About 18598293

What To Do First When a Loved One Dies

By: Marc Levine, Esquire

Published: February 2024

The emotional aspect of dealing with the passing of a loved one, even if expected – can be distressing, but often the most stressful and overwhelming part comes right after, when you start thinking about the practicalities of what to do next. It is very easy, and common, to lose sight of a clear path for this journey.

What are some of the practical considerations when a loved one dies? A lot of estate planning is about planning for low-probability / high-impact events – such as an early or unexpected death, as well as planning for the reality that all of us will pass at some point. This is one of the most important aspects of what we do – helping people navigate what can be a very complicated and often upsetting maze of what has to be done after someone dies.

Continue reading

Smart Money Tips for the New Year

By: Karen P. Schaeffer, CFP®

Published: January 2024

 

Happy New Year! 

 

Quick, before the optimism of the season gives way to the same-old money habits, here are some smart money tips to ensure a prosperous new year.

 

  • Review 2023. The music has stopped on spending for last year. Are you pleased with your choices, or are adjustments in order? Any significant changes coming in 2024? It’s easier to be prepared with a little from each paycheck.
  • Practice mindful spending.  Take another look at all those subscriptions and re-evaluate their value to your quality of life.  Classify big ticket purchases as either a want or a need and ensure they align with your values and priorities.

Continue reading

Year-End Financial Planning

By: Brian Kurrus, CFP®

Published: December 2023

 

The end of the year is a great time to review your financial plan and complete changes as you head into the new year. Here are some important year-end items to review.
 
1.  Maximize your 2023 retirement plan contributions to TSP by December 31st. You can max out your TSP with contributions of $22,500 and a $7,500 catch-up for those turning 50 or older this year. You could also adjust your 2024 contributions; Federal employees can contribute up to $23,000 in 2024 with a $7,500 catch-up for those eligible. 
 
Interested in funding an IRA or Roth IRA? You have until the April 2024 tax filing deadline to make eligible contributions. However, if you have any required RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) these funds must be withdrawn by December 31st in most circumstances.
 

Continue reading

Chips and Two Aces

TRICARE Plus FEHB – A Possible Health Benefits “Ace in the Hole” Arrangement When You Retire

By: Bob Braunstein, Federal Benefits Specialist

Published: December 2023

 

Are you military retired? Are you planning to retire from civilian service at the end of a year? Then this article is for you. During the next Open Season consider enrolling in an FEHB plan to gain your Ace in the Hole. Follow the instructions in this article and you will have additional health insurance in reserve for the rest of your life. You will only need to pay for it when needed.
 
Military retirees who retire from the Federal civilian service have a little-known health insurance option that may be too good to pass up. For a very low cost, they have the ability to expand their health insurance networks beyond TRICARE to include an FEHB program. And when the FEHB coverage is no longer needed, they can suspend paying for it. To have this option, one would need to be under active FEHB coverage upon retiring from civilian service. FEHB coverage in retirement for non-military retirees typically requires having the coverage for at least 5 continuous years immediately prior to separating/retiring. But, if one has TRICARE, this coverage is included in the 5 years provided they are also covered by an active FEHB plan when they retire.
 
 

Continue reading

How To Use Health Insurance Open Season to Reduce Your Tax Liability

By:  Tom O’Rourke, Counsel

Published:  November 2023

 

The annual health insurance Open Season offers Federal employees an opportunity to not only provide for their health coverage, but also to reduce their income tax liability. For 2023, the Open Season is from November 13 through December 11, 2023. During this period, Federal employees will be able to select their health insurance coverage for 2024. Regardless of the plan selected, it will also provide certain tax benefits.

 

The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHB) is structured so that all premiums are paid on a pre-tax basis. By paying premiums with pre-tax dollars, an employee will save as much as from $2,000 to $7,000 in state and Federal income taxes. The exact savings realized by any individual will depend on the cost of their insurance coverage and their state and Federal tax bracket.

 

Continue reading

What Happens After You Retire?

By: Ray Kirk, Ph.D., Federal Benefits Specialist

Published: October 2023

 

 

“What happens next?” and “When do I start getting my annuity payments?”. 
These are two questions frequently asked by employees nearing retirement and recently retired employees. This article will explain the steps in the retirement application process and estimated timelines.

 

OPM recently posted a Retirement Quick Guide designed to help you better understand the next steps after retirement. The graphic below from OPM lays out the key steps and average time for processing a retirement application.

Continue reading

Your Social Security Retirement Benefit: What Income Determines It?

By:  Bob Braunstein, Federal Benefits Specialist

Published: September 2023

 

When you file for your Social Security benefit, the amount you receive is generally based on your work earnings – income that you earned while working subject to the Social Security payroll tax.  Your benefit could otherwise be based on the work history of a spouse or former spouse, or as a survivor of either if it is higher than your work-based amount.
 
When married and claiming a Social Security entitlement benefit, you are deemed to be filing for a spousal benefit if: 1) your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, and 2) your spouse’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) is more than twice the size of your work-based entitlement. PIA is the amount claimed at one’s Full Retirement Age or FRA (generally between ages 66 and 67 based on year of birth). 

Continue reading

Financial FAQs

By: Brian Kurrus, CFP®

Published: August 2023

 

Financial planning brings many questions on the path to retirement but some questions seem to come up more often than others.  Here are some of the most common frequently asked questions and key strategies to keep in mind. 
 
Should I pay off debt or invest?
 
Debt can come via credit cards, student loans, car loans, home equity loans, and our mortgage among other places. Should we pay the minimum balance and maximize investments into TSP and other savings or prioritize paying down the debt first? First, what is the interest rate and how does it compare to the expected rate of return? If your savings account is earning 2% per year and your credit card is costing you 15%, that’s an easy one. Take what you can from savings and immediately pay down the debt as it is costing you more than you are earning. You also want to factor in any tax implications. Is the liability creating a tax deduction and what are the tax implications for the investments?
 

Continue reading

Medicare and FEHB – What You Need To Know

By: Herb Casey, Federal Benefits Specialist

Published: July 2023

 

As a Federal employee or Federal retiree, you probably have had questions about how Medicare and Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) work together. This article will help you understand the four most common Medicare Parts (A, B, C and D) available once you are eligible for Medicare and how they work with FEHB.

Generally, you are eligible for Medicare if you are age 65 or older and are retired from Federal service.  Medicare becomes the primary insurance payer and your FEHB plan is the secondary payer.  If you are still employed at age 65, your FEHB plan is still primary. You are not required to sign up for Medicare while you are still working and for up to eight months after retiring.

All FEHB plans will adjust benefits payable so that they supplement rather than duplicate Medicare benefits. If Medicare is the primary payer, it generally will pay its allowable benefits in full and your FEHB plan will pay a reduced benefit as the secondary payer.

Continue reading

Federal Benefits FAQs

Published:  June 2023

 

We asked our Federal Benefits Presenters to share questions that are most frequently asked during their presentations.
 
Question: My spouse and I are both Federal employees and want to know whether we should leave survivor benefits to each other.

 

Answer: There are important reasons you may want to leave a survivor benefit:
  • If one of you will have a much higher retirement benefit, the higher earner may want to provide this additional income for the spouse.
  • The benefit could outlast the amount of a life insurance policy.
  • The survivor benefit lasts for the life of the surviving spouse unless the spouse remarries before age 55.
  • The survivor benefit is payable in addition to the surviving spouse’s own retirement annuity.
  • The survivor benefit starts right away, unlike the Social Security widow(er) benefit where the survivor must be a certain age before it begins, in most cases.
  • The survivor annuity receives cost-of-living adjustments for life.
  • Last, the amount by which the retirement benefit is reduced to provide the survivor annuity is not taxed. 
 

Continue reading

Tips to Building a Powerful Resume

By George Marchant, Technical Recruiter

Published: May 2023

A resume is a document that represents one’s experience in their professional career. It is a glimpse in to one’s ability and track record that may or may not translate to future success in a job in the eyes of an employer. Resumes allow someone responsible for hiring to quickly understand an applicant’s abilities for a given role within a company. The individual reviewing the resume will be faced with making a determination if they feel this person is worthy of an interview for the position for which they are being considered. Typically, the resume is the golden ticket to getting an interview or next step of consideration for a role which makes it such a critical component for job seekers to have success.

Continue reading

Financial Literacy

By: Karen P. Schaeffer, CFP®

Published: April 2023

 

Happy Financial Literacy Month! We may have started the month with April Fool’s Day but there’s nothing foolish about having the skills to make smart money decisions. Sadly, according to various surveys and studies, it appears that most Americans do not possess a strong level of financial literacy. FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that only 34% of Americans could correctly answer at least four out of five basic financial literacy questions. 

 

 

Similarly, a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 41% of adults in the United States gave themselves a grade of C, D or F when it came to their knowledge of personal finance. This is bad news for all of us.

Continue reading

Understanding Service Computation Dates – Not So Simple

By: Bob Braunstein, Federal Benefits Specialist

Published: March 2023

 

Is your Retirement Service Computation Date the same date as your Leave Service Computation Date?

 

While this is likely, there are several reasons why they could be different. The rules and procedures for setting, constructing, or changing Service Computation Dates, also known as SCDs can be confusing even to the most seasoned HR professional. SCDs are essentially the starting dates for periods of service that, once fulfilled, qualify employees for specific Federal benefits. The more common SCDs are for retirement eligibility, leave accrual, and Thrift Savings, but there are many others.  Some are obvious, such as the Leave SCD that appears on Leave and Earning Statements and SF 50s (Notifications of Personnel Action). Others are more elusive as they are not called SCDs but still measure qualification periods for benefits, such as waiting periods for within-grade increases, or the requisite 5-year periods for maintaining health and life insurance coverage when retiring from Federal service.
 

Continue reading