3 Common Mistakes Federal Employees Make
Do us a favor…
When was the last time you had a question about one of your federal benefits?
Did you know who to ask?
Your HR department?
Look no further, we’re here to help.
We work with federal employees like you every day.
That means we see mistakes relating to federal benefits & retirement every day.
We want to help you avoid some of the most common ones.
Mistake #1: Expecting A Pension Right When You Retire
During your working career as a federal employee, you received a paycheck every two weeks.
You might assume your first full pension check will come two weeks after the day you retire.
Unfortunately, that generally isn’t the case.
OPM’s processing times vary, depending on the time of year.
Especially early in the year (January – March) OPM can get back-logged with paperwork.
Approximately two weeks after you retire, you’ll receive what’s called an “interim check.”
These checks are typically around 80% of your estimated pension amount.
Included in this “interim check” will also be a one-time payment for your annual leave.
Once OPM finishes your file, you’ll starting to receive the full pension you’ve earned.
At this time, you should also receive a “catch-up check” included with your first pension payment.
This “catch-up” check includes the difference between your interim checks and what your full pension checks would’ve been.
How to Plan Ahead
It might be a good idea to keep cash on hand to cover the difference between your interim checks and your full pension amount.
Consider letting your HR or supervisor know you plan to retire a year in advance — it’s possible they’ll use this time to start auditing your file and get the ball rolling, which can help speed up the process.
Plan to start the actual retirement process & paperwork at least 3 months in advance.
This will help allow OPM enough time to process everything.
Mistake #2: Spouses Losing Health Insurance
Your health insurance is one of the benefits you have as a federal employee.
As you know, health insurance can be expensive.
And historically, costs have continued to rise.
There’s good news, though.
You can keep your Federal health insurance in retirement as long as you had coverage for at least five years immediately preceding retirement AND you’re retiring with an immediate pension.
You must also have FEHB coverage the day you retire.
Your spouse can also remain on your Federal health insurance.
On this topic, there’s one extremely important item many federal employees overlook.
If you pre-decease your spouse, they can continue coverage only if you elected a survivor benefit with your FERS pension.
You’ll make this decision as part of the retirement process.
How To Plan Ahead
Make sure you understand this rule!
Be aware of the five-year rule for federal employee health care coverage in retirement.
And, if you want your spouse to continue coverage after your death, ensure you have either the Minimum or Maximum Survivor Benefit elected for your FERS pension.
Mistake #3: Not Creating A Retirement Budget
As you near retirement, you should have a good idea on the amount you’ll receive from your pension, Social Security, TSP and other income sources.
You should also know exactly how much you’re spending each month.
Unfortunately, many people don’t stick to a strict budget.
They have a vague idea of their income and spending habits.
If you haven’t already, we suggest listing out all of your expenses.
This would include things like your house payment, car payment, cable & internet, grocery bills, cell phone bill, etc.
By knowing your expenses, or outflows, you’ll gain an understanding of how much you need every month to live.
This becomes important, because one of the main objectives to consider in retirement is making sure your money lasts.
How To Plan Ahead
Create a retirement budget with your income sources and all your expenses.
Then, consider trying to live off your retirement budget during the year before you actually retire.
This will give you a good idea on whether or not your current income sources and withdrawals will provide you with enough money each month.
Continue looking forward and think of ways you can adjust your spending habits if needed based on factors that could affect your retirement income.
Contact us today to learn other tips and strategies to help make sure your money lasts in retirement.
Schedule your complimentary federal benefits review and retirement analysis here with a licensed insurance professional.
For additional information, you can also contact your friends at GPIS by calling 866-201-7829 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Sam Wiss, RICP
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