fbpx

Posted on Friday, 23rd September 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

According to estimates by the Administration, this country’s debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) soared to 137.2% in 2021, the highest in history! Skyrocketing Inflation is the end result of reckless spending and will disrupt the world economies for years to come.  All administrations have contributed to this travesty.

 

 

Retirees are first to feel the brunt of inflation, they have few ways to recover the higher costs they incur daily. Subsequent generations pay the ultimate price for their predecessors reckless spending through higher taxes, reduced services, and a lower standard of living.

FAST AND FURIOUS!!!

This isn’t an action-packed movie-drama, it’s our lives and the facts speak for themselves. Both parties spend money that we don’t have, often times on grandiose plans that fail miserably, with no thought to fiscal restraint.

The IRS collected $4.1 trillion in 2021 and refunded $1.37 trillion for a net collection of $2.973 trillion dollars after refunds. The federal government spent $6.82 trillion dollars in 2021 by borrowed 56.5 cents of every dollar it spent! The federal reserve simply made a book entry for this deficit spending and then purchased that amount of our Treasury bonds to fund the government and flood the country with cash; driving inflation through the roof.

Their excessive spending hasn’t Improved since I wrote “Unreasonable Expectations – The Debt Crisis”  January 2021 when the COVID crisis was the excuse for the shortfall.

When the average family or business requires a major expenditure, other activities are curtailed or eliminated entirely. Retirees on a fixed income must be creative to make ends meet. They dip into their savings, withdraw from their retirement accounts, consider a reverse mortgage if they are fortunate enough to own a home, and buy and do less overall.

That’s life, we can’t have it all and when we spend heavily in one area, it’s essential to cut back in others. The Federal government refuses to balance the budget by offsetting new expenditures with cuts elsewhere.




FIGHTING ANOTHER WAR – AGAIN!

Over $60 billion has been sent overseas to support Ukraine’s war with Russia. I understand the need for humanitarian aid and to help them negotiate a cease fire and peace treaty. However, the military equipment, ammunition, and hardware shipments that we continue to send could easily provoke another long-term war that we can’t afford or win. Some expect a protracted war that could last for years.

The senate is putting together another bipartisan multi-billion-dollar aid package! What we give them requires an equal or greater amount spent to replenish our stockpiles. Their European neighbors only contributed a small fraction of what we gave them to date.

Currently, there are over 30 conflicts worldwide. Wars rage in Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, the South Sudan, and Ukraine. Instability in Argentina, Venezuela, other African nations, and elsewhere is rampant throughout the world. We can’t resolve everyone’s problems.

BORDER CRISIS CONTINUES UNABATED

In this case, we are protecting Ukraine’s Sovereignty and borders while abandoning ours! Millions of illegal aliens including hundreds-of-thousands of got aways are flooding into our country. The President insists the border is closed and secure while the drug cartels ensure it is wide open for their drug smuggling and human trafficking enterprises. Some support the administration’s contention, however common sense prevails, and the numbers don’t lie.

Last year over 100,000 Americans died from the Fentanyl smuggled across our southern border! The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services reported that 3,686,466 illegal immigrants crossed our border since the beginning of the 2021 fiscal year. The vast majority were single adults. Unfortunately, major media outlets refuse to cover this crisis; Americans know little about the severity of the situation.

To put this into perspective, the number that entered our country during this time period is more than the combined populations of South and North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming!

According to The Washington Times, “The U.S. has added more than 2 million immigrants to its population since President Biden took office in 2021, the vast majority of them here illegally.” The immigrant population growth occurred even though about half of those crossing the southern border illegally are allegedly returned to their country of origin!

How long can we sustain this influx of humanity without this country’s support systems collapsing? There is little vetting of those entering our country and none for the got aways. This is a national security, local community, and law enforcement nightmare.

The mayors of New York City, Chicago, and DC are complaining about several thousand immigrants arriving by bus over the past year from the southern border. Imagine what the local communities on the border are going through as tens of thousands enter their towns weekly.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Chart

WARS ON STEROIDS

The Vietnam war escalated during the Kennedy Administration soon after military advisors were deployed in country. It didn’t take long before troops, in the tens of thousands, were enroute to this foreign land. My draft notice arrived 5 months after high school graduation when the war was raging, thousands of our youth were dying, and tens of thousands, like myself and many of my class mates, were called to fight this war. The Vietnam War claimed the lives of 58,000 U.S. troops!

Ukraine sounds much like the beginning of the Vietnam war, except in this case we are poking a bear with nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles that our defense systems can’t shoot down!

Recently a bipartisan congressional delegation suggested placing American military advisors in country. Imagine what could happen with that! Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

We were attacked on 9/11/2001 and the Afghanistan war began with an international military coalition led by the United States that toppled the Taliban-ruled Islamic Emirate and establishing the Islamic Republic three years later. Instead of leaving, we stayed for 20 years to nation build and support the new Islamic state that was destined to fail. The chaotic withdrawal of American troops last year, accentuated the problem with nation building and the ineffectiveness of our intelligence apparatus.

Forbes reported, “In the 20 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has spent more than $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan. That’s $300 million dollars per day, every day, for two decades.” Another example of out-of-control spending that was spearheaded by both parties.

We also tried this in Vietnam and Iraq. Many valiant American heroes honorably served during these wars and tens of thousands lost their lives, many others returned home maimed for life. Where does it end? We lost too many lives and treasure to end up right back where it began.

CONCLUSION

With over 500,000 homeless in America, rampant crime and lawlessness, high gas prices, open borders and drug crisis, the country in the midst of a recession, the highest inflation in over 40 years with many families living paycheck to paycheck, and a compromised power grid, our government is abdicating its responsibilities to the American people.

When fires arrive at your doorstep, most rational people would put everything else aside, and douse the inferno! Unfortunately, government appears to be fanning the flames and heading in the opposite direction.

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.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Posted on Friday, 16th September 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

We provided our first 2023 COLA projection update last July. Costs continue to rise and mortgage rates are now up to 6%, almost double from where they were at the beginning of the year. Our COLA will be considerably higher than last year’s 5.9% for CSRS and 4.9% for FERS.

 

2023 COLA PROJECTIONS

According to Wilbert J Morell III, a retired Navy Engineering Project manager, “If the Inflation trend continues through September, inflation for the last 12 months ending on 30 September will be 8.1%. If the CPI-W remains constant for the month of September, the 2023 Social Security and CSRS COLAs effective on 1 December 2022 will be 8.6%, and the FERS COLA for 2023 will be 7.6%.

Inflation has moderated a bit and this projection is .4% lower than the last update. Review how COLAs are calculated and annual COLA allocations back to 1999. With supply chain issues continuing and the potential strikes within the transportation sector, the 2023 COLA could end up higher.

Wilbert tracks these statistics monthly and is highly knowledgeable about our federal retirement benefits.




TREASURY BILL YIELDS CONTINUE TO RISE

In my article titled “Ditch your Bank’s Low Savings Rates” I described the advantages of Treasury bills (T Bills) and in a subsequent article I outlined how to ladder them to take advantage of the rising rates. What continues to astounds me is that my local bank and credit union has kept their savings rate at a mere .04% all this time!

When I started purchasing 4 and 8-Week bills last February they were yielding slightly more than my local bank and credit union savings rate. The 4-week bill rate has increased to 2.540% as of September 13, 2022, just 9 months later. The 8-week bill now yields 2.816%; the 52-week bill is 3.603% and higher than the 10-year note rate! The rate chart below lists Treasury Bill performance for September of this year.

Late September the Federal Reserve is expected to raise the rate by at least .75% to as high as 1%. T Bill rates will rise accordingly. It is estimated that the fed rate will be in the mid 4% range or higher by years end.

Banks take advantage of their depositors knowing they are generally reluctant to move funds from their savings to higher earning options. A person with $50,000 in his or her bank savings account earning .04% interest receives $20 a year for keeping those funds in the bank. Moving that same amount to a 52-week T Bill currently earning 3.603% would earn the depositor $1,801, or $1,761 more than their bank would pay them!

I’ve kept my 4 and 8-week ladders reinvesting for the near term until the rates plateau; then I plan to convert them to either 52-week bills or longer-term notes depending on how high the rates move. Interest rates reached 16.63% in 1981 and many locked in longer term notes, bills and bonds at very high rates, in the low to mid-teens!

TREASURY NOTE RATE CHART

PURCHASING TREASURY BILLS

As I stated in the past articles on this subject you can purchase Treasuries direct from the government at www.treasurydirect.gov or thorough your stock broker. Generally, I purchase short term bills direct from the government. Longer term notes, bonds, and TIPs are best suited for your brokerage account.

If you are holding long term notes, bonds and TIPs you can only sell them on the secondary market before maturity. Treasury Direct canceled their sell direct program some time ago. Owners must transfer Treasuries they want to sell before maturity to their private brokerage account to sell them on the secondary market; it can take months for the government to complete the transfer.

I elect the new issue auction option when purchasing Treasuries through my brokerage account. If you buy previously issued Treasuries you could end up paying a high premium if the newer issued notes and bonds are paying a higher coupon rate.

EARNINGS RETURNED TO YOUR SAVINGS

When you purchase Treasury Bills you buy them at discount. In other words, if you buy a $10,000 (26-Week T Bill) earning 3.576%, the Treasury withdraws $9,821.20 from your account. At maturity, 26 weeks later they deposit $10,000 back to your account. If you choose to reinvest, the Treasury deposits the earnings back to your account until the final maturity date when the full amount is returned.

This is confusing to some, in the above example the $10,000 would earn 3.576% or $357.60 if held for one year. When you buy a T-Bill for less than a year the earnings are prorated. In this case you would receive half a year’s interest, $178.80.  If you purchased a 52-week T-Bill you would buy it for $9,642.40; at maturity $10,000 would be returned to your account.

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.

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

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Posted on Friday, 9th September 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

The past eight days were certainly different than expected. By all reports, COVID for those vaccinated would have been mild to moderate. We received our first two shots early on and a booster about 8 months later. During a recent visit to our PCP, we were advised to hold off on another booster.

I lost my nephew to this disease early on and we didn’t take COVID lightly, wore masks, used hand sanitizer, social distanced up until the past few months and avoided large gatherings. Most of our shopping was relegated to the early hours, shortly after the stores opened and we continue this practice.

THE ONSET

My wife and I are high risk due to our age and medical conditions that warrant caution. I have asthma and paroxysmal A Fib. Our daughter and granddaughter visited Saturday and both tested positive for COVID late Sunday. By Monday Mary and I had sore throats and a cough. Soon after cold chills, headache and pretty much the laundry list of symptoms arrived shortly thereafter.

By Tuesday we both tested positive and had full blown COVID: high fevers, chills, deep coughs, you name it we had it. We didn’t sleep at all Monday or Tuesday nights.

EARLY INTERVENTION

Fortunately, my wife read about two new antivirals recently, Paxlovid and Lagerrio. Both were approved for emergency use for high risk COVID patients. Our PCP prescribed them and we started treatments Wednesday night.

The side effects of the antivirals were significant. I was taking asthma meds including my emergency inhaler up to three times a day and coincident with the Paxlovid at times. A mistake, I won’t repeat if I ever have to take this treatment again. Taking these together pushed me into frequent A Fib attacks. The drug also produces a strong metallic taste that lasts throughout the day. The only way to moderate it was by chewing Extra Long lasting Polar Ice gum.

I called our PCP two days into the antiviral treatment about the adverse side effects and he advised us to stay the course, if at all possible, but stop if the side effects became unbearable. Fortunately, we listened to him and stayed the course.

If you end up using Paxlovid or one of the other antivirals down the road, carefully check for drug interactions. I had two prescriptions drugs I couldn’t take with the antiviral.

RECOVERY

Without the antivirals, things could have gotten much worse. We took the medication twice a day for 5 days, 3 pills in the morning and three again in the evening. By the end of the treatment most symptoms subsided. Several days later we felt much improved. Anytime I have a respiratory infection my asthma symptoms are elevated for several weeks. I’ve had flu several times over the years and COVID was far more severe and draining.

Now that we actually had COVID, natural immunity should kick in and protect us for the next six months to a year or more. A recent study published last January in the New England Journal of Medicine shared findings that supported natural immunity providing greater protection from COVID infection than multiple vaccinations. This wouldn’t preclude us from getting another shot for new variants.




PROJECTED ANNUITY CALCULATOR ALERNATIVE USES

I recently featured our updated Projected Annuity Calculator and received a number of suggestions on how it could be used to determine projected growth in other areas.  One reader is using it to estimate her Social Security earnings over the next few decades.

It’s easy to do, pull up the spreadsheet and  enter the year, your current Social Security annual benefit, what you consider to be an average COLA growth over time, and your age. The readout under the column “Projected Annuity with Survivor’s Benefit” will show the potential growth over the next 40 years. Those in the private sector can also use the estimator if they have a COLA adjusted annuity from their employer, although that is fairly rare these days.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Tags: , , ,
Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Posted on Friday, 2nd September 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

I discussed the Medicare Advantage Plans associated with our Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) last year during open season. These are relatively new and low-cost options that retirees can change to if they have a FEHB plan and Medicare A and B.

Many are attracted to them because they are lower cost and offer partial Medicare Part B reimbursement. The issues around these plans deal with coverage and provider availability. You have to use preferred providers in their plans and because the plan becomes your primary provider, you often require preapproval or authorizations for many procedures.

VICKI’S ISSUE

Her husband retired from the postal service 7 years ago.  They carried BCBS basic for their insurance plan as well as Medicare part A & B. Last year they switched to the Aetna Medicare Advantage Z26 plan.  It seemed like a significant savings for us and also offered Silver Sneakers as a perk, so we switched.  Now I am wondering if we did the right thing.

BCBS/Medicare was always excellent in handling our medical needs. Anytime I needed a procedure, I got it done, no questions asked. If my doctor felt I needed the procedure, I had it done, no waiting.  We rarely spent anything out of pocket.

With this Aetna plan, it seems like we have to jump through hoops in order to get things done. I needed an MRI and Aetna insisted I complete 6 weeks of physical therapy or go through a complaint process. In the meantime, my problem got worse with physical therapy. I had to call my orthopedic doctor 3 times in order to ask him to call Aetna so they could approve this MRI. This process started mid-May and I finally got an MRI at the end of August!  Other issues required pre-approval before I could get the services I needed.  I didn’t have this problem with BCBS and Medicare A & B.

With money getting so tight, I hate to have to pay the higher BCBS premiums, but when your health is at stake……. what can you do.

My REPLY

Sorry to hear about your problems. I did not switch to a MA plan for a number of reasons. The article I wrote on the subject titled, “FEHB Medicare Advantage Plans (Proceed with Caution),” discusses some of the issues you are talking about.

Once you go to a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, that insurance company becomes your primary provider and Medicare pays them to handle your health care needs. How the MA providers make money is to manage their program to cut costs. That’s why you have to go through the additional steps. In your case it is much cheaper for the plan to pay 6 weeks for physical therapy than pay for an MRI.

I remained with GEHA Standard and pay $291.92 for Self Plus One. Medicare remained my primary provider which is beneficial in most cases. For example, your provider insisted you take 6 weeks of PT before they would authorize an MRI. I had an MRI for my back problems last month and was taking PT as well. GEHA does not require pre-authorization since Medicare is our primary provider and I got it two days later. GEHA picks up what Medicare doesn’t.

Unfortunately, my wife has had many eye operations for glaucoma over the past 6 years and I had several operations as well and we paid zero for everything, I also have major back issues. We only pay prescription copayments. Here is a link to the article I wrote comparing BCBS Basic to GEHA Standard.

GEHA Standard to BCBS Basic Plan Comparison – 2022

GEHA Standard doesn’t provide any Medicare Part B reimbursement but is much cheaper than BCBS Basic that for us that wasn’t an issue. Our coverage is exceptional and it would take a lot for my wife and I to change.

Fortunately, you can always change back to a standard FEHB plan next open season.




SUMMARY

I received several other emails from newsletter subscribers discussing their problems with the new MA plans. Most were concerned with limited facility availability in their area. One indicated he had to travel over a 100-miles to get a procedure done at a plan’s preferred provider.  Others had similar problems to Vicki.

Before changing plans, check out their provider network as I discuss in the article I wrote on this subject. Many still think Medicare is their primary provider when they switch, they are not. With Medicare you can use any facility that accepts Medicare; you generally won’t need pre-authorization for many services.

Before changing to another plan investigate it thoroughly, cost is certainly a factor but nothing is more important than your health. As I and my wife age, our healthcare needs have unfortunately increased dramatically. I’m writing this article after my wife and I tested positive for COVID three days ago. We had all three shots, the last one only 6 months ago!

The new antiviral Paxlovid was prescribed by our PCP and it is starting to work, however the side effects are a lot to deal with. Mary’s fever was 103.6 last night!

These plans may be cost effective for those who understand their limitations and realize they must use the insurer’s provider network. If things don’t work out to your satisfaction, you can always change back to a traditional FEHB plan next open season.

Prepare for the 2022 FEHB Open Season now.

This past two years we were told many things about COVID that proved not to be true and that sounds much like disinformation today. Yet, the doctors and scientist that warned us about being overly optimistic, potential side effects, questioned the origin of the virus, and supported natural immunity were censored, their social media accounts closed, and many were fired!

In my humble opinion, disinformation is a false premise. COVID is the perfect example. There are many sides to a story and when we stifle other opinions, perspectives, and voices, we close our minds to what might ultimately be the best solution. True scientific inquiry requires listening to all possibilities or we would still be in the dark ages insisting the world is flat.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

 

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

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Posted on Friday, 26th August 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

Forward this to others that may find this information helpful.
They can sign-up to receive my free Retirement Lifestyle Newsletter.

Our updated excel annuity calculator spreadsheet projects your annuity and maximum survivor benefit growth through 2061 using an estimated average annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). This calculator was developed by Frank Cullen, an old friend. We both retired from federal service many years ago.

Projected CSRS / FERS Annuity Calculator (Sample)
(Enter your estimated annuity and Average COLA)

In the sample chart above, the retiree’s annuity increases 81% over the next twenty years with a projected average COLA of 3%. This estimate could be conservative considering the runaway inflation we are experiencing now and for the foreseeable future. If stagflation takes hold, as many economists expect, the average annual COLA could be higher.




Those planning their retirement can use this spreadsheet to estimate the growth of their annuity and their spouse’s survivor benefit over time. Use your actual annuity or estimates you receive from your human resource office, if still employed, for these projections.

Deciding When To Retire – A 7-Step Guide

This spreadsheet, originally developed for CSRS retirees, accurately determines your projected monthly and annual annuity, based on an estimated average COLA growth rate, with and without survivor benefits for 40 years and your survivor’s annual and monthly annuity. FERS retirees can use this spreadsheet with minor adjustments as noted below and on the excel form.

Current federal employees doing advanced planning can use our FERS Annuity Calculator or CSRS Annuity Calculator to estimate what their annuity would be for various target retirement dates.

A list of annual COLAs going back to 1975 for CSRS and to 1995 for FERS is provided on the spreadsheet and includes the average 2, 3, 5, 10 and 47-year COLA average growth rate to give you an idea of what to use for your estimate.

When I ran my numbers back in 2004, I used 2.5% and my annuity and survivor’s projections were close to the chart’s results for the 17 years I’ve been retired. The average COLA over the past 47 years is 3.68%, during this period COLAs ranged from as low as 0% for two years to as high as 14.3% in 1980! This year’s COLA was 5.9% for CSRS and 4.9% for FERS. The COLA for 2023 is expected to be even higher.

Projected Annuity Calculator (Download the Excel Spreadsheet)

Download and use the Projected Annuity Calculator to determine your potential annuity growth for you and your spouse. Enter your personal information in the 4 yellow blocks provided: the year you retire, annuity, an estimated average COLA, and your age at the beginning of the year. If the Excel chart opens in protected mode, click on “enable editing” at the top of the spreadsheet.

FERS EMPLOYEES

For FERS employees the projected annuity without survivor benefit will be the same; just enter your annuity or annuity estimate, age, year of retirement, what you consider to be a realistic COLA growth rate, and the spreadsheet will calculate your annuity for the next 40 years! The column reserved for your projected annuity with survivor benefits will be lower since the maximum spousal benefit is 50% for FERS, not the 55% for CSRS.

To calculate the FERS survivor’s benefit, multiply the “Projected Annuity Without Survivor Benefits” by .50 and then divide this number by 12 to determine the monthly survivor benefit. For example, in the chart above multiplying the first row’s 2022 “Projected Annuity Without Survivor Benefits” of $51,200 by .50 equals $25,600. Dividing this by 12 provides your spouse with a monthly annuity of $2,133.

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.

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

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Posted on Friday, 12th August 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

Please forward this to others needing retirement planning assistance.

Those planning their retirement and annuitants require accessible resources for answers to their individual and unique questions. OPM does a good job managing our retirement system overall. However, there are limits to what they can provide. It’s often frustrating and difficult finding competent help and the level of assistance required. There are many variables to what initially might seem like an obvious resolution; it makes sense to seek out clarifications.




Can you afford to retire today, considering the current state of affairs? Stock markets are in turmoil, retirement account values are plummeting while rampant inflation rages throughout the country. Tammy Flanagan replied to a comment she received from a person who was having second thoughts due to this economic situation. She brilliantly addresses this issue targeted to the individual in question. Tammy’s article titled, “Second Thoughts on Retiring This Year – Inflation makes a would-be retiree feel like a deer in the headlights” is thought provoking and a must read for those in similar circumstances.

Retirement planning is of and in itself a complicated process with many avenues to explore. Fortunately, help is available; what service you require depends on the complexity of the issues and the level of assistance you personally need.

LEVELS Of ASSISTANCE

  • General Assistance (Try these resources first)
  • Comprehensive Guidance
  • One-on-One Counseling / Assistance

GENERAL ASSISTANCE

OPM

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the HR department for the federal government; they administer the retirement benefits program. Active federal employees can research various aspects of retirement on OPM’s site. However, they must contact their agency’s HR office for retirement forms processing and guidance.

OPM services the retirement community directly; If you are an annuitant (retiree), call or use their online services portal to obtain current benefit information, related documents, and payment statements online if registered for their service.

I can see eyes rolling when I suggest calling OPM. Yes, it is difficult getting through to them by phone. I dial their number, 888-767-6738; if it’s busy, I hang up and immediately click redial. I typically get through in several minutes using this technique. Expect long waits. OPM can access your records and it is the only entity that can effect desired changes or update your records.

NOTE: ServicesOnline.opm.gov recently changed how you access your account.

Federal Employee’s Retirement Planning Guide (www.federalretirement.net)

I launched this site in 2004 when I was planning my retirement. It is designed to help federal employees and retirees find the information they need to make informed benefit and retirement decisions.  Abundant retirement planning guidance is compiled from a multitude of federal agencies: OPM, Social Security, Medicare, TSP, the Department of Labor and others. Use the main menus and search box at the top of each page to find benefit clarifications, financial planning guidance, FERS / CSRS eligibility determination and annuity estimates, general explanations, examples, and suggestions that you won’t find elsewhere. The related blog and weekly email newsletter offer guidance on current topics of interest.




COMPREHENSIVE GUIDANCE

Retirement Planning Seminars

Contact your HR department to find out when retirement planning seminars are scheduled for your area. They cover CSRS and FERS employees, (including Special provisions) and may be offered in Full or Half-day sessions. The information is generally divided into seven key areas:  CSRS or FERS retirement annuity, Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), Voluntary Contribution Plan (VCP) – CSRS and CSRS Offsets only, Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), Social Security, Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) and disability programs.

Federal Employee’s Retirement Planning Software (https://fedretiresoftware.com/)

This easy-to-use and reasonably priced software is uniquely designed for federal employees (full-time, regular CSRS & FERS) to calculate all of your federal benefits up to and throughout retirement. You can also add income and/or expenses from other sources.  For example, if you have other income from a rental, pension, retirement account or other expenses from a mortgage, credit card debt, living expenses, etc., you can add those in for a more comprehensive look at all income versus total expenses.

This calculator is used by tens of thousands of federal employees as well as Federal HR depts across the country who appreciate their accurate and comprehensive reports. Use this software to make informed, financially literate decisions in planning your retirement. Checkout their Sample Report to get a better understanding of just how comprehensive their calculator is for all federal employees planning their exit.

Federal Retirement Software is offering an exclusive discount available only through FederalRetirement.net.  For a limited time, pay only $24/year (regularly $99/year). CLICK HERE to take advantage of this incredible offer.

Federal Retirement Report – A 27-page Personal Retirement Report Summary.

RP & A Financial Strategies develops personalized 27-page written Federal Retirement Reports™ customized to your specific situation and includes a summary of all benefits, TSP investments, and annuity estimates with projections. This service costs $179 and includes a one-hour, one-on-one, session with their federal retirement specialist to review your report and answer any questions you may have. A moneyback guarantee is offered if you aren’t completely satisfied with their services. They also offer a one-hour personal consultation with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) at no additional cost if desired.

ONE-ON-ONE COUNSELING / ASSISTANCE (Finding someone to talk to)

Often, individuals need to talk with an expert to address complex issues and make informed decisions about what is best for their situation. It is difficult finding anyone to call or email that you can trust and get the information you need. Here is a list of those you can contact to help you address your concerns when the research you’ve done hasn’t provided an answer.

Call Your Agency’s HR Department (Federal Employees)

Federal employees with retirement questions should contact their HR department, if you call OPM they will refer you back to them. OPM only service annuitants and survivors. Your HR department will provide annuity estimates for multiple target retirement dates, explain your benefit options, and arrange for you to attend a retirement seminar.

Columnists

Many columnists, like myself, reply to email questions. Generally, I’ll send a reply with links to relevant sections of my website, related blog articles, and to OPM guidance that will help. When I’m asked to provide one-on-one counselling, I refer them to the professional counselors listed below under Retirement Planning Consultants.

You can also sign up for our email newsletter or review past articles of interest that are posted on our blog. Over 350 articles are listed on our article index.

Retirement Planning Consultant – All Areas

A professional federal benefits consultant can address your concerns and answer any questions that you may have. If they don’t have the immediate answer, they have the contacts and resources to obtain them.

Retire Federal, https://www.retirefederal.com/, a consulting firm owned by Tammy Flanagan, a federal benefits expert who has been assisting feds since her days of employment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She and her staff of experienced counselors offer invaluable fee-for-service personal consulting for civilian federal employees and annuitants on pre-retirement retirement prep to post-retirement decisions and events. They will assist you with a thorough review of your pre-retirement tasks. They also specialize in helping you decide about Medicare Part B and which FEHB plan will coordinate best for your situation. They can address your concerns, answer questions, recommend options, provide details as to why one path is preferred over another, and put your mind at ease.

Consultant – Divorce Related Issues for Federal Employees

Ann Ozuna is a retired Personnel Management Specialist.  She founded Personnel Solutions Federal Benefits Counseling upon retirement from federal service in 1996. In addition to her 25-year federal personnel career, she holds an MBA from Gonzaga University and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant (ChFEBC) designations. She provides consulting services for federal employees facing divorce and attorneys working with federal clients.

If you need answers to retirement questions or don’t know what options are best for you and your family, use the resources listed above or other reputable services.

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.

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

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Posted on Saturday, 6th August 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

Please forward this article to others that may find it informative.

This past winter our gas and electric bills doubled from the previous year. Both companies confirmed that my usage was about the same year to year. Inflation has taken its toll and we simply can’t escape the spiraling costs of everything these days.

Why are our electricity costs increasing when we have nuclear, abundant coal, and gas to power the country? Obviously, more power plants are needed; it didn’t take long to find out why.

Higher prices are near and dear to those planning their retirement and annuitants a like. With our abundant energy resources our utility bills should be much lower.




EMPOWERING OUR GRID

America is facing rolling brown outs this year; we no longer have sufficient electric generation capacity during extreme weather events. This wasn’t caused by climate change; the problem is manmade. Over 300 coal fired power plants were forced to close since 2010, mostly due to onerous new EPA regulations and cost considerations.

A third of the coal plants that closed were either converted to natural gas or replaced with new gas fired plants. A new EPA wastewater rule will cause 75 additional coal fired plants across the country to shut down if the rule isn’t rescinded.

Six nuclear power plants closed since 2013. Europe is reopening mothballed coal fired and nuclear facilities to shore up their electric grid, it seems like a reasonable course of action for us here at home.

India, China, and Japan are building hundreds of new high efficiency low emission (HELE), ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants. EPA regulations discourage the building of HELE coal-fired power plants in the US even though these power plants have a Higher Heat Value (HHV) rating of 45% then our existing fleet of coal-fired power plants in the US that have an average efficiency of 33% HHV. The life expectancy of a HELE plant is 60 years compared to just 20 years for wind-turbines and solar farms.

According to the Institute of Energy Research (IER), “1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries. If constructed, these new plants would increase global coal-fired capacity by 43 percent.” In many cases these plants will use our exported coal to fuel their power grid. We should be building low emission HELE plants where needed to utilize our vast coal resources and shore up our grid.

Solar and wind projects are planned that will help. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced plans to deploy 21.5 GW of solar and 7.6 GW of wind in the U.S. in 2022 that would surpass the estimated 15.5 GW of solar additions in 2021.

However, wind and solar are weather dependent, during cloudy or low wind velocity days, little to no power is generated; it would cost a fortune to store their energy in huge stationary batteries to supplement supply during critical periods.

Renewables are fairly unreliable and often require huge government loan guarantees and grants. Remember the wind-turbine failures that shutdown the Texas power grid during freezing temperatures, California’s usage restrictions this year, and the bankrupt Crescent Dunes concentrated solar power company that shut down in 2020. This company was developed with $737 million in U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees!  Solyndra LLC was another solar panel manufacturer that received over $500 million in government funding that went bankrupt in 2011.

Wind-Turbine Struck by Lightening in Texas

We must have a ready reserve of sustainable carbon-based power sources that can be the mainstay of our grid for the foreseeable future. Renewables will eventually provide a larger percentage of our needs, but we shouldn’t abandon or discourage the building of reliable new high efficiency carbon-based and nuclear power generation options.

To make matters worse, we currently have 93 nuclear reactors located at 55 nuclear power plants in 28 states that generate 20 percent of our power needs according to the US Energy Information Agency. Twenty-one reactors are scheduled for decommissioning!

In 2016, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Watts Bar Unit 2 in Tennessee became the first new U.S. reactor to come online since 1996. Two others in Georgia are under construction and will add approximately 4,234 megawatts (MW) combined when they go online; enough to power over 500,000 homes! Compare this to 29.1 MW of solar and wind projects that are planned for 2022.

One of the downsides to nuclear is waste disposal. It needs to be properly handled in new and existing plants. They currently store much of it on site in large steel containers. A catastrophe waiting to happen. Another reason to retain and expand our carbon-based energy production.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES (EVs) – Roadblocks Ahead




EVs are here to stay and owners overall seem to love them. However, the push to dramatically increase EV production and sales is irresponsible. Our infrastructure and electric grid can’t handle this without decades long upgrades and many homes would require electrical modifications as well. The high cost prohibits most from purchasing one. Yes, costs may come down over time, but not in the near future. Especially with batteries tripling in price.

It isn’t just their initial cost, it’s the higher costs we are destined to pay for electricity after plugging them in at home. My electric bills increased dramatically over the past two years.

EVs make sense for local trips, daily commutes, and for those who can afford one. A viable option for a second car from my perspective. Hybrids are another option, their batteries cost less.  It should be noted that driving a hybrid with a dead battery can cause irreparable damage to your hybrid system.

For the foreseeable future, a reliable gas-powered vehicle or possibly a hybrid would be required for a family’s primary mode of transportation. Costs can be prohibitive for EVs overall when you factor in a few variables.

EV RANGE RATINGS – REALLY!   

Manufactures of EVs provide a mileage range rating under ideal conditions, typically from the mid-200s to 350 miles per full charge. Those estimates don’t take into account extreme weather, mountainous terrain, etc. Mileage range decreases 40% to 50% if you’re running a heater or the AC, operating the vehicle in bad weather that increases drag, or have many hills to climb during your journey.

EVs with a stated range of 300 miles would realistically be around 150 to 170 miles and require more frequent charging and higher electric bills for owners. Batteries over time lose their full charge capabilities, just check your mobile phone’s battery health, mine is at 84%.

EV BATTERY REPLACEMENT COSTS

Replacement batteries cost an arm and a leg if you can get one. A friend of mine purchased a Chevy Bolt several years ago. The battery died while under warranty and it took over a year for the new battery to arrive; the installation was a nightmare. A Chevy Bolt battery costs over $16,000!

KVUE TV, an ABC affiliate in St Peterburg, Florida, reported that a 17-year-old’s parents spent $11,000 on a used 2014 Ford Focus Electric with 60,000 miles. Six months later the battery died; the replacement cost was $14,000!  A Tesla owner in Sweden blew up his car last year to protest the $18,000 replacement battery cost!

THERE ARE NO FREE RIDES

Currently, Fuel taxes account for 84 percent of federal and 29 percent of state highway funds. As we transition to a greater percentage of EVs on the road, these funds have to be collected through other methods. Many states already doubled the registration fees for EVs. Tolls on roads and bridges will increase accordingly since all vehicles will pay the same fee.

EV owners will eventually pay not only for the electricity used whenever they stop for a recharge, taxes will be applied. Those who charge from home will surely pay an add-on-tax to their monthly electricity bill, especially for those who install fast chargers in their garage.

After all is said and done, EVs won’t be less expensive than a typical internal-combustion-engine car down the road. You also have to factor in battery deposal fees that could be very high. Batteries are considered hazardous waste and will create disposal problems down the road even if they are able to recycle them with new electrolyte.

SUMMARY

All sources should be explored and used to provide efficient and reliable power for residential and commercial use, one size doesn’t fit all. A push to fast-track EVs in support of the administration’s outrageously expensive climate change agenda is destined to fail if we don’t step back and adjust our expectations.

These fast-tracked initiatives have devastating impacts on those who can least afford it.

Unfortunately, the elites, power brokers, and many of our representatives don’t comprehend the plight of the average American. They have unlimited resources, live in gated communities with private security details, aren’t subject to the same rules and regulations they espouse, travel in private jets and only care about their agenda while the majority of American’s suffer from their incompetence.

Special interests and their lobbyists have taken over Washington and are driving these initiatives before they are viable and ready for prime time.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, investment, 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 information contained herein should not be considered investment advice and may not be suitable for your situation. 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.

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

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Posted on Friday, 22nd July 2022 by

Print This Post Print This Post
Share

No matter where we look today, costs are rising as fast as the early 1980s. I remember those days well; mortgage rates were double digit and inflation followed suit. We are fast approaching those lofty levels, a record we don’t want to breach.

2023 COLA PROJECTIONS

According to Wilbert J Morell III, a retired Navy Engineering Project manager, “If inflation remains constant at 9.1% and the CPI-W remains constant at 292.542 then the Social Security and CSRS COLAs will be 9.0% and the FERS COLA will be 8.0%.”

Wilber suggests, “with Inflation continuing to grow at the same monthly trend of 1.3% per month and the CPI-W continues at the same monthly trend of 1.6% per month as reported in the 13 July CPI Report, the Social Security and CSRS COLAs will be 12.5% and the FERS COLA will be 11.5%. Unfortunately, if the US inflation trend continues, by the end of December 2022 U.S inflation could be as high as 16.9%, which will be much higher than the 2023 COLAs.”

The 10-year Treasury yield dropped significantly since the last monthly report to 2.96%; and the 2, 5, and 7-year Treasury yields increased significantly higher than the 10-year Treasury yield. The above Reversals validates the U.S. is now in an economic recession.

Wilbert tracks these statistics monthly, volunteers to help seniors in his community, and is highly knowledgeable about our federal retirement benefits.




TREASURY BILL YIELDS CONTINUE TO RISE

In my article titled “Ditch your Bank’s Low Savings Rates” I described the advantages of Treasury bills and in a subsequent article I outlined how to ladder them to take advantage of the rising rates. What astounds me is my local bank and credit union; they kept their savings rate at a mere .04% all this time!

When I started purchasing 4 and 8-Week bills last February they were yielding slightly more than my local bank and credit union savings rate. The 4-week bill rate has increased to 2.011% as of July 19, 2022, just 5 months later. The 8-week bill yields 2.31%; the 52-week bill is 3.070% and higher than the 10-year note rate! The rate chart below lists their performance for July of this year.

I’ve kept my 4 and 8-week ladders reinvesting for the near term until the rates plateau; then I plan to convert them to either 52-week bills or longer-term notes depending on how high the rates move. Interest rates reached 16.63% in 1981 and many locked in longer term notes and 30-year bonds at very high rates, in the low to mid-teens!

TREASURY NOTE RATE CHART

Treasury Bill Rates July 2022

As I stated in the past articles on this subject you can purchase Treasuries direct from the government at www.treasurydirect.gov or thorough your stock broker. Generally, I purchase short term bills direct from the government. Longer term notes, bonds, and TIP are best suited for your brokerage account.

If you are holding long term notes, bonds and TIPs you can only sell them on the secondary market before maturity. Treasury Direct canceled their sell direct program some time ago. Owners must transfer Treasuries they want to sell before maturity to their private brokerage account to sell them on the secondary market; it can take months for the government to complete the transfer.

I elect the new issue auction option when purchasing Treasuries through my brokerage account. If you buy previously issued Treasuries you could end up paying a high premium if the newer issued notes and bonds are paying a higher coupon rate.




There are several issues that I have with the Treasury Direct program in general, poor customer service for retail investors like us, and they don’t send monthly or annual account statements. They are 100% paperless and online. You have to print screens for each purchase to have a record of the transactions and download your annual 1099 forms.

They are difficult to reach. I sent them an email and they replied they were not accepting new email messages at this time. When I called, I was placed on extended holds and haven’t been able to contact them to date. It’s a minor issue but it needs to be addressed. Brokerage houses purchase millions in bonds each week and have a direct line to the Treasury to service their active accounts. I’ve never had an issue with the Treasuries I purchase through my broker.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, investment, 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 information contained herein should not be considered investment advice and may not be suitable for your situation. 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, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

Comments (0)| Print This Post Print This Post

Terms Of Use