I reported in mid-September that the 2021 COLA was projected to be anywhere from .44% to as high as 1.2% according to Kiplinger’s. The Social Security Administration announced a 1.3% COLA increase on October 13th for 2020. CSRS and FERS annuitants will receive the full 1.3% this year. View the table of all COLAs from 1999 to the present  to see how it has changed over the years.
Annuity Projection Calculator
Everyone planning their retirement needs to know how much they will have to live on in retirement and how much their annuity and the surviving spouse’s benefit will grow over time. Unlike many private sector retirement plans, our annuities are adjusted annually – most years – with a COLA. The 45-year average COLA, from 1975 to through 2020, was 3.68%! Not bad considering many private-company plans don’t provide annual cost of living increases.
Frank Cullen, a retired FAA manager and friend, developed this Calculator to estimate annual annuity increases over time. He used it when he was retiring to project his annuity and survivor’s benefit for a period of 40 years from the date he retired. Frank updated the Annuity Calculator  last October and with a few minor adjustments you can adapt this to FERS as well.
I entered a 2020 annuity of $52,000 as an example on the chart and selected an average 2% growth rate. After 10 years the projected annuity with survivor’s benefits grew to $63,387, $5,282 monthly. The survivor’s benefit for CSRS would be $38,571 or $3,214 monthly in this example. A 2% growth rate increased the annual annuity amount by $11,387 over ten years from 2020 through 2030! Not bad. You can run different scenarios on this spreadsheet with or without a survivor’s benefit.
This calculator projects your annual and monthly annuity payment with survivor benefit, without survivor benefit, and the projected survivor annuity. The projections are based on your annuity at the time you retire and a selected growth rate (COLA). All COLAs for the past 45 years, back to 1975, are listed on the spreadsheet with the average 2, 3, 5, 10 – and 42-year COLA factors that you can consider for your personal calculation.
With CSRS a full survivor’s annuity is 55% of the full annuity not 55% of what you were collecting as a couple. A CSRS full survivor’s annuity costs you just under 10% of your monthly payment however the survivor’s annuity is calculated from the full annuity prior to the survivor’s reduction. Therefore, a CSRS surviving spouse can expect to receive about 61% of what the couple was receiving prior to the annuitant’s death. Also, if an annuitant’s spouse dies, the annuitant would notify OPM and their annuity would be restored to the full amount that is listed on the spreadsheet. OPM does not refund any prior survivor annuity deductions when an annuitant’s spouse dies.
For FERS employees the projected annuity without a survivor’s benefit will be the same; just enter your annuity estimate, enter your age, year of retirement, what you consider to be a realistic 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 slightly lower since the maximum spousal benefit is 50% for FERS, not the 55% for CSRS. Also, the full FERS annuity will cost the retiree a little more because FERS employees pay 10% of their annuity for a full survivor’s benefit where CSRS pay just under 10%. FERS COLAs are adjusted down when the COLA exceeds 2%.
To determine what your initial retirement annuity will be request estimates from Human Resources for several target retirement dates. I requested at least a half dozen estimates two years before I retired. You can also calculate your estimated FERS annuity or CSRS annuity  using the formulas we have available on our site.
All you need to do is enter the appropriate values in the four highlighted cells. The spreadsheet will do the rest for you. The spreadsheet is locked except for the 4 highlighted entry cells. This is to ensure that formulas are not inadvertently altered. The form’s password is provided on the spreadsheet so those familiar with Excel can modify the spreadsheet as desired.
Helpful Retirement Planning Tools
- Retirement Planning For Federal Employees & Annuitant 
- GS Pay Scales 
- Budget Work Sheet 
- Medicare Guide 
- Social Security Guide 
- Master Retiree Contact List  (Important contact numbers and information)
- 2021 Leave and Schedule Chart  (Use this chart to set target retirement dates.)
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.
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