Some things I wish I knew when I started working for the federal government in my 30s:
- Start saving for retirement now.
- No one retires wishing they had accumulated more debt.
- Everything from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and Medicare overview presentations.
On Aug. 30, 2023, more than 300 people from across the Coast Guard civilian service participated in the FERS and Medicare overview, presented in collaboration with the Coast Guard Personal Financial Management (PFM) Program and the Coast Guard Retirement and Benefits Service Center (CG-123 RBSC).
The two-hour presentation, hosted by Kathryn Seymour, National Capitol Region (NCR) Personal Financial Manager (PFM), went into great detail on figuring out your FERS annuity and how Medicare works, while specialists from RBSC worked hard to answer questions in real-time through the meeting chat.
“PFM offers these events because we all must understand how to maximize our benefits in retirement and the more planning you can do today will only set yourself up for success,” said Seymour. “Remember, your future self is calling, and it will appreciate all your time and effort.”
While there was a great deal of pertinent information relayed throughout the presentation, one of the most important things you can do in your federal retirement planning is make sure that all your SF-50 Notification of Personnel Action forms are complete in your Office of Personnel Management (OPM) eOPF (electronic Official Personnel File) for your entire civil service career.
“If your records are not there, it’s going to make us jump through hoops to request records and you may not retire on the timeline you are hoping to,” said Michelle Satterwhite, Retirement and Benefits Specialist, and FERS presenter. “That’s probably the number one hurdle I run into. So I encourage everyone to look at your eOPF and tell your coworkers to do the same.”
Another important thing is to learn who your servicing retirement specialist is and contact them at least five years if not earlier prior to your scheduled or preferred retirement date.
Your RBSC Team
A FERS Annuity is one of the three legs of the retirement stool according to Satterwhite. The other two legs being Social Security Annuity (SSA) and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Annuity if you are participating. Satterwhite discussed FERS while Bunmi Lane, Retirement and Benefits Specialist, helped to answer questions that came up during the conversation.
Minimum Retirement Age (MRA)
Your FERS Annuity is based on your:
- Length of Service
- The average of your highest consecutive highest three-year annual salary
- The annuity Formula
Creditable Military Service
If you served in the military whether you retired or not, you may also purchase your creditable military service (based off your DD214) to add to your FERS Annuity calculation. Creditable military service must be under honorable conditions. To make a military deposit, complete Form RI20-97: Estimated Earnings During Military Service. You can work with the RBSC Team to complete the process.
How to request a retirement estimate
Thrift Saving Plan (TSP) Highlights
TSP is basically a 401K style retirement plan that you can contribute pre-or post tax dollars. One of the benefits is the Coast Guard will match up to 5% of TSP contributions.
Visit the TSP website for more detailed information on TSP plans.
Medicare and Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) Program
Medicare is our country’s health insurance program for people aged 65 and older, according to Sylvia Gary, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Training Program, who presented the Medicare portion of the seminar. The program helps with the cost of healthcare, but does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care.
There are four primary parts to Medicare: Part A (Hospital Insurance), Part B (Medical Insurance), Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (Drug Coverage).
There are two main ways to get Medicare coverage: Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage.
Original Medicare includes Part A and Part B and you can use any doctor that takes Medicare in the U.S. You can join a separate Medicare drug plan if you want drug coverage (Part D). You may also shop for and buy supplemental coverage. You will pay a standard premium or more depending on your income.
Some of the more important discussions centered around delaying or signing up for Medicare. These decisions can have penalties and consequences. For example: If you are 65, still working and have FEHB it may be to your advantage to delay Medicare coverage.
Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C)
Medicare Part D (Drug Coverage)
Medicare Part D is available to all people with Medicare and is provided through Medicare drug plans (also known as PDPs), Medicare Advantage Plan with drug coverage (also known as MA-PDs) and is available through some other Medicare plans.
Gary described Original Medicare as a fee-for-service medical insurance and Medicare Advantage as a managed-care type of service.
If you have FEHB you probably won’t benefit from signing up for Medicare Part D, according to Gary.
The biggest discussion point was coordinating healthcare, with questions ranging from the effects of Medicare on Veterans Administration, to what happens if I’m still using my FEHB?
The National Capital Region (NCR) Personal Financial Management (PFM) Program hosts several money management webinars to help the active-duty and civilian team members navigate their financial journeys.
The next webinar is “Retirement Blueprint – FERS and Social Security Overview” Oct. 25, beginning at 12:30 p.m. The goal of this class is to help you learn, apply and manage your retirement benefits and options.
To register for the event email or Teams message, Kathryn Seymour, or call 571-610-3560, or click BNCR Event Registration - Power Apps (appsplatform.us).