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TSP Modernization Act Passes Congress

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TSP Modernization Act Passes Congress

After successfully passing the Senate and the House, the TSP Modernization Act (H.R. 3031) is now in the process making its way to Trump’s desk at the White House. What we don’t know for sure is if the President will be willing to sign the request into law, because as of now, nothing concerning the bill has been listed on the White House website.

The bill was passed through the Senate without amendment. This particular bill is important for federal employees. It may change the existing rules that allow only one partial post-separation withdrawal for federal employees that are separated from the federal workforce (meaning annuity payments, a stream of monthly payments, or a lump-sum payment). Insead the plan is to offer an option that will give room for multiple, partial post-separation withdrawals, allowing retirees the access to their account for their respective individual needs at any time.

For employees over 59-and-a-half years of age that are still in service, the TSP Modernization Act would give room for mulitple age-based withdrawals. The bill also would allow for the election of annual or quarterly payments, and could also permit occasional withdrawals that can be changed during the year at any point.

TSP participants under the current law have been limited only to one withdrawal from their accounts upon reaching 59-and-a-half years while in the federal service. Participants who are no longer working in the federal service can make only one withdrawal from a portion in their account balance (post-separation withdrawal).

The bill directs the body that oversees the TSP, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), to order necessary regulations to carry out these new changes no later than two years after it is passed and becomes law.

If you have questions on in-service TSP withdrawals or withdrawals after you have retired, you may want to consider contacting a financial professional who specializes in federal retirees for guidance.

Federal Government’s Uncertainty on Health Care May Ruin the Financial Planning of Californians

Federal Government’s Uncertainty on Health Care May Ruin the Financial Planning of Californians

The federal government is still uncertain about whether it wants to continue vital health care insurance subsidy for the next year or not. If a decision is not made soon, the cost of health insurance may rise considerably for Californians, harming their financial plans.

financial planning

 When Will the Financial Planning Fate of Californians Be Decided?

If the federal government has not calcified its stance on a vital health insurance subsidy by mid-August for consumers next year, the California’s state-run exchange plans to instruct its insurers to sell the plans that have significantly higher premiums in order to cover the loss of the money.

Potentially Higher Rates

Amy Palmer who currently serves as the Director of Communications for Covered California, the official health care marketplace of California, recently shared her opinion on the matter. She mentioned in an email that the organization has come to the conclusion that if the federal government fails to fund the subsidies by mid-August, the organization will presume that it will not be funded by the government anymore and use higher rates for the year 2018.

These cost-sharing subsidies reduce the out-of-pocket costs for medical expenses including hospital stays, prescription drugs, physician visits, etc. These reduced rates are only available to the enrollees of Covered California who opt for silver-level plans. It is the second-least expensive among the four tiers of the exchange. These subsidies mainly benefit those who earn an annual income between 139 percent and 250 percent of federal poverty level (or $34,200 USD to  $61,500USD) for a family of four.

As of last summer, about half of the enrollees of the exchange benefitted from the cost-sharing reductions, said Palmer. Half of the enrollees come around to around 1.4 million people.

The Challenges

One must know that these subsidies are quite different from the federal health law’s tax credits that reduce monthly premiums for qualified consumers. These subsidies are currently being challenged in a pending lawsuit filed by the House Republicans, and the President has already threatened to stop making the payments.

Negotiations

An analysis by Covered California has recently estimated that the premiums for silver plans would most likely increase by 16.6 percent if federal funding for cost-sharing subsidies were lost.

A few days back, Covered California had instructed all the participating insurers to submit alternative premium hike proposals for the year 2018 in case they lose the federal payments. They were also told to apply the hikes only to silver-tier plans as those would be affected most.

The rate proposed by insurers were due to Covered California by June 30, 2017. The exchange couldn’t afford to wait too long for deciding which rates will be faced by customers in 2018, stated Palmer.  State regulators would still need to review the rates and Covered California and health plans will also need some time to prepare for open enrollment that is expected in the fall.

Working Toward Stability

In another email written by Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, it was stated that the agency is working hard to create the vital market stability while learning about health plans exiting some markets. The agency is also waiting for a clear guidance by the federal government on whether the subsidy is available or not.

Lee also mentioned that if Covered California adopts the higher premiums in order to cover the cost of subsidies, numerous consumers would nevertheless be protected from them because as premiums rise to make up for the loss of the cost-sharing subsidies, the federal tax credits would grow to offset those higher premiums. As a result, the financial planning of most enrollees would remain the same.

In another email from Lee to Seema Verma, who currently serves as  Head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, it was mentioned that if the federal government continues to pay subsidies on health care insurance to keep the financial planning right for millions of people, the costs would be significantly more than the amount the federal government would pay if it continues to make direct payments for the subsidy.

Survey Says: Federal Government Doesn’t Seek the Opinions of Federal Employees

Survey Says: Federal Government Doesn’t Seek the Opinions of Federal Employees

A new survey has revealed that federal government is failing at tapping the brainpower of federal employees. Employees feel that the employers in the private sector are more open to employee opinion and ideas. These findings bring up many interesting points that will hopefully be considered in the near future.

federal employees

Government Leaders Don’t Seek Ideas From Federal Employees

A survey conducted by the Government Executive research intelligence division of the Government Business Council, in partnership with Eagle Hill Consulting, has revealed that the government leaders are not seeking suggestions from federal employees. About 72 percent of the respondents admitted that their agency never or rarely seeks their ideas regarding improvement while 71 percent said that the government is less open to adopting new ideas in comparison with the private sector. The survey findings were highlighted in a report titled “Building an Ideas Culture in Federal Government: Employees Are Key, But New Survey Shows Their Ideas Are Not Being Tapped.” About 332 federal employees were selected randomly as respondents.

Opinion on Results


Melissa Jezior, who serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of Eagle Consulting LLC, has shared her opinion on the survey results by saying that these findings are troubling because the inability of the government to bring forward, consider, and implement ideas has the potential to have serious negative implications on the federal workforce,  U.S. competitiveness, and taxpayer services.

She also said that given the deep cuts that are expected in many of the federal agency budgets and staffing levels, it has become more important than ever to collect recommendations from federal employees to find ways to innovate, sustain morale, and do more with fewer resources.

Employee Retention

This research has also revealed that about 63 percent of federal workers who do not believe that their agency channels workforce in a creative manner, have said that they will very likely leave their job in the next year. Jezior also thinks that how an agency deals with employees’ ideas may directly link to employee issues like engagement and retention. It also directly impacts how well the organization fulfills its mission.

 Need for an Ideas Culture

Jezior believes that agencies can make big strides by creating an ideas culture where agencies seek, embrace, act on and reward employee ideas actively to achieve its goals and innovate. She explained it by saying that if an agency wants an ideas culture to flourish, the leadership must become comfortable with taking risks as well as the possibility of failure. If there is championing from the top, the accountability for supporting ideas can then flow throughout the organization by including connected metrics in performance plans of individuals.

Nicholas McClusky who serves as GBC Director of Research and Strategic Insights stated that due to this information, federal leaders can implement tried and tested strategies in order to harness the ideas and brain power of federal employees.

More Findings

The survey that states there is a need to collect information and ideas from federal employees also found out that about 48 percent of respondents believe that they are likely to leave their jobs in the next year. However, among the employees who stated that their agency seeks their ideas to improve processes or tools at least once every month, about 31 percent said that they were likely to leave in the next year.

Approximately 49 percent of federal employees stated that their agencies might be open to new ideas, but they were not sure about how to share the ideas. Around 24 percent said that they believed that their agency had no mechanism in place for submitting the ideas. It means that 72 percent of the respondents could see that their ideas would not progress beyond a casual conversation.

About three out of the top four apparent barriers to organizational innovation are related to leadership resistance to change, agency leadership, bureaucratic inertia, and lack of leadership.

How to Create an Ideas Culture at a Federal Agency

The survey that showed a lack of the agency’s attention to federal employees has also offered tips on how to create an ideas culture at a federal agency so that these employees can benefit from it. Some tips include office hours and marketing employee-led initiatives, feedback surveys and working groups to address idea culture gaps, use of innovation committees, innovation competitions, and collaborating & social networking tools for business as well as idea management software platforms. These tips would keep the ideas alive and organized for collaboration, input, and application which will lead to proper utilization of federal employee resources.

Late Medicare Enrollees May Not Receive Penalties

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Late Medicare Enrollees May Not Receive Penalties

If you’re worried that you missed the deadline for Medicare Part B, you still have a chance to avoid penalties. This is especially important for those who have yet to work out their financial planning in this regard.

retirement rate

Medicare Changes the Rules

Thousands of Americans miss their chance to enroll in Medicare each year. Consumer advocates and federal officials worry that many of them mistakenly believe that they do not need to sign up as they have bought insurance on the health law’s marketplaces. This mistake can bring on a lifetime of enrollment penalties. Because of this, Medicare has temporarily changed its rules to provide a reprieve from penalties for those who have kept the Affordable Care Act even after becoming eligible for Medicare. Now people have until September 30, 2017, to request a waiver of the usual penalty.

 Explaining the Change

Elaborating on the change in policy, a spokesperson from enrollment stated that many of these people didn’t receive proper information when they became eligible for Medicare, or when they initially enrolled in coverage via the marketplace. This information is vital in making informed decisions regarding Medicare enrollment.

These people can now request a waiver to avoid the penalty that Medicare would typically assess if they were delayed in signing up for Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient care and visits to the doctor among other things. Beneficiaries who already pay the penalty because they had a marketplace plan can now request a reduction or elimination of the fee. It also enforces a waiting period that offers coverage to people who don’t sign up when they become eligible first. If they meet the waiver requirements now, they can request it to be lifted.

To qualify you must be 65 or older with a marketplace plan or have had one that was previously canceled or lost. It also includes those with disabilities that qualified for Medicare but opted for using a marketplace plan instead.

Complications

Bonnie Burns, a consultant for the consumer group California Health Advocates, has stated that the government has failed to understand that people won’t know when they need to sign up for Medicare. Once people have insurance, it relieves all the stress of not having coverage. When they are eligible for Medicare, they are typically not informed that they needed to make the appropriate changes.

The Requirements

As a standard rule, a person needs to sign up for Part B within three months before or after turning 65 if they are not receiving job-based insurance, or when their job-based insurance has ended. Most people that are under 65 and receiving Social Security disability benefits also qualify for Part B after 24 months of benefits.

Per the health law, people who qualify for Medicare would lose subsidies when they opt for the online exchange plans, and enrolling in one of those plans doesn’t protect them from a permanent late enrollment penalty.

Burns said that marketplace insurers can usually spot when a member is turning 65 but they are barred under the health law from canceling coverage because that member may qualify for Medicare. They are required to cancel subsidies of a Medicare-eligible member.

More Efforts Needed

Stacy Sanders, Federal Policy Director at the Medicare Rights Center, has stated that the rules are very complex, and a lack of good notification led people down a dangerous path where they had to deal with declining or delaying Part B.

People who enroll in Part B 12 months or more after becoming eligible can face a permanent penalty of 10 percent. This penalty is added to the Part B premium for each full 12-month period. This year, the Part B average monthly premium was $109 USD.

Last summer, the Medicare officials sent emails each month to around 15,000 people with subsidized coverage via the federally run marketplace. These notices targeted those approaching their 65th birthday to tell them how they can avoid an unwanted overlap in Medicare coverage and Marketplace coverage. Officials had also begun to contact the people who already had both Medicare and subsidized marketplace coverage. They urged such people to discontinue the latter. But still, the warnings missed some people.

Medicare began emailing letters regarding a temporary waiver in March to some people who are 65 or older and are enrolled in plans which are sold on the marketplaces. However, the federal government has failed to reach out to others who might be eligible.

How To Apply

If you need more information regarding application, visit the Medicare Rights Center’s Interactive web page. You may also call the center’s help line at 800-333-4114.

Raising awareness is the best way to prevent future complications. However, this waiver should hopefully aid in putting those at ease who were originally at risk of long term penalties.

How Much Social Security Benefit is Offered to Billionaires?

Billionaires & Social Security Benefits

It is among the most commonly known facts that billionaires receive get social security retirement benefits just like anyone else. Curious to know how much they get? Here we explain how much social security income they can expect by using a social security calculator. We will try to decipher whether it’s fair that billionaires are allowed to accept social security benefits when they are already so financially well of.

social security

Many of the billionaires in America qualify for social security benefits, and usually, names like Warren Buffet tend to pop up. People usually assume that billionaires must be getting the maximum benefit from social security, and that might not be completely wrong. However, you must remember that is not always the case due to the nature of the Social Security program.

What’s the Maximum Social Security Benefit in 2017

Social security is usually calculated by looking at all of a person’s earnings throughout their entire career and then adjusting each of the year’s total to account for inflation. A person’s 35 highest earning years, up to each year’s Social Security taxable maximum earnings, are averaged and divided by 12 to decide lifetime monthly earnings. Once this has been decided, it is then applied to a formula: 90 percent of the first USD 885, 32 percent of the amount between  USD 885 & USD 5,336 and 15 percent of the amount more than USD 5,336.

A person can use a worksheet, available with the social security administration, to estimate his or her social security benefit. To save some time, we would like to mention that the highest possible monthly benefit made available to a newly retired American in the year 2017 is USD 2,687 at the full retirement age. If one opts to wait before claiming the benefit beyond the full retirement age, the person will experience an 8 percent increase per year. The full retirement age is currently 65, and a person can increase their social security benefit by 32 percent.

Hence, as long as a billionaire’s income was more than the maximum taxable Social Security wages in each of at least 35 years, the person would be entitled to getting  USD 2,687 per month at the full retirement age. The person can also get  USD 3,547 if the person chooses to wait until age 70 to claim the benefit.

 Limitations

It’s vital to mention that only earned income is taxed, and considered for social security benefits. In other words, the income that is considered for a billionaire must come from self-employment or a job. Income from other sources like investment gains, dividends, inheritance, interest income and passive business income among others are not counted toward social security qualification.

Hence, if a billionaire has inherited a fortune, and his or her only source of annual income through the lifetime was dividends and interest on investments, it’s very likely that the person will not qualify for a social security benefit. Qualifications for social security retirement benefits require at least ten years, or 40 quarters, of income from an occupation that is covered. In a case where a billionaire has an earned income for over ten years, but it’s less than 35 years, the person would get social security benefit, but it will be far lower than the maximum amount.

Should Billionaires Be Allowed to Get Social Security At All?

A regularly debated topic among social security facts is that the social security administration is not in good financial condition at the moment. In fact, if nothing is done in this regard, the chances are high that the reserves of the program will be depleted by the year 2034. At that point, across-the-board benefit cuts would be a necessity. In such a situation people often wonder whether wealthy people and billionaires should even get social security retirement benefits or not. Those who argue that they shouldn’t get it would more likely agree to a means-tested benefit that means eliminated or reduced benefits for retirees who don’t need the money.

We don’t think that a majority of the population would risk curtailing their social security benefits through means testing. So, for now, billionaires will continue to adhere to the requirements for social security if they wish to collect anything extra during retirement.

Fresh Attempt Initiated to Open FEHB Doors to the Public

Fresh Attempt Initiated to Open FEHB Doors to the Public

In a fresh attempt to Open FEHB Doors to the public, a letter was sent to the Senate working group by a House Republican, in which he not only propagated his ideas but, also pointed out the deficiencies of the Affordable Care Act. His suggestion would make it easier for the government because it won’t need to pay the premiums of health care of federal employees and federal retirees who consider it among significant retirement benefits.

federal employees

 Who Requested to Open FEHB Doors to the Public?

The proposal to Open FEHB Doors to the public was made by a leading House Republican Darrell Issa, R-Calif, who also served as a former chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on federal employment matters. He has even introduced a bill entitled HR-2400 in this regard. He is also urging the Senate to make certain considerations regarding the health insurance reform.

He is also urging the Senate to make certain considerations regarding the health insurance reform. Issa suggested that the Senate consider the idea of opening FEHB doors to the public when rewriting the controversial House-passed bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act while retaining a few specific provisions under a new formula.

The Letter

Issa wrote the letter to the Senate working group about his idea to Open FEHB Doors to the public. He stated that a key problem with the Affordable Care Act is that there is a lack of choice in several of the state-based insurance “exchanges” that are created as per that law. He also said that offering access to these plans under FEHB to the general public will provide a backdrop to provide more choices in several markets that only offer one option at the moment on the state insurance exchanges.

If more plans were offered it would expand the access to top quality plan offerings, allow portability from job to job, and let people take advantage of the immense risk pool that has already been created by the federal workforce.

Government Contributions

As per the bill, there would be no government contribution toward the premiums. Right now, the government pays around 70 percent of the total FEHB premium cost for federal employees and retirees. Although, the employers of enrollees who belong to the private sector could contribute as per their judgment.

 What Else Can Happen If We Open FEHB Doors?

As per this proposed plan, the members of the public who decide to join the FEHB would put in the same risk pool as currently covered employees. It is pertinent to add here that there are eight million currently covered employees, retirees, and their family members. Unfortunately, the effect of this proposed plan on coverage terms and premiums in response to the resulting change in demographics is not known.

The potential for current FEHB population to become a minority force in their own program and the potential for increased premiums have been two major arguments made by the organizations that are representing federal employees and retirees who do not want FEHB doors opened.

The Conclusion

It can be seen that the decision to Open FEHB Doors to the public is quite crucial, and will impact millions of federal employees and federal retirees who consider it among the much-needed retirement benefits. Lawmakers should tread carefully and think long and hard before they make a decision in this regard.

Federal Agencies Given More Time to Decide About SES Federal Employees

Federal Agencies Given More Time to Decide About SES Federal Employees

Due to the extended deadline, courtesy of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Federal agencies are given some extra time to decide how many SES Federal Employees they need. The agencies were also directed to consider a few things before they made any decision in this regard. It is believed that the main reason for the extension of the deadline is the reorganization order signed by Trump, which is a key part of his strategy to reduce federal workforce, federal benefits, and other federal employee resources.

federal employees

Will Federal Agencies Need to Decide Regarding SES Federal Employees Only?

No, the federal agencies do not just have to decide about SES Federal Employees only. It also needs to make a decision regarding how many senior-level and professional, or scientific positions they would need for the next two years.

The Deadline

As per federal statutes, all the agencies must evaluate their SES Federal Employees’ needs in even-numbered years, then they need to submit them to the OPM. The deadline for the initial fiscal 2018 and 2019 reports was Dec. 30, 2016, followed by detailed justifications with a due date of June 15, 2017, that were set by OPM.

Reason for the Change

The deadlines were changed by the Office of Personnel Management due to the agency reorganization order signed by the Trump Administration. This new deadline for those justifications is September 30, 2017. Explaining their decision, OPM stated that due to the substantial shifts that are expected, the executive order and the resulting reorganization, due to the Office of Management and Budget at the end of the month, agencies should have more time so that they can craft their justifications in the right manner.

 Key Considerations

The memo also stated that agencies that are looking for more allocations must consider the following:

  • Moving or requesting to convert the existing allocation to accomplish the strategic missions and goals of the agency.
  • Filing a minimum of 90 percent of the existing allocations of the agencies on the basis of data within the Executive and Schedule C System (ESCS). Otherwise, the vacancy rate should not exceed 10 percent.
  • Ensuring that all requests for additional allocations, or changes to current allocations, are aligned with the plan due to OMB by the federal agency, that will be in support of the executive order. OMB will concomitantly review and verify the alignment between the agency’s request relating to allocations and agency’s reform plan.
  • Agencies that are considering the elimination of programs, or making use of workforce reduction flexibilities with the aim to address changes in budget or agency, should abstain from requesting extra allocations.

First-Come First-Serve

OPM will process all the requests on a first-come-first-serve basis, according to the memo. In case an agency establishes in fiscal 2018 that additional changes are needed to its executive allocations on the basis of the transformational changes, the federal agencies would be given the opportunity to submit an out-of-cycle allocation request to the OPM. Officials have also made it clear that these out-of-cycle allocation requests would only be completed on a first-come, first serve basis after the biennial requests have been processed.

Conclusion

It is clear that the OPM’s decision to postpone the deadline given to federal agencies regarding SES Federal Employees is a wise one as agencies need time to deal with so many changes at once. Agencies are also preparing for other changes that are on Trump’s agenda such as curtailing federal workforce, federal benefits and other federal employee resources.

How to Retain Cybersecurity for Federal Employees?

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How to Retain Cybersecurity Federal Employees?

A survey given to cybersecurity federal employees has revealed some interesting facts about employee retention and what attracts them even more than a salary hike. If all the federal government agencies take the results of this survey into serious consideration, they will be able to offer better federal employee benefits and boost the federal employee resources to increase the network of existing cybersecurity personnel. This survey also revealed interesting things about the betterment of federal security and the hope of increasing cyber experts as well as its reality.

federal employees

What Attracts These Federal Employees the Most?

A survey has revealed that cybersecurity federal employees prefer more training and employer-paid certifications as compared to any other benefits. It’s the strongest lure for them, even when compared with other lucrative options, like flexible working hours, more support for remote work, and higher pay.

The Study

The aforementioned results were revealed by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education. This study was conducted in partnership with the Booz-Allen consulting firm. The participants of the survey were about 2,600 military, civilian and contractor personnel who were involved in cybersecurity. The people who participated in the survey were in different positions such as security engineers, security analysts, and assurance managers.

Training Needs

This survey has also unveiled that the employees expect the training to be in advanced areas like security engineering, cloud computing, incident response, information risk management, and threat intelligence.

Improvement in IT Security

It was also found that 50 percent of respondents believed that the information security at federal agencies has improved in the past year. The areas in which improvements were noticed include improved awareness, more effective security standards, and improved understanding of risk management.

Why it’s still the same

Of those cybersecurity federal employees who thought that it has not changed much in the last year, 36 percent said that it has been the same while 4 percent think that it has gotten worse in the last year. About 10 percent of respondents had no opinion on the matter. Some of the main reasons for degrading or stagnancy of information security were also mentioned:

  • Lack of qualified personnel
  • Insufficient funding
  • Futile security standards

 Exploring the Lack of Qualified Cybersecurity Federal Employees

In the survey, the shortages of qualified employees were blamed on the difficulty in finding suitable employees and retaining them in a highly competitive market. Insufficient understanding of required personnel for information security was also a big reason.

Bur still, about two-thirds of the survey respondents said that they expected to see an increase in the number of information security professionals in their work unit in an upcoming year. Approximately one-third of the respondents expected the staffing to remain the same in the next year and just 4 percent thought that it might actually decrease.

Conclusion

It is quite clear that the federal agencies have been dealing with a shortage of cybersecurity federal employees for some time now. Even when it manages to find the suitable employees, it fails to retain them by offering better federal employee benefits or federal employee resources. Hence, they should learn from the aforementioned survey’s findings and provide training, and give the opportunity for growth, to employees. It may be expensive, but the investment would probably be worth it when the federal employees utilize their skills to protect the information of millions of US citizens.

SBA Demonstrates Ineffective Use of Early Federal Retirement Offers

retirement benefits

Report on Failure of Early Federal Retirement Offers

The failure of the Small Business Business Administration (SBA) to effectively execute the early federal retirement offers was highlighted in a recent report. This report was shared by the Inspector General of the agency. It stated that the effort made by the SBA to reshape its workforce via buyouts and early retirement was unsuccessful in achieving any of the goals it has set.

 The Beginning

In fiscal 2014, the SBA had requested the authority to make use of early federal retirement through its Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment program so that it could easily increase the population of early-career employees, address workforce skill gaps and manage budgetary constraints.

 The Mistakes

Though the three-pronged goals of the SBA were clear enough, it failed in the efforts because of the reason highlighted in the IG report. It states that the plan to implement early federal retirement lacked measurable objectives and included inaccurate information. SBA also failed to act on the proposals shared by a consulting firm that involved changing the SBA’s service model.

The Changes

During the efforts to hire better professionals, the agency ended up spending USD 2.1 million for employees who chose to retire early. However, even after their retirement, the positions largely remained the same. Through this program, the agency succeeded in vacating only 149 positions overall. Out of those, 54 were filled without making any meaningful changes to the job description or occupants’ responsibilities.

Sensible Suggestions

It’s clear that the SBA had failed to implement the program to achieve the desired results, the Inspector General has also shared a bit of advice on the matter.

He suggested that the agency should carry out a report entitled lessons learned in which it mentions the performance of the 2014 early federal retirement program. He also added that the agency must develop procedures to make sure that if any such programs are initiated in the future, they operate as per VERA and VSIP regulations. They should also be in accordance with the guidance shared by the Office of Personnel Management.

The Agreement

SBA officials have agreed with the report. They have also decided that they will implement the recommendations by September this year.

Conclusion

On the whole, it can be seen that though the aims of the early federal retirement program by the SBA were good enough, major flaws were seen in its implementation as the effort to renew federal workforce failed miserably. The positions and job descriptions remained the same even with the new hires which made the entire process quite unnecessary. Other agencies seeking to renew their own federal employee workforce by offering a retirement program would do well to learn from the mistakes made by SBA and not repeat the same themselves. Though SBA has admitted that it has made serious errors and has promised to implement the IG’s recommendations by September this year, it will be interesting to see whether it can do it by September or not,

OPM Catches Up on Federal Retirement Claims

Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is trying hard to clear off the backlog in the federal retirement claims and has done well in the last few months. Though the agency seems to be working hard to reduce the backlog since the results of the hard work put in for CLEARING the retirement benefits of each retired federal employee are not visible at a single glance. One has to dig in deep to notice the positive progress the agency has been making. Have a look at the progress to know that OPM is trying its best here.

retirement benefits

The Reason for Considerable Progress of Federal Retirement Claims in May 2017

Office of Personnel Management has succeeded in clearing about 3,000 federal retirement claims in May 2017. This has reduced the overall backlog to 16,140 claims which is also the lowest number to be achieved yet in 2017. It was 18,932 in April 2017 which shows an improvement of about 15 percent. The main reason for this considerable progress seems to be the fact that the numbers of new claims filed were lowest since December 2016.

 The Improvement

OPM has succeeded in processing nearly the same amount of claims in May that it did in April this year. But it has improved by 161 claims for a total of 8,340 last month. In May, the reputed agency received only 5,548 new claims which is a drop of more than 1,000.

Year on Year Comparison

When one compared the data of federal retirement claims in May 2017 with May 2016, it can be seen that the agency received 23 percent fewer claims but has succeeded in processing 8.4 percent more this year as compared to the previous year numbers. Despite all of this, the backlog is 13 percent more than it was at in May 2016, i.e., 14,035.

Better Speed of Processing

The agency has improved its speed of processing considerably as well, and it has played a pivotal role in curtailing the backlog. In April 2017, the agency had only managed to process 27 percent of the claims in 60 days or less than that. But in May 2017, this number was 44 percent.

The Main Hitch

Though no one can deny the fact that OPM is showing considerable improvement, the main issue remains the same. The agency has not reached the goal which is a backlog of just 13,000 claims. As per the strategic plan for processing retirement applications, if the staff had just 13,000 claims on hand, it will be able to adjudicate 90 percent of all the claims within just 60 days. But this goal seems too far-fetched given the fact that the last time the backlog was at 13,000 or even less than that, it was about one and a half years ago, in December 2015.

Repeating the Past

The latest numbers shared by OPM regarding the processing of federal retirement claims of federal employee shows a similar pattern that has been seen in the last few years. OPM always sees a sudden increase in retirement benefits claims in January and February as people prefer to retire in these months. This sudden increase boosts the backlog considerably, and while the staff works hard through the year to lower it only to see it spike again in the January of next year.

Church-Affiliated Hospitals May Be Exempt from Demands of Federal Retirement Income Law

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The United States Supreme Court has decreed that a few church-affiliated hospitals can be exempt from the demands of the federal retirement income law. This decision was taken to ensure better religious freedom but critics believe that this ruling is not in favor of employees who may never get the retirement benefits they deserve and this decision could ruin their financial planning.

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 The Unanimous Decision on Applicability of Demands of Federal Retirement Income Law

The unanimous decision on the applicability of demands of federal retirement income law was taken by the US Supreme Court recently in which it highlighted that a group of three church-affiliated hospitals can be exempted from the demands of a federal retirement income law.

In an 8-0 decision released recently, the high court ruled that church agencies such as hospitals can qualify for the religious exemption in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The case regarding the ruling was Advocate Health Care Network et al. v. Stapleton et al.

The case has consolidated three detached lawsuits, Dignity Health v. Rollins, Saint Peter’s Healthcare System v. Kaplan and Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton. All these cases involved the hospitals that are losing at the circuit court level.

Authoring the Opinion for the Court

Justice Elena Kagan authored the opinion for the Court regarding federal retirement income law.  Justice Neil Gorsuch was not included in the ruling since he was not involved in the proceedings. Kagan wrote that ERISA provides that a church plan means a plan that is established and maintained by a church is to include a plan maintained by a principal purpose organization.

Under the best reading of the statute, a plan that is maintained by a principal purpose organization, therefore, qualifies as a church plan not considering of who established it. The court opted for reversing the judgments of the Courts of Appeals.

Concurring Opinion

Justice Sonia Sotomayor has written a concurring opinion regarding the decision on federal retirement income law in which she explained that while she agreed with the opinion of the majority, she was still troubled by the result of the ERISA law exemption. She appreciated the court’s opinion by saying that she was persuaded that it correctly interprets the pertinent statutory text. However, she was nevertheless troubled by the outcome of these cases because she thinks such decisions may lead to denial of ERISA’s protections for scores of employees who work for organizations which look and operate similarly to secular businesses.

Multiple Lawsuits

In the last few years, there have been many lawsuits directed at various religiously-affiliated hospitals concerning the accusation of underfunding employee pension plans. As per an article by Bloomberg BNA in 2016, many of these suits resulted in settlements in which the hospitals have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to plaintiffs.

Bloomberg also reported that in May 2016 Connecticut’s Saint Francis Hospital doled out USD 107 million as a settlement. In August 2017, the Trinity Health Corp. made a USD 75 million deal with the workers. Alabama’s Baptist Health System Inc. also offered USD 11 million to its workers in August after making USD 89 million worth of pension contributions. Ascension Health settled claims for USD 8 million in 2015. The last two rulings are as per court filings.

Even in last October, Providence Health & Services had to pay USD 350 million in a settlement. It was the largest settlement in cases of this nature.

Critics’ Opinion

Americans United for Separation of Church and State also echoed the concerns of Sotomayor by releasing the statement regarding the Court rulings. It stated that the hospitals must not be allowed to drain the employee pension funds just because they have a religious affiliation. After all, religious freedom is an elementary American value with pensions and retirement as an elementary part of the American dream.

Appreciating the Court Ruling

The First Liberty Institute has celebrated the high court ruling regarding federal retirement income law as FLI Senior Counsel Justin Butterfield stated that the decision was in line with the country’s history of religious freedom. The ruling of the Supreme Court respects great history and tradition allowing mosques, churches, synagogues and other religious ministries to follow their religious mission without having to deal with the weight of government bureaucracy and regulation hampering their efforts or intruding upon their mission.

Conclusion

It is quite clear that the ruling of the US Supreme Court regarding federal retirement income law has created quite a stir as some people appreciate it while some are criticizing it. However, it is quite clear that the employees working for Church-Affiliated Hospitals might be hit hard by it because they may lose their retirement benefits and their financial planning for retirement may be ruined.

Proposals to Cut Down Federal Employee Benefits and Federal Retirement Benefits Strongly Opposed

The proposals to reduce federal employee benefits and federal retirement benefits included in the budget prepared by President Trump have been severely criticized by various factions of society. Now, people are coming forward and speaking about how the proposed changes would make life difficult for retirees, federal workers, and employees covered by FERS.

federal employees 

Letter Opposing Proposals to Cut Down Federal Employee Benefits and Federal Retirement Benefits

A letter was recently written to oppose the plans to reduce federal employee benefits and federal retirement benefits and thirty unions & associations that represent federal employees and retirees have joined in it. The letter was addressed to Congress, and it was emphasized that the proposed changes would make it harder for people to afford to retire and hence they would have no option but to work longer. It will further reduce the savings of government and delay the career progression of the younger employees who are ready to take on greater responsibilities at work.

The Cost of the Proposals

While many people are defending the proposals to cut down federal employee benefits and federal retirement benefits by saying that it will help the government to save a lot of money, people are barely paying attention to the fact that these proposals, if implemented would cost USD 149 billion to federal employees and retirees over a period of more than 10 years and the amount will increase after the said time span because the losses would compound over time.

Breaking a Promise

The proposed increase in compulsory contributions toward retirement by FERS-covered employees was termed as nothing more than a pay cut. The benefit cutting aspects such as reducing COLAs for CSRS retirees or ending them for all FERS retirees, ending the FERS supplement that is being paid to retirees until they become eligible for social security at the age of 62 and basing new annuities on high-5 salary rather than high-3 are some steps that renege on the government’s commitments to its former and current employees regarding the pensions they get in exchange for their long careers as well as the hard work they put in.

Democrats’ Stance

The unions and associations representing feds and retirees are not alone in opposing proposals to reduce federal employee benefits and federal retirement benefits. Approximately 100 House Democrats have also sent a similar letter to the leaders of both parties. The letter says that there should not be any major change in policies because scores of families have planned a life around these policies. Policies that impact the current retirees should particularly not be changed because these people have limited ability to make up for an unforeseen decrease in the income they expect.

No Certainty Yet

The annual budget cycle is off to a late start, and it is not certain whether Congress would try to pass a budget blueprint that could take positions on issues about retiree and federal benefits or whether it will focus only on the appropriations bills.

Conclusion

It is quite clear that a significant number of people are against the proposals to reduce federal employee benefits and federal retirement benefits. These people are showing their anger by properly communicating with the relevant authorities. However, they have not got something to lay their hopes on yet. If the reductions occur, they will badly impact the lives of retirees, federal workers, and employees covered by FERS who have already dedicated their lives to hard work or those who planned to do so in the future.

Your Children May Live With You Some More Years

Your Children May Live With You Some More Years

Capture Them in Your Retirement Plan

 

Researches reveal the increasing number of young adults still living with their parents even when they finally come of age. Most young people tend to return to their parents instead of creating their residence and home after a remarkable achievement in their life, like at completion of military service or graduation from college.

 

According to a recent research conducted by Pew Research Centre, about 32.1% of people between the ages of 18 to 42 years are still living with their parents, rather than their partner or spouse in their own home, a leap from the 20% as at 1960. In the research, 36% were either married or living with friends outside their parent’s home, 14% were living alone; either single or as a single parent and 22% had some other special housing arrangement like college housing.

 

There are several contributors to this dramatic increase in the number of youngsters still living in their parent’s home. First of them is the postponement or termination of marriage plans. A disturbing number of young people are running away from the idea of marriage.

 

Also, unemployment and low income have contributed a high percentage to the number of youth still living under their parent’s roof; particularly the young men. Employed young men are more likely to leave their parents and live independently than their unemployed counterparts. Sadly, the unemployment rate has dramatically increased in recent times.

 

In simpler terms, the tendency of your adult child to be under your roof is not only high; they may contribute little or no financial assistance to the home.

 

The bulk, however, falls back to the parent who begins to make unplanned expenses even as they approach or enter retirement. Based on your current financial status, this could make you work longer; engaging in full or part-time jobs to make ends meet, even after retirement from civil service.

Although your federal retirement benefits may come in handy here, it may not do much. Hence it is good to know how far it can go.

 

It is perhaps important for you to put up your adult child on your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) family registration, pending when they turn 26. Although the insurance package may still be extended a further 3 years, this is usually at a higher cost.

Also, the FEDVIP vision-dental health scheme can also cover your child, but not after they attain 22 years. This program, however, has several restrictions, and there is no provision for coverage extension.

 

SO what happens at death? The benefit a child gets has several cutoff dates. This benefit continues until the age of 18. Some exceptions, however, include:

 

  • For full-time students, the annuity cover the child till he/she clocks 22 years, but benefits cease if the child dies, moves to a non-recognized school, gets married,  ceases to be a full-time student, is unable to tender proof, when required of full-time studentship, or when enlisted in active military service or Academy.

 

  • Where a child is disabled in anyway that makes it impossible for him/her to offer self-support and one that started before the child reached 18, the child will continuously receive the annuity for life – except if the child becomes healthy, marries, or regains ability for self-support.

 

  • In some other schemes that have survivor/death benefits, the child’s living arrangement and age doesn’t count. This means that you can designate anyone as a beneficiary of your FEGLI regardless of age and living situations. There are exceptions though in situations where the insurance was particularly “assigned” to a number of beneficiaries – usually affected by a divorce order.

 

Hence, Uncle Sam may not offer so much assistance. The truth still stands: the primary responsibility of catering for your children, pending when they are financially capable and independent, falls back on the shoulders of the parents.

How to Submit Your ‘Healthy’ and Complete Federal Retirement Application by Jeff Wiedrich

How to Submit Your ‘Healthy’ and Complete Federal Retirement Application by Jeff Wiedrich

Jeff Wiedrich is the founder of Olive Creek Investment’s, LLC as well as an advisor working with government employees in the Phoenix metro area, as well as throughout Maricopa County and greater Tucson. He has extensive experience in the areas of wealth management and estate planning, specializing in the area of government employees.

If you are currently going through the process of planning your retirement, you will need to submit a complete federal retirement application, but the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suggests making it ‘healthy’. For example, this describes a form that is complete from the very top while containing the right signatures and dates. With all questions asked on the form, you should provide full answers as well as check the appropriate boxes.

Jeff Wiedrich Recommends Avoiding Common Problems

According to OPM, there are some common issues that arise for many including the survivor election chapter; this needs to be filled regardless of your relationship status. For example, consent must be given by the spouse if a married applicant were to elect less than a full survivor annuity. Furthermore, the section regarding court orders must still be addressed even if there is no order.

Elsewhere, you’ll also need to list all periods of creditable civilian and military service; for the latter, you’ll need a Form DD-214. If you happen to be taking an early retirement or perhaps even discontinued service retirement, there will be additional documentation to complete. Finally, the forms require you to provide information regarding your FEHB status and whether any of your policies will continue into retirement. For example, individuals need to have worked in federal employment for five years before their retirement date. If you also want to remain eligible for FEGLI, you need to prove your coverage for the previous five years here too.

As you can see, a healthy retirement application can be difficult to achieve so take your time, don’t feel the need to rush the process, and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you feel your application would benefit.  Oftentimes a qualified financial professional is the best solution to your lack of knowledge.  But make sure you find a highly-trained and knowledgeable federal employee financial planner.

Jeff Wiedrich
Jeff Wiedrich of Olive Creek Investments, LLC

Contact Jeff Wiedrich

Olive Creek Investments, LLC
Phone: 480-887-4569

Jeff Wiedrich Articles

Why Federal Employees Should Verify Their FEGLI Coverage Now by Jeff Wiedrich

TSP – Should you play it safe? by Jeff Wiedrich

Picking Smarter Investments in Your TSP by Jeff Wiedrich

Your Roth TSP and How it’s Taxed by Jeff Wiedrich

Finding the Balance with TSP Contributions with David Chan

Finding the Balance with TSP Contributions
By David Chan

When you work for the federal government, there are all sorts of advantages you can enjoy and receiving a matching TSP contributions is only one of them. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) allows a certain amount of money to be paid your way after choosing to retire. However, there are still thousands who don’t choose to contribute into their TSP because of one main reason; it is not mandatory. With FERS, Social Security and the FERS Annuity are an automatic part of the federal employee’s retirement package, whereas the TSP option is something federal employees can opt out of.

With your FERS annuity, nobody can avoid the 0.8% payment from your salary just as he or she can’t prevent the 6.2% charge for Social Security. Regardless of how close or far away you are from retirement, these two outgoings will remain for years to come yet there isn’t such a demand on you to pay into your TSP…but should you be contributing anyway?

If we use an example, let’s say a female employee works for a federal agency for 30 years with a salary starting at $60,000. Each year, she experiences a 1% increase in salary for the entirety of her career. For the first ten years of her career, she chooses not to pay into the TSP. For the next twenty, she changes this to 5% of her earnings (which is then matched by the government). If we use the TSP Calculator available through TSP.gov, this comes to over $250,000 at retirement. Considering no contributions were made during the first ten years, this is quite impressive.

On the other hand, her friend and colleague contributes 5% from the very first day and continues on this path for thirty years; with the same salary. Pl ugging the different numbers into the same calculator, it comes to just short of $460,000. As you can see, this is a huge difference, and it increases to over $900,000 with a simple change in contribution from 5% to 15%.

From this, we hope you see that the best retirement is always made in the early years. If you start investing now, no matter how far away your retirement may seem, you will have earned a fantastic nest egg by the time the magical date comes. Feel free to check out the TSP Calculator online where you can play around with different contribution percentages to see what you need to save to reach your goal by retirement!

David Chan
David Chan

Contact David Chan:

Phone: (510)440-7110

Email: [email protected]

 

More David Chan Articles:

Article: Why TSP Is The Way To Go by David Chan

Article: How to Utilize the Soaring TSP by David Chan

Article: Utilizing Your Thrift Savings Plan: 7 Tips by David Chan

Congress Yet To Deal With Budget Plan That Affects Federal Retirement Benefits

Congress Yet To Deal With Budget Plan That Affects Federal Retirement Benefits

 

 

The House’s recess has just started and will continue until after Labor Day – the Senate isn’t that far behind. Moreover, as of now, there has been no floor vote taken in regards to a budget plan that would cut federal retirement benefits, as suggested by the Trump Administration.

 

As it currently stands, the budget resolution is just a planning document.  It needs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to come up with $32 billion in shortfall cutbacks during the next 10 years in programs it has control over.

 

The way the goal is to be attained is raising a number of contributions employees make to their retirement benefits and getting rid of the Special Retirement Supplement that people in FERS get if they retire before 62 years old and cannot draw their Social Security benefits.

 

The resolution didn’t touch the other multiple proposals noted in the White House budget plan, which bases the future retirees’ benefits on their highest five-year salaries, not the present three highest. It also didn’t touch on decreasing the COLA for CSRS retirees or getting rid of COLA for civil service employees on FERS benefits.

 

The Oversight committee can deal with these matters since they have the full discretion of how to attain the target.

 

Of course, when this process starts is anyone’s guess, as House Republicans have been unable to hold a floor vote because of other disagreements. A group of 10 House Republicans asked the committee to reject all proposals in similar fashion to the letter sent to the House leadership. Roughly 100 House Democrats and 18 Senate Democrats sent letters similar to their leaders.

 

In the House resolution, there would be a partial hiring freeze set in place with the idea to reduce the workforce by 10% for an undetermined amount of time.

 

In the meantime, the House Republican Study Committee came up with a budget plan on their own, which stated their positions, not an actual measure that could be voted upon. Some of their recommendations included increasing the retirement contributions and basing the COLA on another inflation index (one that would lead to minute increases).

 

The proposal also endorses a shift in how the government contributes to the FEHB premiums contribution. Right now, the contribution is in percentages, but they are requesting it be made in dollars. According to an analysis of that plan, enrollees would end up paying more. People in the lowest-cost plan may benefit from this switch.

Federal Employees Get New Thrift Savings Plan Withdrawal Options

Indexed Universal Life

Federal Employees Get New Thrift Savings Plan Withdrawal Options

The Thrift Savings Plan is a retirement plan prepared for military personnel and federal employees.  The retirement plan forms part of Federal Employees’ Retirement Systems Act of 1986. The funds and tax benefits workers get from The TSP is similar to a 401(k) package offered to private employees.

On the occasion of TSP’s 30-years anniversary in April 2017, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Thomas R. Carper (D-Del) passed a bill to update the TSP’s terms with related programs. In particular, the bill seeks to increase investment and thrift savings plan withdrawal options and alternatives.

For example, among the five funds available with TSP, tracking global stock will be expanded to involve new markets and Canada in 2019. The update is also making efforts at giving account holders access to invest in funds besides the current offer.

Other legislations before Congress offer federal employees, as well as servicemen and women in active service (and are not below 59 1/2 years), access to more post-retirement alternatives. Because of the limited current withdrawal options, hopes are high that this shift will offer more flexibility and free will in respect to how workers manage their retirement savings

A wide variety of TSP concerns in the federal retirement practice includes requirement and guidelines for withdrawal, divorced retirees who are asked to share their benefits with an ex-spouse.

Also, federal workers and service men who retire for special reasons may still have their TSP accounts open. Unfortunately, they will be unable to contribute more to their TSP account, but TSP funds may be transferred to certain tax-favored packages like IRA.

The fund transfer deadlines and other rules are typically difficult to comprehend, but we are, however, hopeful that the new investment and withdrawal options come with extra financial stability and as well as better comprehension of the provisions of the federal retirement plans.

 

Indiana Republican Brings Forth Legislation To Designate Federal Employees As At-Will

Indiana Republican Brings Forth Legislation To Designate Federal Employees As At-Will

 

 

Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Rokita
Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Rokita

Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Rokita introduced legislation once again that would classify new federal employees as “at-will.”

 

He introduced the bill in September 2016, but it died in the previous Congress. However, the congressman wanted to reintroduce the bill dubbed “Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency,” and it’s causing an uproar with federal employee unions and groups.

 

A majority of the legislation applies to federal employees who are hired on or the first year of the bill is passed and enforced. The legislation reads that an employee can be suspended or removed without the right to an appeal or notice by the agency head even if the employee was hired for good cause, no cause or bad cause.

 

At-will employees can go to the Office of Special Counsel or Merit Systems Protection Board, in some cases, to fight their demotion, suspension or removal.

 

The legislation reads that an applicant for employment can appeal the decision to one agency and cannot bring any other agency into the appeal. Every agency has been asked to come up with their own guidelines to implement the bill’s provisions. The agencies will need to figure out how to let employees know about their at-will status, who would be granted permission to remove these workers and how to ensure the fired or suspended employees are not discriminated against.

 

In January, the American Federation of Government Employees informed their members about the PAGE Act and said the bill would make civil service a political issue. Some PAGE Act provisions are not new, as Congress has written up bills similar to it. It’s the PAGE Act that takes things a bit further… all in the name of accountability.

 

While the strictest provisions are aimed at new employees, there are other PAGE Act provisions that target the senior executives and present employees.

 

Abrupt Suspensions

 

According to the legislation, agency heads are granted permission to abruptly suspend a current employee for poor performance or misconduct. They would have to give said employees a written notice, citing the reasons for the action within 10 days of the suspension.  Employees are allowed to respond and give supporting evidence of why they should not be suspended. They can hire an attorney and look at the case.

 

Employees can also seek help from the Merit Systems Protection Board.

 

Pay Increases

 

According to the legislation, federal employees will not get a yearly pay increase for certain situations.  Employees will only get their raise if they receive a four out of five rating for their performance. About 50% of employees in an agency must get four of five to receive their pay raises.

 

Convicted Felony Employees

 

Any employee who has been convicted of a felony that related to the position’s performance must give up some of their retirement annuity. Any creditable service time will no longer count toward their annuity. The provision is applied to employees who resign or retire from Federal service.

 

Senior Executives

 

Based on the legislation, agency heads can move current employees to the General Schedule from the Senior Executive Service but provide no reason as to why they came up with that decision. Any transfer means they get the pay related with that new General Schedule position.

 

Official Time

The bill is also looking at limiting official time. Federal employees can do union work if only done in a nonduty status. It clearly explains that employees who collect dues, seek out new membership or take part in union election activity maintain accurate records for two years or the collective bargaining unit’s term. If there are any Freedom of Information Act requests, these records will be brought forth.

 

Many lawmakers have brought forth bills similar to this one with an effort to gain insight into how official time is used or how much of it is used.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee may vote on any of these bills soon. The Committee is looking at legislation that demands OPM to provide a yearly report to Congress about its official time in regards to federal employees.

 

A look at the fiscal 2014 year, bargaining unit employees tended to use a bit more official time, compared to just two years earlier. They spent a little more than 3.4 million hours of official time – individually, that equates to less than three hours.

SEC Puts Out Warning To TSP Investors and Participants Of Scam

SEC Puts Out Warning To TSP Investors: Federal Employee Benefits Counselors Scam

 

 

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned investors and participants in the Thrift Savings Plan about a scam directed at federal employees by former members of the Federal Employee Benefits Counselors organization.

 

The SEC has already filed fraud charges on four former Federal Employee Benefits Counselors for creating an impression of being affiliated with or had federal government or TSP approval.

 

According to the SEC, the brokers allegedly swayed federal employees to roll their TSP account funds into higher-fee variable annuities. With the 200 variable annuities worth about $40 million, they earned around $1.7 million in commission.

 

SEC Atlanta Regional Office Associate Director Aaron Lipson said the brokers were driven by the potential of higher commissions while they targeted federal employees older than 59 years of age. Moreover, they deliberately hid relevant information when they suggested they purchase the various annuities.

 

The SEC said the brokers allegedly convinced these federal employees that they were permitted to solicit and provide advice about their TSP and retirement savings accounts. However, doctored and incomplete transaction forms with no information about the investment were sent to TSP investors. They also had no connection to the TSP.

 

This is just the latest scam targeting current employees and retirees of the federal government. Retirees were subjected to two additional plots in just 2017 only.

 

In June, the Office of Personnel Management warned the workforce of companies’ aggressive marketing push. The offer of cash payments for some or all of the annuity payments. The agency also warned them in March of a government imposter scam that threatened to end a person’s retirement if the retiree didn’t send an immediate payment.

 

SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy Chief Counsel Owen Donley said scammers tend to go after people who can supply them with large sums of cash, and TSP investors are often a target.  Which is what these former Federal Employee Benefits Counselors affiliates appear to have done.  He said it’s not surprising that federal employees are targets because the money is there.

 

Donley said scammers target certain groups of folks – what is known as affinity fraud. He said it could be a religious community, the military or even retirees. Donley said every year the fraud targets various groups.

 

What Can You Do?

 

There are things you can do to protect yourself and your investments from being scammed.

 

  • Be wary should you get a phone call or message that appears to come from a group that claims to have federal government approval or an affiliation. Donley said no federal agency – the TSP included – will go a person to push for a service or product. He said it’s a red flag if this communication takes place. The SEC advises federal government employees and retirees to reach out to the TSP first to see if the offer is legitimate.

 

  • Never provide your personal information during this time. Federal organizations will not ask for your password, social security number or account number during unsolicited messages or phone calls.

 

  • SEC advises employees and retirees to learn about the different investment options and what the terms and conditions are for each of them. When a person is aware of the existing opportunities, it helps them to know what it and isn’t legit.

 

Donley said there are some short-term investment opportunities and some that are not. He said some investment options have charges and surrender fees if used within the first two years. Donley said retirees must be aware of the possible outcomes.

 

Since making investment decisions is a bit complex, it’s advised that federal employees get advice from their financial planners.

 

The SEC recommends federal employees to work with only a registered and licensed financial investment professionals. The agency has a database on its website that helps federal employees to find out about an investment professional quickly.

 

Donley said older Americans have turned to using social media for some interaction.  The agency is giving some advice about social media use. Donley said some people are not careful with their privacy settings, which means scammers can learn all kinds of information about where they live, their interests, etc. He said it’s this information that scammers use to lure investors into providing them with a false sense of security with their account information.

 

The Federal Employee Benefits Counselors organization has issued a statement suggesting that they are blameless in the actions of their affiliated professionals.  The Courts have yet to rule on the issue and the SEC has not yet responded to the Federal Employee Benefits Counselors statement.

WIFLE Conference Held In Houston With Talks On The Importance Of Retirement Financial Planning

WIFLE Conference: The Importance Of Retirement Planning for Federal Employees

 

 

The Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) recently met in Houston for the yearly leadership training conferences and offered good insight into the importance of retirement planning for federal employees. Here, the women talk about the various challenges that come with their often dangerous jobs.  Along with the training sessions, the program holds awards ceremonies that honor the ladies’ courage, outstanding service, and bravery.

 

The women are proud of their jobs and are grateful to the law enforcement women who came before them.  The event is an eye-opener to any who go as to why these federal employees deserve to get their retirement benefits after they have completed their public service so dedicatedly.

 

It helps those attending the WIFLE to understand that the retirement benefits and future planning are just as important to new employees as it is to the veterans who are midway in their career. It is certainly on the minds of those prospective retirees.

 

There is a strict mandatory retirement age of 57 for federal law enforcement officers. If officers are retiring in their 50’s and don’t plan on a second career anytime soon, they need to make some plans way ahead of their retirement time.

 

The younger workforce needs to understand why it is so important to think retirement planning for federal employees early in their career. Failure to do this means making mistakes that could be difficult to address when a person is so close to retirement age.

 

The WIFLE audience comprised of people who are covered under FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System). It is important that these people understand how the FERS basic retirement benefit, Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) will give them an income when they’re no longer working.

 

Some women at the WIFLE first began their federal careers in the military and then went into civilian federal service workforce. This meant they could fulfill their service requirement before they can retire. However, a longer career would give them more time to save and for their savings to increase. On top of that, more time in the federal service means a better FERS retirement benefit.

 

During the WIFLE conference, people exchanged stories about retirees they knew who took the lump sum from the TSP accounts to pay debt off – eliminating student loans or mortgages. However, that’s not always the best thing to do.

 

Bob Leins with the National Institute of Transition Planning informed attendees that it was ill-advisable to withdraw a lump sum of money to pay off a large mortgage balance. Why? The TSP withholds 20% for the federal tax pre-payment, which means a person may not have enough to pay the full tax obligation.  A person may find that they owe as much as 15% more federal tax for that withdrawal.

 

Leins suggested retirees use the TSP monthly payments to make their mortgage payments like they were doing when they were working. He also suggested talking to a financial adviser to learn about allocating and rebalancing withdrawal from various investments.

 

It’s extremely important that people pick their advisor. The SEC said undisclosed fees, conflicts and overcharges have become a habitual theme in commission cases pertaining to investment advisers. In fact, the SEC recently charged four former Atlanta area brokers for fraud that involved convincing federal employees in rolling their TSP account holdings over into variable annuity products with a higher fee.

 

The WIFLE conference is an eye-opener to any who attend. It’s a place for people to lean onto one another for support. It doesn’t matter what the reason – if it’s for getting justice in the community in which they live or to better understand the way to have a safe financial future.