By Reg Jones

In prior articles, I’ve discussed the things that you, your agency and OPM need to
do to assure that your retirement goes smoothly. Now it’s time to talk about a few
of the stupid things you might do that will screw everything up, and to urge you to
avoid them. While these may seem like mistakes you’d never make, believe me when I
say that I’ve seen them all many times over – sometimes with heartbreaking
consequences. So here is my list of “don’t dos.”


First, don’t retire on an impulse, for example, when you’re angry at someone or fed
up with the job. In all likelihood, you’ll live to regret it. It’s far better to
retire to something than to retire to get away from something.


Second, don’t retire unless you are sure that you have been given credit for all
your years of federal service – both civilian and military. It’s amazing how many
retirees have gotten a smaller annuity than they were entitled to receive because
they had forgotten to include bits of creditable civilian service such as from
employment when they were in high school or college.


Third, don’t retire if you haven’t evaluated your future financial needs and
probable income to verify that you’ll be able to maintain your standard of living.
Having to cut corner after corner in retirement can take the shine right off those
“golden years.”


Fourth, don’t retire if you haven’t been covered by the Federal Employees Health
Benefits (FEHB) program for the most recent five years (or from your first
opportunity to enroll). If you do, you’ll be losing out on one of the greatest
benefits available to federal retirees. (The same five-year rule applies to the
Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program, which may or may not be as
important to you.)


Fifth, don’t retire unless you have checked out all the options and timings. To do
that you will need professional help, not water-cooler advice. You can get such help
from the benefits officers in your personnel office, government agency websites, or
private sector specialists.


Sixth, if you are married (or have a special someone), don’t retire unless you have
discussed it with that person. That old saw, “I married you for better or worse but
not for lunch,” has a measure of truth in it. Accommodations will need to be made
and the implications of that need to be worked on before you start being together
24/7.


Seventh, don’t retire if you feel like you’re walking the plank and facing a life
without purpose. As noted in the first point above, it’s far better to retire to
something. That something can be another job, starting a business, perfecting a
hobby, travel, volunteer work, etc. What is most important is to understand that we
are what we do. The common question, “What do you do?” needs an answer that makes
you feel good about yourself when you are retired.


Oh, yes, there are other boo-boos you can make; but the ones I’ve listed are the
ones that have created the biggest messes in my experience. May you make none of
them when you decide to retire.