Retirement

Are federal employees eligible for phased retirement?

 

Are federal employees eligible for phased retirement?Yes, a phased retirement program is authorized by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21. In 2014, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued final rules relative to the program that provide guidance to agencies and employees about who may elect phased retirement, what benefits are provided, how the retirement pension/annuity is computed during and following phased retirement, and how federal employees may exit the phased retirement program.

Generally, each federal agency has the option of offering a phased retirement program–employees have no right to phased retirement. Otherwise, only employees who have worked full-time for the preceding three years–who meet certain age and years of service combinations for immediate retirement in either the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)–may be eligible. Employees subject to mandatory retirement (law enforcement officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, etc.) may not participate.

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What is a phased retirement?

 

What is a phased retirement?In its broadest sense, a phased retirement is a gradual change in your work patterns as you head into retirement. Specifically, a phased retirement usually refers to an arrangement that allows employees who have reached retirement age to continue working for the same employer with a reduced work schedule or workload.

A phased retirement has advantages for both employees and employers. Employees benefit from the opportunity to continue active employment at a level that allows greater flexibility and time away from work, smoothing the transition from full-time employment to retirement. And employers benefit by retaining the services of experienced workers.

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Give Your Retirement Plan an Annual Checkup

 

Give Your Retirement Plan an Annual CheckupFinancial professionals typically recommend that you review your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan annually and when major life changes occur. If you haven’t revisited your plan yet in 2015, the end of the year may be an ideal time to do so.

 

Reexamine your risk tolerance

This past year saw moments that would try even the most resilient investor’s resolve. When you hear media reports about stock market volatility, is your immediate reaction to consider selling some of the stock investments in your plan? If that’s the case, you might begin your annual review by reexamining your risk tolerance.

Risk tolerance refers to how well you can ride out fluctuations in the value of your investments while pursuing your long-term goals. An assessment of your risk tolerance considers, among other factors, your investment time horizon, your accumulation goal, and assets you may have outside of your plan account. Your retirement plan’s educational materials likely include tools to help you evaluate your risk tolerance, typically worksheets that ask a series of questions. After answering the questions, you will likely be assigned a risk tolerance ranking from conservative to aggressive. In addition, suggested asset allocations are often provided for consideration.
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Think Twice Before Counting on a COLA

 
Think Twice Before Counting on a COLAThe rising costs of food, gas, electricity, and health care can strain anyone’s budget. The situation is even worse if your living expenses increase while your income stays the same, because your purchasing power will steadily decline over time. That’s why cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are especially valuable to retirees and others living on fixed incomes.

 
A COLA is an increase in regular income you receive (such as a Social Security or pension benefit) that is meant to offset rising prices. It’s important protection because price inflation has occurred in most years during the last 40 years. However, a COLA may not be payable in years when inflation slows or declines.

 

How COLAs work

 
It’s easy to think of a COLA as a “raise,” but a COLA is meant to help you maintain your standard of living, not improve it. For example, let’s say you receive a $2,000 monthly retirement benefit, and the overall cost of the things you need to purchase increases by 3% during the year. The next year, you receive a 3% COLA, or an extra $60 a month, to help you manage rising prices.

 
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Taxes, Retirement, and Timing Social Security

 
Taxes, Retirement, and Timing Social SecurityThe advantages of tax deferral are often emphasized when it comes to saving for retirement. So it might seem like a good idea to hold off on taking taxable distributions from retirement plans for as long as possible. (Note: Required minimum distributions from non-Roth IRAs and qualified retirement plans must generally start at age 70½.) But sometimes it may make more sense to take taxable distributions from retirement plans in the early years of retirement while deferring the start of Social Security retirement benefits.
 

Some basics

 
Up to 50% of your Social Security benefits are taxable if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) plus one-half of your Social Security benefits falls within the following ranges: $32,000 to $44,000 for married filing jointly; and $25,000 to $34,000 for single, head of household, or married filing separately (if you’ve lived apart all year). Up to 85% of your Social Security benefits are taxable if your MAGI plus one-half of your Social Security benefits exceeds those ranges or if you are married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the year. For this purpose, MAGI means adjusted gross income increased by certain items, such as tax-exempt interest, that are otherwise excluded or deducted from your income for regular income tax purposes.
 
Social Security retirement benefits are reduced if started prior to your full retirement age (FRA) and increased if started after your FRA (up to age 70). FRA ranges from 66 to 67, depending on your year of birth.
 
Distributions from non-Roth IRAs and qualified retirement plans are generally fully taxable unless nondeductible contributions have been made.
 
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