Keeping an eye on retirement

A Reader Writes:

I am a Federal Employees Retirement System employee and I contemplate retiring at age 58 1/2 with 18 1/2 years of civil service. My question is: Other than being able to draw a Social Security supplement at age 60 to 62, what other benefits will I miss by not staying to age 60?

Milt Replies:

Your benefit will be permanently reduced by 5 percent for each year under age 62.

A Reader Writes:

I am a widow and will be eligible for widow's benefits at age 60. I switched to FERS in 1984 so I should be eligible for the Civil Service Retirement System and FERS benefits in 2006 at age 57 with 30 years of service. Can I get widow's benefits at 60?

Milt Replies:

Social Security widow's benefits are payable at age 60. The government pension offset does not apply to FERS participants but does to CSRS participants. I'm not sure whether the portion of your retirement annuity that's based on your CSRS coverage will be affected, but even if it is, that will represent only a small fraction of your retirement annuity.

You could check with your local Social Security office. You definitely will get a widow's benefit at age 60.

A Reader Writes:

I am nearing retirement age and I have a question about the Post-56 Military Deposit. My understanding is that my military service (1970-72) counts toward my federal retirement, but if I want it to count for Social Security purposes, I have to pay a deposit (plus penalty and interest) to cover my Social Security payments.

The folks at the Army Benefits Center tell me that my retirement annuity will be reduced when I turn 62 and become eligible for Social Security. By age 62 there is very little chance that I will have 40 quarters of Social Security payments. Should I bother paying this deposit?

Milt Replies:

If you are sure that you will never earn 40 quarters of coverage, there's no point in paying to get credit for military service.

You should visit your local Social Security office and discuss this with a representative.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at milt.zall@verizon.net.

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