Retirement timing and the survivor benefit


Q. I am 59 and have 14 years of federal service under FERS. I plan to retire around the end of April. I turn 60 on Oct. 10, and am wondering if I should retire on the 10th of the month in order to avoid an extra month being added to the annuity reduction. Also, if I choose a 25 percent survivor benefit, will my wife have to pay more in health insurance premiums (than with a 50 percent survivor benefit) in the event of my death?

A. You can retire on any day of the month you want to. However, if you retire after the last day of a month, you won’t be on the annuity roll until the following month. For example, if you retired Sept. 30, you’d be on the annuity roll in October. If you waited until Oct. 10, you wouldn’t be on the annuity roll until November. On the other hand, every month you wait to retire will reduce the age penalty you’ll face. That reduction in your annuity will be 5/12 of a percentage point for every month you are under age 62. You’ll have to figure out which retirement date is financially best for you.

As for health benefit premiums, they will be the same for your wife regardless of the amount you jointly elect. (I say jointly elect because by law you must provide her a full survivor annuity unless she agrees in writing to a lesser amount or none at all.) If the survivor annuity amount turns out to be less than the required premiums, she can make up the difference out of her own pocket.


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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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