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Posted on Saturday, 20th February 2021 by

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Mary and I are scheduled for our first COVID 19 vaccinations on March 4th. Our local health care provider set up an online registration process this month and we were able to schedule both shots. We are still apprehensive about the potential side effects considering the rumors circulating online. However, many have already received their shots without incident including our daughter, a certified respiratory therapist, and others we know.

Auto Insurance Savings

This past year we put less than 10,000 miles on our two cars and SUV primarily due to the pandemic. I received an advance notice from our auto insurance carrier last month advising us of the upcoming renewal and the new premium. The premium was the same as last year. I’m sure many reading this column experienced the same thing and found this disconcerting. Insurance company’s liability decreases as many of their clients are working from home and there really isn’t anyplace to travel to.

I spent the next week obtaining quotes from four other companies. Several companies have new plans that base their premium on miles traveled and safe driving practices. Nationwide provided the best quote for what they call their Smart Miles program.  The premium consists of two parts: a base premium and a variable mileage premium (Cost Per Mile). To determine the cost per mile monthly premium, a GPS tracker must be installed on each of your vehicles. It plugs into the service port under the dash. They also offer a Smart Ride program that extends monthly premium discounts based on 4 factors: miles driven, hard braking and acceleration, idle time and nighttime driving.

The Nationwide quote was almost 30% less than the quote we had from ERIE, our carrier. I called ERIE and advised them I was seeking a lower rate due to the reduced mileage we traveled last year; they offered to lower our annual premium significantly.

Both quotes were competitive however I decided to stay with ERIE Insurance since they didn’t require GPS tracking and have a decreasing deductible. For each year that you don’t have a claim your deductible decreased by $100. Most insurers have certain safe driver incentives that you should consider before changing to another company. Our original deductible was $500 and was now only $100. I was able to get an additional premium reduction by increasing my deductible to $1,000; after applying their decreasing deductible adjustment, it would only be $600 for the current year. I also removed other small charges they had for income loss and dropped the rental car option. In the past I kept the rental car option on two vehicles for the entire year not knowing that I could simply add the rental option to the car we were vacationing with for that period of time.

Another way to save when you own multiple cars is to take advantage of their lay-up service. If you don’t drive one of your cars during the winter months or one of your cars won’t be used for three months, insurance companies will reduce your coverage on that car to the bare minimum. Thomas Butts, our local agent, and his staff were very helpful.

I also discovered that at first glance many of the competitive quotes I obtained were less until I closely compared benefits. In Pennsylvania you have the option of full tort or limited tort coverage. Most quoted the lower cost limited tort. I insist on full tort coverage which allows the victim to file a claim for all damages, including medical costs, lost wages, as well as noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. It took me some time to decipher each quote to compare apples to apples so to speak.

New Computer – Solid State Drive (SSD) Benefit

I upgraded to a new Dell laptop last December and purchased one with a 128 GB solid state drive (SSD) and a 1 TB hard drive. I reluctantly spent more for the SSD and was pleasantly surprised at just how fast the laptop starts up compared to hard drive systems. The SSD (C) drive stores the operating system and most of the primary software such as Microsoft Office, virus protection, browsers, and others. Everything else, including all data files, are stored on the (D) hard drive.

The laptop starts up fast and you can start searching with a browser or open programs in less than 10 seconds, it takes up to 3 minutes or more on a hard drive system before everything initializes and is able to run without incident.  If I had it to do over again, I would have purchased one with a larger SSD, mine is about two thirds full and I have to be careful when installing new programs to ensure they are stored on the hard drive. SSD laptop prices are falling. However, the manufacturers are dropping the hard drive unit costs substantially to reduce their inventory. Solid state drives are worth the additional costs from my perspective.

One perplexing fact when buying a new laptop is that most if not all of the 15” display units don’t come with a DVD read/write drive. I decided to purchase the 17.3” display model that still includes this feature. Otherwise, you have to buy an external DVD which is inconvenient to say the least.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

 

Request a 27 page Federal Retirement Report™ today. A one hour session with a Certified Financial Planner is included.

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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

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Posted on Sunday, 14th February 2021 by

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Michael is a fulltime employee with the National Parks Service (NPS) that is subject to between 2 weeks and 6 months furlough each year.  He wanted to know if the time he is furloughed counts towards his FERS service?  For instance, if he is furloughed for 6 months would he have one year or 6 months of service for that year?

The amount of a CSRS or FERS annuity paid by OPM is based primarily on the amount of creditable service an employee performs and the employee’s high-3 average salary. Both CSRS and FERS allow service credit for up to 6 months of nonpay status in any calendar year. If a furlough period does not cause an employee to be in a nonpay status for more than 6 months in a calendar year, the furlough period will be included as creditable service in determining the employee’s total creditable service used in the annuity computation. If the total amount of time an employee spends in a nonpay status in a calendar year exceeds 6 months, the amount of nonpaid status in excess of 6 months in the calendar year will not be creditable for retirement purposes. Refer to OPM’s addendum for additional information and there may be certain flexibilities extended under the COVID relief directives. If you have any questions contact your HR office for clarifications.

Please forward this article to others that may need this information and let them know how to sign up to receive this newsletter.

Employees and retirees alike have many questions about their benefits and how they have been impacted by the COVID pandemic. OPM issued over 20 oversight documents to add clarity to these issues that you can explore for the answers you may need. They cover emergency paid sick leave, annual leave and other paid time off, the use of flexible and maxiflex work schedules, leave payments under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and so much more. Here is a link to OPM’s COVID-19 oversight directives that you can explore for areas of interest:

For those who are anticipating retiring soon, there have been changes to the process that you should be aware of, review OPM’s Benefits Administration Letter 20-102 Revised. It outlines “Temporary Changes to Retirement Application Processing.” The changes in this document are printed in red ink.

The good news, according to OPM, is that COVID-19 has not affected Retirement Services’ ability to process applications or deliver timely payments. One issue still remains, it is difficult getting through to OPM by phone. What I do is dial their number, 888-767-6738. If its busy, I hang up and immediately click on redial, I typically get through in several minutes using this technique. Expect long wait times, I’ve waited on hold for up to 45 minutes. Customer service representatives are available Monday thru Friday, 7:40 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET, they are closed on federal holidays. You can also email questions to retire@opm.gov anytime to ask questions or request assistance with their personal retirement issues. If you send email questions, don’t include sensitive data, and you can expect a reply in up to 14 days or longer.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

 

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

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Posted on Friday, 5th February 2021 by

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The CARES Act allowed us to waive year-2020 required minimum distributions (RMDs) for all TSP participants who would otherwise have been subject to them. This included participants for whom 2020 would have been their first RMD year, even though that distribution would not have been due until April 1, 2021. RMDs have not been waived for 2021 however.

Request a 27 page Federal Retirement Report™ today.
A one hour session with a Certified Financial Planner is incuded.

Gail, one of our newsletter subscribers, received a 1099-R retirement distribution form from the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). It showed RMD taxable payments she received in 2020, even though she repaid them last July in accordance with the CARES Act guidelines. She wanted to know if the TSP would send out a corrected 1099-R; if not how will the IRS know that she doesn’t owe taxes on that amount?

In accordance with TSP guidance, she will not receive a corrected 1099-R form. If you received a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your TSP account in 2020, they must report the income and send you a Form 1099-R even if you rolled the money back into your account or into another retirement account. Not all reported income is taxable income. The TSP advises individuals to consult the IRS or a tax adviser for instructions and additional information on tax filing.

RMD recipients that received a distribution between January 1 and May 15, were allowed to roll those amounts over up until August 31, 2020. If you missed that deadline and were affected by COVID-19, see the TSP’s COVID Withdrawals and repayments for rollover options. Generally, when rolling over funds from one retirement account to another or in this case returning the funds to your TSP account, you must redeposit the money within 60 days to avoid taxes.  If you deposit it on day 61, you’ll owe whatever taxes and penalties apply. The 60-day window was extended by IRS Notice 2020-51 to August 31, 2020 due to the pandemic.

The amount of your RMD distribution will be annotated in box 1 (gross distribution) on Form 1099-R. If you returned the distribution by August 31, 2020, your withdrawal is considered to be a tax-free rollover by the IRS even if the 1099-R box 2a (taxable amount) shows the returned distribution. Basically, Form 1099-R indicates the receipt of a retirement account distribution and doesn’t necessarily mean that it is taxable because the person receiving the distribution may have the option to roll it over to an IRA.

Provide your accountant with a copy of your 1099-R and TSP statement showing the redeposited RMD. They will reconcile the withdrawals with any 1099-R, 5498 Forms, and 1040 filings. If you use Turbo Tax or another tax preparation program keep a copy of these documents with your files.

Note: The IRS announced that the nation’s tax season will start on Friday, February 12, 2021, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns. The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming, and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

 

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

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Posted on Thursday, 28th January 2021 by

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Those approaching retirement and retirees are the most susceptible to COVID-19 infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is deadliest among older populations. In fact, through January 21, 93 percent of COVID-19 deaths nationwide have occurred among those ages 55 or older.

Request a 27 page Federal Retirement Report™ today.
A one hour session with a Certified Financial Planner is incuded.

There is bundant information available on how to avoid catching the virus, potential remedies, and vaccines that are on their way, but little information about how to fight COVID at home after being diagnosed with the disease.

I received a message from someone that came down with Covid last November and went to the hospital with a high fever, rapid heartbeat, and other common symptoms. The advice he received when discharged for treatment at home is included in this patient’s summary that I converted to a PDF for our readers. You may wish to download this and keep it handy. If you are diagnosed with COVID, discuss these recommendations with your doctor to see if they are appropriate for your course of treatment.

According to Newsweek, nearly 200 of the National Guard’s 35,000 troops deployed to Washington DC for the inauguration, tested positive for COVID-19. They go on to say, “crowded conditions and a lack of face masks among the troops could worsen the virus’ spread, especially since 15,000 are expected to leave Washington D.C. and return to their home states within five to 10 days, according to Reuters.” Large gatherings with close quarters spread COVID.

Caravans of immigrants are heading our way from South America and potentially spreading COVID as they approach our southern border and enter this country. The President of Guatemala stated in a recent article that, “most entered his country without showing the negative coronavirus test that Guatemala requires.” The migrants are crowded together day and night and many if not most aren’t wearing masks. Thousands more are joining the caravan as it heads north. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was ordered to suspend removals, and to release detainees. I hope the new administration, with Doctor Fauci’s input, follows the science and take necessary steps to prevent spreading the virus before releasing anyone! If they don’t, this could spread infections throughout America.

Illegal immigration also creates a financial burden on taxpayers considering that in 2020 the federal government borrowed 56 cents of every dollar it spent. My last article, titled Unreasonable Expectations – The Debt Crisis,” outlines the dire straits we find ourselves in these days.

Several of my nephews and their spouses were diagnosed with COVID two months ago and all but one recovered after a short hospital stay. Johnny was in ICU for 7 weeks and moved out of intensive care last Thursday. He is still at the hospital on 100% oxygen, they don’t know when he will return home. Johnny, my 67-year-old nephew, was always active even after multiple botched hip replacement surgeries. One of the contractors I use and his wife tested positive for COVID last week, they are in their 50s and having problems.

My wife and I always wear face masks when out, constantly use hand sanitizer, and socially distance whenever possible. We order takeout occasionally, and haven’t eaten out at a restaurant since last March. Our health care provider launched an online COVID – 19 vaccine registration process this week; my wife and I signed up. If they receive sufficient inventory, we could receive our shots as early as February 1st.  Our daughter is a critical care respiratory therapist and received both shots several weeks ago with no significant side effects. Hopefully, after the majority of us get vaccinated, things will improve dramatically. I am cautiously optimistic.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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

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Posted on Friday, 22nd January 2021 by

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The national debt consists of public and intragovernmental debt owed by Uncle Sam. Public debt is what the government owes to bond holders including American citizens, international investors, and foreign governments that buy our bonds. Actually, U.S. citizens own the majority of the national debt!

Request a 27 page Federal Retirement Report™ today.
A one hour session with a Certified Financial Planner is incuded.

Currently, the national debt is just under $28 trillion dollars and is expected to reach or possibly exceed 100% of our gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. The last time we attained this lofty perch was during WW II. Seventy percent of our GDP is generated by consumer spending!

The government borrowed 56 cents of every dollar they spent to cover this country’s 2020 budget and the 4 trillion spent on COVID relief last year. The Federal Reserve, this country’s central bank, simply made an entry on the books increasing their reserve sufficient to cover the deficit, and then purchased bonds from the Treasury to cover the shortfall. The Central Bank makes money out of thin air and then buys Treasuries that few if any others would purchase under the circumstances.

Everyone is impacted by out-of-control spending, and neither political party is immune to spending beyond our means. COVID relief was and is still necessary, however it should be targeted to those truly in need and government must tighten its belt to make up some of the shortfall.

The state of the American economy isn’t in the best of shape even though you wouldn’t know it from the stock market highs we’ve seen recently.

The only things keeping the market up, from my perspective, are the huge profits from select industries deemed essential during the pandemic, increased consumer spending due to stimulus payments, anticipation of additional stimulus spending coming down the pike, and the hope that the economy will open up quickly and prosper from pent up demand once the majority of Americans are vaccinated.

Stock valuations are at all-time highs and the tech sector growth has exploded this past 9 months. According to a recent Reuters’ article, “The technology sector along with shares of big tech-related companies — Amazon, Google-parent Alphabet and Facebook — account for about 37% of the market-cap weighted S&P 500!” It feels like the Dot-Com bubble of 2000.  When new tech stocks increase 100% the first day of trading and other tech stocks are spiraling up 400 to 500 % and higher, the trajectory seems unsustainable.

Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (ZM) was selling for $67.28 on January 2, 2020 and rose to a high of $578 last October. It now has a valuation of $113.6 billion dollars and selling at a price to earnings ratio (PE) of 273! The modern-era market average PE is 19.6. Zoom’s value is now greater than IBM, Caterpillar, or 3M! According to The Motley Fool, there is some evidence of a possible sector rotation to downtrodden value stocks.

The following chart depicts the scope of the debt problem and unfortunately the predicament we find ourselves in today.  This chart compares the United States’ budget and spending to that of an average American family. These figures do not include over 158 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities for projected future social security, Medicare and other costs.

Government Budget Statistics for 2020.

  • United States Tax Revenue: $3,863,000,000,000 (Estimated)
  • Federal Budget: $4,790,000,000,000
  • Stimulus Spending $4,000,000,000,000 (COVID Stimulus)
  • New Debt: $4,927,000,000,000 (Budget – Revenue + Stimulus)
  • National Debt: $28,260,000,000,000 (Doesn’t include unfunded liabilities)

Now, remove eight (8) zeros and imagine it’s a household budget as noted below. The title for each entry was changed to a related household category:

  • Annual family income: $38,630
  • Money the family spent: $87,900 (Budget + Stimulus)
  • New debts: $49,927 (Borrowed in the Current Year)
  • Outstanding debt: $282,600

The $282,699 could include credit cards, home mortgage, and car loans. However, the interest would be prohibitive. For example, consider the average total interest paid on the debt at 7%. Credit card and auto loan interest can be much higher than the current 3% home mortgage rate. The yearly interest would consume $19,775 or 48.5% of their annual family income. Totally unsustainable.

Thankfully or regrettably depending on how you look at it, the Federal Reserve simply makes a book entry adding trillions to our money supply. They purchase Treasury notes, bills and bonds plus they now purchase bonds and equities of all stripes. This is somewhat disconcerting on many levels. The government must keep interest rates artificially low in order to service the debt and pay interest to the bond holders. Otherwise, we could default on our obligations and that would devastate the world economy.

How long could a family continue doing this without going bankrupt and insane to boot. Having unmanageable debt would drive me CRAZY. The government knows this is a problem but continues to ignore the issue. Imagine having a $100,000 loan and you decide it’s best to borrow more each year without substantial payments on the outstanding debt. This simply can’t work.

We are truly in a debt crisis and the longer our economy is shut down, the worse it will get. A balanced budget amendment would help to restore our financial health and ensure future Congressional bodies won’t break the bank. We frequently hear about ten-year budget reduction plans passed by congress. However, after the next election, the new congress is not obligated to continue with those plans and often ignores them completely.

In my opinion we don’t have a revenue problem; we have a chronic spending problem!

I wrote several articles that discuss ways to protect what you worked a lifetime to accumulate. You may find these interesting, some were written several years ago. Take that into account when reading them:

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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

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Posted on Tuesday, 19th January 2021 by

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Our 1099R Tax Forms typically aren’t available until the end of January by regular mail. Registered users of OPM’s Retirement Services Website can download their 1099R NOW! I visited the site on January 19, 2021 and downloaded my copy early to use for my 2020 tax return.

You must be registered to use their site. If you aren’t registered read the article titled “Connect to OPM’s Online Services” to understand the registration process and sign up. It doesn’t take long, however, you may have to wait for your password to be sent via regular US mail and that can take several weeks.

Many banks and brokerage house’s 1099 reports are also available online for download early. Treasury Direct doesn’t send out print copies. You must download your Treasury’s OID and 1099 INT statements from your online account. If you have complex investments, your brokerage statements could be delayed until mid-March or later. Even with all of the disruption to services this year from COVID 19, OPM was able to get our tax forms out early.

I’ve personally used TurboTax software for decades with success. It’s intuitive and walks you through the entire process, double checks your work, and they allow you to file online. This software can also download and integrate your brokerage accounts into your tax return, saving you considerable time.

There are also a number of free online filing services available through the IRS and several of the tax preparation services. The IRS allows you to file online at no cost if your annual income is less than $72,000. You will have to file y our State tax form separately. This free service has the following notice posted on their site for those who didn’t get the full Economic Impact Payment last year:

“If you didn’t get the full Economic Impact Payment, you may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit using Free File. If you didn’t get any payments or got less than the full amounts, you may qualify for the credit, even if you don’t normally file taxes. See Recovery Rebate Credit for more information.”

Turbo Tax offers free online tax preparation and submission of both your Federal and State returns for simple returns. A simple tax return is Form 1040 only OR Form 1040 + Unemployment Income.

Take advantage of OPM’s early 1099R online availability if you wish to file your taxes early or simply need to replace a lost 1099R.

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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

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Posted on Thursday, 14th January 2021 by

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OPM is currently experiencing high call volumes and longer than normal wait times on the Retirement Information Office Toll Free number (888-767-6738). Their highest call volume is on Monday and Tuesday mornings.

Request a 27 page Federal Retirement Report™ today.
A one hour session with a Certified Financial Planner is incuded.

To minimize wait times, consider calling the Retirement Information Office outside of these hours. Their hours are Monday – Friday 7:40AM EST to 5:00PM EST. As long as you are in queue at 5:00PM, your call will be answered. Also, consider using their Customer Support Center, contacting them via email at retire@opm.gov, or their self-service site at www.servicesonline.opm.gov. Their Customer Support Center is basically a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) page with links to information of interest for retirees.

It’s always difficult getting through to OPM, especially this time of year. What I do is dial their number; if its busy, I hang up and immediately click on redial. I typically get through in several minutes using this technique. Expect long wait times, I’ve waited on hold for up to 45 minutes. You can also email questions to retire@opm.gov anytime to ask questions or request assistance with their personal retirement issues.  It can take several weeks to get a reply via email.

When you do get through ask the customer service representative to initiate access to their online services portal if you haven’t already done so. OPM must send you your access information via regular mail and it can take several weeks to receive this information. You can do many things online without having to call OPM. Here is a link to an article on how to sign up for OPM’s online services:

Request a Federal Retirement Report

Retirement planning specialists provide a comprehensive Federal Retirement Report™ including annuity projections, expenditures verses income, with a complete benefits analysis. This comprehensive 27-page benefits summary will help you plan your retirement.

Request Your Personalized Federal Retirement Report™ Today

Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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

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Posted on Thursday, 7th January 2021 by

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Corrections:  I misquoted the 2021 COLA in last week’s article titled “1% Pay Raise Approved for 2021 – GS Pay Charts Available;” it is 1.3% not 1.6%  The blog article was corrected.

Generally, in late December federal retirees receive a Notice of Annuity Adjustment that provides abundant information for annuitants and their survivors. The mailed statements were apparently delayed this year and I still haven’t received a copy. However, I signed on to OPM Services Online and printed out my January 2021 Annuity Statement, and reviewed my Annual Summary of Payments report. Whenever your annuity payment is modified, for whatever reasons, OPM sends out a Notice of Annuity Adjustment outlining the changes to your monthly payment. This year’s statement includes a 1.3% COLA, and they will send out another statement to show the health care premium changes for 2021.


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This document provides annuity and benefit information for you and your family. It includes the annuitant’s Claim number, the amount withheld for each item deducted from your annuity payment, and your gross and net payment. This document specifies the monthly survivor annuity currently payable in the event of the annuitant’s death and includes an annual Notice of Survivor Annuity Election Rights. You will also find OPM contact information and they include a recommendation to register and log on to their online services. The online Annuity Statement also lists the survivor’s monthly annuity payment.

This form provides instructions on how to make benefit elections such as how to apply for a survivor election for a spouse you marry after retirement, survivor annuity elections for a former spouse, and others.

I elected a full survivor’s annuity for my wife when I retired as a CSRS employee. My wife will receive 55% of my full annuity when I die. The full FERS survivor’s annuity is 50%. I divided the surviving spousal monthly annuity listed on this document by my gross monthly benefit; my wife will receive 60% of what I was receiving while alive. When I elected a full annuity, my annuity was reduced by 10%. What many don’t realize is that the surviving spouse of a CSRS retiree receives 55% of the unreduced annuity amount or in my case 60% of what I was receiving monthly while alive. Many believe the surviving spouse receives 55% of what the federal annuitant was receiving prior to death. This is good information to have when finalizing your estate plans.

I keep the Notice of Annuity Adjustments that I receive in my retirement folder and include a copy in our estate binder along with OPM’s annuity and FEGLI insurance verification forms that OPM sends out upon request or you can download then online. This is an important document and needs to be readily available if you or your survivor need to contact OPM or require benefit clarifications.

I receive many questions each year from retirees and survivors that misplaced their CSA retirement Claim Number and need to contact OPM. If you file this form in your retirement planning or estate file this information will be readily available when needed.

1099 Tax Forms Coming Soon

Federal annuitants typically don’t receive their 1099R Tax Forms until the end of January or the beginning of February by regular mail. If you are registered to use OPM’s Retirement Services Website your 1099 R is often available earlier for download. I generally download a copy of my 1099 R to start my tax return early.

To get a head start on your taxes visit OPM’s Online Services later this month and download a copy. You must be registered to use the site. If you aren’t registered read the article titled “Connect to OPM’s Online Services” to understand the registration process and sign up. It doesn’t take long however you may have to wait for your password to be sent via regular US mail and that can take several weeks. If you haven’t signed up yet do it now. The site offers retired federal employees many helpful options such as changing your direct deposit information, address changes, 1099 R copies, download annuity and insurance verification documents, and much more.

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Find answers to your questions: The best time to retire, retirement income vs expenditures, FEGLI options and costs, TSP risks and withdrawal strategies, and other relevant topics. Determine what benefits to carry into retirement and their advantages. You will also have the opportunity to set up a personal one-on-one meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER. Helpful Planning Tools

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Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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

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