Survivor annuity vs. life insurance


Q. I’m retiring from the Postal Service soon and have come to the stumbling block of getting the survivor benefit plan or forgoing it for a form of life insurance (whole or permanent). I’m a CSRS 56-year-old male with a 44-year-old wife who works as a teacher. I have been under her medical plan, not the Federal Employees Health Benefits plan, for the past five years.

SBP would cost me $271 a month. Taking a 30-year term life policy would mean I’d better die within that time or I screwed my wife out of what I consider her entitlement to my retirement. So I decided to take a whole life/permanent type instead. Since I’m 12 years older than she, I figure she’ll get maybe 20 years of SBP, or roughly $400,000 over that time period. Would $271 a month going toward a life insurance policy be a better play than the SBP?

A. If by survivor benefit plan, you mean a CSRS survivor annuity, then you don’t have a choice. You are required by law to provide her with a full survivor benefit, unless she agrees in writing, notarized, to a lesser amount or none at all.


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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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