Tag: liteblue

Liteblue

Liteblue is an online forum for federal employees to get their hands on any information that they might be needing. It can be visited via this link.

The Postal Service is Unlikely to Give Pension Payments

usps postal serviceA new report that has emerged regarding the dismal financial situation of the Postal of the country indicates that the department is “unlikely” to make the complete/required pension and health payments to its retirees in the near future. Apart from this, what’s even more threatening is that the liabilities and the debts that have begun to mount to extraordinary levels could even hamper the existence of the government body in general.

Postal service unlikely to award pension payments:

The report was published this past week by the Government Accountability office and it suggested that the expenses of the postal service have begun to exceed considerably after the fiscal year 2007 and it has now caused the government body to suffer a loss of around 57 billion in the last 8 years.

Lori Rectanus who is the director of physical infrastructure issues at the GAO has said that the USPS is a critical constituent of the country’s communication channel and it was responsible for delivering around 154 billion pieces of mail in the last fiscal year to around 155 million delivery points and has around 620 thousand employees.

The current state of the department is really dismal and there have hardly been any other cases when a government body has found itself reeling for support and suffering from such severe losses. Lori further said that USPS hasn’t got any resources to substantially stay in operation and to cover its expenses and this has put the mission of enabling reliable services to the society at a huge risk.

While there is a crisis in hand, the employees are deserving of the pension and health payments regardless. The government needs to chip in and the postal service needs to be given the resources that they direly need in order to not only stay in operation fully but to also provide their retirees with the benefits that they deserve.

Rollback Savings at the USPS?

Reducing USPS Stamp Prices

financialIn the midst of the United States Postal Service (usps.gov) making drastic changes to become profitable again, there will be a tiny step backwards come next spring. Stamp prices jumped three cents to 49¢ in January 2014 as an emergency step to cope with the Great Recession. However, the hike in stamp costs from 46¢ to 49¢ was only a temporary resolution. From the beginning the emergency price increase was to help stabilize USPS’ shaky finances and allow the Postal Service to raise $4 billion in additional revenue before USPS would need to lower stamp costs back down.

After a recent clarification from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and postal regulators, it has been declared that USPS is still entitled to collect another $1.1 billion before they are forced to roll the price of a stamp back. Based on an analysis from Save the Post Office, it is estimated that the 49¢ stamp will remain on sale until sometime in April 2016.

The Postal Service requested the emergency rate in 2013, citing the effects of the recession on its business to justify a 4.3 percent increase. Due to a law passed in 2006, the United States Postal Service can only raise its prices by the rate of inflation except under extraordinary circumstances.

While the proposed price increase was highly controversial, USPS stood its ground and argued the recession constituted extraordinary circumstances, and its overseeing body, the Postal Regulatory Commission agreed, but with stipulations. Originally, the Postal Regulatory Commission set a cap on the amount of money USPS could bring in as a result of the higher prices and the mailing agency was set to hit that ceiling this August, but USPS argued the need for the stipulation in court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit mostly sided with the original ruling from the Postal Regulatory Commission and also struck down the notion that the emergency rates should become permanent. Instead, the court said, the aftereffects of the recession have become “the new normal,” and the Postal Service needs to make adjustments to become prosperous in that new reality.

However, the court also ruled, that the PRC had haphazardly decided USPS could only count one year of revenue from a customer lost due to the recession; this determined the cap for how much money the Postal Service would be able to collect from the emergency rates. The court ruled the Commission would need to implement a more evidence-based approach and sent the provision back to the Postal Regulatory Commission to determine the actual effects of a lost customer.  An example of the modification, would be if a postal customer lost his job and cancelled his cable television subscription, USPS would lose the business of the cable company mailing his bill for as long as he went without his subscription; prior the PRC’s ruling only allowed for the Postal Service to receive 12 months of lost revenue.

In the new ruling, the Postal Service’s proposed methodology for counting mail volume losses was accepted. Utilizing the new methodology, the USPS is allowed to collect about 40 percent more pieces of mail with the elevated prices. Thus, granting the Postal Service the ability to collect another $1.1 billion and keep the higher stamp prices for about another eight months.

The emergency price boost to the stamp was the largest price increase in 11 years; 4.3 percent was in addition to the normal 1.7 percent increase to help combat inflation. But even with the ruling, the new lower price of the stamp has not been announced, but is estimated to go down about 4 percent, or 2¢. The Postal Service will have to give 45 days’ notice to alert customers when it plans to restore it prices back to their lower rate.

 

“The recent decision does not fully restore the Postal Service for the significant mail volume and revenue losses associated with the great recession,” said Darlene Casey, a postal spokeswoman. Postal officials have continuously stated that if the inflated prices were not made permanent the agency would most likely end up back in the red. This sentiment was reiterated following the ruling. The PRC decision “clearly demonstrates there are significant pricing constraints in the postal law that impact the long-term financial health of the Postal Service, and reinforces the need for legislative reform of the Postal Service business model,” Casey said.

With USPS already making huge changes trying to adjust and stay operational in the “new normal,” there is no telling what the setback will do to the USPS’ bottom line. Dealing with the millions of dollars of lost from lowering stamp prices back down could have the potential to shatter USPS’ already shaky finances.

However, many are optimistic that the ruling will send the Postal Services down a productive path.  “We believe that ending the exigent chapter will be good not only for customers of the USPS, but it also will enable the Postal Service to retain more of those customers and to focus on more long term strategic issues,” said Stephen Kearney, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. “We urge the Postal Service to use the PRC order as a positive turning point for its future.”

 

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Postal Workers Protest – “The U.S. Mail is Not for Sale”

Postal Workers Protest – “The U.S. Mail is Not for Sale”

USPS – Staples and LiteBlue

USPS

The largest labor battle in recent history between postal workers and the United States Postmaster General is heading to Washington D.C. for a National Labor Relations Board judge’s hearing August 17.

The feud began back in 2013 when USPS launched a pilot program in 82 Staples stores. After the pilot ended, it was decided that over 150 Staples stores would offer a variety of post office services, including sales of stamps and joined the Approved Shipper Program and providing USPS shipping discounts at participating Staples locations.

The Staples program, begun in 2006, is available at 6,000 retail outlets ranging from independent outlets to nationwide chains. It allows Staples to offer services from UPS and now, USPS services as well. Staples’ director of corporate communications, Mark Cautela, stated that more than 500 Staples stores currently participate in the Approved Shipper Program – however, several media reports state that the program is closer to 1,000 stores. “Staples’ customers love the convenience provided by the (program), including location, extended hours and one-stop shopping for every product businesses need to succeed,” Cautela said.

The American Postal Workers Union states that the USPS violated the collective bargaining agreement around July 7, 2014 by, subcontracting out the work without union negotiation or following the agreed upon protocol in the clause covering subcontracting. The clause includes guidance for wages, hours and working conditions for subcontracted workers. The union is displeased that postal services being provided by Staples utilize lower-paid employees with less training, therefore tarnishing the quality, expectation and trustworthiness of the postal system.

According to documents the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) obtained from the Postal Regulatory Commission under an FOI request, the USPS agreement with Staples was set up as a baseline or model for future agreements with other retailers to sell USPS products and services.

The American Postal Workers Union filed a complaint, and gave USPS until July 13 to respond – but to no avail.

The complaint outlines USPS’s violation providing requested information to the APWU about the postal service’s subcontract agreement with Staples for its in-store Approved Shipper Program.

The general counsel is hoping the NLRB’s administrative law judge hearing the case will order the following: all bargaining unit work will be returned to the APWU and its 200,000-member union, and for the NLRB to go to court to terminate the Staples arrangement.

The National Labor Relations Board has agreed with APWU, stating the USPS “has been failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith,” leading to the scheduled hearing.  “This ruling represents an important step forward in the battle against the privatization of our nation’s public postal service,” American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein said in a prepared statement.

The filing of the complaint is important because the arrangement with Staples is a direct result of the former Postmaster General’s campaign to cut costs. His apparent aim was to gradually replace middle-class union jobs with minimum-wage, part-time and non-unionists – essentially privatizing the Postal Service.

The arrangement with Staples has sparked a national campaign and protest by Postal Workers, Letter Carriers, Rural Letter Carriers, Mail Handlers, Laborers and other unions and allies who vehemently disagree with the privatization of the Postal Services and potential job cuts.

The APWU has called for a boycott of Staples and its online subsidiary, Quill.com. APWU President, Mark Dimondstein stated that, “This [the hearing] represents an important step forward in the battle again the privatization of our nation’s public Postal Service. But it is not simply the result of strong legal arguments. Every APWU member and supporter who passed out flyers outside Staples stores can claim a piece of this achievement.”

However, as both the American Postal Workers Union and the U.S. Postal Service march into the battle in the courtroom both adamantly believe they are just in their actions.

“The Postal Service remains committed to providing convenient customer access to postal products and services,” Sarah Ninivaggi, USPS spokesperson said. “We have no interest in privatizing the Postal Service. We instead are looking to grow our business to provide expanded access to products and services through retail partners, as well as in our own locations. By locating postal services inside established businesses, customers can save time and in many cases have the benefit of longer hours than at regular Post Offices, seven days a week.”

It is no secret that the U.S. Postal Service has been struggling to stay financially afloat for the better part of the last decade. With external factors like a shrinking mail volume and a steadily increasing bill of debt, USPS has been looking for a number of innovate ways to try and get back into the black. But USPS spokesperson Sarah Ninivaggi said the union’s claims of privatization are “false and misleading.”

Everyone will be holding their breath to see what is decided August 17 at the National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge’s hearing. Dependent on the ruling, the decision could be a historical and pivotal moment for the future of the U.S. Postal Service and postal employees alike.

 

USPS and LiteBlue Related Articles

USPS Has Fallen On Hard Times – Can LiteBlue Save It

USPS Has Fallen On Hard Times – Can LiteBlue Save It

 

The United States Postal Service is one of the largest semi-independent federal agencies in the United States, only being partially supported by tax dollars. However, just like every other staple agency in the country USPS has fallen onto difficult times, and are implementing plenty of changes and contemplating more dramatic changes for the near future.

USPSLiteBlue and the Retire website:

Let’s start with the positive, USPS employees are now able to use LiteBlue and “eRetire.” The new streamlined service allows employees to navigate their way through different retirement plans available through LiteBlue from the comfort of their home.  Using LiteBlue, the electronic process is applicable for employees who are within five years of retirement eligibility, and employees who are eligible for retirement immediately.

The simple LiteBlue / eRetire process allows full-time USPS employees login to the LiteBlue site and decide their retirement path step by step on the easy-to-use LiteBlue webpage. Full-time employees who meet the required eligibility specification can receive Federal Annuity estimates. Part-time employees and postal inspectors must still do manual inputs and contact the Human Resources Services Center to receive their annuity estimates in the mail.

USPS employees that are presently eligible for retirement, or at least within six months of retirement can perform the following tasks. Request, view and print their own annuity estimation based on employee retirement effect times and dates within 180 days. Additionally, employees within 180 days of retiring can order, print and download the Retirement Application Package.  Prospective retirees can either perform this task on the LiteBlue webpage, or request the application package to be delivered to their home within seven to ten business days.

Furthermore, LiteBlue offers the opportunities transitioning employees to attend counseling sessions. Group sessions are also available for employees to exchange information; group sessions are available to employees who will enter into retirement within 90 days. The LiteBlue webpage displays all appointments dates, times and locations available for employees to choose from.

 

LiteBlue – Change is on the Horizon:

After a decade of consecutive years of operating underneath a mounting deficit in excess of $47 billion, the United States Postal Service is proposing some monumental changes that will greatly impact its 536,000 employees. The Postal Service is seeking congressional approval for dramatic cutback and changes to its current system. The USPS is proposing to implement its own and much cheaper health benefits program, administer its own retirement system and significantly reduce its workforce by 120,000 employees. In addition, USPS is also seeking the flexibility to adjust the mail delivery schedule; meaning that Saturday deliveries would be a thing of the past. Curbside and central pick up locations are also on the docket to become standard versus current door-to-door delivery.

But how did the Postal Service get to this point? There are a couple of key elements that have led USPS to the point it is at now. First, is USPS is legally tied to Congress. Since 2006, USPS has been required to prefund $5.5 billion for future retirees. Initially, the payment was not an issue because the Postal Service was strong and the recession had not hit. Secondly, the volume of mail which USPS services has dropped more than 20% with modern-day technology, and companies like FedEx and UPS gaining momentum.

Keeping the Postal Service’s economic hurdles in mind, there are plenty of potential sources for revenue are being tossed around the discussion board. Re-implementing the Postal Savings Program, allowing lower-class families who don’t utilize a private bank to cash their checks at much less inflated rate. The Postal Service is also considering offering email and/or internet service at a comparable rate to competitors. Other ideas include ending restrictions on shipment of wine and beer, sales of fishing and hunting licenses and notary services.

In addition, the White House has mandated that the $5.5 billion healthcare payments for 2015 and 2016 are deferred until 2017 and USPS being reimbursed $1.5 billion in over over-costs to the Office of Personal Management.

The proposed changes are a second-round of “fat trimming,” to the entity. Previously, the Postal Service has reduced its employee base by 212,000 and was able to bring operational costs down by $12 billion. In addition to the cutbacks, the Postal Service also raised the price of the stamp .03¢ in January of 2014 to offset the devastating blow of the recession. The new plan, proposed by President Obama for the 2016 fiscal budget is projected to save $36 billion over the next 11 years.

While all of the proposed changes make economic sense, the union adamantly opposes all suggested changes to policy and workforce, stating that it will violate contractual obligations and harm collective bargaining. But with the U.S. Postal Service seeing a $569 million revenue increase for the 2014 fiscal year, it shows that innovative ideas will make a difference in an acute situation. In the meantime, the Postal Service will await an answer from Congress to see if the proposed changes will come to fruition

 

Other LiteBlue Related Links

Changing Your LiteBlue / PostalEase Password through ssp.USPS.Gov

LiteBlue; Online Access to More Than Just Your USPS Earnings Statement

Everything About LiteBlue (liteblue.usps.gov)

Postal LiteBlue and Open Season

Postal LiteBluePostal Service employees should visit LiteBlue to download their FEHB (health benefits) guides for this year’s open season.  Open season is the annual period when employees can make changes to their health coverage or choose a new plan – this year Open Season begins on November 10th.

 

Postal Employee guides have been mailed to employees in the past, however, the USPS has determined that making the guides available online through LiteBlue employees will find it easier to evaluate their choices as well as reduce the cost of delivery.

 

Postal Employees can find the following guides on LiteBlue:

         RI70-2 – The 2015 Guide to Benefits for Career United States Postal Service Employees.

         RI 70-8PS – The 2015 Guide to Benefits for Certain Temporary (Non-career) United States Postal Service Employees.

         FEDVIP BK-1 – The 2015 Guide to the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.

         NCEHP BK1 – The 2015 Guide to USPS Non-career Employee Health Benefits Plan.

 

LiteBlue also makes available additional Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) and Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) information.  Postal Employees can find checklists, fact sheets, FAQs and a health plan comparison tools all through LiteBlue.

If you are unable to log into LiteBlue you can also request paper copies of these guides by calling the Human Resources Shared Services Center at 877-477-3273 (press option 5) or TTY 866-260-7507.

 

 

 

LiteBlue Articles and Related Content

What Postal employees should do on LiteBlue Before Retirement

LiteBlue; Online Access to More Than Just Your USPS Earnings Statement

Other LiteBlue Related Pages

– What Is LiteBlue?

– What Postal Employees Should Do On LiteBlue Before Retirement

– eRetire for Postal Employees – Retirement Applications on LiteBlue

– Use LiteBlue to Manage your FEHB

– You can use LiteBlue and PostalEase to manage your Allotments

– Requesting Duplicate Postal Employee W-2 Forms Using LiteBlue

Click here to be directed to LiteBlue.

Will Insurance Premiums Rise For Federal Employees?

Health Insurance Premiums and Federal Employees

Premiums RiseThere has been plenty of talk about health insurance premiums being on the rise with more of the financial responsibility being placed on the employee.  The premiums on health insurance for Federal and Postal employees will slightly increase but with no real impact on the average employee because of the size of the Federal workforce.  Some other employees outside of the Federal government might not fair as well.  Much depends on the size of the organization and the strength of the company’s revenue stream.

Many Federal employees have spouses who work in jobs outside of the Federal service and have chosen to use the non-Federal benefits to cover health care costs for their families.  As Open Season approaches, it is good time to evaluate the Federal health care benefits (FEHB) available to you and your family.  If you are in the position of deciding between Federal benefits and non-Federal benefits just line up the offerings side-by-side and carefully assess what is offered for each and what  your family is more likely to need.

Except for what is termed -Golden Handcuff- benefits, it will be hard to find benefits that out rival those offered by the Federal government because of shear numbers.  Federal benefits cover over 10 million active and retired employees and their families.  Therefore, before waiving your rights to Federal health benefits coverage make sure you are sitting down with your family and your benefits specialist to make certain you are not making a decision that will cause anxiety in the future.

Another thing to remember, don’t be embarrassed by asking a benefits specialist or some other professional with an in-depth knowledge of benefits to help you sort out your situation.  I think it would be too presumptuous to say that no other benefits package can compare to what is offered to Federal employees.  However, it  is relatively safe to say that it will be hard to find a benefits package more comprehensive than what is offered to Federal employees at a highly affordable cost.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Open Season Articles

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Time To Gear Up For Open Season

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What Federal Employees Need Prior to Open Season

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Open Season and Other Benefits

Enrollment For Federal Employee Benefits

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) no longer has an Open Season.  Employees may start, stop or change their TSP contributions or participation in the TSP at any time.

The Fe Federal Employee Benefitsderal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) also does not conduct an annual Open Season.  Employees can apply anytime for FLTCIP.  There is a full-underwriting whenever you make the decision to participate in FLTCIP.  Remember, the cost of long-term care insurance rises with age.  The best time to enroll in a plan is prior to turning 50.

The Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) also does not have an Open Season.  I can only remember two Open Seasons conducted by FEGLI (MetLife).  However, employees may make changes in FEGLI at any time. Coverage can be decreased or waived by completing SF-2817 and forwarding it to your agency Benefits Office.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Open Season Articles

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What Federal Employees Need Prior to Open Season

Will Insurance Premiums Rise For Federal Employees?

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What Federal Employees Need Prior To Open Season

Open Season Requirements

tense time for federal employees

Open Season can be a very tense time for federal employees because of the many decisions to be made.  Circumstances and conditions in families change and employees need to be ready to address those changes.  Having information available prior to the beginning of the Open Season assists employees with making critical decisions.  Personnel charged with facilitating the Open Season and who work with Federal Benefits are responsible for providing the employees within their agency with certain materials both in hard copy and on the agency’s internal mechanism for agency-wide communication.

It is recommended that a Check List be provided so that employees will have the benefit of checking off what they need in order to get prepared for the changes that might take place for them individually in Open Season.

A list of resources is also recommended to be available for employees and the specific benefits they are interested in or are seeking relevant and additional information.

An easy to understand explanation of how the benefits offered to Federal employees work in tandem to cover the entire health care needs of employees and their families – FEHB, FEDVIP and FSAFEDS is also recommended.

It is very important that employees take advantage of this pre-preparation time and talk to the benefits office to make certain they have all the information needed to make critical and sound decisions about their health care needs.  Making changes involving health care needs are simplest during Open Season.  However, if an employee needs to make changes after the Open Season period ends, there are circumstances by which this can happen so classified as a Life Event.

Work with your Benefits Office so that you understand what your options are for you and your family.  Write down a list of questions and check them against your Open Season Checklist to make certain you are ready to protect the most important asset you and your family will ever own – Your Good Health.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

 

Open Season Articles

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Time To Gear Up For Open Season

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Will Insurance Premiums Rise For Federal Employees?

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Benefits Specialists / Programs

What Specialists Are Available To Help Federal Employees With Benefit Selections

Benefit SelectionsIndividuals charged with overseeing benefits and helping to organize benefits and health-care fairs receive information needed each year from OPM in order to make Open Season happen in their individual agencies.  These personnel receive from the Office of Health Care and Insurance:
Guides on Rider Information
Information booklets and materials- how to order the materials and distribute them during Open Season.
Information and directions on how to conduct the Open Season both in general and agency specific.
Significant event information is also distributed to agency personnel tasked with conducting the Open Season and
Information impacting specific plans in FEDVIP and FEHB.

Often times employees not tasked with Open Season responsibilities do not appreciate the tremendous amount of time and preparation that goes into making the Open Season happen.  The personnel under the guidance of the Office of Health Care and Insurance must be able to answer a series of questions and inquiries to include contact information about participating carriers.

The Office of Health Care and Insurance provides FastFacts on Federal Benefits and so many other factors relevant to helping Federal employees make wise and cost conscious decisions about what is best for them and their families.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Open Season Related Articles

What You Can Do In Open Season

Federal employeesOpen Season is an annual event for Federal employees.  During Open Season, employees may do the following:

Enroll in a flexible spending account program (FSAFEDS) which is a health care and/or dependent care account.  Participation in the program requires enrollment each year.  The program does not continue like FEHB and FEGLI without re-enrollment.  The maximum annual election for the Health Care Flexible Spencing Account and the Limited Expense Health Care Flexible Spending Account is $2,500 for 2015.

The maximum annual election for 2015 is $5,000 for a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account.  Also the minimum election for the flexible spending account has changed from $250 to $100 for 2015.

Employees can also enroll, change, of cancel an existing enrollment in their dental and/or vision plans under FEDVIP.   The same holds true for the health plans under FEHB.  There is no Open Season for life insurance under FEGLI.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Open Season Articles

What is a TransFERS

Time To Gear Up For Open Season

Postal LiteBlue and Open Season

2014 Open Season

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Will Insurance Premiums Rise For Federal Employees?

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2014 Open Season

2014 Open Season for Federal Employees

Postal employeesActive Federal & Postal employees, retirees and their families should be on the look-out for Open Season which starts Monday, November 10, 2014 and continues through Monday, December 8, 2014.  Open Season allows Federal Employees to make changes and add a qualified family member to their plan among other things.  It is also a time to speak with your carrier and the FEHB representatives in your agency to ask questions and seek counsel about your benefits plan.

The Open Season covers health benefits (FEHB), dental and vision (FEDVIP), the flexible spending account (FSAFEDS).  In order to help the process of choosing a suitable plan for you and your family, OPM has compiled a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC).  The SBC allows employees to make comparisons in costs, coverage, deductibles, co-pays, and out of pocket limits.  The SBC also outlines for employees what services are available and covered and what services are not available and therefore not covered under a particular plan.

OPM offers the SBC for ease of comparison and a short-hand version of the many plans offered to Federal employees.  However, in order to get a more detailed understanding of the plans and what they offer, it is always recommended that employees review and evaluate the plan brochure of the provider they are interested in.

There will most likely be a number of health fairs employees can attend in order to gain additional information.  Also don’t forget about the use of the website to see what your plan covers.  All FEHB plans are on OPM’s website for the convenience of all Federal employees, active and retired.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Open Season Articles

What is a TransFERS

Time To Gear Up For Open Season

Postal LiteBlue and Open Season

What Federal Employees Need Prior to Open Season

Will Insurance Premiums Rise For Federal Employees?

Open Season

 

How Are My Benefits Handled If I Transfer Systems

TransFERS

Benefits Handled

Federal employees under the old civil service system – CSRS and the interim plan CSRS Offset had the option during two open seasons (1987 and 1998) to transfer to the new retirement system – FERS.  Another condition was also possible to make the transfer – reemployment.  If you were rehired under CSRS or CSRS Offset within 6 you could transfer to FERS; however, making the election would involve  doing some administrative housekeeping where the following rules would apply:

Federal Employees: Rules for Transferring to FERS

-All survivor and disability benefits would be paid under the rules governing FERS.
-When you enroll in FERS you will have Social Security coverage.
-The combined service credits for both CSRS and FERS will count towards the years needed to qualify for retirement, disability, survivor benefits and the Thrift Savings Plan benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System.
-The credit you earned in CSRS will be effectively frozen.  Your combined CSRS and FERS annuity will still be based on the average of the highest three consecutive years of earnings.
-Now that you are covered under FERS you will receive Government contributions to your TSP account.
-A full Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) COLA  will be received on the CSRS’s portion of your annuity.
-Unused sick leave is credited under CSRS rules based on the accrued amount of sick leave at the date of transfer or at retirement.   The lesser number will be used.
-Once you have transferred to FERS from CSRS or CSRS Offset  your service will be treated under the FERS plan

In addition, when you transfer to FERS with 5 years or less of non-Offset CSRS service all of your service will be treated under the rules governing FERS.

When you convert from an appointment that is excluded from FERS coverage to an appointment that is covered under FERS you will automatically be covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System.  If you are not automatically covered you will have a 6-month window to transfer to the retirement system.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Open Season Articles

What is a TransFERS

Time To Gear Up For Open Season

Postal LiteBlue and Open Season

2014 Open Season

What Federal Employees Need Prior to Open Season

Will Insurance Premiums Rise For Federal Employees?

Open Season

 

How Ready Are You For Retirement?

Ready Are You For Retirement?• Have you quantified your financial objectives?  In other words, have you estimated how much money you will need to live the life you desire in retirement?

• Have you saved enough in your TSP Account?

• For Postal Employees – Are your Retirement Elections up to date in LiteBlue?

• Have you set appropriate goals for retirement?

• Do you have doable strategies to achieve those goals?

• Can you itemize the strategies to achieve the goals you have set for retirement?

• Do you know where all your important records are?

• Have you informed someone you trust about your important records?

• Do you have your spending under control and what strategies have you used to control your spending?

• Do you know how you spend every single dollar and cent?

• Do you keep a spending chart so that you can actually determine what you are spending, how you are spending and if changes need to be made?

• Are you saving enough money?

• Have you prepared an estimated retirement budget and devised steps to help you operate within your budget?

• Do you intend to leave a big inheritance to your children, other family members, or a charity?  If so, have you set aside money or made provisions to accomplish that goal?

• Have you thought about where you will live in retirement and the cost involved?

• What would you do in the event of an unexpected and extended disability before you retire?

• Do you have an emergency fund?

• If you are a couple, are both parties completely aware of the status of the financial situation?

• If something happens to either of the parties,  is each member capable of managing the family’s finances independently?

• Are you taking full and total advantage of any tax-deferred savings options offered by your employer?

• If you have dependents that rely on your income for survival, what plans have you put in place in the event of your death?

• Are you taking care of your health so that you can have a good quality of life in your retirement years?
There are many more retirement readiness questions we could pose, but I think we have sufficient fuel to allow us to take a good look at our readiness for retirement.   Remember if you have not done any of the things listed, it’s ok, you need only make them a part of your individual action plan and get started activating that plan as part of your goal to Retire Well.

P.S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Dianna Tafazoli

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Critical Ages For Federal Retirement

Critical Ages

There are Critical Ages that Federal Employees should be aware of.  These ages represent opportunities for Federal Employees who might want to maximize their retirement benefits.

Federal Employee ~~ Age 50

• Begin age-based catch-up to defined contribution plans and individual retirement accounts (IRA).  Beginning with the year you reach age 50, Federal law allows you to defer a certain dollar amount per year to a qualified defined retirement plan.   The catch-up amount is $5,000, indexed in $500 increments.  The age-based catch-up amount for IRA contributions is $1,000.
Federal Employee ~~ Age 55
• After separation from service, you may begin withdrawing from your TSP or another qualified plan without paying a 10 percent penalty tax.
Federal Employee ~~ Age 59.5
• You may begin withdrawing from qualified retirement plans, if retired, or from an IRA without incurring the 10 percent penalty.  At 59.5 Federal employees can also take an in-service distribution – rolling their TSP account balance into an IRA with a private company and giving themselves more investment options.
Federal Employee ~~ Age 62
• You can begin receiving your Social Security benefits; however, the amount may be reduced by as much as 30 percent, depending on the date of your birth.
Federal Employee ~~ Age 63.5
• The Federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) law makes health insurance in most employers’ group health plans available for at least 18 months after separation; however, you bear the full cost, including the portion previously paid by your employer (plus a small administrative fee).  Upon age 65 and your enrollment in Medicare Part B, Federal law requires access to Medigap health insurance at standard rates.  Combining COBRA and Medigap effectively ensures access to health insurance beginning at age 63.5
Federal Employee ~~ Age 65 – 67
• Depending on your date of birth, you may begin unreduced Social Security benefits at some point during this age range.  Further, you may earn any amount without reducing this benefit.
Federal Employee ~~ Age 65
• You may enroll in Medicare, if eligible, and purchase Medigap insurance at standard rates.  Your Medigap open enrollment period lasts for six months starting on the first day of the month in which you are 1) at least age 65 and  enrolled in Medicare Part B.  During this period, an insurance company cannot deny you a Medigap policy, make you wait for coverage, or charge you more for a Medigap policy because of your health.
Federal Employee ~~ Age 70
• You may begin maximum Social Security benefits, if the starting date was delayed to this age.  There is no advantage to delaying benefits past this age.
Federal Employee ~~ Age 70.5
• Required minimum distributions from qualified plans, IRAs, and deferred compensation plans begin the year after you turn 70.5.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

RELATED TSP ARTICLES

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Withdrawal Options

For Postal Employees – LiteBlue and the TSP

Federal and Postal Employees – Choosing a Financial Professional

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

Is All ‘Your’ TSP Money Actually Yours?

Federal Retirement Benefit Analysis

How To Best Fund Your TSP

Records To Check Before Retirement

It is best to make certain all of your records are in place when anticipating retirement.  Tips to get in shape for retirement.

-Review your designation of beneficiary for the lump sum payment of retirement contributions when no one is eligible for monthly payments.

– If a copy is not in your folder, file a new designation. The designation is made on

Standard Form 2808 for CSRS and Standard Form 3102 for FERS.  Make sure

the form shows very clearly the person(s) you want designated.

FERS transfers and any prior designation made for CSRS is cancelled.  You may want

to file a FERS designation.  Automatic transfers to FERS from CSRS,- the designation

will remain in force.

If there is no designation of beneficiary, benefits will be paid as follows:

  1.  Your widow or widower.
  2.  Your children in equal shares.
  3.  Your parents in equal shares.
  4.  Your appointed executor or administrator of your estate.
  5.  Your next of kin under the laws of the state you reside in when you die.
  • What records are needed for my health benefits?

Inside of your OPF should be a record of all of your health benefit registration forms (Standard Form 2809) and where appropriate Standard Form 2810, Notice of Change in Health Benefits.  When you retire be absolutely certain that your official records show a complete history of your health insurance enrollment for the last five years.  Your records should include your current Federal life insurance coverage on a Standard Form 2817, “Life Insurance election”, and where appropriate, a current life insurance designation of beneficiary (Standard Form 2823).

P. S. Always Remember to Share What You Know.

TSP ARTICLES

For Postal Employees – LiteBlue and the TSP

Federal and Postal Employees – Choosing a Financial Professional

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

Is All ‘Your’ TSP Money Actually Yours?

Federal Retirement Benefit Analysis

How To Best Fund Your TSP

Is Your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Working For You?

 

For Federal Employees – Tips To Creating A Retirement Budget

Federal Employees and Retirement Budgets

A Retirement BudgetYou don’t have to follow any particular format for creating a budget except to measure income against expenses.  The tips below might help you get started.

  • Determine a time horizon for tracking your income and expenses.
  • Outline all of your sources of income and then total the sources.
  • Outline all of your expenses, everything you spend money on.  Break down your expenses into variable and fixed income so that you can really see where there is room to make adjustments if needed. Total all of your expenses.  Remember “savings” are a fixed expense; therefore you must pay yourself first (PYF).
  • Subtract your expenses from your income.  If expenses outweigh income, you have some work to do in the ‘adjustments’ arena.  If income outweighs expenses, then you should consider paying yourself a little more so that your financial goals might be achieved earlier than planned.  Plans are made to be flexible and this is good flexibility.
  • Now that you have the tools necessary to develop both a financial plan and a budget, take sometime to compare one to the other and see how they mesh and if any refurbishing  needs to be done.  Your spending plan should be in harmony with your financial goals. Do this often throughout your life.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

LiteBlue and TSP RELATED ARTICLES

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Withdrawal Options

For Postal Employees – LiteBlue and the TSP

Federal and Postal Employees – Choosing a Financial Professional

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

Is All ‘Your’ TSP Money Actually Yours?

Federal Retirement Benefit Analysis

How To Best Fund Your TSP

Budgeting And Federal Employee Financial Plans

Retirement Budget

For Federal and Postal Employees, building a budget carries equal weight to building a financial plan.  

Envision constructing a house – The financial plan is the front door to your dwelling and the budget is the back door, both are necessary if you expect to be safe and secure.

Having a sound financial plan and a budget are paramount to a successful retirement future.  Having a budget allows us to direct money towards goals we establish in our financial plan.  The budget acts like a navigation system, it directs our course, but only if we stick to it.  Sounds familiar, a financial plan only works if you follow it and a budget is only a good navigator if you heed the directions given.  A budget, like a financial plan is not etched in stone, but is meant to be flexible and SMART.

Primary Elements of a Federal Employee Retirement Budget

There are two primary elements to a Federal Employee retirement budget – income and expenses.  Income may be derived from various sources: employment, interests from savings and investments.  Expenses are summed up in our wants and needs.  There must always be a very careful balancing act between income and expenses.  When expenses become more than income, we run the risk of running out of money and that is exactly what we don’t want to do in retirement or at any other time for that matter.  The budget helps us to rein in spending and make wise choices that will keep our income and expenses in harmony.

As we approach retirement it will become even more critical that we recognize what our spending habits are and employ definite strategies to ensure they fit into our financial plan and are guided by a sound budget.

When we spend money it is generally for expenses that are either fixed, variable or occasional.  Most of us spend money and then think about saving what ever is left over.  When we mentioned earlier the concept of PYF or pay yourself first, it is meant to do exactly that.  Pay yourself first in the form of savings right off the top of your income.  It need not be a particularly large amount, but it must be defined and consistent.  Savings must be entered in the budget as a part of “fixed” expenses.  If we treat “savings” as a variable or occasional expense, it is very clear that we will be met with significant challenges in meeting our financial goals in the future.

Federal Employee Retirement Budget

Creating a budget is easy enough.  We need only list all income against all expenses to see where we stand.  If expenses outweigh income, then we need to make some immediate adjustments.  Most of us simply run out of money or find that we don’t have enough, without outlining everything in a budget so that we can actually see how we are spending our money.  SMART budgets must be updated regulary throughout our lives.  Remember as events change in our lives, we will very necessarily have to adjust our budget, our financial goals and the way we spend money.

There are many software programs that will allow you to monitor your budget and to stay on track by keeping your expenses and income in a spreadsheet.  A budget is your spending plan about what you can do with your money.  Warren Buffet knows exactly how much money is coming in, how much will be spent on bills and day-to-day expenses and how much to set aside for meeting large financial goals.  People who are SMART with their money, no matter how much or how little, know where their money goes because they have a plan.

Once you build a budget you will know that you have mastered the objective of creating a  budget when your budget is balanced to show that total income equals total expenses and that your budget supports each of your financial goals.  It’s your money.  You have worked hard for it and now you must make it work SMART for you!

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know,

LiteBlue Related Pages

What Is LiteBlue?

LiteBlue; Online Access to More Than Just Your USPS Earnings Statement

PostalEase / LiteBlue

What Postal Employees Should Do On LiteBlue Before Retirement

Changing Your LiteBlue / PostalEase Password Through ssp.USPS.gov

eRetire for Postal Employees – Retirement Applications on LiteBlue