Posted on Monday, 27th September 2010 by

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A soon to be retired fed contacted me last month about an estimate they received from their HR department with a grossly incorrect survivor benefit cost estimate. The employee was advised that a full survivor benefit for their spouse would reduce their monthly benefit by one third!  Incorrect high estimates like this can put the annuitant’s spouse in jeopardy. The employee was considering reducing the survivor benefit to the lowest amount possible to retain the health care family option. If you are considering retirement, read the cautionary note that I posted online about survivor annuities.

The cost for a full 55% survivor benefit for CSRS is just under 10% and the FERS 50% full survivor benefit is 10% of the gross annual annuity. If your annuity is $50,000 a year the cost for the full survivor benefit will be approximately $5,000 a year or $416 per month.  To calculate just what you will have to live on in retirement and to estimate federal taxes, your gross annuity, FEGLI costs, and expenses visit I updated this page last month to include links to key calculators to help you determine actual costs for the free spreadsheet that you can use to calculate pre and post retirement income and expenses plus survivor income when the inevitable happens.

Retire Happy

Everyone desires a happy, healthy, and financially secure retirement.  Stan Hinden, former syndicated Washington Post “Retirement Journal” columnist’s new third edition of How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire, helps anyone planning retirement to successfully plan their escape.  Several months after he retired in 1996 at age 69 he began writing a retirement column for the Post.  He relates his first hand experiences, successes and failures that we all can learn from. In Chapter One he describes three good reasons to retire; the time is right, you’ve got more compelling things to do, or your job is changing.  He helps the reader make informed decisions based on his and many other experts’s input.

His sage first hand advice helps readers turn their nest egg into income, fully understand Social Security and Medicare’s impact, investment strategies, determine if it is wise to buy a second home or relocate in retirement,  basic estate planning suggestions, cautions and alerts. In Chapter 12 he discusses how to age successfully and he equates retirement to a football game, “In any football game, the last quarter is often the most exciting.”

I learned much from this informative, well written and interesting book. First, it’s GREAT to be a federal retiree receiving an annuity with a cost of living increase most years! This is unheard of in the private sector and it provides feds with a little piece of mind when they leave.  His discussion on Medicare, especially Parts A and B coverage, was informative. Did you know that Part A coverage is free only if you or your spouse had 40 quarters or 10 years of work under Social Security?  This is significant for CSRS annuitants who worked in the federal sector their entire life and their spouse also has less than 40 quarters of Social Security time.  Stan relates the situation on page 135, “People with less than 40 quarters may still qualify for Part A but will have to pay a monthly premium. In 2010, people who have 30 to 39 quarters pay $254 a month. With fewer than 30 quarters, the cost is $461 a month!“ The amount you must pay for Part B is based on income! For 2010 the cost ranges from a low of $110.50 to as high as $353.60 per month, quite an increase.  Most would pay the lower rate if they made less than $85,000 a year for an individual taxpayer or $170,000 for a couple filing a joint account.

Saving a life – Maybe Your Own

A friend of mine sent me this link and information last month and I felt that I had to forward this on to everyone. I received official CPR training several times during my career and was certified for several years. It’s easy to forget the routine as I have over the years.

“Every three days, more Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest than the number who died in the 9-11 attacks. You can lessen this recurring loss by learning Continuous Chest Compression CPR, a hands-only CPR method that doubles a person’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest. It’s easy and does not require mouth-to-mouth contact, making it more likely bystanders will try to help, and it was developed at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.”

Forward this link to your adult children and have your spouse or significant other watch this video. The life saved just might be your own!



  • Several new jobs were posted on the retiree’s jobs page recently, including multiple part time jobs for customer care representatives with Marriott Corp.
  • Several major updates were added to recently. We added links for life changes in retirement including divorce and marriage. We receive a number of questions from annuitants who remarry and wish to obtain a survivor’s benefit for their new spouse and others who unfortunately are seeking a divorce and wanting to know the impact on their annuities and benefits.
  • The new health care coverage for adult children until they reach age 26 will be implemented for federal health care programs starting January 1, 2011.  This covers married children but not their spouses or children. To obtain this coverage contact your health care provider to add your eligible children to your plan.
  • The TSP changed their beneficiary form and you must now use the new TSP-3 form to modify your current beneficiary election.  The uniformed military form TSP-U-3 is now obsolete and all must use the new form.
  • On a personal note we were out-of-town this past Sunday and I missed the Steelers game, the best of the season so far! I thought I would be able to listen to one of the Pittsburgh radio stations on the internet but to my dismay they must block the NFL broadcasts from Internet services.

Learn more about your benefits, employment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at to read all forum articles.

Visit our other informative sites

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 articles are not intended nor should they be considered investment advice. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.”

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