Since the calendar now shows 17 October, evidently September is gone. Happy (belated) New Year to my contracting and finance friends. I spent last month in Maine with my daughter and three of my grandchildren. It was great to be around family and also see the foliage I’ve missed for the past 25 years. Pictures don’t do the scenery justice! The colors changed almost overnight with one frost. When the wind came in, they were gone just as quickly. Seasons change. With the weather and in life as well.
Speaking of seasons… (see what I did there 🙂 )
The Annual Federal Benefits Open Season runs from 9 November through 14 December this year. During open season, federal employees/retirees may make changes to their health (FEHB), dental, and vision (FEDVIP) insurances. This is also the open season for Tricare (insurance for our military members). Open season for insurances through the marketplace runs 1 November through 15 December.
For 2021 there will be 276 plans across the entire FEHB Program. 18 of those are nationwide plans with the others being local or regional offerings. Information on all plans can be found on the OPM Plan Comparison Tool (PCT) in early November. Rates were released earlier this week and are, on average, increasing by 3.6%.
While I am always happy to answer any questions I also want to let you know about the 2020 Virtual Benefits Fair where you can chat with carriers, review 2021 plan details, and get information to help you make the right decisions for you/your family.
Visit LTCFEDS to register for the Benefits Fair.
You can log in at any time during open season to visit individual carrier booths, watch instructional videos, and register for educational webinars. Additionally, representatives from all participating carriers will be available to address your questions during four live carrier chat days:
Friday, November 13, 2020 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (ET)
Friday, November 20, 2020 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (ET)
Wednesday, December 2, 2020 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (ET)
Wednesday, December 9, 2020 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (ET)
It’s Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Open Season As Well
The federal benefits open season is also the timeframe for enrolling / re-enrolling (remember that you must sign up each year you’d like to participate) in FSAs. Eligibility is the same as for FEHB but enrollment in the federal health insurance is not required for enrollment in an FSA. That means, yes retired military who are now federal civilians but using Tricare are eligible to enroll these tax saving programs.
At this point, I’m waiting for the IRS to officially announce contribution limits for the coming year. There’s no required deadline but we typically see this happen around the third Thursday of October. All projections seems to point to no changes for 2021. Health Care (HCFSA) and Limited Expense Health Care (LEXHCFSA) accounts will likely remain at $2,750; with Dependent Care accounts staying at $5,000. If that’s not the case, I’ll let you know.
If you and your spouse are both active employees, you may each enroll in an HCFSA and contribute up to the maximum of $2,750 ($5,500 total). If you and your spouse are both eligible to contribute to a Dependent Care FSA, the household limit is $5,000. You and your spouse may not each contribute $5,000.
You are allowed to roll $550 from this year’s HCFSA/LEXHCFSA into next year so long as you enroll to do the same type of FSA for 2021. Anything in the account above $550 not spent by 31 December will be forfeited. While there is no carry-over allowance for the DCFSA, you do have a grace period. You have until 15 March to spend money in these accounts, and until 30 April to file your claims for reimbursement.
2021 Cost of Living Adjustment
COLA has been announced. Effective 1 December, and therefore seen in January’s payments, military, federal civil service and Social Security retirements will increase by 1.3% Interested in seeing how your area stacks up? Here’s a great tool.
Friday Night Lives & Community Classes
6 pm, Eastern, seems to be working well enough (for now) for my Pinnacle Personnel Services Friday Night Live Facebook streams. These have turned into 20 minute lessons. Catch me live and ask any questions about federal benefits that you’d like. If Friday evenings don’t work with your schedule, videos are posted on the page and you can watch them anytime that’s convenient for you.
Yesterday I talked about the open season.
Here’s what I’m planning.
23 October: What affects your credit rating? How can you best affect it?
30 October: Scary financial habits to squash right now
06 November: Should I stay or should I go? Immediate vs deferred. 60 vs 62.
13 November What’s included/excluded in the high-3 average salary
13 November: ABCs (and D) about getting your money habits under control
20 November: Federal benefits open season
Much of my training is paid for by federal agencies and offered only to their employees. Once a month, starting in October, I will be hosting what I call “Community Classes”. These classes will be offered in a pay per person manner. Employees of any federal agency may attend and pay for class with their own credit card. Agencies may also purchase seats with a government purchase card.
Upcoming classes include. If you see something you’re interested in, please email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
20 October: Financial Literacy Through the Thrift Savings Program Critical training specifically for early to mid-career employees. 7:00 – 10:30 Pacific. 10 am – 1:30 pm Eastern.
20 October: Understanding your Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Social Security Retirement, and Thrift Savings Program withdrawal options. 11:30 am – 3:30 pm Pacific. 2:30 – 6:30 pm Eastern.
03 November: Basic Budgeting 60 minute primer on the ABCs and D(ebt) of money management. Not limited to federal employees. 8 – 9 Pacific. 11 am – 12 Eastern. Free. Registration open now.
03 November: Social Security Retirement 90 minute primer. How does it really work and why do you need to learn about it before you are in your 60s? Not limited to federal employees. 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Pacific 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Eastern
10 November: Completing the Federal Retirement Application. Page by page, line by line instruction on how to complete your application. We will not cover the postponed/deferred nor phased applications in class. These classes are capped at 25. 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Pacific 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
16 November: Federal Survivor and Death Benefits. What’s available to your family if something happens to you? 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Pacific. 11 a.m – 2:30 p.m. Eastern. Registration will open on 1 November
17 November: Demystify Federal Insurances. Open season is here. Do you understand your benefits? 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pacific. 12 – 4 p.m., Eastern. Registration will open on 1 November.
If you see anything you’re interested in, let me know.
If you have suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered on Friday Night Lives, let me know.
This is my “job” (in quotes because I truly do have a passion for this work as well) but I’m here for you. I want to help. I want to make sure you’re understand these topics, how they relate to you, and how to make the best decisions for your situation. How can I help?