Are You a Triple Dipper?

Although the federal pay raise is still up in the air, some federal retirees will get a COLA on as many as three different benefits. Senior Correspondent Mike C...

If you are a retired federal or postal worker it’s official. Those of you under the old CSRS system will be getting a 2.3 percent cost of living adjustment in January. If you retired under the newer FERS system your raise will be worth 2 percent. COLAs for CSRS retirees are payable at any age. COLAs for people under the FERS program don’t kick in until they are age 62.

The January 2.3 percent COLA will also go to people who get Social Security benefits and to military retirees. In some cases some people will get two COLAs. Others – if they worked for the government, retired from the military AND get Social Security benefits – will get the COLA in all three checks.

Some people call those who get two COLAs “double-dippers” and those who get three COLAs “triple-dippers.” What they forget is that those people earned those benefits. Trashing them may be fashionable, and even cute. But it really isn’t accurate.

Some people worked under CSRS and then converted to the FERS system. In that case they will get the full COLA (2.3 percent) on the CSRS portion of their annuity and the smaller 2 percent on the FERS portion of their annuity, if they are 62 or older.

Confused? Welcome to the club.

The difference in the 2008 federal pay raise (either 3 percent or 3.5 percent before locality pay is factored in) and the 2008 retiree COLA (2.3 percent or 2 percent) is immense. For example, retirees as of now know what they are getting. The federal pay raise, is not known, and it won’t be until Congress acts. Or not.

The exact amount of the 2008 federal pay raise won’t be known until Congress finishes its work. The issue is between the 3 percent President Bush has proposed and the 3.5 percent that is part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill the House and Senate are working on. So stay tuned. Suffice to say a pay raise isn’t a COLA and a retiree COLA, as you can see by the differing numbers, isn’t a pay raise.

Best Day To Retire

No, you can’t retire in December and take advantage of the January 2008 COLA. That’s because it’s for “retired” people, not people who work up until the raise is almost in effect.

Nearly Completely Useless Factoid

Under the heading of “day late and dollar short” from the land of Charles Dickens, “a survey of nearly 6,000 workers in the UK, the US and Germany showed that most people would not have to work on Christmas Eve.” Of course, the survey comes nearly two weeks after the President excused most feds from working on the 24th. Ebenezer Scrooge could not be reached for comment, but we can guess what it would be.

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