Spouse's Survivor Benefit at the Time of Death

April 15, 2015 5:27 AM
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Q: I am 60 years old and under FERS. I have more than 30 years of federal service. My family history has a lot of early death: father at 60, grandfather at 59, etc. While I may live longer than my heritage might otherwise indicate, most literature indicates that I should not retire before age 62 and better yet, not until I turn full retirement age of 66. This is fine as I would like to continue to work at least until I’m 62 for sure but if I don’t survive to retire, would my wife be able to apply for a survivor’s pension based on my being eligible for retirement at the time I died?

A: Your wife would be eligible for both a survivor annuity and a lump-sum payment if you die while still working.  The size of the survivor annuity would depend on how many years you had at the time of your death.  Lets say that your high-three is $100,000 and you had 30 years of federal service at the time of your death.  Your wife would be entitled to a survivor annuity of $15,000 per year.  Basically, a pension amount is calculated for you and your wife would receive one-half of that amount.  30 years of service, under FERS is equal to 30%.  If you wife were enrolled with you on a self and family policy at the time of your death, she would be entitled to continue coverage under FEHB and Uncle Sam would still pay his share.

Spouses of employees who do not have 10 years of service are not entitled to a survivor annuity.

In addition, your wife would be eligible for a lump-sum payment that would be equal to 50% of your final salary or high-three (whichever is higher) plus a fixed amount that for 2015 is $32,326.57.  Assuming that your $100,000 high three is used, your wife’s lump sum payment would be $82,326.57.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at [email protected] to discuss schedules and costs.

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About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.