Have you ever done something—said something in an email, perhaps—and suddenly had second thoughts and wished you could take it back?
Remember that feeling and now imagine it on a vastly larger scale, having put in for retirement and then wishing you hadn’t. I’ve seen it happen many times.
In some cases, they realized that they weren’t ready to retire emotionally or mentally. In others, they figured out that their annuity actually wouldn’t be enough to get by on. Others had made a snap decision to retire because of some conflict or development in the workplace. And, in a few cases, they learned that a buyout would soon be offered and didn’t want miss out on it.
If you do change your mind, you generally can withdraw your retirement application anytime before OPM has completed its adjudication of your case. Of course, if you’ve received any interim retirement payments, you’ll have to pay that money back.
However, there are potential flies in that “changing your mind” ointment. For example, if your position is being abolished, you can’t have it back. Or, if someone has already been hired to replace you (even if they haven’t come on board), your agency can deny your request to go back to your old job. If it does, they’ll have to do that in writing, explaining the reasons for their denial of your request.
Another thing you might change your mind about is a survivor annuity for your spouse. You might want to provide or not provide one after all, or you might want to increase or decrease the amount of that benefit you earlier decided on.
By law you are required to provide a full survivor annuity for your spouse unless your spouse agrees in a notarized writing to receive less than the full amount or none at all. However, you can only do that if it is more than 30 days from the date of your first regular monthly payment, but less than 18 months from the beginning date of your annuity.
To make a change in your original election, you’d have to request it in writing and send that letter to the following address: OPM, Retirement Operations Center. P.O. Box 45, Boyers, PA 16017. Your election must include your claim number, the amount of your new survivor election, and your spouse’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, and a copy of your marriage certificate.
If you are requesting an increase in the survivor annuity, you’ll have to make a one-time payment representing the difference between the old and new election amounts. This payment also includes a percentage of your annual benefit: 24.5 percent if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a full survivor benefit or 12.25 percent if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a partial one.
Now you know the possibilities and potential pitfall of changing your mind about retiring. Next week I’ll close this series by raising a scary question. What if you die?
You may also be interested in a Phased Retirement, although it would require management approval