Retirement Gets Real: The Final To-Do List

Make sure you take care of these items of business before your departure date.

If you’re one of those people who picked a best date to retire awhile ago and have selected the end of this year as your time to go, it’s time to start the countdown. Here’s a list of to-do items to keep in mind as you eye the calendar.

Make sure you have enough cash on hand to cover the period between your last paycheck and the arrival of your first retirement check. It’s always a good idea to have a few months of living expenses available in the event of delays. One of the most common reasons for accumulating a large balance of unused annual leave hours is to get a large lump sum payout in the weeks following your retirement.

File your retirement application 30 to 90 days before your retirement date. If you’re planning to retire at the end of the year, you already should have submitted your application to your agency’s human resources office. Here are the Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System application forms. You may need to attach one or more of the following documents to your application, depending on your circumstances:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Notarized consent of current spouse for partial or no survivor election (not needed for full election)
  • Divorce decree (if it awards a portion of your FERS retirement or survivor benefits)
  • Military records
  • Worker’s compensation pending claims 
  • Records of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program coverage under TRICARE or spouse’s FEHBP coverage

Apply for a TSP withdrawal if that’s part of your retirement income plan. 

File for Social Security retirement if the time is right for you. The Social Security Administration provides a list of information and documents you may need to apply for benefits.

Watch your mail for communications regarding your retirement processing that might require immediate action. 

Keep copies of all completed retirement forms. Also, make copies of any documents from your electronic official personnel folder that you will lose access to once you have been separated from your agency. These include beneficiary designation forms, insurance election forms, documentation of the beginning and ending dates of your federal service appointments, records of any changes in work schedule or retirement coverage, and anything else you think might be important to your application.

Even if you’re not preparing for an imminent retirement, it’s a good idea to review this list occasionally so you won’t have any unpleasant surprises when the time comes.