There are some steps in retirement planning that you should not leave until late in the process:

Review Your Designation of Beneficiary Forms–There are several types of beneficiary forms that you need to complete to designate your death benefits. These forms include: the SF 2823, Designation of Beneficiary, Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI); your Designation of Beneficiary (SF 2808 for CSRS, SF 3102 for FERS); SF 1152, Designation of Beneficiary–Unpaid Compensation of Deceased Civilian Employee; and TSP 3, Designation of Beneficiary–TSP. Employees wishing to complete beneficiary forms may obtain copies of these forms from their personnel office or the Office of Personnel Management at www.opm.gov/forms/index.htm and Thrift Savings Plan at www.tsp.gov. If you previously completed designation of beneficiary forms, you should review those forms to ensure they reflect your current desires.

Check for Needed Civilian Deposit/Civilian Redeposit/Military Deposits–If you were a temporary employee where retirement deductions were not withheld, if you are a rehired federal employee who previously took a refund, or if you had post-1956 military service for which you have not made a deposit, you may owe a deposit or redeposit in order to receive retirement credit for that period of service. If you owe a deposit/redeposit, an agency benefits counselor can compute an annuity estimate for you. This will enable you to assess the benefits/detriments of making or not making the deposit. However, if you owe a redeposit for refunded service, you will need to contact OPM to obtain the redeposit amount, before contacting a benefits counselor to assist you. It is important to remember that the longer it takes to make the deposit/redeposit, the higher the interest owed will be. Additionally, you should note that a deposit/redeposit is required to receive credit for some service.

Consider Your Survivor Benefit Options–Part of planning for your retirement is planning for the benefits that you would like to leave your spouse if he/she survives you. If you are married, you can elect to leave your spouse a full, partial, insurable interest, combination of current/former spouse, or no survivor annuity. A full survivor annuity is 55 percent of the full annuity base. Additionally, you should consider the effects of any court order upon your annuity. In general, in order for your spouse to continue Federal Employees Health Benefits program coverage, you must elect a survivor annuity. Also, a survivor benefit must be provided in order for your spouse to be eligible to enroll in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program after your death (although if he or she is already enrolled that coverage continues).

Know Your Life and Health Insurance Options–You will be eligible to carry life and health insurance into retirement, if you retire on an immediate annuity, are insured on the date of retirement (or covered as a family member under the FEHB program), and have been covered for five years of service immediately preceding retirement, or since your first opportunity to enroll. If eligible for health insurance, your coverage will automatically roll over into retirement without any additional forms to be completed on your part. If you do not want health insurance to continue into retirement, you will need to send a completed SF 2809, canceling your coverage, along with your retirement package. If you’re eligible to continue life insurance into retirement, you will need to complete SF 2818, Continuation of Life Insurance as an Annuitant or Compensationer, and forward it with your retirement package.

Consider Thrift Savings Plan Withdrawal Options–You should begin to look at TSP withdrawal options at least six months to a year before your planned retirement date. You will have the option to receive one of several types of annuities, transfer your money to an individual retirement account, receive your account balance in a lump-sum payment, receive equal monthly installments, or defer your election, if eligible. But remember, in general you don’t have to make a withdrawal choice right away; you could simply leave the account in place while you considered the possibilities in retirement. You could continue to shift money among the funds, although as a retiree you could not take out a loan or add new money to the account.