Here it is folks… the best dates to retire under the Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement system next year. It's not too early to begin thinking about it if you are planning a 2009 retirement.
Below the calendar, you'll find a full explanation of the color coding, indicating why some dates are better than others.
December 2008/January 2009
December 2009/January 2010
End of a leave period.
It's always good to earn one last accrual of annual leave that will count toward your lump sum annual leave payment. If you retire before the end of a leave period, you do not accrue any leave during the last leave period. If you work a flexible schedule, you might be able to retire at close of business on a Thursday and finish your hours for that leave period.
End of the month
This is always good for people retiring under FERS, including those who transferred from CSRS to FERS. It's also not bad for those covered under CSRS to consider the last day of the month. That way, your retirement begins on the first day of the following month.
Beginning of the month
Under CSRS, retiring on the first, second, or third of the month is sometimes good, because retirement benefits will still kick in the following day. So, if you retire on Thursday, Sept. 3, you will be paid your salary through close of business that day, and your first retirement check will be paid for 27 days of September, payable on Oct. 1.
Note that I didn't list Saturday and Sunday as good days even if they were on the first, second or third of a month, since there is no salary payment for these days (unless Saturday or Sunday is your normal work day). If the third fell on a Monday, I didn't select that date, since it would cause you to lose three days of retired pay and gain only one day of additional salary. There is an exception to this rule: If adding three more days of service would give you another month in the computation of your retirement, then Saturday, Sunday or Monday might be a good date anyway.
End of the Year
Employees have traditionally enjoyed retiring at the end of the year because of the ability to save up annual leave hours beyond the normal "use or lose" limits. For example, if Joe carries 240 hours of annual leave (the limit for most federal employees) from 2008 into 2009 and then decides to retire at the end of 2009 (Dec. 31 if he is under FERS or Jan. 1, 2010, if he is under CSRS), he could save up 25 or 26 eight-hour accruals of annual leave (200-208 hours) to add to the 240 that he carried over from 2008. His annual leave balance could be 440-448 hours of unused leave, paid to him in a lump sum payment. Here's a column I wrote about this: Taking Your Lumps, Jan. 19, 2007.
National Security Personnel System
Under the National Security Personnel System that is being rolled out at the Defense Department, an employee must be on the rolls of his or her agency on the day of performance-based payouts to be eligible to receive a payout. The payout occurs on the first day of the new leave year -- the same date as the annual pay increase takes effect under the General Schedule pay system. For example, an employee who retires on Jan. 2, 2010, would not be eligible for a performance payout, because the new leave year begins on Jan. 3, 2010.
NSPS should not affect an employee's high-three average salary, since under the system, rate range pay adjustments and the local market supplements take effect on the same date as the annual pay adjustment and locality pay adjustment do under the GS system.
If you work under a similar pay for performance system, check with your HR office or payroll office to see if there will be any affect on your retirement benefits.
Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars. She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.