Retired widower and marriage


Q. Please help. My boyfriend, who is a widower, and I would like to get married. He is a retired federal employee for five years under CSRS and I am under the CSRS system but have not retired. He is concerned because someone has told him he has to pay “catch up” so that I can have the 55 percent death benefit as his spouse. What does “catchup” mean? Please give me the regulation that covers this as we are both concerned about our future. In addition, he is 80 years old and I am 63, and we are both under the Department of Health and Human Services.

A. If he wants to elect a survivor annuity for you, he must do so within two years after your marriage. There will be two reductions in his annuity to pay for it. First will be the standard reduction of approximately 10 percent. Second will be a permanent actuarial reduction to pay the survivor benefit reduction. The deposit equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to him for each month since he retired, plus 6 percent interest. The reduction will be calculated by dividing the amount of the deposit by an actuarial factor for his age on the date his annuity is reduced to provide the survivor benefit. You can learn more about survivor annuity elections at


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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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