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January 24, 2020

Federal Employee Retirement and Benefits News

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How Much Money Will You Have When You Retire?

After the month of October this year, many news outlets mentioned the relief of getting through the month without any devastating volatility that it is known to have due to other crashes such as the crash that started the Great Depression and Black Monday in the 80s. And many even consider the 2008 crash to be lumped into the group through it happened on September 29th. Even last year, in October, the market fell more than 1 thousand points in the span of 2 days.

With this track record, it makes October the most volatile for stocks in over a hundred years.

However, now that October is out of the way, what does that mean? Those that are still invested in the market, whether on their own or through some work plan, still have a risk as always. But they all usually have the same question, which is what their balances will be one they start to make withdrawals from their accounts.

And the answer to that will either have you living quite comfortably during retirement or quite the opposite. But that answer really cannot be answered by anybody, no matter what they might say.

What’s unfortunate is that investing in the market also has your health involved as well. There has been data that reveals that even small market downfalls have been the causes of illnesses, tragic vehicular accidents, and death. It was discovered that having even 10 percent of your net worth in shares can seriously increase your chances of premature death or serious health issues such as anxiety, depression, or high blood pressure.

Another way that your health is invested in what your balance will be when you need to touch your nest egg is when you may need to pay medical costs that are not covered by Medicare. These costs that you pay out of pocket can be around $285K for seniors, and the amount keeps rising as time goes on. Having long-term care, such as home care or nursing home care, can be an additional couple of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The thing is the average retiring married couple has only a quarter of that stashed away.

According to the American Psychological Association, the leading cause of stress for Americans is money. This kind of stress is connected to problems with insomnia, depression, cardiovascular disease, and anxiety. 

The Association stated a couple of years back that since they started their survey in 2007, money has always been the number one reason for the cause of stress. 

As of recent, elections for presidency and shootings have been taking the number one spot for the cause of stress, but financial matters are always a problem for many. 

According to a survey done by Northwestern Mutual, being financially secure is the number one component to having a good view on life. 9 in 10 people believe that having their finances on track makes them the happiest.

However, investors tend to put a high percentage of their savings in the market with high risk.

Currently, we are over ten years into what is the longest bull market ever recorded. Unfortunately, history has shown us the bull market before that was running the longest ended destructively. The previous two market crashes took out at least half of a stockholder’s savings since the start of this century.

Though no one can pinpoint the when, the why, or how bad the consequences will be, it will still be a surety that it will happen.

So that question on how much you will have in savings when you need it… 

If you have your retirement savings within an account that follows the market, this cannot be answered.

Even government retirement plans will not be able to ensure an amount. 

 This is why you may want to consider diversifying your investments by putting some money into guaranteed and secure assets. By doing so, you will have an amount the question.

Retirement budget federal employee

How Many Federal Workers Have Become Millionaires

Federal employees that have been working for the government for over 30 years and have been managing their contributions and investments correctly may more than likely be a millionaire

One way is that they invested consistently in C and S funds (which are stock indexed) within the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). This means that they continued to invest times both good and bad, even during and after the crash back in the late 2000s, when stocks were being sold at low prices.

A majority of federal TSP participants have become millionaires by not determining their actions based on market volatility.

These participants have also been taking advantage of the record-breaking bull market that has last over ten years. There was a slight scare last year with a steep decline last year that many saw as a warning to the change in the market, but the market bounced back and continues to be getting stronger.

Along the TSP, those that retire with annuities under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) will also always have cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) increase their payments. Participants under FERS and some under CSRS will be eligible for Social Security benefits as well.

With an increasing amount of Americans not being offered pensions, federal employees will be able to appreciate their benefits and be comfortable during their retirement as their income will also be adjusted to meet the cost of living that always goes up. However, these COLAs have been under attack to be changed by Congress, but so far, there have not been any successful changes made to eliminate or alter this policy.

So for those of you have that have a nicely padded TSP and a pension plan that is safeguarded against inflation, you will want to ensure that these assets go where you want them to go when you are no longer here on this planet. Though wills are standard, these have been overridden in the past in certain situations. Be sure to plan and prepare what needs to be done to be sure that those you wish to receive your worth will get them.

For a majority of federal workers, a good amount of their estate are assets that have been earned during their careers.

First would be their CSRS or FERS pension, which can be more than $1 million for some. For instance, if a federal worker goes into retirement at age 65 and has a yearly annuity payment of $50K, the annuity is worth $1.1 million.

The second asset earned throughout federal employment would be their TSP amount. A lot of federal workers have accounts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some that have more than a million. Typically, if a federal worker contributed $1,750 every year with an annual 5% percent increase, along with matching contribution, the TSP balance would be close to around $700K when they retired if the average yearly yield was 8%.

The other assets included would be their life insurance and any accumulated or uncompensated leave.

All of these assets will go to a beneficiary that was designated within the system, and it has always held up against a trust or a will. There are other assets like IRAs or investment accounts that should have a designated beneficiary listed. This is why you should review all of your designated beneficiaries for all of your assets to ensure that they will go where you want them to.

Another thing you may want to consider is to provide a power of attorney to a family or friend that you believe will follow your wishes and handle your benefits in case you are unable to make such choices due to health issues that render your incapable.

TSP Millionaire

How to Ensure You Maximize Your SS Benefits

As retirement gets closer and closer for many of us, it is in our best interest to understand the Social Security program as it may be one of the sole streams of income, if not the primary for many, in their later years.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if Social Security did not exist, 22,000,000 citizens would be below the poverty line.

Some may not know this, but to a certain extent, how much you receive in benefits is up to you, which is why it is very important to know as much about this program as much as possible.

We will go over some useful pointers to help you get your feet wet.

First, you need to know your full retirement age (FRA), as that is the year when you may be eligible to begin receiving full benefits. The full retirement age was once the same for everyone, which was 65. However, changes were made by lawmakers as people were living much longer than the generations living at the time that Social Security was introduced. Don’t be surprised if more changes come out way in the future.

Let’s breakdown what the full retirement age is based on the year that you were born:

Those born between 1943 and 1954 have an FRA of 66. Americans that have the birth year of 1955 have the full retirement age of 66 years and two months. The birth year of 1956 has an FRA of 66 years and four months, where 1957 has 66 years and six months. Those that were born in 1958 have a full retirement age of 66 years and eight months, and those born in 1959 have an FRA of 66 years and ten months. Those who were born in 1960 or later have an FRA of 67 years.

The second thing to figure out is to figure an estimate of how much you receive in benefits, and how you may be able to increase the amount. In June of 2019, the average Social Security benefits check was $1,470, which totals out to be $17,640 on an annual basis. And as low as that amount already is, it is the average, which means many Americans may be receiving a lower amount than that. The maximum amount some receive is around $2,790, or $33,480 annually.

Also, keep in mind that these benefits to get cost-of-living adjustments to combat inflation.

Unfortunately, not many people have an average or maximum benefit amount, which is why it is important to know how much you should expect to be receiving in benefits. You can calculate this by going to the Social Security Administration’s online page and creating a “My Social Security” account. After this has been set up, you should be able to go in and see what records of earnings the SSA has along with what your future benefits currently are.

Make sure that if there are any mistakes that you reach out to the Social Security Administration to get them fixed.

The estimate that is listed on the website is based on your filing for your benefits at your full retirement age. If you hold off longer from receiving the benefits, you should be able to increase your monthly checks. For those that start taking those check early, you will receive a lesser amount than if you would have waited. However, the more time you delay receiving your benefits, the fewer checks there will be, and the earlier you start your benefits, the more checks there will be.

Those that do not need their SS benefits immediately after they retire or they plan to wait longer to retire can delay receiving their payments until the age of 70. For each year that you push off from collecting your benefits from FRA, your benefits would be raised by 8 percent.

For those that do need to tap into their benefits as soon as possible, you can do this at age 62, but you can reduce your benefits from 25 to 30 percent.

Let’s break down the percentage of how much you receive depending on the age you start collecting and when your FRA is.

If you decide to collect at age 62: 

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 75 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 70 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 63:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 80 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 75 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 64:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 86.7 percent of your full benefits.

If your retirement age is 67, then you should receive 80 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 65:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 93.3 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 86.7 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 66:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 100 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 93.3 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 67:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 108 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 100 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 68:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 116 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 108 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 69:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 124 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 116 percent of your full benefits.

If you decide to collect at age 70:

If your full retirement age is 66, then you should receive 132 percent of your full benefits.

If your full retirement age is 67, then you should receive 124 percent of your full benefits.

Another thing you must do is to learn how to maximize your SS benefit in other ways.

Your monthly payment amount is based on a calculation that takes an average of your income from the period of 35 years that you made the most money. For those that plan to work less than 35 years, you will receive a 0 for each year that makes up the difference to 35. For instance, if you only work for 30 years, you will have five 0s placed into your calculations, which will lessen your benefit amount. It is recommended to work 35 years consecutively, if possible, to maximize your benefit amount.

For those that have worked 35 years or more, if you are making more than you did at the initial start of your working career, you may want to consider working a little bit longer. That way, the extra high salary income year will bump the lower beginning year to give you a higher average of earnings, which will provide you with an increase in your benefits.

For those that are married, it is highly advised that you plan and strategize both your SS benefits so that you know when each of you begins receiving benefits. For instance, if you have made more in your career than your partner if may be best to have them start receiving their benefits earlier than you. As you delay your benefits until the age of 70, your family will still have income coming in from the other SS benefit. Then, once you start collecting your benefits, both of you will have an increase in income. Another plus is that when one of you passes, the other will be able to select the higher of the two benefits to continue collecting as they are only allowed one.

Keep in mind that everyone’s circumstances and needs are quite different from others, so be sure to do your research on such plans to understand what will be best for you and your spouse based on your age, earnings, savings, etc.

It may be in your best interest to work with an experienced advisor that is only fee-based so that they can uncover your needs and options that will better suit your family.

And lastly, be sure to keep up-to-date with Social Security news so that you know when changes are made and how they may affect you and your retirement.

Remember, the more knowledge you have about the SS program, the more you know about how you can collect as much possible.

minimum wage

How to Figure Out Your Disability Benefit Under CSRS

The assured minimum benefit under CSRS is the lesser sum of the two following numbers:

40% of your average high-3 earnings or;

The benefit you would have earned if you worked up the age of 60.

For those that are getting benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs or a military pension, your disability benefit will be calculated on the benefits you have earned under CSRS. If the total of this benefit, along with your military payments, comes out to be under the assured minimum benefit, you will be given a difference to meet the minimum amount.

To calculate your earned annuity benefit under CSRS, this number comes from the average of your high-3s, which must be three back-to-back years of your base pay, and the number of years you worked your federal post.

This is how your earned annuity benefit is calculated: 0.015 times your high-3 times your initial five years of time worked, plus 0.0175 times your high-3 times the following five years of time worked, plus 0.02 times your high-3 times the years and complete months left that you have served.

If you are the minimum age of 60 and have a minimum of 22 years of time worked in your federal position that is creditable, your disability annuity will be equivalent to your earned benefit.

For those federal workers that are under CSRS Offset, are qualified to receive a Social Security benefit, and goes into retirement on disability, your disability benefit will be offset or reduced by the amount you receive from SS. The overall amount you will get will not change, but the amount will come from two different sources, which is from Social Security and the Office of Personnel Management.

For disability benefits, you will receive a yearly cost of living adjustment (COLA), no matter when you retired. This adjustment will be the same percentage as standard CSRS retired employees.

csrs social security

The Government Pension Offset and The Windfall Provision, and What They Mean For CSRS

It is quite the norm to hear from some federal workers that are under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) that one of the things they don’t like about their retirement program has to do with fewer benefits within FERS, compared with the previous program called the Civil Service Retirement System.

However, the employees under the CSRS system tend not to like the fact that the program has a government pension offset and a windfall elimination provision. Both these matters affect federal retirees that have a pension from a retirement system that does not have Social Security as a part of the retirement system.

At the beginning of the 80s, there were provisions made to Social Security to funnel more money into the program, which is why about 96% of the current retirement systems have Social Security as a part of the retirement package. The 4% that do not are under CSRS.

Many tend to believe that FERS took over the CSRS program, but that isn’t completely the case. FERS has been taking its place as the primary retirement system for current federal employees, but currently, CSRS is still quite at large among those that have retired.

Around 70% of retirees are receiving their pension from CSRS at this time, and there are still a lot of seniors that are retiring under the system as well. In 2018, around 43% of people retired under CSRS.

Some of these retirees are currently in their 50s, which means that the CSRS will still be actively disbursing payments for still quite some time.

Unfortunately, these benefits are also being affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

When the retiree is deceased, the benefit for the surviving spouse or beneficiary for Social Security will be cut to a number that will be 2/3rds of the annuity from the CSRS under the GPO.

Under WEP, implemented in 1983, those that have a certain amount of Social Security payments from another source of job or self-employment can have their pension reduced if they have less than 30 years of service. The maximum deduction can be up to $463.

A Congressional Research Service Report states that the reason for the WEP was to eliminate an inadvertent windfall or edge that the standard SS benefit calculation gave to employees that had another pension from employment that was not covered. The standard formula is set to relocate a more significant portion of career-average income for lowe-wage employees rather than for higher-wage employees. But the formula used to calculate this was not able to tell the difference between those that had worked low-wage positions throughout their lives and those that had low wages because they had been employed in positions that were not eligible for Social Security coverage for a lot of years. The years worked that was not covered by SS are counted as 0s for in this SS benefits calculations.

This is why the WEP was implemented to take away this accidental favor.

In regards to the GPO, which was put into place in 1977, its purpose was to reproduce the dual entitlement regulation for spouses and surviving spouses who get pensions that were based on jobs that were not covered by SS. So under the dual entitlement rule, the pension a spouse can get based on their spouse’s job is lowered for each dolly by the amount of their own SS benefit. The spousal or survivor benefit is 50% of the employees’ own benefit, which typically takes out the benefit under this dual policy.

In theory, the GPO calculations reducing 2/3rds of the benefit is superior to the dual entitlement policy. But due to the CSRS benefit normally being more than a spousal SS benefit, the result is usually the same: ending the spousal benefit.

Since the GPO is something that affects everyone under Social Security, there hasn’t been as much scrutiny as the WEP. Throughout the years, there have been attempts at removing the WEP or adjusting it so that the results would be less harsh.

The most recent proposal that has been introduced is to have a revised formula for those under 59 at enactment, which would be more benevolent than the formula now. When the Federal employee retires, they can select the new formula or the traditional calculation. For individuals that are at least 60 years old, the current calculation would still be used, but as a sort of compensation, their Social Security payments would seem a $100 increase every month.

However, with knowing the purposes of these deductions, Social Security’s financial needs, and how other reform suggestions turned out, what do you think will happen?

Annuities retirement income

OPM Looking to Make Changes for Non-Permanent Federal Workers

OPM (Office of Personnel Management) is aiming to make modifications for federal workers that are under the non-permanent category so that they can design pathways for them to continue working longer.

OPM is planning to roll out a regulation in 2020 that would enable agencies to assign workers in specific engineering and science posts for up to 10 years.

The legislation should be put into place in January to allow agencies to have more flexibility to hire and employ for projects that can take many years but are not continual once completed. These types of projects typically have budget restrictions and depend on workers that are not permanent.

A spokesman for the OPM, Anthony Marucci, said that they were striving to give agencies what they need to be successful in their ongoing projects.

According to Marucci, the scientists that are employed the new regulation will be permitted to have due process protection after their initial probation period. However, they will not be considered permanent employees.

This month, another regulation is anticipated, which would allow agencies to maintain seasonal workers for much longer than what is permitted at this time.

Right now, seasonal workers are not able to be rehired if they have reached their work limits for the year. However, agencies have given feedback to OPM that this has been preventing them from handling matter much more smoothly with seasonal problems that may last longer than the employees’ limit. OPM has remarked that wildfire season is much longer than in the past, which is why workers must continue their jobs longer to battle the wildfire disasters

The OPM wrote that the current regulations are causing issues with rehiring trained employees that are needed for critical situations such as wildfires.

There is another undertaking that would so allow seasonal and temporary workers to receive vision and dental benefits. Non-permanent workers just began receiving health benefits in 2015 under the FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program). And now, OPM is working on adding them to the Dental and Vision Insurance Program.

The OPM proposed legislation this year that would allow temporary workers to be employed permanently much more easily than before.

Other regulations the OPM expects to add in the future is giving direct-hire permission in emergencies and also eliminating judges of administrative law.

federal employee returning to government

Federal Sick Leave Benefits and How It Can Offer a Boost

Sick leave is a great benefit to have. It becomes incredibly invaluable for many events such as sickness, mental health, a death, birth of your child of adoption, and many more.

Federal workers that are full-time receive 13 days a year. Those that are part-time received a prorated amount. These sick days can be carried into the next year over and over until you retire if you wish to.

However, you will not receive a lump sum for it as you would for your annual leave when you retire. But these leftover sick days will be used to increase your annuity payments.

Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), every year worked after your initial ten boosts your benefit by 2%. This means that each month of saved sick leave will increase your pension by one-sixth of a percent. If you have six months of sick days saved, your annuity will be increased by 1%. An entire year of sick leave would be 2%.

Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you will have your pension increased by 1% for every year worked. This calculates to .0833% a month. For those that retire with a minimum of 20 years of service at 62 or older, the 1% will be 1.1% a year and .0916% per month.

Now, this next part might be a little confusing. To calculate the retirement, your days are looked at as 5.797 plus hours long. This number comes from dividing the number of annual work hours (2,087) by 360 days because pensions are calculated with 12 30 day months. This means that one pension month is 174 hours.

Once the retirement months are calculated (which includes unused sick days and days worked past the last full month) and credited with the formula above, days that are not in a full month will be disregarded.

For those employees that transferred from CSRS to FERS, any sick leave you had under CSRS will be credited to your CSRS part of your pension. Anything under FERS will be put into your FERS part of your pension.

Some facts you should know:

Your sick leave cannot be utilized for retirement eligibility.

Any unused sick time will be recovered if you return to federal work after you left before the qualified regiment age. If you end up in a job that allows you to take your annuity and the full earnings of your new job, your sick leave from before and also from the new job will not be credited.

Lastly, if you left your federal post before retirement age and then later request for an annuity, none if your unused sick days will be used in the calculation.

Federal Employee Health Benefits

What You Should Really Be Doing Rather Than Not Buying That Breakfast Bagel

We live in a culture where daily spending on little things such as a morning bagel, energy drink, coffee, or afternoon snack is a very common thing amongst Americans. Throughout the years, we have heard that we should be saving the money we use on such purchases towards investments to better our retirement. Many still continue to buy their daily fix, but with some form of guilt, thinking they are sabotaging their savings for the future.

However, this really isn’t the case.

The problem typically tends to be that so many people are honing in on scrimping on such minor spending, but often overlook the big purchases. It is much more crucial to pay attention to the larger expenses and how to consistently contribute towards your retirement savings. 

Unless you’re one of the many Americans that survive paycheck to paycheck, buying that daily fix of joy in the form of a coffee or an avocado toast is not that big of a deal. On the other hand, putting yourself in a lot of debt to support some of your life’s decisions can definitely be a destructive blow to your financial goals. These significant financial decisions can include things such as credit cars, vehicles, some form of housing, and education.

Education. The average tuition for the 2019 to 2020 school year was around $37,000 for studying at a private college. Those that went out of state to study at a public university had an average tuition of around $27,000. This doesn’t even include school supplies and housing, which can be around $12,000 more toward educational expenses.

And those looking to continue on for their bachelor’s or master’s degrees end up facing more expenses in the long run.

Though receiving an education can be quite crucial for many to achieve their career or life goals, it is also very important to ensure what kind of consequences these choices will affect their finances. Higher education should assist people to increase their income; it should not encumber their financial life. But the reality is that many educated and successful people are hundreds of dollars in debt due to their student loans, which they may only fully pay off just a few years shy from retiring.

For those that are considering higher education or have a child that is looking to go to college, it is very critical of how you perceive this move. Education should be seen as an investment decision. There are many people that end up is so much debt from pursuing their education without any plan or strategies on how to pay it back that it hinders their lives for a very long time–if not for the majority of their lives.

For many, it may be best to research and shop around for their next step in learning, as there are many affordable choices such as community colleges, in-state universities, certificate programs, or schools that have some form of financial assistance that is offered. Analyzing these options can help you stay on the right course for a successful career in your field while having manageable tuition that you can pay off quickly.

Housing. This is is a milestone that tends to be included in our culture. The typical price of purchasing a home is anywhere from a couple of hundred thousands of dollars to even a million-plus dollars.

Purchasing a house is usually the most significant expense a person will have. If something is the most expensive thing you will ever buy, you should definitely tread carefully and research thoroughly. Not only do you have to think about the initial costs of purchasing a home, but you must also consider and plan out what the yearly expenses will be with utilities, taxes, repairs, and other forms of maintenance.

Be sure that you don’t rush into this decision based on expectations of meeting a milestone. It may be a better choice to continue renting until you can genuinely afford to buy a house, or even purchase something more affordable until you can really buy that dream home you really desire.

Vehicles. Another significant expense is a vehicle. In today’s market, the average price of a new car is over $36,500, according to Edmonds, an automotive info page. Also, according to a study done by AAA, the average cost of owning a new car is over $9,000 when fuel, insurance, interest rates on loans, and maintenance are considered.

An average family typically has two vehicles, which double these expenses for many families.

To avoid going into massive amounts of debt, it may be wise to look for a vehicle that you can really afford. Instead of buying a luxury vehicle or a brand-spanking-new fully loaded ride, you may want to look into a practical and used car.

Be sure to view this purchase as a means to have a vehicle that will get you from place to place in a reliable manner. This is something that can be accomplished without destroying your budget.

Credit debt. Those that are not financially literate do not understand how much of a negative impact credit card debt can really have, especially when it comes to net worth. The debt can get out of hand very quickly if not handled correctly.

When a credit card is used correctly, it can be beneficial with perks of rewards, cashback, discounts, fraud protection, and racking up a healthy credit score. The first rule of thumb is that your credit balances should be paid off completely every single month.

If you do not have enough to buy something, putting yourself in the situation where you end up with credit debt is never the right answer. 

According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, the average credit card interest rate in America is almost 17%. That is a lot of money being added on top of the debt you have racked up on your cards, which can quickly have you upside down and in trouble.

Automated Savings. A critical step to saving consistently and effectively is to make sure that you prioritize allocating money towards your savings before doing anything else with your earnings.

A savings strategy for the long-term is much more effective with nudges, which is a theory on influencing how a person behaves that was made famous by economist Richard Thaler, a Nobel Prize winner, and Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein. This is done by making things easier for people to make certain choices.

One very common type of nudge that is in practice is when an employer automatically registers their newcomers into the workplace’s 401(k). People can choose to pull out of the plan if they wish to, but usually, most of them continue to be in the plan and contribute to their savings plan. Another popular nudge is automatically increasing the rate of savings every year on an employee’s account. This nudge encourages those that do not max out their contribution limit to their 401(k) to slowly move towards that direction. If the individual does not opt-out or change this option, they will continue to save more and more as time goes on.

Another nudge is to have a default option for investing with the money that is contributed to the account. To ensure they make a well-rounded investment. A majority of those that are not financially literate will either leave their money sitting in the account or will invest the money into funds that are not the wisest choices. Two options tend to be the default, which is a balanced fund between bonds and stock, or a target-date fund that is based on the age of the participant.

Though there are financial experts that believe that these funds are too basic without many options to customize or they may have other issues with these types of funds, still, their options keep things simple for the participant, which can encourage them to keep it at the default and to keep them from making any terrible investment choices.

Trying to stop yourself from having a daily treat will not make a considerable difference in reaching your retirement savings goals. Some actually see that the daily treat you allow yourself to have will let you enjoy life a little more as you make significant savings from making judicious choices on big purchases and debt that can really impact your finances.

Saving Money

Using Your Sick Leave Before Retiring May or May Not Be A Good Idea

Many federal workers are seeing that using their sick leave time rather than having them added into their annuity calculations would be more beneficial with receiving the pay rate that they are receiving at this time for every hour that they use. This would technically be more than what they would get from their annuity payments if their sick leave hours were formulated into the benefits.

In the Code of Federal Regulation in 5 CFR 630, federal workers can only use their sick leave for reasons that are permitted such as appointments or treatments regarding dental, medical, or optical reasons, needing to care for a family member that is unable to take care of themself, if you are adopting a child and are unable to go to work due to handling matters pertaining this adoption, or if you are incapable of working your job for health reasons.

Those that are or will need to be gone for over three days will need to provide proof of the medical reason, whether for yourself or your family member.

Those that take sick leave for any other non-permitted reasons, they may face some kind of disciplinary action along with a record of the abuse in their file. This applies to those that are about to retire as well, which can affect you, possibly losing reliable references that you may need later on in life.

federal employee sick leave

States Are Interested in Automatic IRA’s for Residents

A retirement savings program has become quite favorable with many Americans, which is implemented by some states, and many others are taking notice.

Three states, which include California, Illinois, and Oregon, have a program for retirement savings for its citizens that do not have such plans offered at their workplace. Over more than $40,000,000 have been saved up by thousands and thousands of employees.

5% of the participant’s paycheck is automatically withheld and placed into a retirement savings account that offers options for investing. However, the savings rate can be changed or even stopped without incurring any kind of penalties to do so.

These initiatives are designed to be a solution to the increasing problem of many U.S. citizens not have a retirement saving plan.

According to the Federal Reserve, one in three households of those 55 years or older do not have anything saved up for retirement. They also did a study that revealed 39% of people could not afford to pay for an emergency bill of $400 without getting a loan from relatives or a financial institution.

Around half the working American population does not have the opportunity to a retirement savings account, which is why these states with these programs are trying to fix this problem.

These programs are set up with behavioral science research in mind by Nobel Prize winner, economist Richard Thaler. Also, the work of the University of Chicago legal scholar Cass Sunstein helped with a method of implementing this matter with nudge theory.

The nudge theory is about changing behavior based on slight social cues.

David John and Mark Iwry, both economists, utilized the theory to suggest creating automatic individual retirement accounts.

The nudge is the procedure of automatically opting workers into the program as they are more inclined to start and use the program compared to them taking the initiative to join the program.

According to Angela Antonelli, Executive Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Retirement Initiatives, the government in these three states have taken the lead to get people to save, knowing that many have not saved any or not very much.

She claims that people have been wanting a chance like this, where someone else can make it less harder for them to start saving.

However, there were oppositions from financial entities regarding the bills in those three states, stating that these matters were private and something the government had no business in.

When Fidelity was questioned about these programs, they said that the company supported a different means. Though they are glad to see lawmakers taking an interest in helping citizens improve their retirement planning, they believe that solutions should be looked into within the current private retirement system.

The company’s spokesman asked Congress to put through legislation that would allow a retirement plans with multiple employers participating. The House put it through, but it is currently still waiting for a decision by the Senate.

The opposition from financial institutions has lessened somewhat in regards to government savings programs as many see the opportunities of more future clients from these participants.

Though the government is getting people started into saving up, the investment options are so basic that many may eventually want more growth options that they seek financial institutions for assistance.

Oregon State was the first state to start the auto-IRA initiative, where over 54,000 accounts were established. These accounts went on to save $36,000,000.

The options for investing in every participating state’s program are very basic. For Oregon, the initial $1,000 saved goes to a capital preservation fund that has low risk but low yields. Participants can invest in the S&P 500 or target-date funds.

According to a survey done by AARP Oregon, 82% of people favored the automatic IRA program.

At this time, there are about 12 or so states that are researching or starting up their pilot programs.

The governments are also able to see why such programs would be beneficial publicly, as fewer people would need to depend on social services due to having more savings.

Retirement Funds

Why Your Savings Won’t Reach Its Potential Value

According to a report from the Center for Retirement Studies, one major reason as to why retirement savings account does not reach their entire earning possibilities to support a retiree through their retirement is mainly due to touching the account prematurely.

This report came around the same time as the changes that have made the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) much more flexible to withdraw from, such as taking an in-service withdrawal from the age of 59 and a half without any tax consequences. The previous in-service withdrawal rule was only allowed once in their career. Under the new policy, four in-service withdrawals can be made as long as these withdrawals are at a minimum of 30 days apart from each other.

The TSP has stated that there has been a rise in these types of withdrawals since the new rules were set in place on September 15th of this year. It is speculated that this increase may be temporary due to participants wanting this option for so long, but only time will tell.

Age-based withdrawals during employment can also be made in many other retirement savings programs such as a 401(k) as well as withdrawals due to financial hardship. There are also loans that can be pulled from these accounts, including the TSP. However, loans will not deduct the amount from your account in a permanent manner. You will eventually have the loan paid back into the account through payments.

The report mentioned above states that these kinds of withdrawals are not the only things that can disrupt the potential earnings of your contributions. This can also happen when the employee moves on to new employers and closes out their retirement savings account instead of rolling them over to an IRA or a new workplace offered plan. Te report states that about one and a half to 3 percent can be lost in the value of the savings every year due to this action. This is a large amount of money that is being taken away from your retirement.

There are other attributes that can make your savings less than what it should and could be worth as well, such as not participating as much as possible to accounts, or not having accounts offered by the workplace, as well as admin fees of these accounts.

For those that are eligible for the TSP, many under-participate even though the plan is very low-cost when it comes to fees. Roughly a third of federal workers under the Civil Service Retirement System do not contribute to the program and end up losing out on tax benefits. About a tenth of workers under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System do not participate in the program, which also has them lose out on tax advantages and free dollars in the form of matching contributions offered by their employer.

Thrift Savings Plan TSP

Survivor Annuities for The Children of Current and Retired Deceased Federal Employees

In certain situations, the child or children of deceased current or past federal workers can claim a survivor benefit. For those that have retired, this benefit can be paid out even if you did not choose to put down a survivor benefit for your spouse when you left service for retirement.

For a child to receive this survivor annuity, they must be a single and dependent individual that is not 18 yet. This includes children that are recognized as your birth child, adopted child, a stepchild that resided with you and had a normal relationship with you, and a child that resided with you which you had petitioned for adoption and who is adopted by your surviving spouse after you have passed away.

Dependent children that are over 18 but under the age of 22 and are actively a full-time student can have the maximum age limit waived to receive a survivor benefit.

The age limit is also exempt from an unmarried dependent who is unable to support themselves due to a physical or mental disability that was diagnosed before the age of 18. 

To have your child eligible for the survivor annuity, you will need to send in information to the Office of Personnel Management about their education, employment if they are working, and where they live. You will also need to have the physician of your child give information about any medical situations.

To know what all information is needed, you can find it in the Office Personnel Form RI 25-43. You can find this online at www.opm.gov/forms or request it from your personnel department. 

The dependents of current and retired FERS or CSRS Offset workers will have their benefit deducted with the amount that was paid to them by Social Security.

The policies for these benefit payments to the children are all the same for current and retired FERS and CSRS workers. But the annuities payments to a child of a current or former CSRS Offset or FERS worker will be offset by the amount of the SS benefit that can be paid based on the current or retired worker’s time worked in their federal post that was covered by Social Security.

The annuity is calculated to include a cost of living adjustment for retirees annually. The rates can be a little different at times. However, when a child has a surviving parent who was a former or current spouse of the deceased federal worker, the survivor benefit is the lesser of the two options which are $1,620 monthly divided by the number of kids that are eligible for the benefit of $540 a month a child.

In the event that the child has no surviving parent who was a spouse to the deceased federal worker, the benefit that can be paid is lesser of $1,950 a month split by the number of kids eligible or $650 a month per child.

The rate will be the same if the deceased worker had 1to 3 kids, but the amount will also be less of the two formulas. If the deceased had more than three children, the rate for every kid would be much less.

If the surviving parent that was a spouse to the deceased federal employee passes before a child’s survivor annuity is done, the benefits are raised. Another situation where the benefit payments are increased is if the deceased federal worker had more than three children and the benefits for one of the kids stopped, whether due to an unfortunate death or the child is no longer eligible due to age, the benefits for the other eligible kids will be raised. 

The survivor benefit for each child that is eligible starts the very next day after the death of the federal employee and is terminated on the last day of the month if the child reaches age 18, becomes a spouse, or dies. If the child is over the age limit but is disabled, the benefits can end if they ever begin to support themselves.

financial dependent insurable insterest

Social Security at Retirement Age

For those of you that are at retirement age, but are still working, there are some facts you need to be aware of and understand regarding Social Security benefits.

Are you aware of what age you need to be to reach your full retirement age (FRA)? Your FRA is based on the year you were born, which you can figure out by using a retirement calculator.

For those of you that have not reached your FRA yet, if you make above the annual income limit, your Social Security benefit amount may be less due to your current income.

For those of you that are receiving Social Security and are still working, the income limits are not liable if you are at least full retirement age. In other words, the Social Security Administration cannot deduct your benefits based on your earnings once you reach full retirement age.

However, you may still be liable for federal income taxes on your Social Security payments. This will be based on your provisional income, which is calculated with how much you earn from other streams of income and 50% of your Social Security earnings. Single filers that have a provisional income of $25,000 or less will not be liable to federal once tax. For those that will be filing jointly, you will not be subject to taxes on your benefits if you bring in $32,000 or less a year.

Your payment will be recalculated each year, utilizing any new income that shows up in the system.

For single filers that have a provisional income from $25,000 to $34,000, up to 50% of your Social Security payments will be subject to taxes. For joint filers, the numbers are $32,000 to $44,000.

For those that make over these limits, up to 85% of your benefits will be taxable.

Refinancing slowdown: Mortgage applications fall as homeowners hit pause on refinancing

One method to avoid a lot of headaches when it comes to these taxes is to consider opting for tax withholding in your Social Security payments.

Keep an eye out for a raise in payment amounts around the latter part of the year. As mentioned earlier, the Administration recalculated your benefits every year using any new income information in the system.

If your new data of income is within the period of your 35 highest-earning years in your working career, you will typically get a small bump in your benefits. Keep in mind that these raises are not related to the cost of living adjustments done in January of the following year.

If married, your significant other can also receive a raise in their benefits as well.

For those that are able, you may want to consider continuing to work. Though retirement deferral credits stop at 70, you would still be increasing your benefit amount, which continues in your payments until your death.

Retirement Income

While Interests Rates Are Down, How Can You Receive Bigger Yields?

Earlier in the month, a prime rate that is used as a benchmark for the 10-year Treasury note went up to 1.85 percent. This number is still very low, and it will more than likely remain around this range even through to the beginning of 2020. Don’t mistake this as a prediction, but as a viewpoint that is being real about what the interest rate has been like as of late.

There have been some misconceptions or beliefs from those that do not have much experience in finance that think that the rates fells due to the 2008 crash and that the rates are still trying to recuperate from the event. However, that isn’t really the case. The 10-year Treasury note rate from earlier this month was under the rate that it was in 2008, around the time that the crash was really taking effect.

Since about a decade ago, the rate on the 10-year Treasury note has been slowly declining. However, it is known that prices on bonds do go up and down and down and up, as assets do in active markets. In the fall of 2018, the rates were around 3 percent on the note before worries set in about the trade wars going on between the U.S. and China, along with concerns about the global economic growth decelerating.

Though rates of unemployment have been at a historical low, the Federal Reserve lowered its interest rate three times this past year. For many, it is uncertain as to why the interest rate–which is supposed to neutral–is showing no signs of reversing in the other direction of increasing into higher numbers.

Generally, interest rates aren’t really an individual’s focus unless they are looking to finance a big purchase, such as their education, a new home, or a vehicle. However, Baby Boomers will need to really think about such rates in regards to investing in low-risk vehicles to have a stream of income coming in during retirement.

When this generation was getting their feet wet with adulthood, the 10-year note was higher than 15 percent, and interest rates on mortgages were showing double-digit numbers. This was due to inflation, but the low rates that we see now are also due to inflation as well.

No one is certain as to when things will balance out again.

For investors that are frustrated with the current rates can sometimes unknowingly go looking for trouble while searching for higher yields. For instance, if an investor is not happy with a CD rate of 1.4 percent, they might look to invest in a real estate deal or a high yield mutual exchange fund.

But with higher yields come higher risks.

When it comes to real estate, some investments turn out well. However, there are also investments in real estate that end up going south, eating the equity used to invest in it.

Instead of running after high gains, it may be better for you to look into liquid investments that may perform better than the bonds due to the low-interest rates. Stocks tend to do much better than bonds, but bonds are more low-risk and steady.

One type of fund that is quite common is a target-date fund. You will invest in a fund that is based on the year that you retire. An adviser that is in charge of your fund will manage your investments, and as time gets closer to your retirement, the more conservative the investments will be.

You may wish to research different funds, as there are many to choose from. There are even many that are low cost, such as PIMCO that has 12 different options that you can invest in. Five years before retirement, this fund will only have about 50 percent of your investments in stocks. Typically other funds may keep about 65 percent of your money within stocks five years before your retirement.

No matter what percentage it maybe when it comes to how much is invested within stocks or what fund you may be invested in, you want to make sure to rebalance your portfolio. For instance, if the investor has 60 percent of their investments in stocks, and they had a great year of yields, the portfolio may be at 65% by the end of the year. You will want to rebalance your account by selling off some of your stocks and purchasing bonds.

Another thing to consider is to handle your investments as large foundations do. They payout 5 percent annually, no matter how the portfolio performed. If they did not receive 5 percent through interests, they would generally sell some of their investments to reach that amount.

To do this for an individual, it is recommended to try for a 4 percent yearly payout. However, if you are mostly invested in bonds, such as the 10-year Treasury note, the most you could pay yourself would be $1,850 at 1.85 percent on $100,000. However, to pay yourself 4%, you would have to sell some of your bonds, which would eat your investment.

A better way to do this is to invest 85% of your investment money into a set of funds that is diversified while setting aside about 15 percent in your checkings. That way, you will have funds to pay for any bills or other expenses for 3 or 4 years. This would be an easier way to have your investments pay you 4% a year due to having investments in multiple funds.

You don’t necessarily have to do this, but it is something to consider in regard to how you can receive income during your retirement when interest rates are low.

federal retirement

Reconfiguration of Military Health System Pushes Retirees To Civilian Tricare Networks

According to Lt. General Ronald Place, director of Defense Health Agency, as the military health system is being updated, there will be more military clinics and hospitals that no longer take patients that are retired along with their families. This may also apply to some relatives of active-duty service members.

Once the Pentagon has finalized their analyses of its military medical institutions and how prepared they are for situations, there will be more non-active duty members that will be moved over to the medical networks of Tricare. It is still not known how many beneficiaries will be made to transfer from military medical facilities. It is also not known as to which facilities will have to follow these changes.

He states that these changes with missions and service members will be affecting non-service members. Some situations he gave were those in Fort Jackson, Fort Still, and Fort Knox, which have been changed from hospitals to clinics for outpatients. The changes, unfortunately, made them no longer except retired service member and their relatives, as well as some relatives of active-duty personnel.

Lt. General Place stated that these kinds of reconfigurations and alterations would be expected to happen more. He does not state a specific time, but that these changes will occur as the organization is always changing and growing.

This health system change to move every military clinic and hospital for the Defense Health Agency to take over has been discussed for the past three years. They are also redesigning the system so that that military medical personnel will mainly take care of active duty service members and missions.

This change will see the Air Force, Army, and Navy decrease their medical personnel by 17,944 billets. Meanwhile, the Defense Health Agency is reviewing all medical facilities under military command to see if they should be expanded or closed depending on capabilities of readiness.

The Defense Department is contemplating new contracts for Tricare, as these networks will see more retirees and relatives of them and active-duty members within.

These changes are made under the Nation Defense Authorization Act of 2017. However, politicians are concerned as the Department of Defense has not been quite clear about their endeavors, including having delayed a report by one year about what lies ahead for every military medical facility.

Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), Subcommittee on Military Personnel’s chairwoman, along with ranking member Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS) stated in a House Armed Services Hearing in early December that they have noticed in areas of the U.S. such as Seattle and San Francisco, that relatives of retirees or some current military personnel were having bookings set far out in the future at military institutions and that they were not able to get proper treatment.

Representative Speier believes that these places either do not have the ability or are not wanting to enroll Tricare members due to market oversaturation.

Both Representative Kelly and Speier see that the DoD is handling these reconfigurations with saving money as their priority and that the Department must first need to understand how Tricare can manage these new civilian patients.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Tom McCaffery responded that military relatives and retired military personnel were included in their mission to redesign the military health system that encourages force readiness.

Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) asked what the plans are and how they will be able to assure that these patients that are being moved to Tricare will not get their benefits taken away.

McCaffery state that the report on these reconfigurations would be introduced to Congress in the near future. However, this report was expected in December of 2018.

McCaffery mentioned at AMSUS that the report on the medical treatment facility restructuring plan ( that due to Congress in December 2018) would be submitted to Congress “very soon.”

Representative advised that these actions must be done with caution when facility closures and personnel cuts are involved.

Military Retirement has been confusing for some.

Planning Out Your Expense Budget For Now and Your Retirement

A crucial thing to do when preparing for your retirement future is to calculate and comprehend what your yearly cost of living is and will more than likely be.

This is because you will need to recognize how much your income you may require to maintain the lifestyle you wish to have.

Unfortunately, many Americans are not fully aware as to what they spend their money on, aside from consistent payments to rent or a mortgage, insurance, and bills. However, this needs to change where you have a complete understanding as to what your expenses are during retirement so that you stay within your budget.

If you feel intimidated by this concept, this article will break down the need-to-know steps to get started within your retirement preparations up to the future shift to retirement. You may find that a huge weight off your shoulder disappears once you know where you stand with your finances, as many people do.

The first major thing is to see where your cash is ending up and then think about what it will be like in retirement. You can do this by going over what you have used your money on in the last year. (Bank statements are a great place to begin.)

Your home is generally the costliest item that your money goes towards as this includes your rent or mortgage, property taxes for those that own their home, insurance, public utility service bills, and maintenance expenses.

Think about what percentage do these expenses make up within your current income. Will you be keeping your current housing situation, or will you be changing it?

If you are looking for a change, relocating, or moving into a smaller home tends to be common moves during retirement. Also, be sure to plan this out way before you pull the trigger, so that you can do thorough research and know how it will affect you financially.

Also, if you decide to finance a home that is better for you, you may want to consider doing so while you have a higher income while working while looking for a loan.

The second expense to focus on is in regard to your health–healthcare in fact, which includes insurance, prescription medicines, specialized long-term care, and possibly out of pocket costs.

Fidelity Investments funds that a married couple that retires this year could pay is over $285K in relation to healthcare. This can affect those enrolling in Medicare after working in the private sector.

Retiring federal workers can keep their federal health plan (FEHB) through their retirement. The government pays around, and up to 72 -75 percent on premiums, which can lessen the impact of your out of pocket costs.

To plan for these expenses, you may want to start saving some money specifically towards medical costs in the future and also research options in regards to long-term care.

Another thing you need to calculate and anticipate is your taxes.

More often than not, your tax rate tends to be lower in retirement, which may save you money.

However, a majority of income in retirement is typically liable to income taxes at the federal and state level.

Another thing to look over for your retirement plan is investments and savings. Be sure to focus on these aspects with your retirement goals in mind so that you can adjust moves when necessary to reach them. Be sure to continue until you retire.

Consider how much your current transportation expenses are, and what they will be like in retirement. Be sure to consider car payments, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and the cost of fuel.

For those that have an older vehicle, it may be in your best interest to consider buying a newer second-hand vehicle as it may be cheaper in the long run to maintain. Even public transportation may be a viable option.

Now that those are out of the way, you can think about what you currently do and can do with the rest of your retirement income, such as paying for food, clothes, a variety of entertainment, vacations, and whatever else your heart desires to purchase.

The biggest thing is to know your limits. Before you end up a retiree, be sure to prioritize achieving the minimums of investments and savings first before you put a budget on this category. During retirement, you will have to adjust your budget to these expenses, depending on the stream of money coming in.

Another portion of your income may be going towards your family from extra-curricular activities, education, and possibly even supporting adult children in some way.

If you are charitably inclined, be sure to set aside money to help your community or the world. These donations can also provide a tax break.

With all of these items in mind, you can look these over and add any other expenses within these categories to completely flesh out your spending data.

After you come up with an estimated annual spending amount and what you believe to be achievable in retirement, you will want to list out all streams of retirement income you may have. Be sure to include the balances, the dates as to when these payments start, and so on.

Another list you should make is one that has all of your assets mentioned. Then note the ones that may be able to generate income.

These lists will help you figure out if you are on pace to meeting your goals or not.

After all of this, you should have an idea as to what you may need to adjust to your lifestyle, if needed, such as possibly working longer than expected, or getting another source of income, saving more, or a mix of many of these aspects.

Another thing you may wish to think about is setting up contributions to your savings and investment automatically to be used to money being allocated to necessary matters. Also, to stay within budget, it may be useful to implement bill pay and limit alerts to make sure all your bills get paid, and you do not spend more than what you have budgeted.

Also, budget alerts may help you avoid missing payments and overspending.

Be sure to realistically imagine what you would like your retirement to be like daily, and check into those ideas from time to time. Be sure to pay attention to what you are doing, where you live, and some things you want to focus your time on.

Though retirement planning and actions to implement it may be challenging and can take a lot of time, it will be worth it come retirement when you spend without worries about if you can afford it or not.

Calculate Annuity

Federal Wage System and Health Plan Changes for 2020

The OPM has introduced a proposal in regards to altering the boundaries of many locality areas for the system that decides the salary of federal hourly or blue-collared workers. The Office of Personnel Management proposed to make three changes within the Federal Wage System due to the latest reviews of the Metropolitan Statistical Area boundaries.

With this new policy, Madison County, Virginia, would be transferred from the wage area of Hagerstown, Martinsburg, and Chambersburg, Maryland, to the wage area of Washington, D.C. The wage area of D.C. also has certain areas of West, Virginia, Northern Virginia, and Maryland.

Also, the Detroit wage area would receive a new addition with Ottawa County, Ohio, being transferred from the Cleveland wage area. This change would change the wage system of about 38 employees.

The Meridian wage area in Mississippi would get an addition of Covington Country from the Jackson, Mississippi wage area. However, this change in the area would affect zero federal workers.

Any changes that are made will go into effect on the first day of a full pay period that starts a minimum of 30 days after the rules have been announced and published.

A non-profit insurance provider, Government Employees Health Association (GEHA), was tapped to provide a new health plan that would be available throughout the nation to those under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program starting in 2020. This is a contract that has had an empty seat for about 30 years.

The Government Employees Health Association is to help with offering an indemnity benefit program to federal workers. It is slated to start next year. Indemnity benefits plans enable its enrollees to go to a more significant number of hospitals and doctors, no matter what network they are under, increasing plan offerings for participants. The GEHA will pay a certain portion of the overall costs of the participant, providing more affordability as well.

Federal Employee Health Benefits

Your Base Pay for Your High-3’s

For the federal workers that do not know how their retirement annuity is calculated, they are based on your high-3s. Your high-3s are the three highest averages from back-to-back years of your base salary.

The base salary is the amount you make and of which your retirement withholdings are made from.

The base pay is the rate that is set by laws or regulations for your federal post.

For GS workers, your base pay can be comprised of within-grade increases, special pay rates set due to recruitment or due to retainment, locality pay, and certain types of premium pay that typically involves law endowment officers and firefighters.

For those under the wage system, the basic pay also includes environment differential pay.

On the flip side, some items are not considered in your base pay, such as military pay, holiday pay, allowances, bonuses, and overtime. Other items not included are differentials from being in a foreign post, non-foreign area differentials and allowances, and any money made from credit hours under a compressed work schedule.

You can also study your pay stubs to see what kind of deductions are being made aside from the pay assigned for by our locality, grade, and step. You can also check with payroll to see what types of pay are not being considered within your base pay.

federal employee pay scale

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