COVID-19 and your retirement timetable

March has been a game-changer for billions of people. In addition to the obvious, like staying healthy and staying alive, the pandemic has produced a variety of mid-life crises for just about every thinking person.

Two of the basic decisions are when and if to retire. Can you afford it? What will change? How about health insurance — will the various plans cover you and your family if the worst happens? Is there a good time to retire?

Benefits expert Tammy Flanagan says the number one question she gets from clients these days is should they take Medicare Part B when eligible. Everybody eligible for Social Security gets Part A coverage, but Part B is optional and it costs.

Medicare Part A covers hospital expenses, hospice, and home health care. Medicare Part B, on the other hand, covers outpatient medical care such as doctor visits, X-rays, bloodwork, and routine preventative care. The two programs function as two halves of a comprehensive healthcare solution.

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For lower income individuals Medicare Part B costs around $144 per person per month. But for upper income individuals it can range from $376 to $462 per month per person. Tammy recommends that individuals interested in coverage see how it coordinates with their current Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plan. Because Medicare becomes the primary payer, dozens of federal health plans now offer people financial incentives, including savings accounts, to switch into high deductible plans that coordinate with Part B. For more on that click here.

For people considering retirement, especially in these uncertain medical and financial times, there are some basic, but important  questions. During last week’s Your Turn radio show, Tammy brought a checklist which included questions like:

When will I get my first cost of living adjustment?

COLAs begin immediately for persons retiring under the old Civil Service Retirement System. But Federal Employees Retirement System retirees (except for law enforcement personnel, firefighters, air traffic controllers and some other high-stress jobs) don’t kick in until the individual is age 62.

Do I get a retirement statement every month?

No. Unlike payroll you will get one per year, but you can log onto the Office of Personnel Management website and get your information.

What if I move or change banks?

You will no longer have a payroll office so you must make the changes yourself.

How do I use OPM Services Online?

Opm.gov is the place to start.

How do I apply for Social Security?

You can apply by phone or on-line (Tammy said she’s had good luck contacting the Social Security Administration for clients).

How do I apply for my Thrift Savings Plan withdrawals?

Rule changes last year make it easier for people to apply online and to setup whether they want monthly payments or those based on life expectancy, which are recalculated each year. Unfortunately you still cannot have all of the withdrawals taken from one source (C, S, I, G or F funds).

Can I change my insurance after I retire?

Yes. You can make changes to virtually any plan in the FEHBP program during the regular November-December open enrollment period. You can also make changes at any time if you lose or gain a spouse, or move to an area that doesn’t recognize your HMO.

For more questions and detailed answers you can listen to the show archives anytime.

 

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Before hiring LeVar Burton, one of the people “Reading Rainbow’s” creators considered to host the show was actor Scott Baio.

Source: MentalFloss