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NIH Record

MacKinnon Directs New Retirement and Benefits Center

By Sharon Ricks

Transforming the typical email hurling, fax-trailing, copier-jamming NIH employee into an opulent annuitant may seem like a science best left to experts, but don't despair. NIDDK and the partner organizations of the NIH Work and Family Life Center have opened a Retirement and Benefits Center with ace Bob MacKinnon in charge.

The center offers retirement counseling, annuity estimates, information on health and life insurance costs after retirement and estimates on federal and state tax withheld from an annuity: just about everything you need for a slam-dunk exit from federal service.

Bob MacKinnon and Jacqueline Makle are part of the staff of the new Retirement and Benefits Center.

"Since January 1987, we've had three different retirement systems, CSRS, CSRS Offset and FERS," explains MacKinnon. "FERS brought Social Security coverage and the Thrift Savings Plan into the retirement arena along with several new age and service categories when employees may retire."

MacKinnon says many employees don't understand how their sick leave counts toward retirement or the effect of part-time service on their annuity. Others don't realize that they have to pay a deposit for military service after 1956 or understand why life insurance premiums are so high for full coverage. "One of the most common mistakes retirees make is retiring before they can afford to," says MacKinnon. "We hope to provide employees with the resources to make informed decisions."

MacKinnon has 30 years of federal service himself, but isn't ready for retirement yet. In 1969, he was a claims examiner in the Civil Service Commission, now the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where he analyzed retirement issues. In 1981, he moved to the benefits policy area of the Retirement and Insurance Services. He joined NIH in 1988 and worked in the former Recruitment and Employee Benefits Branch. He moved to the Division of ICD Consulting when OHRM reorganized in 1994, and became the NIH guru on retirement and benefits issues.

Since then, personnel specialists across NIH have reserved the toughest questions for MacKinnon. For example, with three retirement systems, it can be confusing to determine where to place employees who are rehired after a break in service. Also, thanks to the FERS Open Enrollment Act, helping employees in CSRS or CSRS Offset compare the benefits of switching to FERS is a new challenge.

"I've known Bob for about 10 years," says Judy Dulovich, a personnel management specialist in NIDR. "He's very good at helping us sift through the difficult retirement cases. There's never been a situation where he hasn't been able to help."

Jacqueline Makle and Sharon Gist also work in the center, doing employee counseling, calculating estimates, and preparing SF-52s, the form that initiates an employee's separation for retirement.

The Work and Family Life Center is sponsored by OD, NCI, NIAID, NIAMS, NIDDK and NINR. It assists employees in balancing the increasing demands of the workplace, career interests and personal responsibilities.

The Retirement and Benefits Center is located in Bldg. 31, Rm. 9A30 and serves employees of ICs that belong to the WFLC and have opted for this service. So far, this includes OD, NCI, NIAMS and NIDDK. MacKinnon will continue to serve as a retirement and benefits adviser to personnel specialists in all ICs. Employees may call 496-4231 for an appointment.

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