SSA and Your "Quick and Dirty" Estimate of the FERS Annuity Supplement

By on April 27, 2011 in Current Events, Retirement with 28 Comments

Earlier this month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced it was suspending the annual mass mailing of benefit statements for those who will qualify for a Social Security benefit.  As an alternative, SSA will try to have the statements available online at their website, by the end of this year.  Mr. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, also said if they are not able to get the online mode set up by the end of the year, they will revert to the paper statements.

In the meantime, what does this mean for the “quick-and-dirty” estimates of the FERS annuity supplement? These estimates, although flawed, were based on the SSA statements, and were the primary means for planning.

The full process for calculating the annuity supplement is lengthy and intricate.  Doing it manually is prohibitive, unless you are the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and you can hire 40 more full-time employees for the job!

In the absence of the paper SSA statements, to help estimate what the supplement will be in a wide range of cases, I did nine calculations for hypothetical employees. 

The calculations were in three tiers, with the first assuming 20 years FERS service and earnings of 70%, 85%, and 100% of the SSA maximum for the individual year.  The second tier was 24 years FERS service and the same percentages, and the third was 28 years.  (Under current law, the maximum FERS service in 2011 is 28 years – that would be 1983 through 2010.) 

Assume employee age of 59 and computation for retirement in 2011.  Monthly supplement amounts:

Earnings, as Percent of Ceiling

 FERS Years  70%  85%  100% (max)
 20  $779  $849  $908
 24  $931  $1,014  $1,089
 28  $1,085  $1,182  $1,271

Maximum earnings, by year:

 1983  $35,700  1993 $57,600 2002 $84,900
 1984  $37,800  1994  $60,600  2003 $87,000
 1985 $39,600  1995  $61,200  2004 $87,900
 1986  $42,000  1996  $62,700  2005 $90,000
 1987  $43,800  1997  $65,400 2006 $94,200
1988 $45,000 1998 $68,400 2007 $97,500
1989 $48,000 1999 $72,600 2008 $102,000
1990 $51,300 2000 $76,200 2009 $106,800
1991 $53,400 2001 $80,400 2010 $106,800
1992 $55,500

NOTES

  • Earnings in 2011 are not included.  Earnings in prior years where person was not a FERS employee for the entire year are “deemed.”
  • To deem a year, the proportion of the first-year earnings to the average total wages for the first year is multiplied by the average total wages for the year in question. 
  • It is possible to retire with fewer than 20 years FERS service and less than 60 years of age.  To do this, one must have enough creditable military time to bring the total Federal service up to 20+ years, and the retirement must be VERA (i.e., early out).  Note: MRA+10 does not qualify.

How to use the chart

First, estimate whether you are low (70%), medium (85%), or high (100%) on the earnings scale.  Then your approximate supplement will be found in the row for years of FERS service.  If your years will be in-between, then interpolate a figure.  For example, if your earnings are low and at retirement you will have, for example, 22 years of FERS service, then your estimated supplement would be between $779 and $931.

Or KISS (keep it simple, stupid).  Just multiply your years of FERS service by $42, and then adjust higher or lower, depending on whether you were a high or low salaried employee.

I used a dedicated computer program for the above.  Contact me for further information.

© 2016 Robert F. Benson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robert F. Benson.

About the Author

Robert Benson served 35 years in various Federal agencies, as both a management analyst and IT specialist. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

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