Reg Jones Expert's View

Last week I talked about the factors to consider when making an end-of-year decision about the best date to retire. This time I want to talk about the broader issue of when to let folks know what you plan to do and when you plan to do it.

As you know, planning for retirement is a crucial step in assuring that your transition from employment to retirement is free from last-minute bumps in the road. OPM has a pamphlet called Thinking About Retirement, which you can download from their website at http://opm.gov/forms/pdfimage/RI83-11.pdf. In it they recommend that you begin your planning a year of more in advance. However, even if you have to compress your planning into weeks rather than months, the advice they give is still sound.

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While you’ll inevitably have to go to your servicing personnel office, you can initially shield your intentions from view by downloading the forms you need from the OPM website rather than picking them up in your personnel office. For CSRS, you’ll at least need a Standard Form 2801, Application for Immediate Retirement; for FERS the comparable form is a Standard Form 3107. You can download them by going to www.OPM.gov, clicking on Forms, clicking on Standard Forms, and scrolling down to the right form number. Other forms include the SF 2803 or 3108 if you plan to make a deposit or redeposit to the retirement system, and the SF 2808 or SF 3102 to designate a beneficiary of your retirement benefits. You’ll need different forms to designate a beneficiary for your life insurance or TSP account. You’ll find the former at the OPM website and the latter at www.tsp.gov.

So, why am I suggesting you treat planning for retirement as a covert operation? It’s because showing your hand too early may cause you to be read out of your organization’s plans for the future and even cause you to be skipped over for a promotion that might have come your way if you hadn’t spilled the beans too far in advance.

Obviously, there’s a limit to how long you can keep your plans a secret. Eventually, you’ll have to go to your personnel office to confirm that you are actually eligible to 1) retire and 2) carry your life and health insurance into retirement. Further, you’ll want o give them enough time to process your retirement papers so you won’t end up without an annuity for a couple of months. And because you are a good guy or gal, you’ll want to let your boss know that you’ll be leaving so he or she can figure out how to deal with the unit’s workload after you go. Finally, you’ll want to give your coworkers enough time to plan your retirement party!