Contributors

Postal Retirement Q&A March 2017 by Roseanne Jefferson

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Roseanne is a retired USPS employee with an extensive background in USPS retirement, disability retirement, OWCP, EEO, Labor Relations and HR. She conducts individual and group counseling and is able to comprehensively discuss the pros and cons of employees who are on OWCP, disability retirement and regular retirement. Roseanne will be happy to answer your postal retirement questions. Contact Roseanne at roseanne.jefferson@icloud.com. Click here for prior Q&As and Click here for Q&As prior to July 2014.

Good Day Postal Employees!!

This has been a very busy month for emails and retirements. There is one email in particular this month, that was so totally outlined in terms of dates of how every single THING went down with his RETIREMENT. HE wanted me to share that experience with all of you, because he says he is an avid reader of this column, and has been for years and you will read what he has to say…..

Before you read his email, I want you to GET SOMETHING OUT OF IT!! This is YOU!! All of YOU!! Look at his dates of when certain things occur, and APPLY that to the date(s) time frame to what date you feel you are going to choose to retire. PLEASE LEARN FROM THIS…

Hi Roseanne. I hope you and yours are doing well. Some months back, I sent you a BIG, LONG email about my retirement plan. Let me say again, your response was encouraging. We hear so many stories from people worried about the retirement process…as I was, even though I spent a number of years gathering all the information I could, and to that end, your column has truly been a Godsend!

So, I thought I’d share my experience, and if you believe any of this info would help anyone, feel free to share.

A quick summary of my career: USPS clerk, started 3/30/85. No military or other service. Single, no dependents, never married (should be simple!). PTF for 6 months (at mostly full time hours + OT…LSM…pre-automation!), the remainder full time. Took the maximum 440 hours AL with me into retirement, also had well over 1200 hours saved sick leave, but about a month before retiring, came down with a bad case of shingles, which pretty much laid me up for two weeks, as it got in my eye, so I couldn’t drive. So ended up with a sick leave balance of about 1,157 hours, which added a service credit of 5 months, which totals 32 years & 2 months of service.

Here’s how my timeline went: 2016

7/15 Called HRSSC to order the latest retirement estimate and retirement application (the ‘blue’ book). Projected retirement date 11/25 (a Friday, last day of PP 24).

7/20 Received application/estimate.

8/15 Updated life insurance beneficiary forms to both HRSSC and TSP.

9/4 Labor Day holiday: carefully completed and assembled retirement application.

9/5 Mailed application at my office, via Priority Mail to HRSSC.

9/8 Was later told this is when my application was received by HRSSC

9/30 Heard from my Postmaster’s secretary that my Career Service certificate was received…the wheels must be in motion!

10/19 HRSSC sends notice of life insurance beneficiary update.

10/31 HRSSC sends notice that my paperwork has been sent to Eagan pay center for final pay processing. Happy Halloween!

11/18 Actual last day of work. Actual final week was previously scheduled AL (Thanksgiving). Happy/sad. Cake, awards, gifts, well wishes.

11/19 Personal copy of final paperwork/application received from HRSSC.

11/25 Officially last scheduled work day (AL)…BLACK FRIDAY!…..Last day of pay period 24. FREE AT LAST!

12/2 Last Form 50 received from HRSSC. Received call from my old office, last paycheck arrived (no direct deposit allowed upon separation), agreed to mail it, received it next day. No AL lump sum yet (see 12/16).

12/3 OPM receives retirement package.

12/13 Case # and website password received by mail.

12/14 Went to Services Online (OPM), reset password.

12/15 Surprised to find first OPM interim payment ($970 net) deposited in my bank account. This is the payment that would otherwise be issued on 1/1/2017.

12/16 AL lump sum check received by mail from old office. Delayed due to needing to be re-calculated due to new pay raise effective 11/26. Includes 24 hrs. holiday pay.

Total leave in lump sum 464 hours. Big pay but big withholding . (took home about $8,000…a HUGE cushion for this interim phase.

12/23 HSRCC notifies my that my records have been closed out…MERRY CHRISTMAS!

2017

1/1,2,3 No interim payment, that was paid previously on 12/15.

1/3 One month anniversary of OPM receiving retirement package.

1/4 Received notice from TSP of separation, along with withdrawal options and tax implications. Am now eligible to make withdrawals.

1/14 BENEFEDS (Dental/vision) sends notice of forthcoming monthly premium bills…not deducted by OPM during interim phase.

1/24 OPM website states that my case has been assigned to a retirement specialist on 1/23.

1/25 Received BENEFEDS premium monthly bills. Paid the same day.

1/27 Online bank account lists forthcoming interim payment (#2), which will take effect 2/1.

2/1 Interim payment #2…amount increased slightly to about $1,060 (net). Also notified by email to check OPM website for an update.

2/2 OPM reports case is finalized…Bank account shows BACKPAY ADJUSTMENT of $2,088 (FERS, SRS for two interim payments, and make up deductions).

HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY!

2/3 Two month anniversary of OPM receiving retirement package. Filled out TSP application for a partial withdrawal. Notarized at my bank, faxed in. Also arranged updated tax withholding. This was done at OPM website for federal and state. On TSP application, arranged for additional withholding for federal, as the withdrawal sum was a bit large. Went to my state’s tax department’s website to pay an estimated state tax estimate (from my bank account) to cover TSP, which does not withhold state tax. Note that if you don’t change OPM withholding at the right rate for you, they’ll only deduct federal tax at the default rate of “married with three children.” Bear in mind, the IRS (and my state) requires at least 90% of withholding upfront to avoid additional penalties. Calculate accordingly.

2/5 Visited OPM site, found pay statement for first full FERS annuity, payable 3/1. Showed updated tax deductions, AND the first showing of the Special Retirement Supplement. FERS annuity $1,519, SRS $1,167. Very close to what I had projected. Satisfied, pleased and relieved.

2/6 Received by mail from OPM…confirmation of the Special retirement Supplement amount.

2/9 Received call from TSP to ask questions confirming my withdrawal application. Went well, TSP rep says look for withdrawal to be deposited in my account within five business days. More importantly, My OPM casebook arrived today. Now I really do feel retired! And btw, Roseanne, it is indeed a small booklet, so recipients, watch your mail carefully! (BTW, I don’t plan to start TSP MONTHLY withdrawals until 2018.)

3/1 First full FERS pension (annuity + supplement) scheduled to arrive. Only the BENEFEDS premiums aren’t yet listed among the withholdings, but hopefully soon.

My strategy was to retire before the end-of-year retirement rush at OPM. I had carried my maximum 440 hours AL from the previous year, using only the EARNED AL for the last year. There were three pay periods I passed up, or 24 potential (unearned) hours, and I calculated those down to zero, so none was forfeited (am I obsessive or what!). And was surprised that three future holidays were included. My understanding is that USPS is one of the few agencies that adds holiday pay for holidays encompassed by the time frame the stockpiled AL would cover (in my case, Christmas, New Year’s and MLK day). I think it worked out well. And I really wasn’t up to working another Christmas season.

Granted, my application was relatively simple. But it’s till true, planning is EVERYTHING!

Thanks again Roseanne, take care..Dave S.

COMMENT: So that is to say what I have been saying all along…plan….plan.. find a long / short (if you’re there) term plan for your retirement, so that all of these fears, that you ALL have, will be replaced with understanding of how the retirement process works. Almost always you hear the horror stories of someone’s retirement, that went WRONG….(what the 2 out of 75 thousand….!!!!) ….OPM ROCKS…and I have said that for YEARS..as an organization with all that they do, for ALL the federal agencies…OPM ROCKS!! (and OPEN YOUR MAIL!)

Q 1. I have been with the postal service for 38 years and 10 months and am looking to retire next year. I was looking in my OPF folder and there was a form RTR first and the only one. What is the purpose of the of the form and what does it mean. AMK

A. 1. Hi AMK, An RTR report is an acronym for retirement thrift and RIF, (RIF which means reduction in force). It is a computer system that forces rules and regulations (laws) as it applies to military and federal time to ascertain an employees RCD or retirement computation date. This computer system is also used to ensure that federal employees are coded into the correct retirement system CSRS, FERS etc. in most cases there should only be one RTR report. As they say nothing incorrect or wrong…this is normal of paperwork, that was required by the HR District staff’s to have all RTR’s completed on every employee in the early 2000’s. Roseanne

Q 2. Good Morning Roseanne, Thanks for all of the great retirement information you give. I have a question I hope you can answer. If you buy back military time does that time count for the FERS supplement for retirement? South Jersey

A. 2. Good Morning South Jersey, NO IT DOES NOT!!!!

R 2. Thank you, You are the best!

Q 3. Good evening. I know that all decision about retirement have to be personal ones. I will be 56 in November and am trying to make some decisions. Having said that, it seems to me that since I qualify for the FERS supplement, I would be better off to leave the postal service at 56 with 32 years service and draw the (free money) supplement for 6 years than to continue working for 6 more years. I have run the numbers and can’t seem to convince myself that there is an advantage to staying until I am 62, even when I add in the matching TSP contribution and increase in SS check when I do retire at 62. Am I missing something or did I calculate correctly? Thanks for your input and opinion. I respect your advise. D

A 3. D, I am sitting here answering tons of emails….so fer real….I NEVER answer this quick…but I saw your email flash as I am answering them….damn…..I almost want to cry…YOU GET IT!!! I feel vindicated…..thank you….some of you are really listening….

Don’t know you from Adam…but I am telling you, whatever your health condition is …expect to be SO GOOD when you leave….after 32 years…we are so NOT who we used to be. Go….get out…YOU DESERVE IT!! DON’T STAY A DAY LONGER….WHY!!!! IF YOU’VE RUN THE NUMBERS…..WHY!?!?!? BE HAPPY – RETIRE !! Roseanne

Till we speak again……. Roseanne

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