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Understanding WEP & GPO Under Social Security Federal Retirement Benefits

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Federal employees are often concerned about how Social Security will impact their federal retirement. If you are a CSRS employee, you should know that there are many variables to be considered if you have ever paid into Social Security. In this blog, we are discussing Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) and suggesting ways on how federal employees can maximize their Social Security and get better federal retirement benefits. Read More

4 Common Retirement Planning Mistakes Federal Employees Should Avoid

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Once you are done with your job responsibilities, you want to spend the remainder of your life, i.e. the retirement period relaxing, chilling, traveling around the world, or spending more time with your loved ones. If you are a federal employee and want to enjoy federal retirement benefits to the full, it’s important that you smartly and strategically plan your retirement. Mistakes committed during the process can cost big and lead to a financial crisis post-retirement. Here are a few mistakes that you should avoid to ensure a secure financial future- Read More

federal retirement planning - fers benefits -retirement support services - tsp payment schedule 2018

EPA To Offer Employees Buyouts Early Retirement This Year

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The Environmental Protection Agency will begin offering employees financial incentives to leave the agency this year, according to an internal memorandum obtained by Government Executive.

As part of its efforts to meet the requirements of recently issued guidance from the Office of Management and Budget calling on all agencies to restructure themselves and reduce their workforces, EPA will continue a freeze on external hiring and begin offering early retirement and buyouts. Details of the plans were not made clear in the memo, which was sent by acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn. He noted only that EPA’s goal was to complete the separation incentive program by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2017.

Agencies can offer up to $25,000 to employees who have worked in the federal government at least three years through a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment and allow employees not otherwise eligible for retirement benefits to receive them through Voluntary Early Retirement Authority. The Office of Personnel Management must approve all early out and buyout programs.

In its guidance, OMB said OPM would “provide expedited reviews for most [VERA and VSIP] requests within 30 days.” While OMB said it would not prescribe any specific strategy or set reduction targets for individual agencies, President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget called on the EPA to cut 25 percent of its workforce, amounting to 3,200 employees. The proposal suggested slashing 31 percent of the agency’s budget.

EPA has endured significant spending cuts in recent years, with its spending level already reduced more than 20 percent since 2010 and its workforce at its smallest total since 1989. EPA last offered separation incentives to its employees in 2014, targeting mostly regional offices.

A recently released inspector general report found EPA paid $11.3 million to get 456 employees to leave the agency that year. Generally, the IG found the incentives “aided workforce restructuring goals,” though it was unclear if EPA had successfully reached its other goals of obtaining staff with new skillsets and increasing the number of staffers per supervisor. When accounting for the additional annual leave payments, EPA doled out a total of $16.2 million in 2014 to separate the employees. The IG noted the agency could not control how many or which employees would voluntarily leave, but that the various EPA offices adequately analyzed their workforce data to determine which positions to target.

Under OMB’s guidance, all agencies must come up with both short and long-term plans to reduce their staffing levels, with preliminary plans due June 30. Flynn said EPA has recently formed a workgroup to develop its agency reform plan. EPA is at least the third agency to continue its hiring freeze despite Trump ending it last week. Flynn said the agency will approve “very limited exceptions” to the moratorium and allow certain internal reassignments.

“I appreciate your patience as we work through the details of the guidance and will work with you as we move forward,” Flynn said.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman, said the approach mirrored the one taken by the Obama administration and would ensure “payroll expenses do not overtake funds used for vital programs to protect the environment.”

“Streamlining and reorganizing is good government and important to maximizing taxpayer dollars,” she said.

John O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees council that represents many EPA workers, said reaching the administration’s desired cuts through incentive payments would prove prohibitively expensive. EPA, he added, is already “underfunded and understaffed.”

“Any further cuts will absolutely cripple the agency,” O’Grady said

federal retirement planning - fers benefits -retirement support services - tsp payment schedule 2018

How Does a Court Order Affect “401k” Federal Savings Plan Accounts

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A court decree of divorce, annulment or legal separation can make an award from a “401k” Federal Savings Plan account to someone other than the participant, such as a spouse or a former spouse.
The “401k” Federal Savings Plan will honor such orders if they are issued in connection with such an action and they comply with the board’s regulations. It also will honor preliminary court orders for the purposes of freezing a participant’s account as well as amendatory court orders issued after such a decree.
When the “401k” Federal Savings Plan receives a court order, the account of the participant is frozen, meaning that the participant is not allowed to withdraw the account, except to meet certain IRS mandatory distributions, or receive a loan from the account. All other account activity is permitted, however. If the “401k” Federal Savings Plan determines that the court order is qualifying, it issues a statement regarding the effect that compliance will have on the account and a description of the method by which any entitlement was calculated, the results of the calculation and the circumstances under which payment will be made.
The “401k” Federal Savings Plan will make only one disbursement under a court order even if the order on its face requires a series of payments.
After a payment is made, the account will be unfrozen.
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“401k” Federal Savings Plan Insider Appointed as the Retirement Plan’s New Executive Director

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The board that oversees federal employees’ 401(k)-style retirement program announced Tuesday that it has appointed Ravindra Deo to serve as executive director of the “401k” Federal Savings Plan .

Deo has been the “401k” Federal Savings Plan ’s acting executive director since May, after Greg Long resigned from the post. Long spent a decade at the retirement program’s helm and in April announced he was leaving in part to focus on finishing his MBA.

Prior to filling in for Long, Deo was the “401k” Federal Savings Plan ’s chief investment officer and he spent nine months as acting chief operating officer. Deo has more than 25 years of investment experience in the private sector.

Michael Kennedy, chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which governs the program, said support for Deo was unanimous. The board commissioned executive search firm JDG Associates to conduct a nationwide search for candidates after Long’s resignation, but in the end it chose the internal candidate.

“Ravi brings a unique background to the “401k” Federal Savings Plan ,” Kennedy said in a statement. “He has a breadth of investment, operational and IT experience that the board believes positions him well to lead the plan and to help our participants retire with dignity.”

Deo takes the reins at the “401k” Federal Savings Plan at a pivotal time for the program. Lawmakers are advancing legislation to make it easier for employees and retirees to withdraw and manage their funds, and the agency is in the midst of preparations to implement the new blended retirement system for military service members, which will bring an influx of  “401k” Federal Savings Plan participants and is set to go live on an opt-in basis in January.

“I am honored to have been chosen by the board,” Deo said in a statement. “The “401k” Federal Savings Plan ’s unique mission gives us the opportunity to serve the federal employees and members of the uniformed services who serve this country. I look forward to building on the great work that has been done here over the last 30 years.”