To the untrained city slicker’s eye, cows and horses are pretty much the same. But in fact they are very different. And that same big differential applies to pay raises vs. cost of living adjustments. Two very different things. And that difference can be critical in a time like now when inflation has taken off, prices for everything are going up and prospects for the future are dim. If you are still working, but eligible to retire, is this a good time? Because of the diet-COLA feature for FERS retirees a long period of inflation can eat into the buying power of an annuity. And if you are eligible or close to retiring this year or next you need to do some homework.
Most federal workers are looking at a minimum 4.6% pay raise in January 2023. Congress might even boost it to 5.1%. Depending on how the political winds blow between now and November.
The amount of the retiree COLA is to be determined but right now it looks like a minimum of 8.6%. But it could be more, or less, depending on what path inflation takes between now and September. That would mean an 8.6% increase for Social Security and CSRS retirees but “only” 7.6 for FERS retirees. That’s a lot. It would be the biggest in years. But its going up because prices are too. And the system used to measure inflation doesn’t take into account many of the added costs of older, retired people. Solution: Maybe you should defer your retirement a couple of years.
Benefits expert Tammy Flanagan says someone making $80,000 a year can boost his or her starting annuity by $30,000 by working just two more years. That’s a nightmare prospect if you hate your job, boss, coworkers or community. But its money in your pocket for life, if you hand on. And it’s linked to inflation. Here’s the example showing the magic of deferring your retirement, especially during a time of skyrocketing inflation:
Length of Service at age 60: 19 years
19 x $80,000 x 1% = $15,200 x .90 = $13,680 (10% reduction under the MRA + 10 retirement because employee didn’t have 20 years of service at age 60 to qualify for an unreduced retirement)
Length of Service at age 61: 20 years
20 x $80,000 x 1% = $16,000 + $12,000 = $28,000(The extra $12,000 represents a FERS supplement of $1,000 a month payable to age 62 when retiree could file for SSA and get an even larger SSA benefit based on their lifetime of FICA taxed wages)
Length of Service at age 62: 21 years
21 x $80,000 x 1.1% = $18,400 + $24,000 = $42,480(The $24,000 represents the SSA benefit payable at age 62 of $2,000 a month from their lifetime of FICA taxed wages)
The difference between this person leaving at 60 vs. 62 is almost $30,000 a year more income for only two more years on the job. Of course, at age 62, the person who left at age 60 could claim their SSA benefit, but the gap would still be close to $5,000 a year or $600 a month in their FERS basic retirement benefit for life! In addition, they would have benefited from two more years at their presumably highest earning years added to their SSA record, and two more years of contributions and growth to their TSP accounts. A win-win, for many. –Tammy Flanagan