Social Security benefits are a crucial source of income for many Americans, especially during retirement. However, for federal employees, the decision about when to start collecting Social Security benefits can be more complex due to unique rules and regulations that apply to them.
You probably don’t need Dugan Brown to tell you this, but the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) includes Social Security as one of its three components. The other two components are a defined benefit pension plan and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which has similar features to a 401(k) plan in the private sector.
SS benefits can be complex to manage even for retiring private sector workers. For retired federal workers, there are even more options to weigh, but Dugan Brown can identify and explain every avenue open to you and explain how to get the most out of your federal retiree social security benefits.
When to Start Collecting SS Benefits
Under FERS, federal employees become eligible for retirement benefits after completing a certain number of years of service and reaching a minimum retirement age. The minimum retirement age varies depending on an employee’s year of birth, but it is typically between 56 and 57 years old.
At this point, retired federal employees may choose to start collecting a FERS pension, however, their Social Security benefits will not become available to collect until age 62.
Federal employees also have the option of delaying their SS benefits until a later age. The longer you wait to start collecting, the higher your monthly benefit amount will be, up to age 70. Managing your federal retiree social security benefits to get the most out of your income when you need it is an important factor in federal retiree retirement planning.
Provisions and Considerations for SS Benefits
An important factor that federal employees must consider when deciding when to start collecting SS benefits is the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). This provision can reduce a person’s SS benefits if they also receive a pension from a job where they did not pay Social Security taxes. This primarily affects CSRS employees, rather than FERS.
Retired federal employees who have worked for the government for their entire career and have paid into the Social Security system are not affected by the WEP. However, those who have worked in both Social Security-covered and non-covered positions may see their benefits reduced.
Another consideration is the Government Pension Offset (GPO), which applies to spouses or widows/widowers who receive a pension from a government job where they did not pay Social Security taxes. The GPO can reduce or eliminate the amount of Social Security spousal or survivor benefits they are entitled to receive.
Additionally, the Social Security Administration uses a formula called the “earnings test” to determine how much someone can earn while still receiving full SS benefits. If earnings exceed the earnings test limit, future SS benefits may be reduced. One typically should not draw on their SS retirement benefit until they know their earnings will fall under this amount.
Sound Complicated? Contact Dugan Brown Today!
As you can see, there are lots of complexities and considerations surrounding the decision about when federal employees should start collecting SS benefits. Your FERS pension, TSP account, the WEP, GPO, and the earnings test all factor into how much SS benefits you can expect and when.
To help you make an informed decision, Dugan Brown specializes in retirement planning and is familiar with the unique rules and regulations that apply to federal employees. Contact us today and let us analyze your situation and find the best way to get the most out of your SS benefits and other retirement funds.