High-3 and COLA


Q. I will be moving from a lower Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) area to a higher COLA area (a difference of 6 percent). The first two years of my high-3 is at the lower COLA and the last year will be at the higher COLA rate. I am 62, in FERS and have a year of unused sick leave. How will the sick leave affect my high-3 year average for retirement purposes? Will it be used to increase my high-3 year average or not?

A. Your high-3 will be based on your three consecutive years of average pay, no matter when they occur in your career. Your unused sick leave will have no affect on your high-3. When you retire, any hours of sick leave will be added to any hours of actual service that don’t add up top a full month. If there are enough of them, they’ll be used to create additional 30-day months and used in the computation of your annuity. Note: On average, 174 hours equals one month.


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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 fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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