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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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      Posted on Friday, 27th April 2018 by

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      Low interest rates over the past decade have driven many to abandon secure FDIC insured savings, Treasury Bills and Notes for higher risk investments such as stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. A good number of savers simply left their savings in very low yielding bank accounts and suffered the loss of income and decreased buying power during this period. Recently, interest rates have climbed to a point where it now makes sense to consider stashing some of your cash and profits from your investment accounts into CDs, bonds, Treasury Bills and Notes.

      Recently the yield on 10 year Treasury notes reached 3%, a rate that tends to attract investors away from the stock market. We are currently in one of the longest recoveries in history and as interest rates rise stock prices tend to fall. Markets become highly volatile as they enter the final stages of a recovery and skittish investors find it difficult sleeping at night. Investors seek out safety to protect their life savings and retirees especially need to protect their assets. You simply don’t have the income or time on your side to recover from a protracted market correction or worse yet, RECESSION.

      What are your options?

      • Recently the yield on 26 week (6 month) U.S. Treasury Notes reached 2.033% on April 26, 2018. I purchased 6 month notes at the auction that day. For me it didn’t make sense to purchase the one year bills because they were only paying slightly more than the 6 month bills plus you can opt to have your notes reinvested automatically up to four times at the new, hopefully higher, rates 6 months down the road.
      • I savings Bonds are paying 2.58% through April 30th. The rate changes every six months and the May rate is expected to be close to the current rate with a potentially higher fixed rate component. I Bonds have both a fluctuating interest rate that changes every 6 months and a fixed rate, the new fixed rate is expected to increase from .1% to .2% or higher. Individuals are limited to purchasing $10,000 a year, $20,000 for a couple. Sign up on the Treasury Direct website to register and buy bills, notes, and bonds of all types.
      • EE savings bonds are paying a meager .10%, however if you hold EE bonds for 20 years you are guaranteed to double you investment and you will earn 3% if held for 20 years.
      • CDs – It is difficult finding CDs paying close to this yield although if you look you can find them. We purchased 13 month CDs late last year and again earlier this year paying 2% from two different Credit Unions.
      • Thrift Savings Plan Bond Funds – The TSP’s Government Securities Fund (G Fund) yielded 2.33% last year with a 10 year average yield of 2.38%. The Fixed Income fund (F Fund) averaged 3.54% last year with a 4.27% yield over the past 10 years. The G Fund is the only bond fund that I know of that is guaranteed never to decrease in value.
      • TSP’s L Income Fund – This fund invests 80% in the two bond funds, 74% G and 6% F and the remaining 20% is divided among the C, S and I funds, 11.2% C, 2.8% S and 6% I. This fund invests 20% in stock funds with the intent to help you keep up with inflation. The L Income fund (L Fund) averaged 6.19% last year with a 3.8% yield over the past 10 years.
      • Short Term Bond Funds – When bond yields and interest rates rise mid to long term bond fund values tend to initially drop considerably because the bonds these funds are holding have lower yields. Short term funds that hold bonds with maturities from 1 to 3 years are less susceptible to rising yields. There are many short term bond funds to choose from including Vanguard’s ETF “BSV” and the VFSTX Vanguard Short term Investment Grade Bond Fund which yields 2.8%, to name a few.

      There are many ways to reduce your downside market risk including the options listed above. Another way is to add balance to your investments through balanced mutual funds that have been around for many years. Many use these funds in their portfolios as anchors and then build around them. The Vanguard Wellington Fund VWELX was established in 1929!  Vanguard also offers the more conservative Wellesley fund VWINX and the American Balanced Fund BALFX (F1 Shares) is favored by many.

      Balanced funds typically hold between 60 to 65 % in large dividend paying stocks and 35 to 40% in bonds. These are managed funds and their financial analysts follow the market and adjust the fund investments to provide reasonable gains as appropriate and they have a good track record. The Vanguard Wellington fund is more conservative with 60 to 65% in bonds and 30 to 35% in large value stocks.  All three of these balanced funds are awarded 5 star Gold ratings by Morningstar and the management fees are low with no loads.

      If you are concerned about market volatility and large weekly DOW and S&P price movements now may be the time to consider taking some risk off of the table and putting more into your cash and cash equivalent accounts. I wrote an article in 2012 titled The Way it was Then and Why that shows just how much the overall cost of things have and will continue to increase as time goes by. It is a good time to look closely at your investments to determine what you need to do to protect the assets you worked a lifetime to accumulate.

      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, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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        Posted on Thursday, 5th April 2018 by

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        What would encourage a retiree to return to the workforce today? How about a 20% deduction on your new found income! Many that left federal service still have much to offer and can turn a part-time adventure into extra cash that supplements their annuity, Social Security, and TSP payouts. Today, there are many opportunities for those who desire or need to go back to work and recent tax law changes are spurring the return. Yes, the new tax breaks are making it not only desirable but highly profitable for retirees starting a part or full time pass-through business or simply going back to work.

         

        Exploring the Possibilities

        For those who don’t have an interest in starting their own business, companies are hard pressed to find the talent they need today and many jobs are going unfilled. This too is driving up salaries as companies must now compete for a limited number of qualified applicants. Employers recruiting federal retirees and those soon to retire post job vacancies on our Jobs Board. A good number of new listings were posted recently. Even those who go back to work for a private company or return to federal service under the rehired annuitant program will benefit from reduced individual income tax rates and lower payroll withholdings.

        Another benefit of returning to work is that your Social Security payments will increase over time due to your new payroll contributions. If you are at or over your full retirement age your Social Security check will not be reduced. If you are below your full retirement age and receiving a monthly Social Security check your benefit is subject to the Social Security Earnings Test.  The age at which unreduced benefits are payable increases gradually from age 65 to 67 over a 21-year period beginning with individuals who reach age 62 in the year 2000. For example, full retirement age for those born between 1943 and 1954 is 66.

        Retired federal employees are sought after by employers for their expertise, work ethic, and ability to accept directions from others. They are mature, seasoned and their common sense often trumps the newer generations that may not have a similar work ethic. Plus retirees typically don’t have young children or require company health insurance plans in general. A huge bonus for employers. The labor participation rate is bound to decrease as the incentives grow to return to work.

        Most are unaware of the fact that individuals establishing a small pass-through entity (business); a sole proprietorship, Subchapter S corporation, or a limited liability company will receive a 20 percent 199A deduction for qualified business income starting in 2018. There are some exclusions such as specified service businesses in law, health, accounting, athletics, and the performing arts.  However, the specified services exclusions only apply to high income individuals earning over $157,500 on individual tax returns or over $315,000 for joint filers. The deduction is phased out as income rises above these levels.

        There are many options to earn extra income in retirement and starting a small business is not a complicated process in most States. You could write for a blog, become a consultant or independent contractor, babysit, walk dogs in your neighborhood, provide yard services, general cleanup, and handyman services to name a few. The possibilities are endless. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t see opportunities to open and grow a business.

        I formed a single member LLC using NOLO’s guide for my small company before retiring from the FAA in 1999, initially starting out as a sole proprietorship in 1985. Prior to this new tax law small companies paid excessive taxes at the personal income tax rate. Now due to the new pass through 199A deductions hundreds of thousands of small businesses will be able to hire more personnel and pocket more of their profits. You too can do the same.

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

        Opportunities

        Selling on EBay – If you like to go to garage and estate sales or simply want to clean out your attic why not sell your finds on EBay? I’ve sold on EBay for years and the process is fairly easy to set up if you are familiar with computers in general. It also helps to have a smart phone.

        Note: I know of many who make a profit and even a few hundred bucks a month can help especially if you are retired and on a fixed income. Plus you can work from home! Many sellers go to garage sales and buy sports memorabilia, computer games, collectibles, and other items and resells them on Ebay as a sideline. It is amazing at just what sells today. Browse Ebay listings to see what is popular and find these items at Thrift Stores and garage sales in your area.

        Pet Lovers – Why not become a pet sitter and/or dog walker? Many don’t like to kennel their pets and look for local residents to watch them. Did you know that pet owners are willing to pay from $30 to $50 a day for you to watch their pet at your home while they are away?  According to Rover.com pet sitters can earn up to $1,000 a month or more. Rover.com is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers. You can limit your care to as little as one pet at a time and also select the weight range of the dogs you are willing to watch. Lots of options.

        Drive For Lyft or Uber – According to Lyft, they match drivers with passengers who request rides through their Smartphone app, and passengers pay automatically through the app. You don’t have to collect fairs or handle cash other than cash tips that you might receive. If you like to drive and have a serviceable car you can earn extra cash for whatever purpose you have in mind and be your own boss.

        With Uber you can sign up to be a driver even if you don’t have your own car! They offer short and long-term vehicle options for those needing wheels.

        Another driving option is to apply to be a driver with Hertz and other car rental companies. My brother drove cars for Hertz on weekends for a second job for many years. The car rental companies move cars from one distribution point to another and must return cars to the original destination, typically to another airport in the area.

        Profiting from a hobby – There are many opportunities for hobbyists to make extra cash doing what they love to do. I network with a large group of retirees through my blogs and websites and the diversity of talented retirees is amazing. Many started successful businesses, Like Randy Baldwin, who we featured in an article titled Life After Retirement – What’s at the End of Your Rainbow.

         

        FAA Service Plaque Made by Randy Baldwin

        Randy, owns a successful laser engraving company. Chuck Jumpeter owns and operates a nutrition franchise plus became a golf pro at his local country club after retirement. You too can begin a new and exciting career with a little forethought and planning. There is always a need for anyone that can provide a solution to a problem or satisfy a need.  Just think about what you can do to not only enjoy your hobby but profit from it as well.

        Become a Handyman / Handyperson

        If you are good at everyday home projects and repairs how about sharing that knowledge and your expertise with others in your community. You don’t have to do this on your own, www.taskrabbit.com will find you jobs in your area for those needing your unique skill set. People need help with everyday things like cleaning windows, yard work, and general household tasks to everything in between. It’s a relief to have someone to call that you can count on for help when you need it.

        You can do this on your own through classified ads or just by letting others know about your services such as churches, local hardware stores, groups that you belong to, etc. After you get your first few satisfied customers you will typically get referred to their friends and neighbors. You can also have a local printing shop make you up business cards and a magnetic sign for your car door saying, Need A Handyman, call xxx-xxx-xxxx.

        Basic Lawn Services – Become a gardener

        Each year in early to late spring the landscapers come in to clean up the yards and apply new mulch, do some light pruning, edge the beds, etc. A month later the weeds start to come up and before you know it the beds are full of weeds. Some home owners will go out and clean them up, spray roundup to kill them off and they look good again. Many ignore this task and don’t realize that letting the weeds take over is a landscaper’s dream. Next spring you will have to pay them a huge sum to do it all over again.  A little maintenance each month not only keeps your property looking great and the envy of your neighbors but it could also reduce the homeowner’s spring clean up the next year.

        Offer homeowners general yard maintenance to include mulch bed herbicide treatments, light pruning, flower and bulb plantings, garden cleanup and maintenance, and twig and leaf pickup after storms, etc. You could charge a flat fee for a one hour visit biweekly or monthly plus add the cost for the chemicals and other supplies you might need if they don’t have them on hand. You could also offer to cut small yards with their mower if desired and add other services that you see fit for that homeowner. I would like to find someone in my area that can provide these services.

        I could list many more possibilities, they are simply too numerous to mention. With a new tax break comes new opportunities, explore the possibilities and you too may find the avocation in retirement that you desire and deserve.

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

        Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

        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, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE

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          Posted on Monday, 26th March 2018 by

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          Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently fired Andrew McCabe, the FBI Deputy Director 2 days before he would have become eligible for a 20 year LEO early retirement. The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported that without authorization the Deputy Director released information to the news media. Many assume he lost his pension. That simply isn’t true.

          If you leave federal service before you reach full retirement age and have a minimum of 5 years FERS or CSRS service you can elect to take a deferred retirement at age 62. Had he worked for a full 20 years under the LEO retirement system he could have taken an immediate retirement or a deferred retirement at age 60.

          According to a recent Washington Post article, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) announced that he offered Mr. McCabe an election security job in his office for the express purpose of assisting the fired Deputy Director attain 20 years of service and retire early.

          He may get picked up by Representative Pocan however I’m not sure election security is classified as a LEO position. When you leave a LEO position before accumulating a full 20 years of service, and either transfer to or re-enter federal service in a non LEO position, you would not be eligible for retirement until you reach your FERS Minimum Retirement Age (MRA). I was not able to find a job series listing or qualification standards for an election security position on OPM’s website.

          Essentially, If you leave federal service or change to a non-covered position before attaining 20 years under the special retirement provisions, your federal service is fully credited as if it was under the regular CSRS or FERS retirement system. You will not be eligible for a refund of the additional contributions made under the special retirement provisions. If a Congressman does pick him up he won’t be eligible to retire until he hits his MRA of 56 years and 9 months of age unless the position is classified as a LEO position. He could also stop working after reaching 20 years service and elect a deferred retirement at age 60.

          If you do not complete at least 20 years of creditable service under the “special” retirement coverage:

          • Your retirement will only be computed as if you were under the regular retirement system. This basically reduces the computation for the 20 years from 34% of your high three salary to 20% of your high three.
          • You will not be able to receive any refund of the additional LEO contributions you have made.
          • If you complete the 20 years under a special retirement, you will lock in the option to retire earlier than employees under the regular retirement system. This can be like always having an “Early Out” option.
          • You may want to consider staying in the LEO position until you have at least 20 years of coverage, thus locking in the special coverage computation and then changing to a higher paying, non-LEO position.

          Even though Mr. McCabe was fired he will still be eligible for a deferred government pension. If he returns to a non LEO position he will have to work until he achieves FERS eligibility. When you retire at your MRA with at least 10, but less than 30 years of service, your benefit will be reduced by 5 percent a year for each year you are under 62, unless you have 20 years of service and your benefit starts when you reach age 60 or later.

          There is also some confusion as to how many years of service Mr. McCabe had at the time of his firing. According to Wikipedia he was hired by the Bureau in 1996.  If this is true, and he was initially hired into a LEO position, he had over 20 years of creditable service and was waiting to apply on his 50th birthday. To apply for  a LEO retirement you must be at least age 50 with a minimum of 20 years service.

          If you are in a covered LEO position it pays to complete 20 years of creditable service before leaving for a non-covered position. You essentially end up with a lifetime early out option. Once you have 20 creditable years of service you can retire at anytime thereafter and your annuity for those 20 years will be 34% of your high three average salary instead of the standards FERS factor of 20%.

          From my personal experience as a federal manager with the FAA, it is difficult for a fired federal employee to be rehired under normal circumstances. If Mr. McCabe does return to federal service it would be highly unusual and certainly to his benefit. I believe that his services would be in considerable demand in the private sector and that’s where I think he will ultimately end up. Even though he may not receive an immediate annuity his time served with the FBI will serve him well. Many private sector firms would benefit from his expertise and FBI experience.

          References:

          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, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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            Posted on Saturday, 17th March 2018 by

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            “Retirement is wonderful if you have two essentials —
            much to live on and much to live for.”

            The author for this quote is unknown but whomever made this observation was certainly an astute observer of the human condition. Most retire with much to live for; watching their children mature and become successful responsible adults, enjoying their grandchildren, and just experiencing many of the things they dreamed about doing in retirement. Others love to travel, expand their hobbies, garden, or remodel their homes. One of my friends spent the first 10 years in retirement totally remodeling his home, Nick did most of it himself. His brothers helped with major projects, and he contracted out what he didn’t have the expertise or equipment to complete himself.

             

             

            You may have much to live for but if you don’t have sufficient resources retirement can become a burden rather than the reward it should be after a lifetime of work and sacrifice.

            Putting off retirement planning until the headlights are on the stop sign; in other words, fast approaching your target retirement date can be devastating. By that time you’ve lost much of the advantages of compounded interest which produces considerable investment gains over your lifetime.

            I know of many who believe Social Security and their annuity will be all they need to live comfortably in retirement. That may be the case if your mortgage and major bills are paid off and nothing extraordinary happens such as a major illness or financial crisis arises.  A number of variables can push you off track and before you know it you are knee deep in debt and have no way to recover during  your lifetime.

            Fortunately a majority of employees plan ahead, save for a rainy day, and have alternatives when diversity comes knocking at their door. Those who don’t plan ahead often lament “why me!” Even though you lose the advantages of compounding interest the longer you wait it’s never too late to start the process. There is hope, it’s just that the later you start the more you have to put into savings to reach your goals.  Fortunately Uncle Sam foresaw this problem and for years now allows those over 50 to make additional catch up contributions to their 401K savings accounts. Just one of a number of ways to get ahead when you are behind the curve.

            I talk to many that say, “I can’t save, I live paycheck to paycheck now, just can’t do it.”  Yet, after those same individuals evaluate their spending habits they often discover many ways to economize and transfer a portion of their unnecessary spending to their 401K plans and other savings accounts. My article, titled Where Are You Now! Looking At The Numbers… helps individuals discover where they are overspending using several helpful tools including the free Kiplinger’s online Budget Worksheet. Many have found this very helpful and it is so easy to use. I also offer a free report, How to be Financially Prepared When You Retirewith a free downloadable spreadsheet that will help anyone discover where they are spending their money now.

            Financial planning is one of the major topics I cover in my articles and on our Federal Retirement Planning Center. It’s such an important part of life in general and essential for a sound, happy and rewarding retirement. Whether or not you are approaching retirement or retired if you anticipate or are having financial problems evaluate your spending now. Use the tools I list in this and related articles to determine ways to economize. It’s never too late to start.  Another option for retirees is to explore employment options. Your work skills could transfer into an exciting new career.

            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, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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              Posted on Saturday, 10th March 2018 by

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              I frequently listen to XM radio’s sixties on channel 6 while I’m out and about. Last week, on my way to my cardiologist’s office, they played The Beat Goes On by Sonny and Cher. I visualized Sonny and Cher on stage singing, “Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain La de da de de, la de da de da,…. And the beat goes on, the beat goes on…” The lyrics reminded me of my Paroxysmal AFib (PAF), more commonly called intermittent Atrial fibrillation! When I’m in AFib my heart keeps pounding a highly undesirable rhythm in my chest until it resolves.

              Recently, during follow-up visits, my EKGs were normal. Yet, I was experiencing increased occurrences throughout the day and wanted the doctor to view an EKG when I was experiencing an attack. The doctor suggested that I visit a medical facility during an episode and have them send the EKG to him and he also offered to place me on a portable heart monitor to record my AFib incidents if desired.

              After my doctor’s visit I  decided to purchase the new Kardia Mobile EKG monitor to track my AFib, it works with your smart phone and produces reliable and accurate EKGs! I now send reports direct to my doctor for his review.  Basically, I know when I’m in AFIb and I’m now able to record the event. It only costs $99 and if you want them to store and compile detailed reports they ask for a monthly $10 subscription fee.  They even have cardiologists available to review your EKG, you have several options, and they charge an additional fee for that service. The Kardia Mobile is easy to use and only takes a few minutes to set up, a great value for anyone needing to track their vitals.

               

              One of my EKGs showing Afib

              Retirees and those soon to retire typically experience health issues such as my AFIB that often take center stage. We have to be our own health care advocate because it’s unwise to blindly accept a medical provider’s first diagnosis without digging deeper into you or your loved ones issues. There are so many variables and too often doctors treat the symptoms without fully investigating your personal and unique situation. Had I listened to my first cardiologist I would have been on Coumadin and other caustic drugs 25 years ago!

              When I was in my late forties I was diagnosed with PAF. The cardiologist prescribed a portable heart monitor and I experienced numerous daily AFib attacks that raised my heart rate to 250 beats per minute and higher at times. Their office called after several episodes and requested I come in for medications, they prescribed Coumadin and other drugs. I researched the medications and discovered significant side effects and long term use issues. Fortunately, I sought out an electro physiologist for a second opinion and discovered alternatives. An electro physiologist is a heart specialist concerned with the electrical activity associated with bodily processes. He stated that as long as my heart returned to normal rhythm within a few hours from the onset I didn’t have to take blood thinners and other medications.

              Shortly after my doctor’s visit my wife was listening to a radio show that suggested those with irregular heart rates could benefit by taking magnesium glycinate tablets. I visited the Winer Wellness Center in Pittsburgh and picked up a bottle. I started taking a 100 mg tablet at the onset of an attack and my heart rate returned to normal within 15 minutes.  I also take an 81mg aspirin tablet daily. Without the pills it often took hours for my heart rate to normalize. Today, I take three 50 mg tablets, one with each meal as a preventative measure, and additional doses when I have an episode. This routine has helped me control my Paroxysmal AF for over 25 years now without caustic medications.

              There are three types of AFib according to the Heart Rhythm Society.

              My wife had a similar medical experience. She was diagnosed with glaucoma in her mid 40s and has had numerous medical procedures and medications prescribed since. Her first doctor told her she had the worst case he had ever seen and he advised her that she would never be able to get off medications. The medication’s side effects included face swelling, red eyes, blurred vision, and much more. I was skeptical from the start and spent over two years researching the disease with my wife, interviewing doctors across the country and medical specialists and test equipment manufactures.

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

              She finally decided to transfer to UPMC in Pittsburgh to take advantage of their advanced diagnostic services. After many tests and much debate with her doctors we came to the conclusion that my wife’s Intraocular Pressure (IOP) readings were high in part due to her white coat hypertension. Whenever my wife gets near a doctor her blood pressure skyrockets, at home it’s normal! IOP trends higher with elevated blood pressure and after several years and numerous laser surgeries she was able to get off the medications. She did have the disease, just not as severe as they first thought. Plus the first doctor was using inferior outdated test equipment that showed progression when there wasn’t any. Thank god my wife refused the traditional surgical procedures her first doctor recommended that typically cause an immediate 10% loss of vision. UPMC studied her case and wrote several papers on the subject.

              I mention this today because we generally think that the medical profession can cure everything with medications, procedure or surgery when in fact there may be other options available. Even with the best surgery or procedure you may still have limitations or require meds for life.  Before taking that leap investigate all options; yes trust your doctor but verify before proceeding. Sometimes, lifestyle changes can make all of the difference in the world if you can adapt them into your routine and take them seriously.

              Even though I’m very active and walk several miles each day I’ve had back problems for many years due to poor posture, lack of exercise, and working at a desk for most of my life. I’ve been to physical therapy many times plus visit a chiropractor regularly yet the pain and discomfort continued and was progressing.

               

              Yoga with Adriene

              I decided to start yoga this year and to my surprise after several months of mild yoga exercises my pain has moderated considerably. In late December of last year I searched for yoga videos online and thankfully found Yoga for Complete Beginners with Adriene, a 20 minute light workout.  I have been cautious and take new poses on gradually. I practice Monday, Wednesday and Fridays of each week and on Tuesdays and Thursday I try a different pose that Adriene offers in her Foundations of Yoga videos where she provides 40 videos, one for each pose.  She also offers programs specifically for those with back problems and much more.

              The nice thing about yoga is that you practice at your own pace. It’s best to start in moderation with poses that suit your physical abilities without over extending and hurting yourself. For example, in Adriene’s Yoga for Complete Beginners 20 minute workout video, I don’t perform the downward dog pose, it puts pressure on my upper torso that can trigger my AFib. I hope to eventually incorporate a modified version of that pose after I’ve practiced yoga for at least six months or more. I’ve watched Adriene’s beginners video three days a week since early January and added other poses that target my back with success. For those who can’t get down on the floor, no worries, she offers a Yoga For Seniors Chair Program where you sit and perform gentle yoga poses.

              I read an article recently that suggested exercise can delay and in some cases prevent arthritis from taking hold. I don’t know if this is true but I do know that movement and exercise are essential for life. My wife and I wear Fitbit step monitors and have used them religiously over two years now. Mary typically averages over 10,000 steps a day all year long. I on the other hand average between 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day, my best day was 17,000 steps.  In the summer months my average increases.

              When I first heard “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny and Cher I was in my prime and overall in good health. Today, many years later, I’m still active and enjoying life. It’s been a long journey and I am looking forward to what lies ahead. Hopefully, living an active life will allow my wife and I to watch our grandchildren grow up, spend quality time with our adult children…, and the Beat Goes On, La de da de de, la de da de da,….!

              Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

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

              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 LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION, WELLNESS / HEALTH

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                Posted on Tuesday, 27th February 2018 by

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                I receive many questions from site visitors concerning OPM’s Retiree Services Online (SOL). Their site allows users to view their annuity statements, change allotments, download their 1099R tax form, set federal and state tax withholdings, and much more. To register for the first time you must first call OPM and request a temporary password that you will change after you first log on to the site. The first problem new users often encounter is reaching OPM through their retiree hotline, 1-888-767-6738.  This line is often either busy or you have long waits due to the volume of calls they receive daily.  Don’t get discouraged, I just repeatedly call using my phone’s flash and redial buttons until I get connected. Then be prepared for a long wait. I’ve waited up to 40 minutes on one occasion.

                We have an informative article titled, Connect to OPM Retirement Services Online that walks you through the process.

                Several visitors had questions about the 9 digit SOL access claim number. When logging on to SOL, you must enter nine characters that includes your 7 digit claim number with both a prefix and suffix added. The following guidelines can be used in most cases. If you can’t find your claim number contact OPM or refer to your Retirement Services ID Card.  Your claim number is also printed in the retirement booklet that you received from OPM when you retired and on your annual annuity adjustment statements. Your claim number is only 7 digits. The site requires a prefix and  suffix digit (9 total) that identifies your status as shown below.

                • If you are a retiree, the claim number begins with and A and ends with a 0. Therefore, you will enter “A” and seven numbers and then the 0 (zero).
                • If you are a former spouse of a retiree, the claim number begins with an A and it will have a unique suffix. Therefore, you will enter “A” and seven numbers and then the unique suffix assigned to your benefit. If you are unsure of the correct suffix, please contact us or refer to your Retirement Services ID Card for the correct suffix to use.
                • If you are a surviving spouse, the claim number begins with an “F” and ends with a “W.” Therefore, you will enter “F” and the seven numbers and the suffix, “W”. For example: F1111111W.
                • If you are a widower, and have been receiving benefits for many years, your claim number may end with a “X.” Therefore, you will enter “F” and the seven numbers and the suffix, “X”. For example: F1111111X.
                • If you are an insurable interest, the claim number begins with an “F” and ends with a “Y.” Therefore, you will enter “F” and the seven numbers and the suffix, “Y”. For example: F1111111Y.
                • If you are an ex-spouse of a deceased employee, the claim number begins with an “F” and ends with a “S.” Therefore, you will enter “F” and the seven numbers and the suffix, “S”. For example: F1111111S.

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

                Note: If you are a representative payee, guardian, conservator, or any other third party representing an OPM annuitant you cannot use SOL. Please contact OPM’s Retirement Operations Center for further information at 1-888-767-6738 or you can send an email to retire@opm.gov.

                If you haven’t registered to use the SOL system now is a good time to get started. It takes several weeks to receive you initial temporary password. Many wait until they need a duplicate 1099R or want to change their allotments, etc to register. It’s discouraging when you call and find out it will take weeks to get logged on. Also, if you haven’t used the system for over 15 months you will have to go through the registration process again and request a temporary password to get back into the system.  I always visit the site in January to print out an early release copy of my 1099R plus visit to make adjustments to my allotments and tax withholdings when necessary.

                Retiree Jobs Update

                Employers recruiting federal retirees and those soon to retire post job vacancies on our Jobs Board. A good number of new listings were posted recently. One company is looking for an information security officer in New York City and another is recruiting construction technician/engineers for seasonal/temporary positions at various locations throughout the state of Illinois. Life Science Logistics is seeking individuals to work part time on their Surge Team in Columbia, MD. Individuals selected for these positions will be trained for emergency response to support Life Science Logistics if and when the need arises. Surge members are responsible for the completion of general warehouse duties which may include, but not limited to product handling, packing, shipping, sanitation and other duties as assigned. In addition to scheduled drills, Surge members may be called upon to work additional hours during actual Surge event(s).

                Private companies, contractors, and state government departments use our Jobs Board to hire skilled federal retirees for part and full time positions nationwide. 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.

                Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

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

                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.

                Be Sociable, Share!

                  Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS, ESTATE PLANNING, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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