Firm planning for retirement should start a year or more in advance of your expected date. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to know your intentions that far in advance, though.
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 otherwise—and whose resulting pay raise would boost your high-3. It’s also possible that such a promotion, or a transfer or even simply a new assignment, might be attractive enough for you to put off retirement—to say nothing of financial issues or personal matters.
You can initially shield your intentions from view by downloading and reviewing the forms you’ll need, rather than going to 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/forms.
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 site and the latter at www.tsp.gov.
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 to give them enough time to process your retirement papers. At that point it will also be time to tell your supervisor and coworkers.