with a chill in the air and the sound of birds you’ve never heard before is an appetizer for your day ahead. The camp crew has a warm basin of water waiting outside your tent to freshen up before breakfast. What is awaiting you in the dining area? How about eggs cooked to order, toast, bacon, fresh roasted vegetables, fresh fruit and coffee. Then you climb in the safari vehicle to spend your next 9 to 10 hours driving through the park looking for adventure and any animals that come our way.

            That first morning we stopped by a large swampy section of the Senera River. There were birds in the reeds and Giraffes off in the distance gracefully walking and looking for an Acacia tree to munch on. All of a sudden a spray of water shot up from the swamp and a huge Hippo emerged. It was amazing! He was alone, away from a huge number of females and babies that just appeared to be rocks in the water. The water was keeping him cool and he may have been napping. After letting out a big yawn he rolled upside down showing us his feet and did a 360 to cover his back with mud to prevent a sun burn. Those animals are huge but to the untrained eye, I hadn’t even noticed they were present until that fellow exhaled a spray of water. Our guide Adam knew they were present but didn’t spoil the surprise.

            While in the Tarangire National Park, early in the morning, we took a box breakfast with us into the park so we could see the animals at dawn. Our first sighting was a family of Vervet monkeys around a group of trees. It was playtime for the little ones. They would climb the trunk of a large tree and jump into the bush on each other then chasing and trying to catch each other. It was a great way to start the day watching those little ones at play.

            As we were driving through the park our guide Adam spotted a lion print in the soft dirt along the road. We followed the trail until we finally came upon the pride. There were four females, two cubs and a large male in the pride. They were looking for pray but the only animals in the area were elephants. The pride stopped in an open area and they seemed to be taking a break. But after several minutes the male wandered off alone. We continued to watch the older cub sit on a raised spot in the dirt. The young cub, probably just 3 months old, was out of sight.

            Suddenly, a family of nearby elephants nearby started trumpeting, waving their ears and running toward the road ahead. The male lion had gotten too close to their family and the older elephants were protecting the young. The elephants circled facing out with the littlest elephants in the center protecting them from the lions but it was only the male that had approached. The elephants trumpeting were much louder than I would have ever thought. Don’t get on the wrong side of an elephant. Adam explained to us that the lion was doing the same thing as the elephants. He needed to keep the elephants from charging the pride to protect the two cubs. It was on our last game drive that we saw this confrontation and it was a highlight of the entire safari experience.

            The safari was full of wondrous sights: Giraffes walking amongst trees with only their heads visible above the branches, a leopard perched in a tree keeping an eye on a lion pride 100 feet away, a two week old baby elephant learning to use its trunk, zebras daring to get a drink from the watering hole but running for their lives at any sudden movement, lions moving stealthily through the tall grass in hopes of surprising zebras at the water’s edge for a much needed meal, elephants raising their trunks using their tusks to face off in a practice for future status in the elephant male pecking order, a secretary bird dancing away in the tall grass in hopes of stirring a small rodent to move for a meal. These are the things that await you on any given day, and every day is different. Everywhere there is an animal or bird waiting to show you what it’s like to live in the African Savannah.

            Lodging in Luxury Tented Camps

            What exactly is “Luxury Tented Camps”? There are two kinds. A mobile tented camp and a permanent tented camp. A permanent tented camp has permanent flooring, wood or cement, and has a flush toilet, vanity sink and shower permanently plumbed. The walls are canvas and the roof might be wood, thatch or canvas. The interior is set up like a hotel room. You will either have twin or a king size bed. There is often a table to write at, a dresser or chest to put clothing in and a place to hang clothing. You won’t find a couch or recliner in the tent but the furnishings are comparable to a standard hotel room. Most of the camps also offer laundry service.

            The mobile tented camps are inside the parks and have to be moved periodically due to animal migration patterns or weather during the rainy season. The mobile camp rooms are fully enclosed with a durable floor that ties into the canvas walls with canvas roof. There is a secondary canvas roof to prevent leaks. The mobile camps do not have permanent plumbing but they do have flush toilets and a vanity sink. The camp crew keeps the water tank full for the sink and toilet that has a pump flush. The shower is by a scheduled time. You tell the staff at what time you want to take a shower and they raise a canvas bag full of warm water on a pole at the designated time. The water temperature is perfect for a shower. You use a pull chain to turn the water on and off to soap up and rinse off. The mobile camps do not usually offer laundry service but they provide laundry soap and a place to hang clothing to dry.

            Security is provided after dark at all the camps, often by Maasai tribesmen. This is for safety reasons in case an animal is passing through and so you can see where you are going. Each camp will have you signal with your porch light or a flash light that you need an escort to go to the dining area or bar. They will escort you back to your room when you are ready. We also found that the staff was very helpful at clearing your tent of the occasional spider or frog you find out of reach or just too creepy to get yourself.

            Animals and canvas a concern? We could hear animals at our camp in the Serengeti and our camp near the Tarangire National Park. We did hear lions, elephants, and probably hyenas. The low moan of elephants in the distance and the occasional grunt of lions probably sounded much closer than they actually were. We had heard both during game drives and they could be heard during the day when they were a good distance away. I can tell you it was more fascinating listening to them make sounds in the night than fearful because of it.

            I did however have a hard time going back to sleep one night in the Serengeti after hearing an unknown animal that must have also marked the area somewhere near our tent. I suppose it could have been a Hyena. The smell was over powering and very disgusting. The hyenas often come to camps at night looking for garbage to eat. The staff warned us if we washed any clothing not to leave it outside after dark. Apparently Hyena’s like to steal your clothing, whether it fits or not.

            Lodging and Safari Links

            This site is a link to the Tanzania Northern Circuit Safari area. It is set up for travelers to plan an independent safari. I used it as a resource to explore lodging options with the safari company I booked with. Plan to depart from Arusha Tanzania if you choose the Northern Circuit.

            http://www.africatravelresource.com/africa/tanzania/n/

            This is the link for the safari company I traveled with. I recommend the company and would use it again. There are no prices on the site. Contact the company for a quote. Magda is very responsive via email.

            http://www.flash-safaris.com/site/

            Other safari company links including southern African destinations.

            Luxury Safari Links

            Request a FREE Retirement Benefits Summary Analysis from a local adviser. Includes projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections. A sample analysis is available for your review. This service is not affiliated with www.federalretirement.net

            Learn more about your benefitsemployment, travel, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

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            The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances. Travel policies and packages are subject to change without notice. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact travel providers and hotels at the time of your bookings to confirm pricing, itinerary, and all costs. The comments and observations are limited to the author’s personal experience and your results may vary significantly. This article and replies to comments are not intended to substitute for professional travel services. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.

             

             

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              Posted in RETIREMENT CONCERNS, Travel

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              Posted on Saturday, 28th June 2014 by

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              FEGLI Retirement Options Part (1) discussed how to assess your insurance needs and a general discussion of FEGLI options, benefits, and considerations. FEGLI Insurance Options (Part 2) outlined parts A, B and C options to help readers decide on what coverage to carry into retirement and alternatives to Part B multiples. This article, Part (3),  covers Life events that allow employees to make FEGLI coverage changes.  It’s important to be aware of these life event options otherwise you may lose out on important family coverage.  Employees also have the ability during a life event change to increase their coverage.

              Retirees are only able to change FEGLI beneficiaries, they can’t add family members or elect expanded coverage.  However, retirees can make significant changes to their benefits for life events. They can add a new spouse and children to their FEHB program and annuitants can elect to provide a survivor annuity for a new spouse if they do it within the required time period.  For more information on retiree life event changes read my article titled Qualifying Life Events, Don’t Lose Your Benefits.

              An employee may elect Basic, Option A, B and/or C insurance within 60 days following a FEGLI qualifying life event. These events are: marriage, divorce, spouse’s death, or the adoption of an eligible child. For option B and C, employees may elect up to 5 multiples based on the life event.  You have 31 days before the event to 60 days after the event to make changes. After that you must wait for an open season and they are few and far between for the FEGLI program.

              Federal employees that marry can add family coverage for  FEGLI and FEHB coverage within the time period mentioned above. If you don’t elect FEGLI life insurance coverage for your new spouse and children you will only be able to add coverage if an open season is announced. They seldom offer FEGLI open seasons. However, if you neglect to add a spouse and your children to your FEHB health insurance program when you first marry, within the 31 days before to 60 day period after the event, you can always add them to your health plans during the next annual open season.

              All federal employees experiencing a life event, no matter where they are at in their career, need to evaluate their insurance needs and  fully understand benefits options. This is an ideal time to review and increase your coverage if needed and to obtain life insurance for a spouse and qualifying children. No physicals are required for life event changes.

              If an employee is 37 and their spouse is 35 the cost of each Option C family coverage FEGLI multiple is only 29 cents biweekly.  For that 29 cents your spouse receives $5,000 life insurance coverage and each child $2,500. You can elect up to 5 multiples which provides $25,000 spousal coverage and $12,500 for each child. The total cost to you for the five multiples at age 37 is only $1.45 biweekly! The cost of Option C increases with age so review the employee FEGLI rates to determine if the cost is worthwhile for you and your circumstances.  The same 5 multiple coverage for a 60 to 64 year old would be $13.50 biweekly, $2.70 per multiple. When you retire at age 65 you can elect either full reduction or no reduction for Option C coverage.

              Retiree Employment Update

              We added more jobs over the past two weeks to our Jobs Board from companies looking to hire skilled federal retirees. These new positions include several data analyst positions and an HR manager for a government contracting firm in Reston Virginia.  Many opportunities exist for those looking to supplement their retirement income or to start a second career.  We provide this free job listing service to companies that are seeking to hire experienced retired federal workers.

              COLA Update

              It looks like our COLA for 2015 will be 2% or more depending on the final CPI numbers due out in October. The CPI-W increased .3 % in May and if that continues we could receive a decent increase next year. They keep telling us that costs aren’t increasing yet we all know that isn’t the case. Gas is approaching $4 a gallon in Pittsburgh! The cost of food, clothing, cars, electricity and everything we use have gone up considerably this past year. If they measured inflation like they did correctly during the Carter years it would be three times what they are officially reporting it today.

              Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

              Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

              Visit our other informative sites

              The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and financial information is subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact your benefits coordinator and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

               

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                Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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                Posted on Friday, 20th June 2014 by

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                My last column discussed Basic FEGLI coverage and how to evaluate your insurance needs. This article will discuss options A, B, and C and part 3 of this series will discuss changes you may wish to make with certain life events.  If you are approaching retirement print these articles to help you decide on options when you fill out your retirement forms.  You can only elect FEGLI optional insurance when you are first employed, after an authorized life event, or during one of the rare open seasons that OPM schedules. Basic FEGLI coverage is automatic when you are first selected for federal employment.

                Part A Standard coverage is a flat $10,000 with an additional $10,000 accidental death coverage if you are under 45. The premiums increase with age however they are relatively low.  Most who elect Option A keep it in retirement because at age 65 it’s free like Basic coverage.  The maximum cost for an annuitant under age 65 is currently $13 a month.  At age 65 the insurance reduces 2 percent a month until the coverage decreases to $2,500. 

                Part B increases you insurance coverage by multiples of your salary, from 1 to 5, and the FEGLI Part B premiums  increase dramatically with age. This coverage becomes very expensive in retirement and many approaching retirement either drop, reduce their multiples, or seek lower cost private term insurance if needed.  The younger you are when applying for term coverage the lower your premiums  so it makes sense to look for Part B alternatives long before you retire.  In Part 1 of this series Larry, a federal retiree, was facing Part B premiums of $10,000 a year to retain his 5 multiples at age 65. That same coverage would have increased to $20,000 a year at age 70! Not many retirees on a fixed income can afford to pay high premiums like this.  If you assessed your insurance needs and decide to retain significant  insurance coverage in retirement it may be beneficial to look for lower cost alternatives.  

                You may not have the option to convert your coverage to a private insurer if you have preexisting medical conditions. In this case many are trapped into keeping high cost multiples. Don’t let this happen to you. If you determine you need to maintain Part B coverage after a thorough needs assessment seek out alternatives early, long before you retire.  Whenever I look for insurance coverage or contractor services I always obtain multiple bids from reputable companies. It’s important to read the fine print before sighing any contract.

                I was looking for lower cost home owners insurance recently and did find one company that offered coverage at half of what I was paying. After a thorough review of the low bidders proposal I discovered that many things were not covered, such as sewer back up and water damage from broken pipes, and I kept my current coverage . However, before signing up again with the same company I reviewed the policy online with customer service and determined that they had misclassified  our home.  We ended up getting a $500 rebate and a significant premium reduction.  It pays to question companies when things don’t seem quite right.    

                Part C is family and dependent coverage and you can elect up to 5 multiples as well.Family coverage includes $5,000 for a spouse and $2,500 for each child under age 22 in your household. You can elect up to 5 multiples and the premiums adjust as you age. When you retire you can elect either a full reduction benefit or no reduction.

                If you elect full reduction your multiple coverage will stay in force until you reach age 65. At age 65 the premiums stop and your coverage reduces 2% a month for 50 months when coverage ends. The premium costs per multiple ranges from 48 cents per multiple at age 35 to $14.30 per multiple from age 80 and up. If you don’t have private insurance for your spouse this coverage will fill the gap. Three multiples would cost a person between the ages of 60 to 64 $17.55 a month ($5.85 per multiple) for $15,000 in coverage. From 65 to 69 the cost increases to $20.40. 

                Final Thoughts

                After retirement you can’t increase coverage, you can only reduce your coverage. If you remotely think you or your spouse will need insurance it’s best to elect that coverage now and if you run into a bind down the road you can always reduce multiples or certain options altogether if desired. If you do decided to obtain quotes from private insurance companies for Part B alternatives consider keeping your Basic, Part A and C options. They may try to talk you into dropping all of your FEGLI coverage and they can be convincing. From my perspective the FEGLI insurance costs for Basic, A, and C are reasonable and depending on what you elect in retirement two of the three are FREE when you reach age 65. They stopped taking premiums out of my annuity in June of this year for my Basic since I elected the 75% reduction when I retired in 2004. I’m now officially 65!

                Updates:

                For those planning on retiring in 2014 and 2015 now is a good time to evaluate the best dates for you to leave. You have to consider your annual and sick leave balances and so much more.  We have several informative articles available on this subject including a link to Tammy Flanagan’s article titled “Best Date to Retire in 2015.”  Review this information before you settle on a date to maximize your annuity and lump sum payment.

                Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

                Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

                Visit our other informative sites

                The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and financial information is subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact your benefits coordinator and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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