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#105 Demystifying FERS Retirement Calculators

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Federal employees can use various calculators to estimate their FERS benefits, but accurate documentation and proper completion of estate planning documents are crucial for retirement planning! Missing or incomplete information can lead to unexpected consequences, so seeking help from HR or knowledgeable individuals is essential.

In this episode, Micah and Tammy demystify the FERS retirement calculators, presenting essential insights. By understanding these calculators, you can take control of your retirement planning and ensure it’s accurate and effective.

Join the discussion on the importance of precise documentation, proper completion of estate planning documents, and thorough record-keeping of your employment history and military service. Learn about the new GRB system, common mistakes in retirement applications, and the crucial differences between gross and net income, health insurance deductions, and tax withholdings.

Don’t miss out on practical tips and expert advice to help you avoid errors. Understanding your benefits and achieving a secure retirement is within your reach. Tune in to “Demystifying FERS Retirement Calculators” and get ready to grasp federal retirement benefits’ rules and regulations. By avoiding common mistakes, you can ensure you’re not missing out on any benefits.

What We Cover:

  • FERS Calculators
    • Thrift Savings Plan Calculator
      • Windfall Elimination Provision
    • Social Security Calculator
  • The new GRB system
  • The importance of accurate documentation
  • The importance of accurately completing retirement benefit estimates
  • Understanding the application process
  • Best way to use sick leave
  • Sticker shock – net vs gross
  • How do the 3 stools really work together 
  • Where do the calculators do well and fall behind?

Action Items:

  1. Get documentation of your employment history
  2. Know your spending
  3. Attend pre-retirement training classes to learn about your options
  4. Share this pod with more federal employees

Resources for this Episode:

Ideas Worth Sharing:

You know when you started, you know when you left. You know what agencies you work for. So make a list, you know. And if you don't see records of that in your personnel file, get in touch with somebody who does know how to find it, who does know… Share on X

Try not to get overwhelmed. I know it's easy to do. This is not your area of expertise. You're going to get really familiar with it, right? But start that one step at a time. – Micah Shilanski Share on X

I mean, when you take a job, you want to know what you're going to get paid. So when you retire, you want to know what your income is going to be to make sure you can afford to stay in your house or take a vacation once in a while. Yep, it needs… Share on X

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Micah Shilanski  00:44

Welcome back to the Plan Your Federal Retirement Podcast. I’m your co-host, Micah Shilanski, and with me back is the amazing Tammy Flanagan. Tammy, how’s it going?

Tammy Flanagan  00:54

I’m doing great. Micah, I’m glad to be back, and I’m excited about our topic today. It’s something I know a lot about!

Micah Shilanski  01:01

I’m very excited to jump and chat on it too. It’s, it’s really good to go in there. So Tammy and I, when we recorded these, you know, just schedule wise, doesn’t always meet every couple weeks, so sometimes we record them up. And it’s been a little bit of a break. I know I did a little bit of traveling dune, so Tammy, it’s just great to jump back on the pod with you. So thanks again for making the time.  Oh sure. Happy to be here. I was just teaching a group of advisors actually, just kind of going through retirement income, how to build this and set up and go through things. And, man, I love doing that, because you also hear a lot of different ways people are doing it. But one of the things that an advisor had kind of called us out on, because he listens to our podcast, Tammy, and he says, You know, I hear you guys talk about everything that you guys do, and and you’re remarkable, and the effort you put into transforming people’s lives, and that’s really what we’re trying to do on this podcast. I was really touched by his comment on that one, because that’s what we want to do, is transform your life as a federal employee. You have these great benefits, you have this amazing set, but you got to know and you got to understand, you have these great tools, but you got to put them to work in the right way so you can have the best retirement, best life that you want to have, and so hopefully in this podcast, we’re going to help with that. 

Tammy Flanagan  02:05

Yeah, and I think that it’s important, and one of my goals in doing this work is to make sure people get what they’ve worked for. You put all that time in years and years of dedicated service, and you’ve worked for this, and you should get the benefits that you deserve. So I’m really an advocate for people who are having trouble finding the right answers, or maybe something went wrong and they got to get it fixed. You know, I try to really help people go that direction, because it’s, it’s important,

Micah Shilanski  02:32

Yeah, 100% is and I love that. Get what you earned, all right. So on that note, we’re going to kick it off by really understanding a key part, which is Your FERS benefits. Now, we talked a lot about how FERS works, right? And how your pension benefit works. I know they call it an annuity, we call it a pension. But we want to dive a little bit into demystifying the calculators that are out there, because there’s a few different types of calculators and how you can get your benefits, whether it’s your FERS benefit, your Social Security calculator, your TSP, maybe it’s a retirement calculator, all these different things, and they’re all good tools, but just the tool, you got to use it for the right purpose, right? And so that’s what we’re going to talk a little bit about. And I know Tammy, there’s the new system now. I think it’s the GRB system that federal employees can actually a lot of agencies now the federal employee can run their own federal benefit estimate. Is that right?

Tammy Flanagan  03:20

That’s true. In fact, GRB was around since first started back in the 80s. Coz I remember I was working at the FBI back then, and we used to have their person that designs the software it come in and hit practice on us and say, How does this work? Do you see any bugs in it, would help them debug it? So it’s been around for a long time, but it’s never been user friendly. It’s always been something that you had to know how to input the information to really work in person office to be able to do it. But now they’ve transformed it to us to some type of a user friendly, I suppose, platform, that employees can do it themselves. And it is helping, because that puts some of the burden off of the personnel office. You know, when employees want to update their date of retirement, they can just go in there and put a different date in. But from the standpoint of making sure that the output is accurate, I think there’s a little more to it, just like there is in any computer printout. You know, got to be careful that all the data that’s going into it is really accurate. I think that’s where you have to be real careful. That’s why I stress so much in my seminars about knowing what counts and what doesn’t count. You know, really looking at service history.

Micah Shilanski  04:26

It’s just huge, right? And we talk about it, it’s that acronym, what, GIGO, garbage in, garbage out, but also good in, good out. Better information you’re inputting, the better the result is. And I like to say, maybe this is just too selfish, Tammy, but please don’t make us the bad guy, because you don’t understand your benefits, right? You come in thinking you’re getting these great benefits. You have good benefits, but they’re not as good as you thought, because you had some wrong data in there. And the worst thing that you want to do is go into retirement with that assumption, and then OPM corrects your misinformation, and you retire on less than you thought. And that’s really what we’re striving for here. We don’t want that to be you. We want you to be armed with that information.

Tammy Flanagan  05:07

Yeah, it’s much easier to make changes while you’re getting a paycheck every two weeks, rather than when you’re home waiting for that first retirement check. And it just isn’t coming. Like you said, it’s $1,000 a month less than you expected? Yeah, I’ve seen that happen. I’ve seen that happen just recently.

Micah Shilanski  05:24

Yeah, it does all right. Let’s dive into this a little bit like the self running your calculator versus HR versus you, just on a piece of paper, kind of running it. Now, I actually didn’t know this about Tammy, we were kind of pre gaming and talking about the podcast and and she shared a little bit, and we actually end up doing it the exact same way whenever a client comes in, how we look at their benefits. So Tammy, if you want to share that with the audience, real quick..

Tammy Flanagan  05:47

I’m holding up a $5 calculator. Probably bought it, Best Buy. And that’s that is how I run fast. And as I sit down with a sheet of paper and a pencil, I sharpen my pencil, and I start subtracting the dates of service. You have to have different periods of service, military service. Not too hard to subtract the date, you know, just like second grade math, 1,10s, and hundreds. Now is days, months and years. And then, you know, I run those numbers, the formulas couldn’t be easier, you know, 1% 1.1% you know, who can’t multiply by one. But the hard part is, and this is what takes the time. Is, before I do any of that, I go through, I ask for all the documentation of somebody’s career, and especially I want, when did you start? When did you leave? When did your retirement coverage change? When did your work schedule change? I need to have all of that data, because that’s going to make a big difference in the outcome. You know, the numbers, running the numbers, that’s easy, but it’s making sure that all of those service periods are documented. I had a guy who he put in for his retirement. Now, he didn’t have that much service. I think in the end of the day, I think he had nine years, but OPM came back to him after he filed for his deferred retirement and said, you only have three and a half years. So that means you get nothing, right? Nothing is zero. Yeah, he reached out to me. He says, I know I had nine years. I didn’t have three and a half years. Well, they didn’t have the documentation. They didn’t have the records. That’s especially hard when it’s a deferred retirement because your agency didn’t put that together. Yeah, you’re relying on, hopefully that all that information ends up at OPM, and so we got it fixed. But, you know, it took some time.

Micah Shilanski  07:31

And he’s lucky. He had the documentation to fix it. If you don’t have it…

Tammy Flanagan  07:35

He didn’t. We had to go get it. 

Micah Shilanski  07:36

Oh, you had to go get it. Yeah, it was lucky you can get it. Because what happens in the case that you can’t find this documentation and can’t get it right. These are nowhere to work. Complicated really quickly, don’t they?

Tammy Flanagan  07:47

Yeah, so that’s why I think it’s so important to really ask questions. Because, you know, the average federal employee doesn’t know what counts and what doesn’t count, right? Well, we could probably sit here for the next six hours and tell them, you know this counts and that counts if it’s before this date or after that date, right? So that whole thing becomes pretty technical, but you know what you’ve done. You know when you started, you know when you left. You know what agencies you work for. So make a list, you know. And if you don’t see records of that in your personnel file, get in touch with somebody who does know how to find it, who does know what counts and what doesn’t count, and that’s usually somebody in HR, even though they may not want to run you an estimate or, you know, help you counsel you for retirement. Yet, they can certainly ask answer questions about making sure that service has been accounted for. If you owe money for it, they can tell you how much you owe and help you make the payback, because all of that stuff should be done early in your career, not too months before retire. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize that. And it comes to the day of retirement, they realize things are missing. 

Micah Shilanski  07:48

You know, Tammy, as you’re sharing this, one of the things that dawned on me this is the exact same way that I approach almost all areas of a financial planning with a client. To start off with estate planning, when a client comes in, always asking for their estate planning documents, and I kind of hold them on my side of the table, and I’m like, Okay, Bob and Sue. God forbid if something happens to both of you, where do you want to see the money? And they have such a tendency to say, Micah, it’s right in the documents and reach them. I’m like, No, we can’t reach the documents. Tell me what you want, right? And then I, because now they’ve told me what they want, now I have the documents, and I look at it and I say, do these actually match? And a lot of the times they don’t, right, but, but if we’re just documents, they would have said, Oh yeah, that’s fine, you know? And that’s the same thing when you just start looking I think at these benefits, and say, Oh yeah, that’s fine. Okay, it might be, but it might not be. And so this is why this step is so critical and it’s so easy to bypass. You know what? My HR has it. I work with this blah blah. It’s the same agency. I don’t need to take this first step, but I gotta tell you, Tammy and I do hundreds, 1000s of these, right? And this is the first step that we do. Why do we do it? Because it’s key.

Tammy Flanagan  09:56

It’s the most tedious part of it, it’s the most technical part of it, but it’s most important part of it, because the rest of it, you can do yourself. I think the average person could do a lot of what we’re doing, but if you don’t have that foundation, everything you do after that’s going to be wrong. And that’s what I have against you know, the do it yourself calculators, or even, like, sometimes you’ll go to your agency who has all the good intentions of preparing an estimate for you, but, they don’t go back through your records, you know. They’re using that leave SCD this on your personnel action statements, which may or may not be accurate, you know. So I really think you have to take the time to look at everything, because it can make, like you said, it can make them hundreds, if not 1000s of dollars of difference. 

Micah Shilanski  10:39

Yes, very, very much. So, so before you do any of those calculators, because as soon as you do them and you look at them, you’re now going to be biased, right? You’re now going to be using that information. So before you do that, I would start there by writing it out. Then let’s see what the calculator says. And just like Tammy said, I do the same thing. I manually do it on a piece of paper, write it out real quick, then I start looking at it and grab the estimates, and I’m looking for discrepancies. Now, if everything matches, like years of service and High 3’s tell your dollars. What do you do? I’m not super concerned about that. I’m looking for bigger gaps. Mainly it’s the service. Mainly that’s the mistake that I see. Sometimes it’s the retirement date. I’ll also see that one as a potential mistake that’s going to be there. Nets is always different, right? All the deductions, that’s a separate conversation to have. But those are the two main things that I’m looking at that I see errors. And what about you, Tammy?

Tammy Flanagan  11:31

I’m laughing because I can remember this time I was teaching the class at EPA, this man, he said to me, I have three different estimates, and they have three different numbers. My personnel office doesn’t know what they’re doing. I’m like, well, they’re probably for three different dates!

Micah Shilanski  11:45

 This year, next year… three years?

Tammy Flanagan  11:50

Yeah, you got to know what’s the you have to know where that estimates coming from, because if you don’t, you’re in trouble. 

Micah Shilanski  11:55

Yeah. And so we pulled up a couple estimates that we got from, you know, fed HR, the clients have sent over, so a couple things kind of jumped out of us when we were first looking at these Tammy. One of them that jumped out was the retirement date. You know, it had retiring at the beginning, the Separation Date at the beginning of the month. Now, I don’t know if this was automatically generated or if the client just inputted that, so I’m not trying to blame the software at all, but right there, of course, we want to retire at the end of the month, so our pinches affected the first of the following month.

Tammy Flanagan  12:23

And they may have put in the last month, and then the software put in the date the annuity commenced, on the first day of the month. You don’t know, because you don’t know how that software was designed, but I’ve seen that too, and I keep thinking, that’s probably what it did, but it doesn’t tell the person that. 

Micah Shilanski  12:38

Yeah, so these are just things to watch, right? And just make sure we’re filling out the retirement application. You know what goes on there? Because I’ve seen that annuity start date is the first of the month. A client fill out a retirement application and they put that same date right there, because that was the date on their retirement estimate. Says, Okay, well, we need to fix that. 

Tammy Flanagan  12:56

Yeah. And if you put a date on your application that really wouldn’t make common sense to you. You tell your client, Hey, you don’t want to do that because it’s gonna you know, you’re loosing month of retirement. Well, if you put that date on, it goes to OPM, that’s the date they think you wanted to retire. They’re not going to come to you and say, Hey, are you sure you want to do that date? 

Micah Shilanski  13:14

Yeah. Do you know there’s a better date and we could change this? Yeah, that doesn’t happen. The other thing, so the other thing so the first page just kind of breaks down service. Now, this particular client, and again, I’m not blaming the software at all. I don’t know the data that was inputted in here, but the client has military time. And that’s the first thing that I kind of saw when we were looking at this, Tammy, is that there’s no military time added in this estimate.

Tammy Flanagan  13:36

Yeah, that’s a big loss of things. Lot of people, even I talked to today, don’t know you have to pay for it. Yeah, I thought everybody knew that, but I did a class the other day and someone said, Well, what do I have to do to get the credit. I’m like, Well, you got to make a deposit. How do I do that? To go back to basics? So, yeah, some people are a little bit more informed than others, but I know there’s some people who are so busy working all these years that they don’t know the thing about planning for retirement, as far as the paperwork, the benefit amount, exactly how that’s determined. You know, what’s the Survivor Benefit going to cost and what’s a reduction, what’s the withholding? Because those are two different things too.

Micah Shilanski  14:15

You fall into that camp. Try not to get overwhelmed. I know it’s easy to do. This is not your area of expertise. You’re going to get real familiar with it, right? But start that one step at a time. Keep listening to the podcast, go to a class, Tammy and I are teachers, or anyone who’s really great that’s teaching classes about federal benefits, and just start learning little bits at a time.

Tammy Flanagan  14:33

And ask questions. Yeah, because I don’t care what the question is. I love when they ask stupid questions. I’m an excellent person for stupid questions. That’s my specialty. Yeah, I don’t care. And no question is stupid because I’ve had PhDs come to me with the most basic question, because this isn’t what they do. This isn’t what they do and it is confusing. Sometimes you read something once, twice, three times, and you’re not sure you understand what it said, 

Micah Shilanski  14:58

Yeah. And actually, it’s kind of funny. You say that, I think from a long time, my higher educated clients, clients retiring from NASA, or doctors or whatnot, that will get frustrated because they’re like, I just don’t get this, you know? And I’m like, All right, well, you’re an expert in your field, like everyone talk about how to go into space. I got nothing, no idea, right? There’s some laws of physics you probably got to comply with. I don’t know that’s about it, right? When it comes to this, this is the area that I know. Just because you’re educated doesn’t mean that automatically transfers into areas you have no experience in. And so start that education process.

Jamie Shilanski  15:33

Are you a federal employee with questions regarding your benefits? Don’t know who to turn to to get those questions answered. Don’t worry. Here at Plan your federal retirement we’ve got you covered, just dial 1-907-931-1775 leave us voicemail with your questions and the opportunity to have those answered by one of our Federal Employee Benefit specialists. Who knows by dialing 1-907-931-1775 you might just get to hear your voice on the show.

Tammy Flanagan  16:02

That’s right. Yeah, I hear that all the time from people. They’ll come to me and they’ll kind of sheepishly call and say, you know, I feel stupid, and I know I’m educating. I know I’ve done a good job at my you know, work, but I just don’t understand, you know, how to make the decision about Medicare, or how to figure out how to fill out this application, because there’s language on there that has double meaning. We know the word postponed and deferred. You know, those are ones that are very specific, and a lot of people don’t realize what the difference is huge.

Micah Shilanski  16:33

So getting back and just looking at the federal estimate going down, so one of them, of course, is that years of service Tammy, and we’re just preaching about that. You know, what counts? What doesn’t count for years of service? Is it taking just your SCD for leave, or is it taking a retirement one which is good to know. Another thing Tammy that I just saw in here, we didn’t talk about in our pre game, but I’m looking at the gross versus the net, and this will jump right out at you. It shows the grossbenefit. It has a reduction for survivor benefits. It has life insurance and it has tax withholding, but missing your best benefit. There’s no, FEHB…

Tammy Flanagan  17:10

There’s no health insurance deduction way off too. 

Micah Shilanski  17:13

Yeah, I was gonna mention that one too, yeah, tax holding is way off, but there’s no health insurance, which is a pretty sizable deduction.

Tammy Flanagan  17:21

Significant thing, right? 

Micah Shilanski  17:22

5- 600 bucks a month here, that’s going to be out of your pay, and that’s not in this, so when a client, and the reason I bring this up is a client comes in, most of the time, they’re looking at the gross number, when they’re talking to Tammy and I, and they’re like, look, I’m going to get 2500 – $3,500 a month. And we’re like, Yeah, but that’s that’s gross. 

Tammy Flanagan  17:41

Yeah, but it would be much less, It’s like, your paycheck. 

Micah Shilanski  17:44

Just like your paycheck, we got to start reducing it, and it doesn’t make your pension bad. You got to know how it works. 

Tammy Flanagan  17:49

And then again, sometimes you under underestimate because you think, Oh, this is it? Because this is my government pension, but we forget your Social Security. There’s TSP. So we put all that together. It looks a whole lot better, but you have to make sure you’re looking there, right? Coz gross of anything is is useless, because that’s not what you’re going to get to spend. That’s not your income.

Micah Shilanski  18:10

Yeah, Tammy, one of the things that I like about the settings on page three in this particular estimate is it has a timeline breakdown of, you know, if you retired in kind of for the next several years, what income is going to be there. I love the concept of it. The accuracy is I would really care for right now, because the Social Security I pulled the clients, this was ran within a month of him actually getting a Social Security statement. The Social Security benefit is off by about $5,000 a year. The GRB benefit is saying you’re getting 5000 more than where they’re actually going to get from Social Security. That’s $ 6000 a month, isn’t it? Right?  That’s a lot of money, right? 

Tammy Flanagan  18:49

When it comes down to paying your bills or going out to eat, yeah, you need to know. I mean, when you take a job, you want to know what you’re going to get paid. So when you retire, you want to know what your income is going to be to make sure you can afford to stay in your house or take a vacation once in a while. Yep, it needs to be more precise, and it’s not. It really can’t be unless you have a conversation and ask questions.

Micah Shilanski  19:11

And the other part of this one too, and I know Tammy you saw it  too when we were looking at it again, what this is doing is it’s showing you all of your gross income. But guess what? Social Security, whatever it says in the statement, that’s not the amount you’re going to get because aunt IRS is still a part of your social care. Got to pay taxes on it once you’re 65 and under Medicare, Part B is in Bravos this Medicare is going to be coming out of that as well the two. So you’re going to have those deductions out of that net Social Security check. So again, I love the concept of this. I’m not trying to rag on it, just to say, hey, here’s the good parts. Here’s the good part, here’s the bad. Good part is, it’s telling you, Hey, your income is going to change. I love that. What you have to do as the individual, or if you work with professional, is they’re going to draw and say, not your gross, but your net. What are the real numbers and how much net income would you have in these time periods? 

Tammy Flanagan  19:55

Yeah. And, you know, projecting it out in the future, as far as projecting if I retire five years from now or 10 years from now, or is, does it say this is what the value of this benefit is gonna be?

Micah Shilanski  20:05

I am not sure.

Tammy Flanagan  20:07

I think, I think it said, Okay, if you retired next July, then five years from now to be worth this or 10 years from now, because it’s projecting inflation, or no inflation, yep. But what good does that do? Because nobody knows what inflation is going to be in the future anyway. So I’d rather know that it’s enough now with enough of a cushion so that no matter what happens in the future, I can adjust and I can still be okay. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s hard whenever you don’t really know what you don’t know.

Micah Shilanski  20:38

I would say another mistake that kind of I see inside of this Tammy and let me know if you do the same thing, is that younger clients maybe with that 5 to 10 years out before retirement, they’re like, oh well, it’d be a higher GS level at that time. So let’s, you know, make my high three larger. And that’s one way to look at it. The only thing that I add to your pension calculation is your years of service you’ll be at retirement. I take your current high three, I don’t mess with any of that inflation, especially within five to 10 years. I don’t mess with it. What’s your current high three? You’re going to work another 10 years. Okay, great, you get another 10% right? I’ll add that to your pension. That’s about it. I’m trying to be a little bit more conservative.

Tammy Flanagan  21:16

I protect the sick leave usually too, because I want to show them, if you don’t use any sick leave, here’s what you got, okay, here’s what a month of sick leave is worth. Some people over us to make the value of sick leave yeah, it might be five or $7 a difference for each month. But you know, here’s what, here’s what it is. So, you know, like, if you need to use it, use it. So that’s that’s going to help you work another 10 years perhaps.

Micah Shilanski  21:38

That’s a great one. Using it for kind of that mental health and whatnot, taking that sick leave time and then allowing you to work longer is such a better return on your money than banking your sick leave.

Tammy Flanagan  21:47

And you know, when it’s a mid career or like, a guy asked me the other day teaching, he’s like, do you recommend that we just use our sick leave before we retire? I’m like, What do you mean? Then I said, you can’t just tell your supervisor I’m going to be on sick leave the next six months. And if you’re at mid career or a brand new I would definitely never tell you, just use your sick leave, because that’s your short term disability protection. But if you’re five years from retirement, you’ve got a year’s worth of sick leave, and you’re dreading, you know, working another five years, how are you going to get through it? Or maybe you have a parent or a spouse who needs some help, you know you can use that Medical Leave Act and don’t feel like you have to be a miser with it at that point, because it is worth more as a paycheck than it is to add it on to your retirement. And if that allows you to work another year, I’m all for it. 

Micah Shilanski  22:37

Yeah, I’m 100% with you. It’s the benefit to be used, not to bank forever. So those are things to be thinking about as you’re looking at these different estimates right now. There’s also other great calculators, or I should say, other calculators out there. There’s the TSP calculator. I don’t use that though, I’ve only seen the client bring it up once or twice. I don’t use that for projection purposes. Tammy, any experience with that?

Tammy Flanagan  22:59

Yeah, I don’t use it either, because everybody’s goals for their TSP account are so different. Yeah. I mean, if they want to take a tsp annuity, they did put that annuity calculator back up on the website, which is pretty accurate. If you’re going to buy a MetLife annuity through the TSP and they’ll tell you here’s what you’re going to get if you buy it this month. But you don’t find too many people wanting to buy the TSP annuity, right? They want to know, like, how much can I take out each or should I move it out of the Thrift or in the thrift I don’t really get a lot of questions about when’s it going to run out. It’s more about just making sure I’m making a wise decision and if it’s enough there to supplement those other two benefits. Because to me, it’s the icing on the cake. 

Micah Shilanski  23:39

Yeah, I agree. There’s also a Social Security calculator. I’m going to say Social Security statements have become a lot more accurate. So I don’t see a depending on how far out you’re retiring versus applying for Social Security. I don’t see a lot of mistakes being made on those social security calculators. With the exception of the Windfall Elimination Provision, for those few people, we still stable Alaskian employees, they don’t pay into Social Security. So we see it more on that side than I do on SARS. But if you’re subject that’s going to be a discrepancy that is not included in that Social Security estimate that you get.

Tammy Flanagan  24:12

Right. But there’s a really easy, user friendly calculator for the windfall provision on the Social Security website. So when I do get that rare CSRS employee, I’ll ask for their statement of earnings. I just plug it into that calculator. Pretty takes you five minutes to do it. It’s great. And then it will tell you, here’s after the wind fires, which you’re going to get. Here’s what happens if you work till you’re 70 and still the windfall is factored into it. So I love that, I love that they have that on there, because it does make it much easier to explain that to somebody. And if you had to do it yourself, I don’t think anybody would have trouble doing it, might be harder finding it than it is. Once you find it, you’re good! Yeah, put windfall calculator in the search engine.

Micah Shilanski  24:57

I would say. The other thing on Social Security, the one I don’t see on it now, I haven’t looked at it in a little while, so maybe pull it back up. I would love to see a better spousal comparison. It’s not on there, such as means you have to be an individual clients on because when you turn your Social Security on, and Tammy you and I have talked about this on previous pods, that affects survivor benefits and spousal benefits. So this isn’t a just you question. It is a we question when you’re applying for this, and I’d say that’s a mistake that I see clients in a mindset of, this is my Social Security. This is your Social Security. And thinking they’re independent lovers when they’re slightly connected.

Tammy Flanagan  25:32

Yeah and that spousal benefit, and even the widow’s benefit, that’s really hard. If you were gonna sit down with my little $5 calculator, you’d have a hard time doing it, because everything’s based on your full retirement age. So what the source, if they apply at 62 is still based on your full benefit and their age, right? It’s really difficult to really explain that to somebody, or to really sit down and try to compute it for somebody, because it is such a different calculation. It’s more complex, I think, than the first calculation by far. 

Micah Shilanski  26:02

Yeah, that’s a great point. I almost never do it that way, right mass off the top of my head that I kind of know where it should be. Then when I’m looking for details, I always use a calculator. We have a professional one that we pay for because it just puts everything kind of side by side for us. But yep, we always do that. 

Tammy Flanagan  26:17

The whole thing with filling out the application too. That can cause some problems, if nothing else, it causes a delay. Because if you don’t answer all questions, that’s one of my pet peeves. I always offer to review somebody’s retirement application, because I’ll never find one that they didn’t forget something, especially on the even the life insurance one, because, let’s say I don’t have option A, they just skip that, say I don’t know, or you’ll be getting that back and your retirement goes back on the pending pile. So there’s little things people employees, can do to make things go a little smoother. You know, look things over twice. Read those directions carefully. We’ve seen so many people lately putting the wrong retirement date down when they’re applying for a postponed retirement, and I’ve had clients lose their entitlement to health insurance. Cause the law is clear. It’s not clear on their instruction. The law clearly states what what they can and can’t do. So I’ve been trying to fight these and you really can’t. They have to just change that form so that people understand how important it is to put that right date down. 

Micah Shilanski  27:24

Yeah, that’s a good thing, right? The forms are, we’re not attorneys, not legal advice, all those appropriate disclosures go here. The forms are not the law. They’re not the rules. It’s a form to apply for something. And so that’s, I think, where some people definitely hit on it. People get mistakes as they read this. Like, no, Micha, look at what it says. I’m like, I understand that, but that’s not actual rules. And we go to the rule book, and we pull up the rule book, which, again, the rule book comes from the laws right, now, Look at the OPM handbook. Like, look, that’s not what it says to do here. Let’s err on the side of caution. If in doubt, And Tammy, I think we both let us try to do is some things are questionable on how we need to do things err on the side of caution, because sometimes penalties of being wrong really outweigh trying to be more aggressive with your benefits.

Tammy Flanagan  28:10

Yeah, it’s tough, because I’ve seen even the personnel office and mine myself, took a long time to figure out what was going wrong with this case. I’m like, why won’t they fix that? But it was because I reread the Code of Federal Regulations, I had to go deep into the law to see, oh, that is what it says. And then I knew why OPM wasn’t agreeing to do these backdated benefits to put the health insurance back in place. So it’s a hard lesson to learn for some folks. 

Micah Shilanski  28:39

Well, Tammy, like normally, on our podcast, we’ve gotten halfway through our agenda, and I look down at the clock to wrap it up, wrap it up. But these are always so fun to do. But these podcasts are all about action items. And I’m going to say kind of the first action item, if I may. I’ll take the easy, low hanging fruit. You set it at the top of the pod. Get your documentation. That has to be where this starts. It’s not what you think your services. It’s a great exercise to write down what You think your services. I love that, but then you have to verify that, and we always official documentation.

Tammy Flanagan  29:12

And if you get a chance to attend a pre retirement class or even online training, there’s tsp does an online class, and ITP does an online class. So there’s places you can go to educate yourself, to learn about what counts and what doesn’t count and make you owe a deposit. Because when I teach that, I always tell my my students, I say, write down a to do list. I said, I’m not going to be telling you what to do today, but you’re going to know, oh, that applies to me. I need to find out some more about that. So ask questions, take training and when it’s offered, because this is the rest of your life. This is a real change in your life that can be very valuable, and you can miss out on some of that if you don’t get the benefits right the first time.

Micah Shilanski  29:54

 100% the case, yep. And share this podcast. We have a goal of transforming the life better employees, and the only way we can do that is with your help. So share this message. Get it out there so we can kind of spread the word. We are going to be coming with an online class called Retire Fit in the next couple of months, a little short series guys to help you get more educated on your benefits. Tammy, as always, thank you so much for joining to our listeners till next time. Happy Planning.

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