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We're meeting with the retirement benefits lady in HR this afternoon. Here are the questions I thought of--can you think of anything to add?

HEALTH INSURANCE
Can he switch health insurance at annual enrollment after retirement or are we stuck with the initial choice we make this month?

After he turns 65 and before I do, am I properly covered under the current insurance and he in the conversion to Medicare supplemental (I'm about 6 months younger)?

Can we move back & forth between private Medicare supplemntals and the state group plan, or once we leave we cannot return?

Does he sign up for retirement insurance just like usual for annual enrollment, or is there a different form or process?

PENSION
How does he apply for it and when does it start arriving? Do we need to do anything to have the insurance premiums automatically deducted from the pension?

How much is it with 100% survivor option, 50%, and none? How many unused days off is he carying over?

Can he postpone it for a higher benefit (e.g., wait till he turns 64 or 65)?

SHOULD WE LOOK INTO DISABILITY RETIREMENT* or does that take too long at this point (online info seems to say it's dependent on SS disability, which can take 1-2 years to qualify for, and he's already 63 1/2).


* My husband's retiring unexpectedly after this semester insttead of after spring semester. He has a speech problem due to micro-strokes in the language processing area of his brain. It's become too difficult to lecture when you trip over most words of at least 3 syllables.
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"SHOULD WE LOOK INTO DISABILITY RETIREMENT* or does that take too long at this point (online info seems to say it's dependent on SS disability, which can take 1-2 years to qualify for, and he's already 63 1/2)."


Probably not...... it typically takes years...you get denied the first time, but talk to a knowledgeable person on it. Most of the lawyers who advertise on TV want a 33% cut of the first years disability payments if they work for 'you'. SS denies about 90% of claims, then on appeal grants most of them anyway. just delays things and the lawyers love it since folks always use a lawyer for the appeal and they clean up.


If it were a few years ago, you go on medicare 2 years after you get on disability.....but that is too late...he'll be on medicare in 1 1/2 years anyway.

t
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Hi Alstro,

Sounds like a good list of questions to me. In my case (we retired at age 49) we had no medical insurance options other than pay, so I didn't need to cover those questions.

On pension, it took me 4 to 5 months to get benefits to start arriving once I started the process. So your questions about the specific mechanics of initiating a pension seem appropriate and important. In our case, we both had two pensions to collect. On review, we decided to both take them with no survivor options so we could maximize our benefits assuming we both live to about the same age. If we both live to age 88 and die, it will look like a brilliant decision. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow and SGSpouse lives to age 99, she might wish we chose otherwise. Our pensions were not COLA'd, so waiting to a later age to collect a higher amount didn't make sense if we assumed we would live at least to age 65. The non-COLA aspect of the pensions also helped make the decision not to take lower benefits in exchange for survivor benefits. Our pensions will become less and less important as we age and they don't inflate.

Of course your experience and specifics are likely to be very different than my own, but those are the things I juggled when deciding these things if they are any help.

Sorry to hear of your husband's micro-strokes and speech problems. I hope retirement is very good to both of you.
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Thanks for your comments. AS it happens I made a couple of errors in estimating the pension and was pleasantly surprised.

Error #1: I underestimated the amount of unused sick leave he'd be carrying over (it's appended to service time).

Error #2: I figured they'd calculate his pension based on his age being 63 at time of retirement in December, but since the pension actually starts in January of the year in which he turns 64, they use 64. So he's only docked 6% for "early retirement." <*snort*>

Of course, the pension lady said there is always a discrepancy when the final calcs are done. When I asked for a range of discrepancy (eg, less than $10, up to $100? up to 10%?), she said she didn't know (man, if I had her job, I'd track this just out of curiosity!).

Hubby's passport was apparently an adequate substitute for the missing birth certificate (which I expect is buried in the files and not really missing-). She never looked at or copied our marriage certificate. Particularly given that I never changed my name, it seemed odd. I think we should bring it to the exit interview next month (I know it seems odd that I would be there, but he would not know what to look for on the paperwork--when I say he has zero interest in finances, I'm serious. OTOH, my whole brain glazes over in documents like mortgages, deeds, summons for jury duty, etc., so he interprets those...we are kind of symbiotic ;-)

We decided long ago to accept a smaller pension in order to provide me 100% survivor benefit. I have no pension of my own, and his other pension is really tiny (this one is merely small-). We will be more hurt financially than average by one of our deaths because my SS benefit is 70% of his, not the more typical 50%, and little life insurance (which we will probably stop doing altogether--it's just $50k of group life through his employer--we have none for me.).

Oh--he'd only receive another $21/month with disability retirement rather than regular retirement (or as they call it before age 65, early retirement ;-). Not sure it's worth the hassle.
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Error #2: I figured they'd calculate his pension based on his age being 63 at time of retirement in December, but since the pension actually starts in January of the year in which he turns 64, they use 64. So he's only docked 6% for "early retirement." <*snort*>

Delay taking the pension until the next year.

If you don't have savings to cover that, think about a home equity loan. You should be able to get those for a fraction of that six percent.
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Delay taking the pension until the next year.

According to the numbers she gave us, we'd gain only $21/month by waiting to collect the pension till age 65 (there's no additional benefit beyond 65)--why it's so much less than 6% I can only partially explain by the fact that delaying collecting the pension means losing the benefit of adding unused days off to your service time. The group disability policy provides full-retirement-age (65) pension at whatever age you take it. But it doesn't account for the years of raises you miss by being disabled/retired, it's based on your salary at the time.

If you don't have savings to cover that, think about a home equity loan. You should be able to get those for a fraction of that six percent.

I do have savings enough, but...

(a) I'm not convinced this would be a great use for ~$800/month for the delay for the tiny gain of $21/month, especially since the state pension COLA is capped at 1%/year. (I do think the SS reboot might be a good use of savings as that would give us an 8% raise that does have a decent COLA, at least it does now-).

(2) I'm one of those crazy coots who says nyet to debt in retirement. One reason is the big slash in income when one of us dies--I wouldn;t want to be left holding the bag--or dH either. Plus the only financial advice my Mom gave me growing up was "avoid finance charges," it became kind of in-grained, which left me with a horror of debt in general. My last car loan was a 2-year loan after putting 1/3 down (and I counted down the months till it was gone!). I've never taken out a home equity loan, and whenever we refinanced for a better rate, never took money out of the house. So we were able to pay cash for our current house 10 years ago, and did.

But I thank you for the suggestion and think it will be helpfull to others on the board whose circumstances (and level of comfort with debt) is different than mine.

ASIDE
My husband's speaking ability seems to have taken a miraculous turn since the retirement meeting. I asked him if his speech problem totally vanished, would he still want to retire at the end of this semester. He unhesitatingly said, Yes! 10 years at his second career has been enough. He is content, I am content :-)
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