Posted on Thursday, 1st August 2013 by

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Everyone planning their retirement needs to know how much they will have to live on in retirement and how much their spouse’s survivor benefit will be. Frank Cullen, a retired federal manager, friend, and former associate, sent me a comprehensive spreadsheet prior to my retirement that projected my annuity and survivor benefit for the next 40 years. I was reviewing my paperwork recently and discovered that the projections would have been right on had we not missed COLA payments for two years. Frank’s spreadsheet accurately determines your projected monthly and annual annuity, based on a selected growth rate, with and without survivor benefit for forty years and your projected survivor’s annual and monthly annuity.

Frank’s spreadsheet also provides a list of annual COLAs going back to 1975 and he calculates the average 2, 5, 10 and 38 year COLA growth to give you an idea of what to use in your estimate. When I ran my numbers back in 2004 I used 2.5% and that came very close to the actual grow rate for that period. The most recent 10 year average that includes the two years that we didn’t receive an increase was 2.6% for those in the CSRS program. The average over the past 38 years is 4.1%. During the past 38 year period we had COLAs ranging from as low as 0% for two years to as high as 14.3% in 1980!  

You can download and use Frank’s Projected Annuity Calculator to project your annuity growth for you and your spouse. This spreadsheet is tailored to CSRS employees that elect full survivor’s benefits however with a few minor modifications and manual calculations FERS employees will also be able to use the spreadsheet. For FERS employees the projected annuity without survivor 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 also weighted and adjusted down when the COLA exceeds 2%.

Frank revised and updated the spreadsheet for our site and included the password for those who are familiar with the Excel program. If you are in the FERS program and can work with Excel you will be able to tailor it to the FERS program by simply changing the calculations that are now set for CSRS.

Download the spreadsheet to estimate your annuity and survivor benefit. If you have questions about the spreadsheet functions Frank provided his email address on the spreadsheet. I’m not that familiar with Excel. Frank was our regional FAA expert and he often provided unique and helpful spreadsheets for many of our operational programs.  I would like to thank Frank for taking time to update and provide this helpful resource for our site visitors and newsletter subscribers.

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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and financial information is subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact your benefits coordinator and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. 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 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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