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Advice on how to prepare for life after government.

Pre-Retirement To-Do List

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Are you one of the growing number of federal employees who are preparing to retire in the near future? If so, here’s a list of things that you should do to get ready:

  • Attend any pre-retirement training that is available from your agency. This will be an opportunity to gain a much better understanding of your own retirement and get the latest news on what’s happening with retirement benefits. Most of these seminars will also include segments on financial planning, tax planning and even estate planning. The foundation of this training is usually a thorough discussion of the Civil Service Retirement System, the Federal Employees Retirement System, insurance, Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan.
  • Get a retirement estimate from your human resources office. By requesting an estimate prior to retirement, you can be informed of any discrepancies in your personnel records, whether you owe any money to the retirement fund for any of your prior federal service. Also, you’ll find out how your service will be credited for retirement eligibility and computation. This can go a long way in making sure you have a complete case when it is sent for processing after you retire.
  • Take advantage of retirement counseling from your agency’s benefits office, if it’s available. This is your chance to ask questions about filling out your application properly and to clarify any issues regarding your service credit or insurance coverage.
  • Make sure your personal records of your service and benefits are up to date. You may need them to challenge something that doesn’t look right after your retirement claim is processed.
  • Be sure your personnel folder shows you’ve had Federal Employees Health Benefits Program coverage for the last five years of your federal career. If you’ve carried self and family or self only coverage, there should be an SF-2809 form in your file showing your enrollment. If, however, you were covered under a family member’s FEHBP during the last five years of service, or if you had coverage under TRICARE or CHAMPUS during part of that time, then you will need to have documentation of that coverage.
  • Also make sure you document five years of enrollment in Federal Employees Group Life Insurance. You should receive a statement showing you’re eligible for FEHBP and FEGLI in retirement from your agency prior to the date you’ve selected to leave.
  • Notify the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program and Federal Long Term Care Insurance programs of your retirement in order to be billed for your premiums. After your retirement is finalized, you will be able to have these premiums withheld from your CSRS or FERS benefit.
  • If you have a flexible spending account, be sure to spend the balance before your retirement. You will not be able to incur expenses against this account after you have retired.
  • Consider setting up quarterly state income tax payments if you live in a state in which your retirement benefit will be subject to tax. The Office of Personnel Management will withhold federal income tax from your interim checks, but not state tax.
  • Save your annual leave before your retirement date. Employees who retire at the end of the leave year can save up to 208 hours of additional annual leave to add to the leave carried over from the prior leave year. Your agency will make a lump sum payment of your unused annual leave around the same time as you get your final salary payment.
  • Keep your address and other contact information up to date with your agency and with OPM.
  • If you have a significant life event -- marriage, death, divorce, or birth or adoption of a child -- contact your agency or OPM to find out what you need to do. You may need to change beneficiary designations, update your health insurance coverage or modify your choices for survivor benefits.
  • Plan ahead: Turn in your retirement application 60 to 90 days before the date you’ve picked to leave. This allows enough time for your agency to complete its portion of the process.

By doing these things, you can help ensure that you’re financially and mentally prepared for this next phase of your life. Planning ahead can avoid many of the issues that can frustrate and confuse a new retiree.

 

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.

For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Federal News Radio on Mondays at 10 a.m. ET on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington-metro area. Archived shows are available on NITPInc.com.

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