What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

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tomwood
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What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:04 am

I will be starting a federal job at the VA Hospital and I’m aware of some benefits, but I want to make sure I’m taking advantage of all that’s offered. I also don’t want to participate in any programs in which i might be automatically enrolled, but want to opt out.
One such program where I will be automatically enrolled is the life insurance program. I was told I just opt out or I will have money deducted from my paycheck. I already have private life insurance, I’m in good health, and I was told this program for someone in my health and age, isn’t a great deal and I’m best off to buy more private insurance if I want any. Are there any such programs I should be aware of that I may want to opt out of on that first day of work?
I know about the 5% TSP match and the great health insurance options. I will be taking advantage of both. I am also eligible for the student loan forgiveness program and welcome tips or advice to make sure that process goes smoothly.

Please share any other ideas or programs or benefits of which I should be aware before starting the job.

Thank you to all who can help

KyleAAA
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by KyleAAA » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:07 am

There is no employer paid life insurance at 1x or 2x your pay? Interesting. I always thought government benefits were supposed to be better than the private sector. Not a government employer so can’t help, just thought that was interesting.

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dm200
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by dm200 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:20 am

tomwood wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:04 am
I will be starting a federal job at the VA Hospital and I’m aware of some benefits, but I want to make sure I’m taking advantage of all that’s offered. I also don’t want to participate in any programs in which i might be automatically enrolled, but want to opt out.
One such program where I will be automatically enrolled is the life insurance program. I was told I just opt out or I will have money deducted from my paycheck. I already have private life insurance, I’m in good health, and I was told this program for someone in my health and age, isn’t a great deal and I’m best off to buy more private insurance if I want any. Are there any such programs I should be aware of that I may want to opt out of on that first day of work?
I know about the 5% TSP match and the great health insurance options. I will be taking advantage of both. I am also eligible for the student loan forgiveness program and welcome tips or advice to make sure that process goes smoothly.
Please share any other ideas or programs or benefits of which I should be aware before starting the job.
Thank you to all who can help
Relating to Health Insurance - you have many options for coverage - and you can change during the enrollment period each year. I would, then, plan on such a review of all your options every year.

Benefits and details can change from time to time. Try to stay on top of any such changes.

Become aware of any parental time off - both for biological children and adopted children. {not sure about foster children]

If you can do so, try to find fellow employees that stay on top of everything - and have a peer network for sharing information.

Be aware of annual and sick leave accruals and options. Be aware (at least unless there is a change) that some amount of unused sick leave can increase your retirement benefits when you retire.

Swansea
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Swansea » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:49 am

+1 on opting out of FEGLI. Of all the employees I had counseled on this issue and told them to shop the private sector, not one came back to say FEGLI was a better deal.
Employees with pre-existing health conditions may find it competitive, particularly if they can not secure private life insurance.

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Nestegg_User
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Nestegg_User » Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:02 am

There's no "automatic".... (except for the 1% that FERS puts in), everything you have to opt in (HR doesn't get to spend your money!)
There's no employer paid LI (in fact, the possible version they have is fairly poor, unless you have a condition that makes you uninsurable; the rates for private LI, especially term, are far better), the gov does pay a fairly large percentage of costs for health insurance (around 72% if I remember) but you need to find the best coverage for your location and family (and your coverage where you live may not be the best, or even available, if you live just a bit away... so pay attention to coverage areas), and you have to define how much to withdraw for TSP (again, make sure that you have it withdrawn throughout the year as if you max out early you don't get the match for anything for the rest of the year).

also, be aware that things can change (and have done so even retroactively! {Yes, FERS itself was made retroactive when it was implemented}) so you need to pay attention. Also pay attention to how your state (or future state if you plan on relocation in retirement) taxes fed benefits... it's not universal by any means.

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dm200
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by dm200 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:38 am

Swansea wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:49 am
+1 on opting out of FEGLI. Of all the employees I had counseled on this issue and told them to shop the private sector, not one came back to say FEGLI was a better deal.
Employees with pre-existing health conditions may find it competitive, particularly if they can not secure private life insurance.
yes

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dm200
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by dm200 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:43 am

also, be aware that things can change (and have done so even retroactively! {Yes, FERS itself was made retroactive when it was implemented}) so you need to pay attention. Also pay attention to how your state (or future state if you plan on relocation in retirement) taxes fed benefits... it's not universal by any means.
Could you elaborate on this FERS issue? I am not, nor ever have been a Federal employee - but know a lot of folks who are - and follow such issues as well.

My understanding is that, I believe in 1984, as of a certain date of hire - all new federal employees were covered by FERS - and not the previous CSRS. I do not believe any employees on CSRS were forced to go to FERS, but those who wished could do so. I know several friends and acquaintances who chose to remain on CSRS for many decades until they retired - getting the CSRS benefits.

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Nestegg_User
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Nestegg_User » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:16 pm

dm200 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:43 am
also, be aware that things can change (and have done so even retroactively! {Yes, FERS itself was made retroactive when it was implemented}) so you need to pay attention. Also pay attention to how your state (or future state if you plan on relocation in retirement) taxes fed benefits... it's not universal by any means.
Could you elaborate on this FERS issue? I am not, nor ever have been a Federal employee - but know a lot of folks who are - and follow such issues as well.

My understanding is that, I believe in 1984, as of a certain date of hire - all new federal employees were covered by FERS - and not the previous CSRS. I do not believe any employees on CSRS were forced to go to FERS, but those who wished could do so. I know several friends and acquaintances who chose to remain on CSRS for many decades until they retired - getting the CSRS benefits.
Implementation of FERS was in 1987 !
https://www.fedsmith.com/2011/08/07/fer ... -25-years/
Those of us who entered before then, between 84' and '87 and who didn't have years in before then, were **involuntarily** switched over to FERS. All our prior paperwork showed CSRS, which is what we signed up for; those with earlier starting dates could "opt in" but virtually all realized that the new system gave decidedly poorer benefits and so stayed with CSRS. That precedent could be used to require higher pay-in by current/recent employees (although that hasn't been forced as yet, but things can change)

AFA health insurance: I've been in areas where families live in different counties and even states from their office; very often the description of coverage areas have limited the availability for those individuals (in such instances they had to use more generic BC/BS, GEHA, or the like....which have fewer limitations but may have limited providers)

mac2019
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by mac2019 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:55 pm

Tom:

Congratulations on the new government job. I'm a recently retired federal employee and if I had to give you a quick thumbnail summary of advise for a new federal employee who had to make choices this week, I would say skip the government life insurance, sign up for Blue Cross/Blue Shield Basic (you can change to something else next open season), max out your TSP and copy and keep all personnel documents. I would suggest, if you can afford it, maxing out your TSP contributions and putting your contributions into the G Fund until you get your feet on the ground and become familiar with all the TSP funds that are available to you. You don't have to wait until an open season to move your money between the TSP funds. Keep in mind your TSP contributions come out of your gross pay, unless you pick the Roth. If you have served on active duty and do not have an active duty retirement, then look into buying back your active duty military time and applying it to your federal retirement. Finally, bookmark Federal Times newspaper and Government Executive Magazine. They will provide lots of information on federal retirement policy, federal pay, etc. Good luck.

Swansea
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Swansea » Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:17 pm

Nestegg_User wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:16 pm
dm200 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:43 am
also, be aware that things can change (and have done so even retroactively! {Yes, FERS itself was made retroactive when it was implemented}) so you need to pay attention. Also pay attention to how your state (or future state if you plan on relocation in retirement) taxes fed benefits... it's not universal by any means.
Could you elaborate on this FERS issue? I am not, nor ever have been a Federal employee - but know a lot of folks who are - and follow such issues as well.

My understanding is that, I believe in 1984, as of a certain date of hire - all new federal employees were covered by FERS - and not the previous CSRS. I do not believe any employees on CSRS were forced to go to FERS, but those who wished could do so. I know several friends and acquaintances who chose to remain on CSRS for many decades until they retired - getting the CSRS benefits.
Implementation of FERS was in 1987 !
https://www.fedsmith.com/2011/08/07/fer ... -25-years/
Those of us who entered before then, between 84' and '87 and who didn't have years in before then, were **involuntarily** switched over to FERS. All our prior paperwork showed CSRS, which is what we signed up for; those with earlier starting dates could "opt in" but virtually all realized that the new system gave decidedly poorer benefits and so stayed with CSRS. That precedent could be used to require higher pay-in by current/recent employees (although that hasn't been forced as yet, but things can change)

AFA health insurance: I've been in areas where families live in different counties and even states from their office; very often the description of coverage areas have limited the availability for those individuals (in such instances they had to use more generic BC/BS, GEHA, or the like....which have fewer limitations but may have limited providers)
There were two "Open Seasons" for CSRS folks to switch to FERS. My recollection is that about 3% made the switch. A software program was given to Federal Agencies to compute benefits under both programs. It spit out results showing that benefits were the same, save for a few folks who had social security spousals benefits (I think, this was some years ago.) The interesting thing I learned after running many comparisons with the program for folks was that the assumption programmed into the software was the TSP benefit was projected to return 8% annually. That seemed too high to me at the time and now.

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dm200
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by dm200 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:30 pm

Nestegg_User wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:16 pm
dm200 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:43 am
also, be aware that things can change (and have done so even retroactively! {Yes, FERS itself was made retroactive when it was implemented}) so you need to pay attention. Also pay attention to how your state (or future state if you plan on relocation in retirement) taxes fed benefits... it's not universal by any means.
Could you elaborate on this FERS issue? I am not, nor ever have been a Federal employee - but know a lot of folks who are - and follow such issues as well.
My understanding is that, I believe in 1984, as of a certain date of hire - all new federal employees were covered by FERS - and not the previous CSRS. I do not believe any employees on CSRS were forced to go to FERS, but those who wished could do so. I know several friends and acquaintances who chose to remain on CSRS for many decades until they retired - getting the CSRS benefits.
Implementation of FERS was in 1987 !
https://www.fedsmith.com/2011/08/07/fer ... -25-years/
Those of us who entered before then, between 84' and '87 and who didn't have years in before then, were **involuntarily** switched over to FERS. All our prior paperwork showed CSRS, which is what we signed up for; those with earlier starting dates could "opt in" but virtually all realized that the new system gave decidedly poorer benefits and so stayed with CSRS. That precedent could be used to require higher pay-in by current/recent employees (although that hasn't been forced as yet, but things can change)
AFA health insurance: I've been in areas where families live in different counties and even states from their office; very often the description of coverage areas have limited the availability for those individuals (in such instances they had to use more generic BC/BS, GEHA, or the like....which have fewer limitations but may have limited providers)
Thanks for the additional information..

I really supported these changes for Federal employees at that time. Not sure about the exact timing, but there were several loopholes and unfair provisions changed.

1. Social Security is, by intention and design, weighted significantly toward lower income participants vs middle and upper (to a point) income folks. That is, the very lowest income qualified can get the minimum payment for a very, very small degree of participation over the qualified number of quarters. Before this change, Federal employees under CSRS did not pay Social Security retirement, not could they receive it based on their federal employment. However, if the federal employee had employment income from elsewhere, that income would be taxed for SS retirement and the employee would qualify for retirement SS income. If such a federal employee had, say, a very, very small such SS taxed income for many years (able to qualify for SS retirement) it looked to SS like this (often highly compensated federal employee) was the lowest of the low income person and would get the minimum SS retirement monthly income for life. The amount paid in by the employee and employer over those many years was less than what the retiree got in SS benefits in just a month or two. One friend of mine, back then, was a federal employee and found some sort of minimum hour employment to cash in on this loophole. Fortunately, it was closed and this was a case where, if the person had not begun to receive SS retirement - the loophole was closed retroactively.

2. Because SS retirement is weighted towards lower income folks receiving more on a percentage basis of what they (and employers) pay in, those of us in the moderate to higher income (to a point) subsidize these lower income folks. That is OK with me, BUT I believe that is everyone's responsibility. Those mid to higher income folks not paying SS taxes are not, in my opinion, paying their fair share. By having all federal employees, eventually, paying SS taxes - they are now paying their fair share.

3. I think (not 100% sure) that the WEP and related changes were also implemented at this time as well. I also think federal employees about this time began to pay, and be eligible for, Medicare.

BackOfTheNet
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by BackOfTheNet » Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:54 pm

As far as health insurance goes, the GEHA high deductible plan with HSA can be a pretty good deal.

Also, you might be eligible for a flexible spending account (dependent care or health).

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yangtui
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by yangtui » Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:12 pm

On the topic of fed health insurance, does anybody have any experience with the HSA eligible Aetna plan?

Paul78
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Paul78 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 6:47 pm

yangtui wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:12 pm
On the topic of fed health insurance, does anybody have any experience with the HSA eligible Aetna plan?
In my experience go with HSA GEHA plan instead. At least in my case the following were true

1.) It provided slightly more services that the Aetna plan

2.) It was cheaper than the Aetna plan

3.) It has access to a better HSA administrator than the Aetna plan

And the kicker is GEHA does not actually administer the plan they basically contract it out depending on what part of the country you live. So for me that turned out to be Aetna.

Paul78
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Paul78 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 6:50 pm

Swansea wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:49 am
+1 on opting out of FEGLI. Of all the employees I had counseled on this issue and told them to shop the private sector, not one came back to say FEGLI was a better deal.
Employees with pre-existing health conditions may find it competitive, particularly if they can not secure private life insurance.
Honestly to me it only makes sense if you already have a terminal illness when you start employment OR if you develop a serious illness and are lucky enough for it to line up with a FEGLI open season (they are rare but seem to happen every 10-15 years). Either way if you enter young or healthy it does not make sense to me.

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Nestegg_User
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Nestegg_User » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:26 pm

dm200 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:30 pm
Nestegg_User wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:16 pm
dm200 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:43 am
also, be aware that things can change (and have done so even retroactively! {Yes, FERS itself was made retroactive when it was implemented}) so you need to pay attention. Also pay attention to how your state (or future state if you plan on relocation in retirement) taxes fed benefits... it's not universal by any means.
Could you elaborate on this FERS issue? I am not, nor ever have been a Federal employee - but know a lot of folks who are - and follow such issues as well.
My understanding is that, I believe in 1984, as of a certain date of hire - all new federal employees were covered by FERS - and not the previous CSRS. I do not believe any employees on CSRS were forced to go to FERS, but those who wished could do so. I know several friends and acquaintances who chose to remain on CSRS for many decades until they retired - getting the CSRS benefits.
Implementation of FERS was in 1987 !
https://www.fedsmith.com/2011/08/07/fer ... -25-years/
Those of us who entered before then, between 84' and '87 and who didn't have years in before then, were **involuntarily** switched over to FERS. All our prior paperwork showed CSRS, which is what we signed up for; those with earlier starting dates could "opt in" but virtually all realized that the new system gave decidedly poorer benefits and so stayed with CSRS. That precedent could be used to require higher pay-in by current/recent employees (although that hasn't been forced as yet, but things can change)
AFA health insurance: I've been in areas where families live in different counties and even states from their office; very often the description of coverage areas have limited the availability for those individuals (in such instances they had to use more generic BC/BS, GEHA, or the like....which have fewer limitations but may have limited providers)
Thanks for the additional information..

I really supported these changes for Federal employees at that time. Not sure about the exact timing, but there were several loopholes and unfair provisions changed.

1. Social Security is, by intention and design, weighted significantly toward lower income participants vs middle and upper (to a point) income folks. That is, the very lowest income qualified can get the minimum payment for a very, very small degree of participation over the qualified number of quarters. Before this change, Federal employees under CSRS did not pay Social Security retirement, not could they receive it based on their federal employment. However, if the federal employee had employment income from elsewhere, that income would be taxed for SS retirement and the employee would qualify for retirement SS income. If such a federal employee had, say, a very, very small such SS taxed income for many years (able to qualify for SS retirement) it looked to SS like this (often highly compensated federal employee) was the lowest of the low income person and would get the minimum SS retirement monthly income for life. The amount paid in by the employee and employer over those many years was less than what the retiree got in SS benefits in just a month or two. One friend of mine, back then, was a federal employee and found some sort of minimum hour employment to cash in on this loophole. Fortunately, it was closed and this was a case where, if the person had not begun to receive SS retirement - the loophole was closed retroactively.

2. Because SS retirement is weighted towards lower income folks receiving more on a percentage basis of what they (and employers) pay in, those of us in the moderate to higher income (to a point) subsidize these lower income folks. That is OK with me, BUT I believe that is everyone's responsibility. Those mid to higher income folks not paying SS taxes are not, in my opinion, paying their fair share. By having all federal employees, eventually, paying SS taxes - they are now paying their fair share.

3. I think (not 100% sure) that the WEP and related changes were also implemented at this time as well. I also think federal employees about this time began to pay, and be eligible for, Medicare.
The WEP provision was implemented in **1983** to address that very issue.
see: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf
(as I noted, FERS was in 1987)

Small Savanna
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Small Savanna » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:39 pm

I'm a recently retired Fed. FERS is a good program, combining a defined benefit pension with TSP and social security. If you take full advantage of the TSP, you will be in good shape for retirement. I always made sure I got the full employee match, but in hindsight I would have put away closer to the max each year.

The FEHB is an okay health plan while you're working, but the ability to continue it into retirement is a very significant benefit because you don't have to worry about filling a coverage gap between retirement and Medicare eligibility.

I agree with the other comments about FEGLI - if you're in good health you can get a better deal elsewhere.

The dental and vision benefits aren't subsidized, and for our family I decided that it was cheaper to pay out of pocket.

We signed up for the long term care insurance. Although it isn't subsidized, the premiums are affordable, and it seems like a good hedge against the possibility of an extended nursing home stay or a few years of home health aides.

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tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:05 am

Small Savanna wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:39 pm
We signed up for the long term care insurance. Although it isn't subsidized, the premiums are affordable, and it seems like a good hedge against the possibility of an extended nursing home stay or a few years of home health aides.
Is the federal long term care insurance program better than what can be found in the private sector? Should I be signing up for that while I’m in my 30s or wait until later in life?

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tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:06 am

Swansea wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:49 am
+1 on opting out of FEGLI. Of all the employees I had counseled on this issue and told them to shop the private sector, not one came back to say FEGLI was a better deal.
Employees with pre-existing health conditions may find it competitive, particularly if they can not secure private life insurance.
Thank you

Topic Author
tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:12 am

dm200 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:20 am

Relating to Health Insurance - you have many options for coverage - and you can change during the enrollment period each year. I would, then, plan on such a review of all your options every year.
As I’m staring soon, I think I can pick a plan for the rest of 2019 and still, in December, change plans for all of 2020. Is this correct? Does that offer me any type of advantage to maybe picking a plan now with higher monthly cost but little out of pocket and then visit doctors for our annual checkups before switching to high deductibles in 2020 since we never go to the doctors? Or does it not work that way and maybe that’s not a good plan.?

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tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:14 am

Nestegg_User wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:02 am
and you have to define how much to withdraw for TSP (again, make sure that you have it withdrawn throughout the year as if you max out early you don't get the match for anything for the rest of the year).
Thank you for this great point

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tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:16 am

mac2019 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:55 pm

copy and keep all personnel documents.
What do you mean by this?

mac2019 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:55 pm

Finally, bookmark Federal Times newspaper and Government Executive Magazine.
Thank you. I will

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tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:17 am

Paul78 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 6:47 pm
yangtui wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:12 pm
On the topic of fed health insurance, does anybody have any experience with the HSA eligible Aetna plan?
In my experience go with HSA GEHA plan instead. At least in my case the following were true

1.) It provided slightly more services that the Aetna plan

2.) It was cheaper than the Aetna plan

3.) It has access to a better HSA administrator than the Aetna plan

And the kicker is GEHA does not actually administer the plan they basically contract it out depending on what part of the country you live. So for me that turned out to be Aetna.
Great advice. Thanks

mac2019
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by mac2019 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:52 am

I suggested keeping copies of all your personnel documents because at some point down the road, you will need something from your personnel file (perhaps documentation of your original starting date, or perhaps documentation of some type of training that might be needed to qualify for another federal position) that won't be there. As an example, years ago, I bought back 4 1/2 years of active duty time in the Army that I added to the total years that counted toward my federal retirement. When I started to prepare my retirement paperwork, my regional personnel office informed me they had no documentation that I had bought back that active duty time. Luckily I had kept copies of my pay vouchers, as well as letters from the personnel office, that documented my past payments. Personnel offices are underfunded and understaffed so you musts be proactive when it comes to understanding your career moves and retirement system. In addition to the earlier references I suggested you bookmark, you might also consider buying a copy of the Federal Employee's Almanac.

You're right about being able to change plans in the next open season (Nov 11 - Dec 9, 2019).

Adam11
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Adam11 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:35 am

OP is enrolled in FERS-FRAE (Further Revised Annuity). Not much different than the original FERS that ran from 1984 to 2012, except the employee contribution is now 4.4%, whereas original FERS employees contribute only 0.8%.

https://www.fedsmith.com/2014/04/07/fer ... this-mean/

rascott
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by rascott » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:39 am

tomwood wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:05 am
Small Savanna wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:39 pm
We signed up for the long term care insurance. Although it isn't subsidized, the premiums are affordable, and it seems like a good hedge against the possibility of an extended nursing home stay or a few years of home health aides.
Is the federal long term care insurance program better than what can be found in the private sector? Should I be signing up for that while I’m in my 30s or wait until later in life?

I would not waste money on that.... maybe look at it in your 50s.

+1 on the GEHA plans... they are typically the best value.

There is nothing really all that different from Fed benefits vs other mega corps. Having worked for both, some areas the Fed benefits are better, some worse.

FERS was a good system, but you have to contribute a lot more now than you used to.... so not that fabulous a deal... and no choice but to give them another 4%+ of your salary.


I always wished they would allow all those FERS contributions to be allowed put into the TSP. But alas, I guess the govt doesn't trust people to handle all of their own retirement.

rich126
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by rich126 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:16 am

KyleAAA wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:07 am
There is no employer paid life insurance at 1x or 2x your pay? Interesting. I always thought government benefits were supposed to be better than the private sector. Not a government employer so can’t help, just thought that was interesting.
Depending on what you are comparing, government benefits may not be so hot. The employee part of health insurance can be expensive, especially compared with the "free" insurance some companies provide. And it is actually more costly than what I'm paying for at a large defense contractor. Also there is no government paid/provided disability insurance.

By far the biggest actual benefit is the vacation, holiday and sick time. 13 days/104 hours of sick leave per year, 10 holidays, and vacation starting with 13 days/104 hrs, going up to 20 days after 3 years, and 26 days after 15 years. And some agencies will now grant you credit for time at other companies assuming the work was similar (i.e., programming for a programmer position).

Going back to the retirement. I was hired in July 1985 and had no option to join CSRS and was put into FERS. I knew a few guys who were under CSRS and remained there, and a few switched. The ones that switched generally regretted it since they never left the government and would have been able to retire sooner with a much higher pension (2% per year means after 35 years you get 70%) although they do not get, nor paid for, social security.

The FERS pension while ok is more costly than it was for employees. Initially 0.8% was deducted to pay for the pension (1% of high 3 year salary times # of years employed or if you stay until 62 it goes to 1.1%) but that has been bumped up substantially and has gone to 3.1 and 4.4% (where I think it is currently at). Returning employees are allowed to use the hire at their original date of hire.

One of the biggest perks at my agency was the availability of training, both in-house and paid training. That is one thing I miss greatly. Usually I could easily take at least 2 weeks of excellent training during my work week. In the "real" world I've rarely encountered companies providing training while on the clock. After hours, sure but rarely on the clock.

I've been a government employee twice for over 20 years, there are some things I liked and some things I dread, especially in the intelligence world.

Enjoy.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by dm200 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:30 am

rascott wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:39 am
tomwood wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:05 am
Small Savanna wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:39 pm
We signed up for the long term care insurance. Although it isn't subsidized, the premiums are affordable, and it seems like a good hedge against the possibility of an extended nursing home stay or a few years of home health aides.
Is the federal long term care insurance program better than what can be found in the private sector? Should I be signing up for that while I’m in my 30s or wait until later in life?
I would not waste money on that.... maybe look at it in your 50s.
+1 on the GEHA plans... they are typically the best value.
There is nothing really all that different from Fed benefits vs other mega corps. Having worked for both, some areas the Fed benefits are better, some worse.
FERS was a good system, but you have to contribute a lot more now than you used to.... so not that fabulous a deal... and no choice but to give them another 4%+ of your salary.
I always wished they would allow all those FERS contributions to be allowed put into the TSP. But alas, I guess the govt doesn't trust people to handle all of their own retirement.
1. While FERS is not as generous as was CSRS, remember that when FERS came along, Federal employees became eligible for SS Retirement benefits as well as expanded TSP.

2. The defined benefit pension has nearly disappeared from the private sector. FERS is such a defined benefit plan.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by rascott » Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:50 am

dm200 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:30 am
rascott wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:39 am
tomwood wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:05 am
Small Savanna wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:39 pm
We signed up for the long term care insurance. Although it isn't subsidized, the premiums are affordable, and it seems like a good hedge against the possibility of an extended nursing home stay or a few years of home health aides.
Is the federal long term care insurance program better than what can be found in the private sector? Should I be signing up for that while I’m in my 30s or wait until later in life?
I would not waste money on that.... maybe look at it in your 50s.
+1 on the GEHA plans... they are typically the best value.
There is nothing really all that different from Fed benefits vs other mega corps. Having worked for both, some areas the Fed benefits are better, some worse.
FERS was a good system, but you have to contribute a lot more now than you used to.... so not that fabulous a deal... and no choice but to give them another 4%+ of your salary.
I always wished they would allow all those FERS contributions to be allowed put into the TSP. But alas, I guess the govt doesn't trust people to handle all of their own retirement.
1. While FERS is not as generous as was CSRS, remember that when FERS came along, Federal employees became eligible for SS Retirement benefits as well as expanded TSP.

2. The defined benefit pension has nearly disappeared from the private sector. FERS is such a defined benefit plan.


The TSP is fine... but basically the same thing every mega Corp offers. Very limited investment choices, but good at what it does.

The FERS defined benefit was a great deal when you were only contributing 0.8% of your pay. Now it's 4.4% mandatory
contributions for new employees.


The leave policies are the most appealing benefit of Fed employment. And job security. The rest of it is meh..... know plenty of people with mega Corp jobs with much better all around benefits.

Even stodgy insurance companies now provide things like paid maternity leave.... still absent from Federal benefits.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by KyleAAA » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:22 am

rich126 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:16 am
By far the biggest actual benefit is the vacation, holiday and sick time. 13 days/104 hours of sick leave per year, 10 holidays, and vacation starting with 13 days/104 hrs, going up to 20 days after 3 years, and 26 days after 15 years. And some agencies will now grant you credit for time at other companies assuming the work was similar (i.e., programming for a programmer position).
That's still quite a bit less PTO than I've gotten my last few places. I guess I will check federal government off my list of potential employers. Pension would be nice, but probably not at the expense of $10k+ per year in 401k matching.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Nestegg_User » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:30 am

dm200 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:30 am
rascott wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:39 am
tomwood wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:05 am
Small Savanna wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:39 pm
We signed up for the long term care insurance. Although it isn't subsidized, the premiums are affordable, and it seems like a good hedge against the possibility of an extended nursing home stay or a few years of home health aides.
Is the federal long term care insurance program better than what can be found in the private sector? Should I be signing up for that while I’m in my 30s or wait until later in life?
I would not waste money on that.... maybe look at it in your 50s.
+1 on the GEHA plans... they are typically the best value.
There is nothing really all that different from Fed benefits vs other mega corps. Having worked for both, some areas the Fed benefits are better, some worse.
FERS was a good system, but you have to contribute a lot more now than you used to.... so not that fabulous a deal... and no choice but to give them another 4%+ of your salary.
I always wished they would allow all those FERS contributions to be allowed put into the TSP. But alas, I guess the govt doesn't trust people to handle all of their own retirement.
1. While FERS is not as generous as was CSRS, remember that when FERS came along, Federal employees became eligible for SS Retirement benefits as well as expanded TSP.

2. The defined benefit pension has nearly disappeared from the private sector. FERS is such a defined benefit plan.
I would have gladly kept CSRS, if I could have, rather than been moved to SS plus reduced pension. If that would have been available.... in retirement I would have had significantly more to me and spouse would have been able to consider taking anytime..... as if I'd pass first then surviving spouse gets half (of the larger) pension plus whatever SS they decided to take {currently we have very similar PIA's so there's no real benefit boost from survivor versus personal SS benefits} and if I'm surviving spouse there's no boost in SS (just a boost in the tax rate, as single vs MFJ)

AFA the TSP.... it took a couple of years to actually get it started! (they even gave a measly 3/4% bump to supposedly make up for the delay). Also, remember that not everyone can max out TSP, especially at the lower grades or in higher COL areas, but the CSRS didn't rely on employee additional contributions (it did already withhold for retirement... the original FERS was trying to come close to the contribution level of CSRS but at a much reduced benefit level).
The G fund was the only thing available (4/87) until months later (1/29/88) when the C and F funds were finally added [ S and I weren't added until 5/01, target funds not added until 8/05].... so your "expanded TSP" idea has a huge hole. The advantage of the plan was lower costs, but it also came with significant paperwork issues in that in the early years ALL changes (allocation, contributions, interfund transfers) had to be done on paper and had significant delays (implementation was usually at the end of the month). It took years for online access and change opportunities.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Nestegg_User » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:43 am

Kyle

the one advantage is that one can roll over up to 240 hours year to year (there are a few agencies (foreign service, I believe) where the number is higher)

the downside for most professional positions is that the nominal pay is much below the private sector (mine was at least 25%, not even considering any bonuses)... but job security is much higher. { on the other hand, your job can move as has just happened with some Ag dept employees (I witnessed it firsthand at a prior agency... a certain senator wanted things moved to that state... and being senior senator it happened. (and no, those affected didn't get relocation expenses nor retention bonus)}.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Marylander1 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:15 pm

tomwood wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:16 am
mac2019 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:55 pm

copy and keep all personnel documents.
What do you mean by this?
Save a copy of every document related to your personal HR status, including benefits and personnel reviews, preferably outside your agency email in case you need it after you separate from service.

Weird things occasionally happen. An example in which documentation was vital was a rare retroactive TSP disenrollment described at viewtopic.php?f=1&t=164908

Marylander1

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by junior » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:15 pm

KyleAAA wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:22 am
rich126 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:16 am
By far the biggest actual benefit is the vacation, holiday and sick time. 13 days/104 hours of sick leave per year, 10 holidays, and vacation starting with 13 days/104 hrs, going up to 20 days after 3 years, and 26 days after 15 years. And some agencies will now grant you credit for time at other companies assuming the work was similar (i.e., programming for a programmer position).
That's still quite a bit less PTO than I've gotten my last few places.
Just pointing out for most [federal] jobs you also get federal holidays off without taking leave.

(edited for clarity)
Last edited by junior on Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by dm200 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:20 pm

junior wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:15 pm
KyleAAA wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:22 am
rich126 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:16 am
By far the biggest actual benefit is the vacation, holiday and sick time. 13 days/104 hours of sick leave per year, 10 holidays, and vacation starting with 13 days/104 hrs, going up to 20 days after 3 years, and 26 days after 15 years. And some agencies will now grant you credit for time at other companies assuming the work was similar (i.e., programming for a programmer position).
That's still quite a bit less PTO than I've gotten my last few places.
Just pointing out for most jobs you also get federal holidays off without taking leave.
Yes - I believe almost all employers provide paid holidays - some a day or two fewer then federal employees - and some the same number.

I believe that those who have served in the Military get credit for that time.

From what I have heard from several federal employees/retirees I have known, the federal employee disability is very good - in addition to SS disability.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by KyleAAA » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:31 pm

junior wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:15 pm
KyleAAA wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:22 am
rich126 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:16 am
By far the biggest actual benefit is the vacation, holiday and sick time. 13 days/104 hours of sick leave per year, 10 holidays, and vacation starting with 13 days/104 hrs, going up to 20 days after 3 years, and 26 days after 15 years. And some agencies will now grant you credit for time at other companies assuming the work was similar (i.e., programming for a programmer position).
That's still quite a bit less PTO than I've gotten my last few places.
Just pointing out for most [federal] jobs you also get federal holidays off without taking leave.

(edited for clarity)
I have always gotten those days off, too. 10 paid holidays seems pretty standard based on my experience. Overall, I think I would evaluate these benefits as below-average, bordering on poor. Other than the pension. I like pensions.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by rich126 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:02 pm

KyleAAA wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:31 pm
junior wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:15 pm
KyleAAA wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:22 am
rich126 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:16 am
By far the biggest actual benefit is the vacation, holiday and sick time. 13 days/104 hours of sick leave per year, 10 holidays, and vacation starting with 13 days/104 hrs, going up to 20 days after 3 years, and 26 days after 15 years. And some agencies will now grant you credit for time at other companies assuming the work was similar (i.e., programming for a programmer position).
That's still quite a bit less PTO than I've gotten my last few places.
Just pointing out for most [federal] jobs you also get federal holidays off without taking leave.

(edited for clarity)
I have always gotten those days off, too. 10 paid holidays seems pretty standard based on my experience. Overall, I think I would evaluate these benefits as below-average, bordering on poor. Other than the pension. I like pensions.
I guess lots of places give less than 13 (sick) + 10 (holidays) + 20 (vacation after 3 years) = 43 days. At least to most people I know. Not to mention any time beyond 40 hours is either paid (infrequent in my experience) or allowed to be taken off in the future.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by KyleAAA » Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:11 pm

rich126 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:02 pm
KyleAAA wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:31 pm
junior wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:15 pm
KyleAAA wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:22 am
rich126 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:16 am
By far the biggest actual benefit is the vacation, holiday and sick time. 13 days/104 hours of sick leave per year, 10 holidays, and vacation starting with 13 days/104 hrs, going up to 20 days after 3 years, and 26 days after 15 years. And some agencies will now grant you credit for time at other companies assuming the work was similar (i.e., programming for a programmer position).
That's still quite a bit less PTO than I've gotten my last few places.
Just pointing out for most [federal] jobs you also get federal holidays off without taking leave.

(edited for clarity)
I have always gotten those days off, too. 10 paid holidays seems pretty standard based on my experience. Overall, I think I would evaluate these benefits as below-average, bordering on poor. Other than the pension. I like pensions.
I guess lots of places give less than 13 (sick) + 10 (holidays) + 20 (vacation after 3 years) = 43 days. At least to most people I know. Not to mention any time beyond 40 hours is either paid (infrequent in my experience) or allowed to be taken off in the future.
Yeah, I'm sure it beats benefits in most industries. Not tech employers, though.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by Paul78 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:25 pm

rascott wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:50 am
The FERS defined benefit was a great deal when you were only contributing 0.8% of your pay. Now it's 4.4% mandatory
contributions for new employees.

Yep that really adds up over a career. Don't get me wrong it is still a good deal (the Fed portion is much higher than 4.4% of your salary) but over the course of a career that amounts to a lost year of earnings. I entered the last year of .8%. Even though it only initially bumped up to 1.4% (would have to double check the numbers but it was around there) that is still a noticeable difference over a 30+ year career.

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nps
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by nps » Tue Sep 24, 2019 6:24 pm

tomwood wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:12 am
As I’m staring soon, I think I can pick a plan for the rest of 2019 and still, in December, change plans for all of 2020. Is this correct? Does that offer me any type of advantage to maybe picking a plan now with higher monthly cost but little out of pocket and then visit doctors for our annual checkups before switching to high deductibles in 2020 since we never go to the doctors? Or does it not work that way and maybe that’s not a good plan.?
If you start an HDHP now you may be able to contribute max to HSA for 2019. If you start traditional then switch for 2020 you can't.

Most (all?) HDHPs cover routine physicals 100 percent with no copay. Need to be careful about what you discuss and what tests they order to be sure it remains free though.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by supersharpie » Tue Sep 24, 2019 6:30 pm

Nestegg_User wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:16 pm
dm200 wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:43 am
also, be aware that things can change (and have done so even retroactively! {Yes, FERS itself was made retroactive when it was implemented}) so you need to pay attention. Also pay attention to how your state (or future state if you plan on relocation in retirement) taxes fed benefits... it's not universal by any means.
Could you elaborate on this FERS issue? I am not, nor ever have been a Federal employee - but know a lot of folks who are - and follow such issues as well.

My understanding is that, I believe in 1984, as of a certain date of hire - all new federal employees were covered by FERS - and not the previous CSRS. I do not believe any employees on CSRS were forced to go to FERS, but those who wished could do so. I know several friends and acquaintances who chose to remain on CSRS for many decades until they retired - getting the CSRS benefits.
Implementation of FERS was in 1987 !
https://www.fedsmith.com/2011/08/07/fer ... -25-years/
Those of us who entered before then, between 84' and '87 and who didn't have years in before then, were **involuntarily** switched over to FERS. All our prior paperwork showed CSRS, which is what we signed up for; those with earlier starting dates could "opt in" but virtually all realized that the new system gave decidedly poorer benefits and so stayed with CSRS. That precedent could be used to require higher pay-in by current/recent employees (although that hasn't been forced as yet, but things can change)

AFA health insurance: I've been in areas where families live in different counties and even states from their office; very often the description of coverage areas have limited the availability for those individuals (in such instances they had to use more generic BC/BS, GEHA, or the like....which have fewer limitations but may have limited providers)
It's arguable that FERS/Social Security/5% TSP match combined equals a benefit roughly equivalent to the CSRS pension alone.

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by bene1 » Thu Sep 26, 2019 8:04 am

KyleAAA wrote:
Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:07 am
There is no employer paid life insurance at 1x or 2x your pay?
There is some free life insurance provided with certain conditions - the FERS Basic Employee Death Benefit, for employees with 18 months of creditable civilian service. This is distinct from the group life insurance available for purchase, FEGLI.

Basically, 50% of the employee’s salary plus $32K.

https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services ... survivors/

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tj » Thu Sep 26, 2019 11:47 am

I would not waste money on that.... maybe look at it in your 50s.
I would absolutely get a LTCFeds policy, as there is not an extensive medical underwriting questionaire within your first year. I'm 34 and I pay $33.30/pay period for a 5 years of $450/day benefit, locking in the cheap rates while young seems pretty beneficial to me.

If I waited until my 50's, I would spend a lot more on the insurance, and perhaps might not pass the underwriting for the best rate.

I wouldn't bother with the Aetna HDHP. The plan most closest to GEHA HDHP in price would be the MHBP HDHP. MHBP requires you to join the Mail Handlers union and it doesn't cover dental like GEHA does. It does put more in your HSA though.


Also United HealthCare had a good priced HDHP/HSA, but not available nationally...

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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tj » Thu Sep 26, 2019 11:48 am

Paul78 wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:25 pm
rascott wrote:
Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:50 am
The FERS defined benefit was a great deal when you were only contributing 0.8% of your pay. Now it's 4.4% mandatory
contributions for new employees.

Yep that really adds up over a career. Don't get me wrong it is still a good deal (the Fed portion is much higher than 4.4% of your salary) but over the course of a career that amounts to a lost year of earnings. I entered the last year of .8%. Even though it only initially bumped up to 1.4% (would have to double check the numbers but it was around there) that is still a noticeable difference over a 30+ year career.
It went from 0.8% to 3.4% to 4.4%. It's frustrating that they didn't just increase it a little bit for everyone vs the massive increases for new hires. The 4.4% is still a good deal though. It just means less of the benefit is taxable when you retire.

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tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:47 pm

are there any banks/credit unions or credit cards available to federal employees which offer great rates?

tj
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tj » Thu Sep 26, 2019 5:40 pm

tomwood wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:47 pm
are there any banks/credit unions or credit cards available to federal employees which offer great rates?
You can join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, they have some good cards. Although that's pretty easy for anyone to join.

https://www.penfed.org/credit-cards


For P&C insurance, GEICO and CSE Insurance have discounts for federal employees. CSE is only on the west coast.

State Department Federal Credit Union has a 2% Chip & Pin card and good loan rates. It's open to some agencies, but there's a workarond for anyone to join.

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dm200
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by dm200 » Fri Sep 27, 2019 9:23 am

tomwood wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:47 pm
are there any banks/credit unions or credit cards available to federal employees which offer great rates?
If you are employed in the Defense Department, you are eligible to join Navy Federal Credit Union.

There are also other Federal Credit Unions you may be eligible to joint as well.
Last edited by dm200 on Fri Sep 27, 2019 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

Topic Author
tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Fri Sep 27, 2019 10:23 am

tj wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 5:40 pm
tomwood wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:47 pm
are there any banks/credit unions or credit cards available to federal employees which offer great rates?
You can join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, they have some good cards. Although that's pretty easy for anyone to join.

https://www.penfed.org/credit-cards


For P&C insurance, GEICO and CSE Insurance have discounts for federal employees. CSE is only on the west coast.

State Department Federal Credit Union has a 2% Chip & Pin card and good loan rates. It's open to some agencies, but there's a workarond for anyone to join.
Thank you

Topic Author
tomwood
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tomwood » Fri Sep 27, 2019 3:41 pm

dm200 wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 9:23 am
tomwood wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:47 pm
are there any banks/credit unions or credit cards available to federal employees which offer great rates?
If you are employed in the Defense Department, you are eligible to join Navy Federal Credit Union.

There are also other Federal Credit Unions you may be eligible to joint as well.
Thanks. Are all or nearly all credit unions open to federal employees?

tj
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Re: What Benefits to Expect for new Fed employee?

Post by tj » Fri Sep 27, 2019 5:46 pm

tomwood wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 3:41 pm
dm200 wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 9:23 am
tomwood wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:47 pm
are there any banks/credit unions or credit cards available to federal employees which offer great rates?
If you are employed in the Defense Department, you are eligible to join Navy Federal Credit Union.

There are also other Federal Credit Unions you may be eligible to joint as well.
Thanks. Are all or nearly all credit unions open to federal employees?
No! Every credit union has a specific listing of eligible groups.

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