The question that we all want to know the answer to is: How much money will be coming my way once I retire? And is it enough?
These questions have been asked by millions of Feds and getting the right answers can be a deal breaker in planning your retirement.
As an employee under the FERS, you will have income from three main sources.
- Federal Pension/Annuity
- Social Security
- Your TSP
These are commonly called the 3 legs of your retirement stool.
A great place to start is with your fixed income or your pension and Social Security. Once you have a ballpark on your monthly fixed income, you’ll know how much you’ll need from your TSP to cover your standard of living.
If you have some years before retirement, a good estimate of your pension is a great start. If you are eligible for an immediate annuity, you can estimate your pension with the following formula:
High 3 x Years of Creditable Service x Your Multiplier
Your multiplier will be 1% unless you retire at age 62 or older with at least 20 years of service, at which point your multiplier would be 1.1% (a 10% raise!).
For example, if you are have 20 years of service, a high three of $100,000, and retire at age 63, your calculation would look like this:
$100,000 x 20 x 1.1% = $22,000
This means that your gross pension would be $22,000 every year, or about $1,833.33 every month. Your gross pension would then be decreased by any of your insurance premiums (FEHB, FEGLi, ect) and other things like taxes and your survivor annuity if you elect it. Make sure you do the math for your situation to know what your net pension will be.
Once you get about a year out of retirement, you should request an annuity estimate from your agency to make sure their records match yours. It is not uncommon for them to make mistakes.
The equation to calculate your Social Security benefits is very complex, so the best thing to do is to go to ssa.gov and request a copy of your Social Security statement. On the top right hand corner will be an estimate of your monthly benefit at full retirement age. Your full retirement will be somewhere between 65-67 depending on your birth year.
The challenging part about Social Security is knowing when to turn it on. The earliest you can start benefits is 62 and the latest is 70.
For every month you start your benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be decreased. However, for every month you wait to start your benefits after your full retirement age, your monthly benefit will be increased. There is no cut and dry answer on when is the best time to to start, but the things to consider are your life expectancy, financial needs, and your personal situation.
If you retire early, you may find it difficult to wait until your full retirement age to start your benefits. You will want to be careful to not deplete your TSP too much in the meantime.
The best case scenario is to make these decisions long before you retire. This way you have plenty of time to know how you are going to handle every stage of retirement without stressing your finances.
Note: If you retire before age 62 with an immediate retirement, you will be eligible for the Social Security supplement or FERS supplement. While this benefit only lasts until age 62, it can help to bridge the gap between retirement time and when it makes sense to start Social Security.
Everyone wants to know how much they need in their Thrift Savings Plan in retirement. Again, there is no perfect answer for everyone. If there was, it would make my job as a financial planner much easier.
Once you know how much you’ll be receiving from your fixed income sources, you’ll then have to decide how much you want to spend each month in retirement. The difference will be the gap that your TSP will try to fill.
Because retirements are almost a ⅓ of our lifetime these days, it is essential for almost everyone to continue investing into retirement. This will help your money to not only last your lifetime but to continue to beat inflation.
Most financial planners have software that helps them project how your TSP will grow based on how you are investing it, how much you’ll need every month, inflation, and taxes, but you don’t have to have fancy software to make a good guess on how long your TSP will last based on your spending. Do the very best you can and if it seems like it will be close, maybe consider ratcheting down your spending
As you can see, each one of these income sources are very unique to every employee. The government offers great benefits but it is your responsibility to make sure that you get the very most out of what you’ve been given. Choose today to take responsibility for your benefits and make your retirement great!