CANDOER News

U.S. Symbol

Communicators AND Others Enjoying Retirement
Issue 3March 1996Volume 1 - Number 3

Welcome to Issue 3 of the CANDOER NEWS. I welcome suggestions as to what you would like to see in the News. I will publish, unedited, letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees past or present. Any contribution may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (it will be returned), using WordPerfect 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics) or on a plain sheet of white paper (if it has no graphics). Deadline for submitting material is the first day of each month. Articles/submissions given to me at a luncheon will be published in the next issue of the News. Please restrict articles/submissions to no more than two (2) single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.

My mailing address for contributions or letters to the editor is:

Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062

CAT'S CORNER

The Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, has a Tax Guide on U.S. Civil Service Retirement Benefits. It is Publication 721, Cat. No. 46713C. The publication explains how the federal income tax rules apply to civil service retirement benefits received by retired federal employees (including those disabled) or their survivors. These benefits are paid primarily under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS).

To order this publication or any tax forms call the IRS toll-free number 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). Or, write to the IRS Forms Distribution Center nearest you. Check your Federal income tax package for the correct address. For the hearing-impaired, who have access to TDD equipment, the telephone number for ordering forms and tax questions is 1-800-829-4059.

The following information is copied from "Retirement Life," January 1995.

Prior to the Tax Reform Act of 1986, federal retirees did not pay a tax on their annuities until the entire amount of their contributions to the civil service retirement fund had been recovered. This was called the Three-Year Rule because the retiree generally had three years in which to recover the total amount of contributions made to the retirement fund. The Three-Year Rule was available only to annuitants with start-dates before July 2, 1986.

The General Rule, in effect since July 2, 1986, spreads the recovery of contributions over an actuarially determined lifetime, rather than a period of three years. In other words, part of the monthly annuity will be tax-free for 10 to 25 years, depending upon the age of the annuitant at the time the annuity begins.

Under the General Rule, the federal annuitant has to figure, based on IRS instructions, exactly what the amount will be. Once figured, that same amount is tax-free for the entire 10- to 25-year period. The General Rule, and how to determine the tax-free portion of the monthly annuity, is explained by use of many pages of text and tables in IRS Publication 939.

On the other hand, the Simplified General Rule, and how to determine the tax-free portion of the monthly annuity, is described in less than two pages in IRS Publication 721. It is an extremely easy method (explained below) to quickly determine the tax-free amount of your annuity. Publications can be obtained by calling 1-800-TAX FORM.

The General Rule and the Simplified General Rule do not apply to retirements before July 2, 1986.

THE FORMULA

To use this formula, the annuity start-date must be July 2, 1986, or later, did not take a lump-sum payment, and the annuitant must be a retired employee or a survivor receiving a survivor annuity. Disability annuitants cannot take advantage of this formula until reaching minimum retirement age. Disability annuities are fully taxed until the minimum retirement age is reached.

Generally, the minimum retirement age is: 55 years with 30 years of service; 60 with 20 years; 62 with five years; or 50 with 20 years.

To determine the tax-free portion of the annuity, only two figures are necessary; 1) how much was contributed to the retirement fund; and 2) the number of payments from the chart shown below. The formula is simple, divide total contributions by the number of payments. The result is the amount of the monthly annuity that is tax-free.

 Payment Chart 
Age at state of Annuity Number of Payments
55 and under 300
56-60 260
61-65 240
66-70 170
71 and Over 120

EXAMPLE

You retired July 1, 1993 at the age of 56. Your total contributions to the retirement fund amounted to $41,250. (This information was reported to you by OPM with the initial letter giving you your Annuity Claim Number and other pertinent information about your annuity. It is again shown on the 1099R you receive every year in January.) Since you were 56 at the starting date of your annuity, the $41,250 is divided by 260. The result, $158.65, is the monthly tax-free amount of your annuity. For the next 260 months you may claim $158.65 tax-free. After the 260-month period the annuity becomes fully taxable.

If you provided for your spouse with a survivor annuity and you die your spouse may continue deducting the same tax-free amount until the 260 months has been reached. Should your spouse also die before the 260-month period has been completed, a miscellaneous itemized deduction will be allowed on their last tax return for all of the remaining months.

EXCEPTION

Retired annuitants with start-dates July 2, through Dec 31, 1986 are not subject to the number of payment limits. Anyone in this six-month transition group can continue deducting the tax-free portion even after they have recovered the full amount of the total contribution amount. This also applies to the survivor if the retiree annuitant was part of this transition group.

CHANGING REPORTING METHOD

The IRS states use of the Simplified General Rule, rather than the General Rule, is usually more beneficial in terms of tax results. If you find this to be the case after comparing the computation, you may switch to the simplified method by filing amended returns as long as the statute of limitations has not expired. The statute generally runs three years from the due date of the return. If the annuity start-date is before July 2, 1986, this change cannot be made. More information is contained in IRS Publications 721 and 939.

KEEPING RECORDS

Once the tax-free portion of the annuity has been determined, a record MUST be established by the annuitant to track the tax-free amounts reported. The individual taxpayer is responsible for determining the point at which the total contribution amount has been recovered, and the month that you must begin to pay tax on the full amount of the annuity.

THOUGHTS

OUR SO-CALLED LANGUAGE

Let's face it --- English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and cold as hell another.

Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a and quite a few are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell one day strapful gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would ACTUALLY hurt a fly?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it.

Author Unknown

LUNCHEON LOG

Nineteen retirees attended the February 13 luncheon. Those in attendance were: Bob Berger, Bob Campopiano, Jim Carter, Bob Catlin, Lou Correri, Ralph Crain, Charlie Ditmeyer, Al Giovetti, Harry Laury, Bob Liebau, Mel Maples, Bill Mason, Joe Pado, Ed Peters, Chuck Rambo, Nate Reynolds, Bob Scheller, Doc Sloan, and Norris Watts.

The CANDOERs would like to extend a BIG WELCOME to the four new CANDOERs. Attending for the first time, and we hope not the last, were; Lou Correri, Bill Mason, Ed Peters, and Chuck Rambo. We were all happy to see you and hope you continue to attend.

Bob Liebau gave me Tom Warren's work number. In a conversation with Tom, after the luncheon, I invite him to come to the luncheons. Tom furnished information on six more retirees that work with him at Computer Sciences Corporation. Besides Tom, Joe Sparks, Carmen Bevacqua, Joe Sting, Bill Bischoff, Frank Baldwin, and Dan Ullrich all work at CSC. Tom indicated that he would try to get them all to attend the next luncheon in Virginia and will also try to attend additional luncheons.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Information has been furnished on the whereabouts of two of the five retirees that I have had inquiries about.

Carmen Bevacqua is retired, working at Computer Sciences Corporation, and living in Manassas, VA 22111-2913

Warren Spurr has been retired for 16 years and is living in Rockville, MD.

No information has been received Raymond (Ray) Wolf; James (Jim) Gansel; and Arthur J. (Tim) Tangeman.

If anyone can furnish a telephone number and/or an address for these three people it would be appreciated.

RETIREE'S REPORT

The following information was received, by e-mail, from Jim Prosser.

This summer I am escorting a group of eight friends (rail fans) to Russia specifically to ride the Trans-Siberian railroad from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific. It's a seven day ride, 6,000 miles, seven time zones with a 2 day stop in Irkutsk in Siberia on Lake Baikal for rest and sightseeing. Anyone interested should contact me directly. The train leaves Moscow July 14th with eventual arrival in Vladivostok July 24th. Of course, total trip length is somewhat longer.

Here is a short article:

Freighter Travel
by James F. Prosser

Are you tired, like I am, of cattle car air travel these days when going abroad. In our retirement, my wife and I have already made three voyages by freighter. During our Foreign Service career, we make six of them going to/from posts.

The pace on board a 12 passenger freighter is far different from that found on hotel/Las Vegas type cruise ships. But the ambiance, accommodations, tranquility and relaxation can't be beat.

If any reader wants further detailed information on this unique experience, please contact me directly and I would be happy to furnish it.

Editor's Note: Jim has been asked if he would write some articles about his travel and submit them for publication in the News.

DEATH NOTICE

I regret to inform you of the death of Patricia W. Swierczek, 67, of Boston, Virginia, on February 15, 1996. Pat is survived by her husband Walter, three sons and one daughter.

Editor's Note: A card of condolences was sent to Walt and family February 22, 1996, in the name of the CANDOER Luncheon Group.

JOE'S JOURNAL

GROWING UP IN NEBRASKA

by Joe Lea

BACKGROUND

My grandfather came to the United States in 1879 from England. I know very little about him and know nothing about his parents. I even tried to at least learn how to go about getting genealogical information through the British Embassy; they said the only practical way was to go to England and work from there. Since my grandfather passed away when I was 4 years old, all I have learned came from my father, that is very little.

Grandfather was born in Shropshire and must have been destined to come to America as he was christened Washington M. Lea. When he was 21 he sailed from Liverpool, landed in New York City, and went west by train to Kearney, Nebraska, in Buffalo County. Kearney was established near the site of Fort Kearney, along the Platte River, a military post whose soldiers duties included protecting the pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The Trail followed the Platte River for several hundred miles, as now does a major railroad, the Union Pacific, the first transcontinental highway, US 30, and now a major interstate, I-80. There are several places along the Platte River where the land is just as it was 150 years ago and the ruts made by the wagons on the Oregon Trail are still visible.

Note: my grandfather did not pass through Ellis Island, as it was not opened as an immigration center until 1892. Nebraska was granted statehood in 1867 and the transcontinental railroad was completed about the same time.

Grandfather must have know precisely where to go, but I have never known how or where he got his information. Upon arriving in Kearney by train, he walked with his few possessions to a point some 20 miles northwest, where he staked out his homestead claim, 160 acres of prairie. With winter approaching, he dug a cave and lived in it through the winter of 1879-1880. In the spring, he bought two horses and a plow and began turning over some of the prairie sod. This began the process of farming this land.

He also began to construct a dwelling - a sod house. In a land of few trees, it was only natural to use the sod, of which there were countless acres. I doubt that even one tree existed on his 160 acres. To this day the only trees are those which grow along the two rivers and those which have been planted around the farm houses and buildings to protect them from the ever-present wind.

In 1883 my grandfather took a bride, Miss Emma Wohlebe, the daughter of German homesteaders who lived nearby. Their first child was a daughter born in 1885, the second and last child was my father, born on the fourth of July 1889. Both were born in that sod house on the homestead.

Some of these sod houses still exist and are in everyday use; there is one there in Buffalo County with which I am quite familiar. With a modern roof, modern windows and doors, it still has the original walls of sod approximately two feet thick. These thick walls make it relatively warm in winter and cool in summer. My father had very little formal education; he probably went no further than the 3rd grade and maybe even not that far. He grew up on the homestead, married, and remained a farmer. He married Ada Campbell, my mother. Two sisters preceded me; all of us were born in a farmhouse on a windswept knoll in northwest Buffalo County. The nearest city was Kearney, the county seat, about 28 miles away. There was a much smaller town, population less than 200, 8 or 9 miles away. Though small, this town had a drug store, 2 grocery stores, 2 gas stations, a creamery and a restaurant. Everyone went to town on Saturday night to take their cream and eggs, buy a few groceries, and generally fellowship with their neighbors.

Of the farm where I was born, nothing is left now but the land, the buildings having been torn down. A neighboring farmer bought it, removed the buildings (it reduced the taxes).

According to my birth certificate, there was a doctor in attendance at my birth, Dr. A. L. Randall. I grew up to know Dr. Randall and his family. Their two sons were grown and had left home by the time I entered my teens. They had a pool table in their basement, and the boys gone, Mrs. Randall wanted to get rid of it. She offered it to some of us young people and of course we could not turn this down. The table was full-size, heavy as a bulldozer, slate bed and all that. We disassembled it, hauled it out piece by piece and reassembled it in Dave Hunter's barn, dirt floor and all. We enjoyed that table for a good while; I don't know whatever became of it, for all I know it might still be there.

ENJOY!

See you next month.
Issue Index    Issue 4