A reader recently asked if his birthday was the earliest date on which he would meet the age portion of the age and service requirements to retire. My answer was no. And I relied on a Retirement Counselor Letter I sent to agencies on June 23, 1988, when I was OPM’s Assistant Director for Retirement and Insurance Policy.

While the policies are still the same, the dates of the years may look a little . . . well, dated to you. If it helps, advance the number of years by 24.

Let me quote (and gloat).

The purpose of this letter is to correct a common misunderstanding about the correct determination of age for retirement purposes. The belief that an employee who has met the service requirement for immediate retirement must not be separated before the date of his or her birthday is incorrect.

In fact, a person legally attains a given age on the day before his birthday. That rule is especially significant for a CSRS employee whose birthday falls on the 4th of the month. Take, for example, an employee who has more than 20 years of service and whose date of birth was October 4, 1928, that employee can be separated for retirement as early as October 3, 1988, and begin accruing annuity benefits on October 4, 1988. If the employee were not separated until his or her birthday, benefits would not commence until November, 1, 1988.

The rule that a CSRS retiree who serves 3 days or less in the month of retirement can begin receiving benefits on the day after separation does not apply to FERS retirees. For optional retirees under FERS, annuity cannot begin to accrue until the beginning of the month following separation from service. Therefore, a FERS retiree who meets the eligibility requirements for optional retirement, and whose birthday fall on the 1st of the month, can separate as early as the day before that birthday, and begin to receive an annuity on the following day. If the same employee were separated on his or her birthday, or later, benefits could not begin until the 1st of the next month.

Keep this in mind if someone tells you that you have to wait until your birthday to retire.