Most employees know the amount of service they need to retire and the age at which they can do that. However, not a month goes by when I don’t get an email from someone who either misunderstands which is the first day on which they can retire or, more likely, has been misinformed by his or her personnel office.
Wanting to set the record straight once again, I dug in my files and pulled out Retirement Counselor Letter 88-304, which I signed and sent to all federal agencies on June 23, 1988, when I was OPM’s assistant director for retirement and insurance policy. Here it is.
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 give 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 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 service 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 retirement 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 falls 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 would not begin until the 1st of the next month.
Hope this clears this up for you.