Gauging retirement benefits


Q. The windfall elimination provision and government pension offset are so difficult to understand. Can you help? My husband will soon be retiring at age 62 after 21 years under FERS. I am 52, but hope to leave service ahead of retirement. I currently have the following:
* 52 quarters of substantial Social Security contributions, including three years under CSRS Offset.
* Three years under CSRS Offset (2007-2009).
* 12 years under FSPS (Pre-1983 Foreign Service Retirement system) (1982-1994).
* Seven years under an international employer where I did not pay Social Security (1994-1999; 2005-2007)
Can you help me determine what the impacts will be regarding my own pension and Social Security benefits, spousal benefits for me from my husband’s FERS and Social Security (he will elect to cover me under both, unless it provides no coverage), and spousal benefits for my husband under my government pension and/or Social Security should I predecease him.
I am planning to return to school, but given the difficult economy, want to understand the impacts on my longer-term retirement. Do I need five years in CSRS Offset to eliminate the GPO for spousal benefits from my husband’s Social Security? Will having 30 years of substantial Social Security earnings (with contributions in my post-PHD period) help? What will be the impact of the offset on my government pension? How do I calculate this amount?

A. The best source of information about the windfall elimination provision and the government pension offset is on the Social Security Administration’s Web site at Although they offer online calculators, a better way to figure out the effects of each is to use the user friendly software at


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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