Making sure your records are in order is a big part of retirement preparation, and it’s never too early to start.

The main resource to check is your Official Personnel Folder—which may be in either paper or electronic form—which forms the backbone of your retirement eligibility and benefit calculations. You should make sure that the folder includes:

* the beginning and ending dates for each period of employment which will be used for your benefit computation;
* the effective dates for each promotion or within-grade increase during the period that will be used to compute your high-3 average salary;
* the dates of pay changes or earnings and the pay rate, during employment periods when retirement deductions were not withheld from your salary;
* the tour-of-duty during any part-time employment (if you worked more hours than the official tour-of-duty, document the hours actually worked.);
* a record of time actually worked during intermittent or “when-actually-employed” service; and,
* documentation of the dates of military service.

If any service is not verified or any of the required documentation is missing, you should obtain assistance from your personnel officer.

Your Official Personnel Folder should contain a record of all of your health benefits registration forms, Standard Form 2809, and, if appropriate, Standard Form 2810, Notice of Change in Health Benefits. Be sure that when you retire, your records will show a complete history of your health insurance enrollment for the last five years. It also should contain a record of your current federal life insurance coverage on a Standard Form 2817, “Life Insurance Election”, and, if appropriate, your current life insurance designation of beneficiary, Standard Form 2823.

Also review your designation of beneficiary for the lump sum payment of retirement contributions if no one is eligible for a survivor annuity. This designation is made on a Standard Form 2808 for the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or a Standard Form 3102 for the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Make sure the form shows the person or people you want designated. If a copy is not available to review, you may wish to file a new designation.

If there is no designation of beneficiary, benefits will be paid in the following order: your widow or widower; our children in equal shares; your parents in equal shares; your appointed executor or administrator of your estate; then your next of kin under the laws of the state you reside in when you die.