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Posted on Thursday, 6th December 2018 by

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The wild stock market swings are heavy on the minds of investors today, especially for those approaching retirement and retirees living on a fixed income. It is even more problematic if you depend on Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and other retirement account withdrawals.  Market volatility is uncomfortable to say the least when you see what you worked a lifetime saving shrink dramatically, sometimes overnight. I wrote several articles about coping with market fluctuations and how to shelter your nest egg from the coming storm.

I don’t care how seasoned of an investor you are, market volatility is a concern and all ponder the ramifications of a major correction. The S&P on December 6, 2018 was on course to have its worst performance in 7 years!  The following chart, excerpted from the TSP website, shows the current year and last 12-month fund performance.  The ultra-conservative G Fund has outperformed all but the C fund over the past 12 months.

Reviewing this chart confirms 2018 did not perform as many had suggested at the beginning of the year. The returns are meager and could worsen if December stock market performance doesn’t improve. After 10 years of gains it is what can be expected.  At the beginning of the year many talked about how foreign stocks were undervalued and should perform well in 2018, just the opposite happened as the market dynamics changed. The concern from this point on is where is the market heading over the short and long term.

These changes aren’t of much concern to those who have decades to grow their retirement accounts. It’s those approaching retirement and retirees in general that can’t wait out a major correction or pending recession.  Downturns create an atmosphere where many defer retirement until their investments recover unless they took measures beforehand and moved to more conservative low beta investments as I discussed in my article titled, “Is the Stock Market Keeping You Up at Night?.”

In the referenced article I state, “Over the past 120 years there has been many recessions and of course the great depression that started in 1929. From the early 1900s on there have been four major recessions with the longest recovery period from 1929 to 1955, 25 years! The average recovery period was 16.5 years. The shortest recovery period lasted only six years from 2009 to 2015. What most of us have experienced since 1985 are bull markets interrupted with one recession running six years from 2009 to 2015. Yet, the most recent recession always seems so much worse than earlier periods since it is fresh on our minds.”  It’s the recovery periods that give those approaching retirement and retirees pause.

The good news is that over time good investments recover as outlined in the following TSP Annual Return Chart excerpted from the TSP website.

It took almost 4 years for the C fund to recover the loss. The C Fund in 2008 lost $369.90 for each $1,000 invested dropping the balance to $630.01. In 2009 the C Fund gained 26.68% increasing the balance to $798 Then in 2010 the C Fund increased 15.06% increasing the balance to $918.17 then in 2011 the 2.11% gain increased the balance to $937.54.  Finally, in 1012 the 16.07% gain raised the balance of that original $1,000 to $1,088.  The International (I Fund) didn’t recover until 2013. Many investments in 2008 and 2009 dropped 50% or more and it took many years for those to fully recover their losses

A well-diversified core portfolio can provide the balance you need to whether stock market volatility. However, the more conservative you are the faster the recovery will more than likely be. Yes, we all are concerned when markets fall dramatically but it isn’t the end of the world.  It’s the beginning of a new reality and one that we have to deal with.  Most reduce their investment risk if they will need to withdraw from their retirement accounts to live comfortably. Plus, they may sleep better at night knowing their account balances will be there when needed.

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 Friday, 23rd November 2018 by

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    I wrote an article late last year titled “Where Are You Now! Looking at The Numbers” that helped readers evaluate their finances and determine if they had sufficient resources to live comfortably pre and post retirement. We provide extensive financial planning guidance to help anyone from a new hire to a retired annuitant evaluate and assess their financial strength. I mentioned in last year’s article, “few evaluate their finances until their checks start to bounce or they are so much in debt they can’t dig themselves out.”  One of the leading causes of divorces today is due to finances and not living within your means.

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

    I recently developed an 8-page Budget Work Sheet that helps individuals and couples determine where they stand pre and post retirement.  The worksheet guides you through listing your income from all sources, loans and debts, utility costs, insurance premiums, monthly savings and investment contributions, and miscellaneous expenses. An individual or couple will know what they are bringing in each month, their total expenses, and where they stand financially.

    This worksheet isn’t an excel spreadsheet, it’s a pdf file that you can download and print out. Just lay it out on the table for you and your spouse/partner to fill out together with pen or pencil. It evokes discussions and doesn’t require sitting at a computer to complete.  This way everyone knows firsthand where the household money is being spent and how much is needed each month to make ends meet.

    Working couples often neglect to balance the books so that each party equitably supports the household to the degree possible. When this happens, it places an unfair burden on whomever is paying the bills and can lead to marital discord.

    This work sheet includes a Common Expense column for working couples that reveals how much is needed monthly to support the family. Many newlyweds enter marriage without sufficient financial planning, they are in love and neglect to address the elephant in the room; making financial ends meet. Of course, this is natural to a certain extent especially for the very young. My wife and I are a prime example. We married young, my wife was 19 and I barely 20, while I was in the military earning a measly $98 a month! That was about one third of the minimum wage back then. We flew to Biloxi Mississippi with a few hundred dollars in our pocket, no car, and not knowing what laid ahead.  Yet, we persevered and flourished. Most starting out like this end up divorced early on.

    Fortunately, federal employees have great benefits, good pay, and are generally older and wiser than the very young at heart. Yet, they too often enter a relationship with blinders on and neglect to take the necessary steps early on in their relationship to right the ship and balance the financial load placed upon them.

    This worksheet allows individuals and couples to evaluate pre and post retirement expenses, there are columns for both entries. For example, under LOANS / DEBT there are four columns as noted on the excerpted table below. If you pay off your mortgage when you retire the post-retirement column would show zero dollars for your monthly mortgage payment. We extend that to common expenses both pre and post retirement for couples to determine what expenses to share when both have income.  In this case the mortgage would be a common expense pre-retirement and zero dollars post-retirement.

    A car loan could be considered an individual expense if both have a car and income. Tailor the chart and add additional common charges if relevant. I highlighted the expenses that most would consider to be shared by working couples. A single person wouldn’t need the common charges identified because there would not be anyone to share the costs with.  This process works for everyone.

    Download Worksheet (PDF Version)

    Common expenses show the amount needed each month from working couples to pay the household bills, save for a rainy day and how much is spent on each line item.  If you are a married couple and one is a stay at home mom or dad the working spouse generally earns enough to take care of business and keep things running.  Married working couples, each earning about the same, could equally split the common expenses.  When one partner is still working and another a retired annuitant the division would be decided by the pair as to what each can contribute based on all income sources; salary, pension, Social Security, 401k distributions, etc.

    This exercise helps working couples share expenses equitable when both have sufficient income to contribute.  At the very minimum, it effectively reveals total income to expenses so that you can see if you have anything left after paying the monthly bills.

    Another key benefit of completing the worksheet is to discover where all of your money is going each month. Much of the younger generation today don’t know how to balance a checkbook. They use their debit cards until they are rejected for insufficient funds. Then, they go online to see what their balance is and wait for the next paycheck or transfer money from a savings account if they have one.

    After completing the worksheet, you will know where and what you are spending your money on and be able to evaluate ways to trim costs.  Possibly drop unnecessary cable options, program your HVAC thermostat to reduce utility expenses, replace incandescent bulds with LEDs, cut down on your trips to Starbucks, change to a lower cost cell phone service, and so on. There are many ways to economize today.

    It’s a good idea for couples to open a joint checking account in addition to their individual checking accounts. If both are working, each would deposit their share of the common expenses in the joint account each payday for the bills.  The excess in the joint account would accumulate for emergencies and discretionary items or you can set aside emergency or vacation savings in a separate account.  This way, the person paying the bills should have sufficient funds each month to pay the bills. Even if only one person is working a joint account is necessary so both can pay bills and sign checks.

    This is a dynamic process, expenses and income change over time. It’s imperative to revisit your worksheet at lease once a year or whenever there is a major change such as a pay raise, someone retires, or for younger couples when a child is born.

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

    Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources

    Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

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

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      Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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      Posted on Friday, 9th November 2018 by

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      Open season starts November 12th. There are tools available to evaluate provider options and help you select your 2019 plan. Use the following resources to make an informed decision for you and your family’s health care needs.

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

      Obtain Copies of Plan Guides

      Active Employees

      • Request hard copies of desired plan brochures through your benefits coordinator. If you don’t know who that is talk with your supervisor.
      • Download plan brochures from the OPM website.
      • Request copies direct from the plan providers. I requested and received brochures direct from GEHA and Blue Cross Blue Shield weeks before they were available on the OPM site.

      Annuitants (Retirees)

      • Sign up for FEHB Open Season Online – This site is devoted to federal annuitants. Request plan brochures to be mailed to your home address or you can download brochures to your computer. You must register to use this site and annuitants can change enrollments online.
      • Download plan brochures from the OPM website.
      • Request copies direct from plan providers.

      Determine Plan Costs – 2019 FEHB Plan Rates (All rates are now posted online).

      Compare Plans – Use OPM’s FEHB Plan Comparison Tool.  Compare costs and benefits of up to 4 plans side-by-side. It is easy to use and will show you the differences between plans with only a few keystrokes. OPM advises, “The information contained in this comparison tool is not the official statement of benefits. Before making your final enrollment decision, always refer to the individual FEHB brochures. Each plan’s FEHB brochure is the official statement of benefits. Items marked with an * must be completed before advancing to the health plan comparison.”

      I compared the Blue Cross Blue Shield Basic and Focus plans to the GEHA Standard Plan for my last article.

      Changing Enrollment

      Annuitants (Retirees)

      • Annuitants can change plans online at FEHB Open Season Online. The online service is easy to use and you can track your change submissions.
      • Call Open Season Express 1-800-332-9798.
      • Send regular mail (Postmarked no later than final date of Open Season) to:

      Office of Personnel Management
      Open Season Processing Center
      P.O. Box 5000
      Lawrence, KS 66046-0500

      When sending requests by mail clearly state your Open Season request. If you are making an enrollment change, be sure to tell OPM the plan you want, the type of coverage (Self Only or Self and Family), and the enrollment code. You must include your annuity claim number and social security number on your request. If you are choosing Self and Family coverage, we will also need your dependent and other insurance information as specified in the instructions mailed to you at the beginning of Open Season.

      Federal Employees

      Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)

      Dental and vision benefits are available to eligible Federal and Postal employees, retirees, and their eligible family members on an enrollee-pay-all basis. Enrollment takes place during the annual Federal Benefits Open Season in November and December. New and newly eligible employees can enroll within the 60 days after they become eligible.

      Register online at www.BENEFEDS.com to review and download plan brochures, use their plan comparison tool, and to initiate a change or cancel enrollment. I compared several plans this morning using their comparison tool. If you aren’t a registered user sign up now. You will be able to review your Dental, Vision, Long Term Care and Flexible Spending accounts.  Enrollees can initiate changes during open season, when there is a life event change, or to cancel coverage at any time.

      For enrollment/premium questions regarding dental and vision insurance, contact BENEFEDS at 1(877)888-3337.

      Medicare Impact on FEHB Plans

      Review the following articles that describe the impact Medicare has on your FEHB provider payments.

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

      Additional Resources:

      Helpful Retirement Planning Tools 

      Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

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

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

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        Posted on Friday, 2nd November 2018 by

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        Each year we publish a comprehensive leave record that federal employees can use to track their daily record of annual and sick leave, comp, and credit hours used. Our updated 2019 Excel Leave Chart is designed for active federal employees that are planning their retirement and need to establish realistic target retirement dates. The new Excel 2019 Leave Record Spreadsheet also helps federal employees maximize their annuity through prudent management of their leave balances.

        Please share our 2019 leave chart with everyone in your organization. The chart tracks all leave balances and you are able to annotate your work schedule on the chart as well.

        A few leave chart users reported a problem with opening the leave spreadsheet, the Excel chart was opening up for them in protected mode and they were not able to enter data. If your spreadsheet opens in protected view click the “enable editing” button in the yellow bar at the top of the form. However, if you don’t see the enable editing button you may have an older version of Excel or your IT department may have to allow the form to pass without restrictions.

        A Microsoft Office consulting firm advised us that If the spreadsheet only opens in the protected view status security settings on your agency’s LAN and network will have to be made by your IT staff to allow the form to function. Some agencies increase their security settings to lock out certain documents based on the parameters the IT specialist selects. We do include several hyperlinks in our spreadsheet to link users to additional supporting information such as our sick leave conversion chart and that may be the cause. If you have this problem when opening the form I suggest talking with your IT people to have them allow the form to pass without restrictions.

        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, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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          Posted on Friday, 26th October 2018 by

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          Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) is offering a new lower cost fee-for-Service Focus Plan in 2019. This article compares the BCBS Focus plan to the GEHA Standard plan. Many federal annuitants opt for a lower cost Federal Employee’s Health Benefit (FEHB) plan once they sign up for Medicare. The majority of FEHB plans waive many of the copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles for those who have Medicare as their primary provider.

          Monthly 2019 Premium Rates

           

           

           

           

          Plan Coverage

          According to the FEP BLUE guide, “There’s a lot that FEP Blue Focus covers, but there are some things it doesn’t cover. These include: routine dental services, Non-preferred drugs, skilled nursing facility care, hearing aids and long-term care. To see a complete list of exclusions, download the FEP Blue Focus brochure.” You must stay in-network. However, according to BCBS, 96% of hospitals, 95% of doctors and over 65,000 Preferred retail pharmacies are in their network. Plus, there’s no referral needed to see a specialist, and your coverage travels with you overseas.

          GEHA provides reimbursement for both preferred and non-preferred providers and their Standard Plan covers dental services. They also pay for hearing aids, up to $2,500 every three years. Download the GEHA 2019 Plan Brochure for your personal  review.

          Plan Highlights

          • Provider Coverage – GEHA Standard Plan covers Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and non-PPO providers. BCBS limits coverage to PPOs.
          • Doctor Visits – $15 GEHA copay for office visit (non-PPO 35%), BCBS Focus members pay nothing for preventative visits with preferred providers, $10 copayments for the first 10 visits for professional doctor’s visits, after the 10th visit 30% of the plan allowance and a deductible applies. No coverage for non-PPOs.
          • Hospital Inpatient – GEHA PPO services require payment of 15% for covered services and 35% non-PPO. BCBS Focus requires 30% payment for PPO services, no reimbursement for non-preferred.
          • Outpatient Services requires payment of 15% for covered hospital services and 35% for non-PPO under the GEHA plan and BCBS Focus requires a 30% payment of the plan allowance (deductible applies). No coverage for non-preferred services.
          • Accidental Injury – With GEHA Standard you pay nothing up to the plan allowances of covered charges within 72 hours of an accident. BCBS Focus specifies nothing for Preferred outpatient hospital and physician services within 72 hours (regular benefits apply thereafter.) There are payments required under the Focus plan for non-participating providers of the difference between the plan allowance and billed amount for outpatient hospital and physician services within 72 hours.
          • Hearing aids – covered up to $2,500 every 3 years with GEHA, no coverage under the BCBS Focus plan.
          • Dental Services – GEHA covers 50% up to the Plan allowance for diagnostic and preventive services per year as follows: Two examinations per person per year, two prophylaxis (cleanings) per person per year, two fluoride treatments per person per year and $150 in allowed X-ray charges per person per year (payable at 50%). BCBS Focus limits coverage to treatment of an accidental dental injury within 72 hours (regular benefits apply thereafter). Note: When you are covered by more than one vision/dental plan, coverage provided under your FEHB plan remains as your primary coverage. FEDVIP coverage pays secondary to that coverage
          • Both plans provide comprehensive prescription drug programs. GEHA Standard includes a mail order program, BCBS Focus does not. Review each plan’s brochure for specifics. For example, under the GEHA Standard plan members pay the lessor of $10 or the pharmacy’s usual and customary cost for generic drugs. BCBS Focus charges a $5 copayment up to a 30-day supply from their preferred retail pharmacy. There are different payment schedules for non-network pharmacies.
          • Catastrophic Cost Protection – Under the GEHA Plan you pay nothing after $6,500 Self Only ($13,000 Self Plus One or Self and Family) per year for PPO providers. The limits increase for non-PPO providers to $8,500 Self Only ($17,000 Self Plus One or Self and Family) per year for Non-PPO providers. BCBS Focus has similar limits for PPO providers and there is no catastrophic protection for services provided by non-PPO providers except under certain situations as outlined in their brochure on page 18.

          FEHP Cost Savings After Signing up For Medicare

          When Original Medicare is the primary payor, Medicare processes your claim first. In most cases, your claim will be coordinated automatically and your FEHB plan will then provide secondary benefits for covered charges.

          For members enrolled in the GEHA High and Standard Options, GEHA waives some costs if the Original Medicare Plan is your primary payor – They will waive some out-of-pocket costs as follows:

          • Inpatient hospital benefits: If you are enrolled in Medicare Part A, they waive the deductible and coinsurance. When you are enrolled in the high option, and you use a PPO facility, they will also waive the inpatient admission copayment.
          • Medical and surgery benefits and mental health/substance use disorder care: If you are enrolled in Medicare Part B, they waive the deductible and coinsurance.
          • Office visits PPO providers and MinuteClinic (where available): If you are enrolled in Medicare Part B, they waive the copayments for PPO office visits.
          • Prescription drugs: If you have Medicare Parts A and B, you will pay a copayment or coinsurance for drugs through CVS Caremark and at retail pharmacies. Review costs on page 85 of their plan brochure.
          • Manipulative Therapy benefits: There is no change in benefit limits or maximums for manipulative therapy care when Medicare is primary.
          • Physical, speech and occupational therapy benefits: There is no change in benefit limits or maximums for therapy when Medicare is primary.
          • GEHA does NOT waive the $300 (High Option) or $500 (Standard Option) copayment for specialty pharmacy medications not dispensed by the CVS Specialty Pharmacy. If Medicare denies coverage, they do not waive the coinsurance.
          • If you obtain services from a non-Medicare provider, they will limit their payment to the coinsurance amount they would have paid after Original Medicare’s payment based on their Plan allowance and the type of service you receive.

          (Download the GEHA Payment Schedule for Medicare participants. )

          For members enrolled in the BCBS Focus option, BCBS waives some costs if the Original Medicare Plan is your primary payor – They will waive some out-of-pocket costs as follows:

          When Medicare Part A is primary –

          • They will waive their calendar year deductible and coinsurance
          • Once you have exhausted your Medicare Part A benefits, you must then pay the coinsurance once the calendar year deductible has been satisfied for the inpatient admission. Note: Precertification is required.

          When Medicare Part B is primary –

          • They will waive their calendar year deductible, coinsurance and copayments for inpatient and outpatient services and supplies provided by physicians and other covered healthcare professional and outpatient facility services.

          Note:  BCBS does not waive benefit limitations, such as the 10-visit limit for home skilled nursing visits. In addition, they do not waive any coinsurance or copayments for prescription drugs.

          You can find more information about how the BCBS Plan coordinates benefits with Medicare in their highly informative Medicare and You Guide for Federal Employees.

          For specifics and clarifications download the plan brochures. If you have questions after reviewing the plan brochures call the provider for clarifications and additional guidance.

          • GEHA (1-800-821-6136)
          • BCBS (1-800-411-2583

          General Observations

          There is much to consider when changing plans to avoid coverage issues and to reduce your costs down the road. Take your time and review the various programs available to you by all providers in your area. I limited this article to a comparison between two popular low-cost options that many enrolled in the traditional Medicare Parts A and B program might find worthwhile exploring. I’ve been enrolled in the GEHA Standard plan for a number of years starting before enrolling in Medicare at age 65. Prior to that my wife and I were enrolled in the BCBS Basic plan. Both served our needs.

          Since enrolling in Medicare, we haven’t paid any copayments, coinsurance or deductibles even though my wife and I had multiple operations and last year I ended up in the emergency room.

          Medicare Part B does require a monthly payment and it is income adjusted. However, you can often offset the additional costs by changing to a lower cost FEHB plan. Also, some FEHB plans will actually reimburse you for some of your Part B Premiums. For example, BCBS Basic Option members can get a $600 reimbursement for paying Medicare Part B premiums.

          Open season runs from November 12, 2018 through December 10, 2018 and plan brochures are now available from most providers. OPM will have all plan brochures available online November 7th or you can sign up to access them via the OPM FEHB Online portal.

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

          Additional Resources:

          Helpful Retirement Planning Tools 

          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, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION, WELLNESS / HEALTH

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            Posted on Friday, 19th October 2018 by

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            Medicare recently announced the standard Part B premium amount of $135.50 for 2019. Most people will pay the standard Part B monthly premium. If your modified adjusted gross income as reported on your IRS tax return from 2 years ago is above a certain amount, you’ll pay the standard premium and an Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA).  This extra charge is added to your monthly payment. Premiums due to IRMAA range from $189.60 to as high as $460.50 a month for the highest income bracket.

            Those who retire and are covered under a working spouse’s health care plan can defer signing up for Medicare Part B without penalty. The cost for part B is determined by your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI). The modification adds any tax-free income that you earned to your standard adjusted gross income tax that is listed on your IRS 1040 form. For example, if you own tax free municipal bonds, even though bond interest isn’t federally taxed that income is included to determine your MAGI for Part B premium determination.

            The premium increases this year were minor, the standard premium increased only $1.50 per month, from $134 to $135.50. The IRMAA increases are listed below:

            There are definite advantages for federal retirees to sign up for Medicare Part B. The following list of Medicare articles will help you decide what is best for you and your family.

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

            Additional Resources:

            Helpful Retirement Planning Tools 

            Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

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

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

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              Posted on Thursday, 11th October 2018 by

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              Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 67 million Americans will increase 2.8 percent in 2019. CSRS annuitants will receive the full amount, FERS retirees will receive a 2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

              The 2.8 percent COLA will begin with benefits payable to more than 62 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2019. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2018. Federal civil servant retirees will receive the new adjustment starting with their January 2019 annuity payment.

              The maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $132,900. The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will increase to $17,640. Social Security will deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $17,640.

              The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2019 will increase to $46,920. Social Security will deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $46,920 until the month the worker turns age 66.) There is no limit on earnings for workers who are “full” retirement age or older for the entire year.

              View the list of COLA’s for CSRS and FERS annuitants going back to 1999.  Since I retired December 31, 2004 my CSRS annuity has increased just under 50% over the past 14 years. COLAs may not make up 100% of what we lose to true inflation but they do keep our heads above water.

              Our FEHB 2019 premiums are going up an average of 1.3 percent, which is the lowest increase since the 1996 plan year.  The Federal Employees Health Plan (FEHB) Open Season runs from November 12th to December 10th.  The combination of a higher COLA for 2019 and lower than anticipated increases in our health care costs is good news for all.

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

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

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                Posted on Wednesday, 10th October 2018 by

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                The U.S Census Bureau under the Department of Commerce will be hiring thousands of census workers between now and 2020 to conduct the upcoming census.  Most of the positions are available for anyone to apply. Because the labor market is at full employment, federal employees and annuitants may also apply under certain conditions without impacting their benefits.

                The positions available include census taker, recruiting assistant, office clerk, and supervisory staff.  Individuals can apply with one application to be considered for several positions.

                U.S. Census Bureau Image

                Some federal employees working at agencies that have a dual employment agreement with the Census Bureau can work in 2020 Census positions. Under Title 13, United States Code, Section 23(b), the Census Bureau may hire federal employees upon approval of agency directors, but only for temporary, short-term work on the 2020 Census.

                To be considered, you must complete a job application online. Many agencies now have dual employment agreements for 2020 Census positions. The list of agencies signing the dual employment compensation agreement continues to grow.  Check the list of approved agencies if your agency is not currently participating, a link to this list is provided under resources.

                • Note: The approved agencies are listed on the FAQ page under “Other Special Circumstances.”

                Federal annuitants (retirees) can also apply according to the local census office. All they have to do is check the dual compensation waiver block during the application process. If you apply under the dual compensation waiver process your annuity should not be impacted.

                Currently, the 2020census.gov site does not have the capabilities for federal employees and annuitants to apply using the dual compensation waiver process. Federal employees and annuitants wishing to work with the 2020 Census must apply through the USAJobs.gov site.

                The current positions listed on USAJobs are for field manager positions. All of the 2020 Census positions are Time Limited Appointments, initial appointment is not to exceed (NTE) 2 years.  Pay varies from $18 to $35 an hour for office field manager positions and from $12 to $25 an hour for census takers depending on your location, the higher cost of living metropolitan areas pay a higher hourly rate. The census taker positions will be opening soon. These appointments may be extended at management’s discretion. The work schedule for these positions are Mixed Tour. With a Mixed Tour work schedule, an employee may be changed between full-time, part-time and intermittent work schedules to accommodate fluctuating workloads and is subject to a signed agreement.

                There will be many additional jobs advertised as we approach the year 2020 when the actual Census begins. Check the two sites listed below under resources weekly for new job announcements in your area. Eventually, federal employees and annuitants may also be able to apply using the 2020census.gov site, check both site’s listings frequently.

                All job announcements include a contact phone number and email address listed under “Agency Contact Information” towards the end of the document. If you have any questions about that position and specifically if you can apply under the dual waiver compensation process, call them to discuss your personal situation. They will be able to answer your questions.

                Resources:

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

                Helpful Retirement Planning Tools 

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

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