Back to the Office or Off to Retirement?


By Mike Causey, September 1, 2020 
For a lot of obvious reasons the year 2020 is one for the books. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything for just about everybody.  Fortunately for most of us life, at least so far, goes on. There may be light at the end of the tunnel.

In the real world, before 2020, most federal workers did their jobs in offices or workplaces or from approved sites, but not  from home. Before the pandemic a number of agencies, either to improve delivery to customers or to sock it to federal unions, were cutting back on work from home programs.

Now all that has changed. For some, maybe forever?

People who never thought they’d get to telework or are in agencies that were cutting back on the perk, have now had three, four or five months at home. Many like it and say that productivity is up.  Also in the real world, December and January are the most popular months to retire from the federal government. Feds who time it properly can get larger lump sum annual leave payment, save on taxes and get other breaks.

So we asked long-time fed and financial coach Abraham Grungold to check out the 2020 situation.  He said that for workers under the Federal Employees Retirement System retiring in 2020, they should seriously consider the following in this most unusual year:

    “This year has been the most challenging for federal employees around the world. COVID-19 has put so many stressful situations on the federal workforce, there are too many to list. When September rolls around, it is the month that federal employees start to think about submitting their retirement papers. Some agencies have provided financial incentives to encourage those who may be wavering on the idea of retirement.

“I help my clients to work through all their decision-making choices. It is a difficult process and there are many variables and family considerations.

“Everyone has their own distinct retirement objective and this Top Ten list will help them to start thinking about making the appropriate choices for their retirement. Their decisions may be tweaked as the date grows closer; however, they will be ready, and all this preparation will make for a seamless transition.”

What will be my monthly retirement annuity? Obtain an estimate of your monthly annuity, decide on a joint survivor annuity option, and obtain the calculation for your accrued sick leave to see if it will increase your monthly annuity.

How much will I draw from my TSP in retirement? You will need a fixed monthly amount and the percentage of your balance paid per month.

What should I do regarding Social Security? If you’re younger than 62 years old, calculate your Social Security Supplement and if you’re older, determine if you choose to take SSA or defer to a later date.

What choices are needed regarding health insurance, dental and vision plans? Anticipate your future needs and Medicare eligibility choices.

What choice should I make regarding long term care insurance? This is a “yes” or “no” option. Also decide whether to increase or decrease your present coverage.

What choice should I make regarding life insurance? This is also a yes or no option. Choose a federally sponsored insurer or a third-party private insurer.

Should I use annual leave during my last year of work? Saving annual leave provides a big check in retirement.

Have I checked all my beneficiary designations? Update your Thrift Savings Plan and Life Insurance beneficiaries.

How much income, such as a part-time job, will I potentially earn in retirement? How much can I earn and not lose my SSA benefits?

What could my tax rate be in retirement, both federal and state?
“This list is a good starting point for anyone considering retirement. Financial success can easily be achieved; it only takes a little effort.