Q. I am looking at my Federal Employee Benefits Statement. Can you tell me what the difference is between the estimated annuity without survivorship, with max survivorship, and annuity to survivor?

A. If you are unmarried, you would receive the full benefit to which you are entitled based on your years of service, high-3 and the formula used to calculate an annuity (either CSRS or FERS). If you are married, you are required by law to provide a full survivor annuity to your spouse (55 percent for CSRS; 50 percent for FERS). Under CSRS, you could provide any amount of survivor annuity from $1 up or none at all with the written consent of your spouse; for FERS, the choice is either 25 percent or none. It is also possible for qualified retirees to provide an insurable interest annuity to someone who has a financial interest in their continuing well-being. Since there’s such range of possible arrangements for a reduced insurable interest annuity, you’ll have to check with your payroll office to learn what they mean when they say annuity to survivor.


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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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