Expert's View

This is the time of year when employees with the necessary age and years of service start thinking seriously about retiring. For that reason, I thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the mistakes you can make and offer suggestions about how you can avoid them. I’ll start with one of the most common ones and explore others during the coming weeks.

If you are one of those employees who believe they can plan for retirement without outside help, think again. It could be a big mistake on your part. That’s because the federal retirement system is a lot more complicated than you might think. There are all manner of details in law and regulation that can trip you up.


Among them are the rules governing the creditability of certain kinds of service. You might believe that you’re entitled to credit for a period of time when you worked for the government under a particular appointing authority only to find out at the last minute that you’re not. Or you could fail to include a period of service that is creditable when filling out your retirement application and end up with a smaller annuity than you’re entitled to.

To avoid outcomes like that, you need to attend a pre-retirement counseling seminar. Many agencies offer them, especially when reorganizations or downsizings are on the horizon.

However, even if your agency isn’t offering one, they may be willing to pay for a course offered by an outside provider. If they aren’t willing, you should strongly consider paying for one out of your own pocket. The few dollars it costs you may produce significant dividends. Even if they don’t, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that nothing important was overlooked.

Next week I’ll explore another kind of service that may help to boost your annuity to a new level.