FEDweek

COLA Not Big Bucks, But Will Help

The 1.5 percent COLA being paid with this month’s annuity payments bring an increase on average of about $50 a month for CSRS retirees and about $20 a month for FERS retirees (for those FERS retirees eligible for a COLA; generally not until age 62 except for disability or mandatory retirees).

Many retirees view the annual COLA in terms of how it relates to the increase in FEHB premiums. For 2014, the average premium increase, on a monthly basis, are about $7 for self-only coverage and about $17 for self and family coverage.

However, within both the retirement annuity amounts and the FEHB premium average amounts, there are wide variations.

The latest OPM count of retirees, through September 2012 and not taking into account the 1.7 percent COLA paid in January of 2013, showed an average CSRS monthly benefit of $3,181 and an average of $1,175 under FERS. The median benefits—where half are above and half are below—were $2,769 and $889, respectively.

For survivor beneficiaries, the averages were $1,446 and $484, and the medians were $1,289 and $374.

As of that accounting, there were 1,489,787 CSRS retirees and 443,275 FERS retirees, with 532,758 survivor beneficiaries under CSRS and 43,709 under FERS.

The FERS dollar figures do not take into account the value of Social Security (whose benefits are rising by the same percentage), which is part of that system, nor the benefit of government contributions into TSP accounts for them, The FERS system was designed to provide total retirement income about equivalent to CSRS benefits when those factors are considered, although individual outcomes vary widely.