Inflation and the Timeframe of Your Retirement. By: Brad Furges

public sector retirement - PSR - Inflation and the Timeframe of Your Retirement

With the growing inflation, an increasing number of federal employees are doing the figures to determine the financial benefits of working for another year or two. For many, the answer is startling: much more money in retirement for working a few years longer.

Example:

According to benefits expert, a Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employee earning $80,000 per year may increase their starting annuity by over $30,000 by staying on for another two years. That is a lot of money by any standard. Both now and later.

The FERS plan covers the great majority of still-working public workers. While it doesn’t have as generous civil service benefit as the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) scheme it replaced, FERS employees are eligible for Social Security benefits as well as a 5% government match to their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts. Retiring under the FERS program might be more complicated since it has more moving pieces and various requirements. But it’s well worth it if done right. Working longer for a greater pension allows many FERS retirees to put off accessing their TSP savings for years.

FERS employees must maximize their retirement benefits since FERS retirees are subject to the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) scheme opposite of their CSRS colleagues. In short, when inflation goes beyond 2% (as it’ll this year), retirees receive inflation catchup that is 1% less than the actual increase in inflation. The January 2022 COLA for CSRS, Social Security, and military retirees, for example, is 6%. Those on the FERS program will receive only 5%. Compounding-in-reverse indicates substantially reduced purchasing power over time.

So, aside from the obvious, what are the disadvantages of working longer than planned? 

According to a benefits expert, the $80,000 per year employee may increase their starting annuity by about $30,000 by working two more years, from age 60 to age 62. At the same time, they can also draw a full salary, qualify for pay increases and within-grade increments, and increase their high-3 year average salary.

Interested?

A benefits expert came up with this example of how postponing retirement may benefit you a great deal. Of course, there are several more factors to consider. However, money, as in having enough in your golden years, is a major one. You may use this example of an $80K employee working longer to receive more in retirement. Here’s the example:

Length of Service at 60: 19 years

    • 19 x $80,000 x 1% = $15,200 x .90 = $13,680 (10% reduction under the MRA + 10 retirement as employee didn’t have 20 years of service at age 60 to be eligible for an unreduced retirement)

Length of Service at 61: 20 years

    • 20 x $80,000 x 1% = $16,000 + $12,000 = $28,000 (The additional $12,000 is a FERS supplement of $1,000 a month payable to age 62 when retiree can file for SSA and receive an even greater SSA benefit depending on their lifetime of FICA taxed wages)

Length of Service at 62: 21 years

    • 21 x $80,000 x 1.1% = $18,400 + $24,000 = $42,480 (The $24,000 is the SSA benefit payable at age 62 of $2,000 a month from their lifetime of FICA taxed wages)

 

Of course, the individual who left at 60 may claim their SSA benefit, but the shortfall in their FERS basic retirement income would still be close to $5,000 per year or $600 per month – for life! They would have benefited from adding two more years at their presumably best earning years to their SSA record, as well as two additional years of contributions and growth to their TSP account.

They may withdraw $24,000 per year from their TSP account to get $43,000 per year by deferring SSA claims until age 70 and then taking considerably lower payments from the TSP to fulfill the required minimum distributions at 72.

Definitely one to have in your retirement planning toolbox. Also, don’t forget to forward it to a FERS friend.

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