Financial Tips for Federal Employees and Retirees: October 2019

These are some tips for federal employees and retirees regarding their pay and benefits.

Here are a series of financial tips/information for designed for quick reading, written in the style of Twitter.

  • Your credit score (FICO) is composed of your payment history (~35%), credit utilization (~30%), length of credit history (~15%), new credit (~10%), and credit mix (~10%). Closing a credit card can adversely impact your credit score.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has made available the 2020 rates for Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plans. Federal employees and retirees will pay on average 5.6% more on their premiums next year.
  • Once you reach the year in which you turn age 70 ½ you are no longer eligible to make a Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) contribution. There are no age limits on a Roth IRA as long as you have earned income. There are no contribution age limits to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
  • To apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, work-study, and loans, students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It opened up Oct 1.
  • Traditional TSP contributions effectively reduce both adjusted gross income (AGI) and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). It is generally in your best interest to lower AGI as much as possible. The IRS uses your AGI as a starting point to calculate your total income tax. The IRS uses MAGI to determine IRA eligibility, and to allow deductions for tuition and certain fees.
  • The official 2020 Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for annuitants was announced October 10th and came in at 1.6%.
  • Married beneficiaries can claim Social Security benefits based on their own earnings record or choose to receive up to 50% of the amount for which their spouse is eligible at full retirement age. This may be beneficial if there is a significant gap in their respective benefits.
  • A benefit to end of year retirement is your accrued Annual Leave is paid out with the Cost Of Living Adjustment for the new year.
  • You can gift someone up to $15K per year ($30K if the gift is coming from a couple) tax free.

The opinions voiced in this article are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Carefully consider your investment objectives, risk factors before investing. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Diversification and asset allocation may not protect against market risk. Nothing in this article is intended as legal or tax advice. Please consult with your independent legal or tax advisor to seek advice based on your particular circumstances. For a list of states in which I am registered to do business, you can visit and search for my name.

About the Author

Alexis Hongamen founded to exclusively help civil servants with their financial planning and investment needs. As a 28 year federal employee & a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, he writes about financial matters of concern to federal employees and retirees. He can be reached at (407) 900-1653.