Survivor benefits


Q. I am 57, have 40 years of CSRS service and am happily married. My wife is 53 and has 37 years of CSRS service (and is also happily married). I’m ready to retire. If I retire and choose not to select a survivor benefit, could I elect to provide it at a later date? What factors should I consider when making the decision of whether or not to elect a survivor benefit?

A. You have to elect a full survivor benefit for your wife unless she agrees in writing to a lesser amount or none at all. If she agrees not to receive one, you could elect one for her at a later date. However, the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be. Not only would you have the standard reduction in your annuity but a permanent one that equals the difference between the new annuity rate and the annuity paid to you for each month since you retired, plus 6 percent interest. The reduction is determined by dividing the amount of the deposit by an actuarial factor for your age on the date your annuity is reduced.


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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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