Posted on Wednesday, 27th January 2016 by

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I typically purchase Intuit TurboTax Home & Business software in mid December each year to start working on our income taxes. I was able to download my Statement of Annuity Paid (1099 R Form) direct from OPM’s retirement services web site on January 17th!  Typically retirees receive these forms in the mail by the end of January.  You can also download duplicate 1099 R copies from OPM’s website if you should lose or misplace your copy.

Social Security Filing

Last week I filed for Social Security and immediately suspended so that my wife, who will soon be at full retirement age, could take a spousal benefit. We had to file by phone since we couldn’t get an appointment at our local Social Security office for several months, they were booked solid.  My wife’s monthly check will increase by almost 50%.  This file and suspend option won’t be available after April or early May of this year due to the changes in the law that took effect when the President signed HR-1314, the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.”

Because I was CSRS my wife’s benefit was reduced by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).  Thankfully I have 25 substantial years of earnings to date so the reduction was about half as much as the typical CSRS retiree’s deduction. Actually, when I do sign up for benefits at age 70 I’ll have 28 or 29 substantial earnings years if I continue working and at that point my Social Security check will only be reduced by $41 to $82 a month. Also, if I continue to work and earn the substantial earnings amount or more, my wife’s benefit will increase 5% each year plus COLA increases until I turn 70 and start collecting Social Security.

Currently, most CSRS retirees have 20 or less substantial years of earnings and if you started collecting a benefit in 2015 your monthly Social Security check would have been reduced by $413. My Social Security statement shows my taxed Social Security Earnings back to 1965 and my first substantial year of earnings was in 1968 when substantial earnings were only $1,950 a year.  In 2015 substantial earnings are listed at $22,050.

Updates

Last week my iPhone 5 quit and the local Verizon store wasn’t able to fix it. They offered to sell me a new iPhone 6 or 6S for $27 a month added to my wireless phone bill.  They no longer offer two year contracts however you must either pay cash for a new phone or pay for it monthly for two years.

I decided to look around and Sams Club was offering a $350 Sam’s Club Gift Card if you purchased a new Samsung phone.  The Samsung phones were just too big to carry in my pocket. I told the sales clerk that I was happy with my iPhone 5 and the new phones didn’t have anything that I really wanted and was about to walk out. She then pulled out a new iPhone 5S and said that I could buy a new iPhone 5S for 99 cents if I signed up for a new 2 year contract.

The Sam’s clerk explained that the carriers eliminated two year contracts at their primary phone outlets. However, Sams and a few other sellers were permitted to continue offering them with specials like she offered me. I signed a new 2 year contract and paid 99 cents for my iPhone 5S that has finger print recognition and an improved camera especially for low light situations.  The sales clerk said that my phone bill would not increase except for a one-time $40 activation charge.

I called Verizon the next day to verify the transaction and discovered that my contract cost was about $20 a month more than what I was paying previously.  I thought the deal was too good to be true.  What the sales clerk didn’t tell me was that when you aren’t on a contract they reduce your line cost from $40 a month to $20 a month to keep you using their service. The agent said I was only using about .1 Megs of data monthly, much less than the 2 Megs I was paying for, and after giving me a 15% veteran’s discount my bill ended up being $5 a month more.

I discovered that once you go off contract, like I was, you have to call them to get the line reduction. Fortunately I called several days after my contract expired three months ago and reviewed my bill with them and at that time they dropped my line charge to $20. If your contract has expired call your wireless phone carrier and ask for a discount.

To get a veterans or military discount from Verizon Wireless you have to call and send them either a copy of your military ID or for veterans a copy of your DD 214 form. I scanned my DD 214 and sent it to them through their web site.

The long and short of it is that if the deal sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t the deal you thought it was.  In this case, without the military discount and reduction in Data costs, I would have paid $20 more monthly and could have purchased several phones for that price without going back on a two year contract.  Still, for $5 more each month I’m happy with my new iPhone 5S.

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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 advisor. 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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