Joe Ramos
Director of Retired Members
Outlook November / December 2019

Two Incomes versus One

My first day of retirement began on December 31, 1999. I was 55 and had 35 years of service in the Postal Service. Soon after my retirement, I began working for our Branch Credit Union; thanks to Mr. Booker Rue who hired me to work as a clerk. I decided to take the position because I was still young, capable of working and needed something to do in my spare time. I figured it would also help my family out financially to have that added income.

Not long after that, Branch President Frank Orapello offered me a full-time position at the Branch. I must say I was happy and excited to work full time again and even happier when my yearly income increased because it helped my contribution towards Social Security. At the time of my retirement, I only acquired 32 credits and needed to contribute more to qualify for Social Security benefits. The whole time I was in the Civil Service, I was not contributing money into my Social Security Account. I needed 40 credits in order to collect Social Security. Thanks to the union and the Credit Union, I have been able to earn my Social Security Benefits.

I have been married to my lovely wife, Alice for 52 years and through my own observations, I must tell you if you are contemplating retirement one of the best formulas for a comfortable retirement is to be married. I kid you not; it is much easier to live off two incomes than to live off one. When you retire, expenses begin to mount. Simple things like housing are much easier to afford when two people are contributing to the household. There are financial benefits to being married; one example is you are able to collect Social Security based on your spouse’s income.

My wife retired in 2010 at the age of 62 and collects Social Security and a pension from her hospital job. I must admit, when couples retire together it is a shock for two people to spend so much time together. Marriage, however, makes things simpler when it comes to money. Two retirement incomes are far better than one. One thing is certain, it isn’t easy being married for 52 years. Even my wife will tell you that.

A family earning one income can also collect Social Security based on their spouse’s earnings and can be used as a supplemental income in retirement. A spouse can be entitled to Spousal benefits even if they are divorced or widowed. If one spouse had a significantly lower income than the other, the benefit for the lower earning spouse could be a full 50% of the higher spouse’s earned income. These options could all increase the couple’s overall benefits in retirement. Even when both spouses aren’t working and saving for retirement, Social Security can add to a couple’s dual income in ways a single person wouldn’t be entitled to upon retirement. Being married 5 or 10 years before retirement offers certain entitlements as well. In this day and age, two incomes are better than one.

Outlook September / October 2019

Census 2020

When it comes to the Census, older Americans are more likely to complete the forms than any other age group. As the country gears up for the 2020 Census, next March, a big change will be implemented. The majority of census forms will be completed largely online, experts say, rather than by the usual paper forms.

A recent U.S. Census Bureau Survey found that 56 percent of those 65 and older aren’t comfortable with an online response and prefer to fill out a paper census form. Steve Jost, a former Census Bureau official, acknowledged widespread concern over privacy and cyber security by people age 50 and over. He realizes it will be a challenge to get many older Americans on board.

The stakes are high. In 2016, for example, more than 300 federally funded programs relied on Census data to distribute more than $675 billion dollars to states and localities. Included in that massive distribution are: schools, roads, hospitals and programs that aid older Americans such as Medicare Part B. These are perfect examples of why everyone must participate in this program. Be on the lookout for postcards, between March 12th and March 20th for an invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census. All those who do not respond will receive the traditional paper form in their mailbox. If a household does not respond, the bureau will send a census taker to knock on that door to collect the household data. All those who live in areas the bureau have determined most likely to lack Broadband Internet Service will receive the traditional form in the mail

Looking for a Job? Be a Census Taker
The Census Bureau is recruiting over 400,000 temporary workers to take on the massive job of counting fellow Americans. The bureau is hiring Census Takers who go door-to-door to help people fill out the Census forms, as well as office and supervisory positions. The job will last several weeks. This job will be excellent for older Americans and retirees who are looking for flexible work from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Most positions require a driver’s license and access to a vehicle, unless public transportation is available. Some positions may require evening or weekend work. An application can be completed online at the Census Bureau website in about 30 minutes. The website also list wages, which will vary based on location. To get started go to
Outlook July / August 2019

Regarding Retirement

Q: How can an employee retire from the government with only 11.5 years of service?
A: There are two ways one can retire with 11.5 years of service. First, anyone with at least 5 years of service can retire at age 62. Secondly, anyone with at least 10 years of service can retire at the minimum retirement age. (MRA’s range from 55 to 57 years, depending on the year of birth) However, the annuity would be reduced by 5 percent (5/12 of 1 percent per month) for each year that the retiree was under age 62.

What options are there for a 53-year-old with 21 years of service?
There is only one option: You can resign and because you have at least 20 years of service, you have the right to apply for deferred retirement at age 60.

What is the best month to retire from the federal government?
The most recommendable retirement date for a FERS employee is the last day of December. That date comes with the most significant financial benefit. The best date for retirement for CSRS employees is in the beginning of January.
Many individuals often relate retirement to finances and maximizing income while minimizing potential losses. There is no specific best day to retire; it’s all about personal preference. Therefore, the best day may differ from one person to the next. You can choose to retire whichever day you want, provided you meet the age and length of service requirements.
For starters, what does your retirement day really mean? It can be termed: your last day as an employee. Retirement day and the effective day of retirement is basically the same thing, it’s the last day for your name to appear on the list of federal employees. You should note that your last day at the office is different from your retirement day since being out of the office does not necessary mean that you are retired.
It is recommendable for FERS to retire at the end of any given month and for CSRS to retire within the first three days of the month to secure the best outcome

Why at the end of the month?
The end of the month is the best time due to the provision that states that your annuity commences at the start of every month after retirement. For example, if you retire on April 30, your pension will commence on May 1. This means that there will be no gap between the date when you earn your salary and when you earn annuity.
If you chose to retire on April 6, for example, it means that you will not earn any salary or annuity for that month for the dates from April 7th through April 30th because you will no longer be considered an employee. You will instead start earning annuity on May 1st. Nobody likes that kind of gap with regards to annuity. This standard is different from CSRS’s standard rule. If you are CSRS and you retire on the last day of the month or the first three days of any month, your annuity will commence on the retirement day. Those three days may seem insignificant, but they will in fact help you earn full pay, and you will also get to earn additional annuity.
In conclusion, PICK THE RIGHT DAY!

Outlook May / June 2019

Some Misconceptions about FEHB

There happens to be a lot of misconceptions about how the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHB) works in regards to retirement. Some people believe that the health benefits are lost completely upon retirement, while others assume they are solely responsible for the entire premium payment.

First let’s begin with how an employee becomes eligible to keep the FEHB Program upon retirement. A federal employee must be a member of the plan on the day of retirement and covered under it for the five years leading up to that day. Most employees are aware of the five year rule; however, many are not clear on what the five year rule actually means. It does not mean that the employee has to be in one specific plan for each of those five years. Employees are permitted to change carriers, plans and or coverage types within that five year timeframe. Likewise, if two federal employees are married to one another, they are permitted to switch between plans without any disruption to their eligibility and with keeping FEHB upon retirement.

One very common misconception is that employees believe the government will no longer pay a portion of the FEHB premium when an employee retires and that is simply not true. The government will continue to pay roughly 72% of the overall premium, which means that the retiree will continue to pay the same percentage (roughly 28%).

Premiums that employees and retirees pay are exactly the same, with one minor exception upon retirement. Active postal workers pay less for their FEHB coverage, but retirees’ premiums will mirror regular federal employees and therefore increase some. The premium will rise upon retirement simply because the postal service is no longer offsetting the cost.

One particular FEHB program with great benefits is the NALC Health Benefit Plan. For example, if an employee is covered under the NALC Health Benefit Plan, with the high-family option (plan 322), the employee would be paying about $181.00 a pay period for that coverage while working and would remain about the same upon retirement. The only real difference is that retirees pay their premium on a monthly basis rather than bi-weekly. Next year, when premiums change, it will come equally for employees and retirees

Outlook March / April 2019
After nearly a decade of battering, 2019 could be the make or break year for the Federal Employee Retirement System. Although most current retirees are under the old Civil Service Retirement System, FERS covers 95 percent of feds currently on the job.

This year will be a repeat of previous legislative assaults on the federal benefits package, but with one key difference, Democrats are running the House. Most of the House Republicans who repeatedly tried to cut costs in the massive FERS program which covers CIA agents, NASA scientists, and letter carriers are either gone from Congress or relegated by the 2016 Midterm Elections to minority status. And the House committees that handle civil service matters and appropriations are now controlled by long serving Democrats who represent sizable numbers of working retired feds. Republicans in the Senate, who gained seats as a result of the election, have been indifferent to feds or helpful by blocking proposals of the House and White House or actually pushing federal pay raises. Changes in the FERS Program are the number one goal of both friends and critics of the Civil Service benefits package. That includes: semi-automatic longevity pay raises for one, two or three years; 401 K plan with a 5 percent government match; guaranteed paid vacations and sick leave that can be accumulated and applied toward retirement credit. After salaries and expenses, retirement represents the biggest cost to the government as an employer.

Proposals to change FERS include a soon-to-be revived White House and GOP House plan that would reduce future cost of living adjustments for the majority of current retirees and eliminate them for workers who retire in the future. Under the CSRS Program, annuitants get annual cost of living adjustments the same as people under Social Security; beneficiaries get a 4 percent COLA in January.

People under the FERS plan get so-called diet COLAs, meaning that if inflation hits 4 percent, they would get a 3 percent COLA under current rules. If Congress OK’d the Republican budget plans of the past there would be no COLAs ever in the future for FERS retirees. Over time, inflation will erode the value of their frozen pensions.

With Democrats in control of the House, groups representing workers and retirees will push for enactment of the Fair COLA for Seniors Act. It’s been introduced by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA). If it became law, future COLAs for federal-military-Social Security retirees would be based on the CPI-E. it’s an index aimed at determining the actual rise in inflation for people ages 62 and older who typically have much higher medical costs. Using the CPI-E in place of the CPI-W would almost certainly mean much higher COLAs for retirees in the future. Currently COLAs for retired feds, military personnel and people getting Social Security are based on the (CONSUMER PRICE INDEX-W).

The fact that Congress is divided and that the administration already has a lot on its plate means it is unlikely the federal benefits package will be under major assault this year. But whether it is or not the fact that the House and Senate are under different management is probably a good omen for both federal workers and retirees.


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