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When to Leave to Maximize Your Lump Sum Annual Leave Payment

The best dates to retire in the coming years to get the most out of what you’re owed for unused time off.

Last week, we looked at why the end of the leave year has traditionally been the most popular time for federal employees to retire. This week, let’s look at which specific days in the next few years will help you maximize your payment. 

For 2022, the leave year for most federal employees ends on Saturday, Dec. 31. (Some agency payroll systems that use a different pay period schedule. You should check with your agency to verify the beginning and ending dates of a particular leave year.) 

Based on the leave year beginning dates (Sundays) and ending dates (Saturdays) in the coming years, it is generally true that Dec. 31 will remain the best date for those under the Federal Employees Retirement System to maximize their lump sum payout. For those under the Civil Service Retirement System or CSRS Offset, the better date generally would be Jan. 3.

CSRS and CSRS Offset retirements, like FERS retirements, begin on the first day of the month following the date of retirement, with the exception of the first three days of the month, during which CSRS and CSRS Offset retirements (not FERS) commence on the following day.

Even with these rules in mind, you’ll notice that in some of the years listed below, there are a range of best dates at the end of the year. Although it’s nice to retire either at the end of the work week or better yet, the end of the leave period (so you can accrue your final leave accrual), sometimes a different date might allow a day or two of extra service that you might need to to add another month to your retirement computation.

Under CSRS and CSRS Offset, for example, retiring mid-week by Jan. 3 will allow the Jan. retirement payment to be paid while receiving salary for Jan. 1, 2, or 3 (if those days are paid work days or holidays). 

Here are the beginning and ending dates of leave years and optimal dates to maximize annual leave payments for 2023-2030:

Jan. 1, 2023 to Jan. 13, 2024 

  • FERS:  Friday, Dec.  29, 2023 through Sunday, Dec.  31, 2023
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024

Jan. 14, 2024 to Jan. 11, 2025 

  • FERS:  Tuesday, Dec.  31, 2024
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Friday, Jan. 3, 2025

Jan. 12, 2025 to Jan. 10, 2026 

  • FERS:  Wednesday, Dec.  31, 2025
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Friday, Jan. 2, 2026 or Saturday, Jan. 3, 2026

Jan. 11, 2026 to Jan. 9, 2027 

  • FERS:  Thursday, Dec.  31, 2026
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Friday, Jan. 1, 2027 through Sunday, Jan. 3, 2027

Jan. 10, 2027 to Jan. 8, 2028 

  • FERS:  Friday, Dec.  31, 2027
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Friday, Dec.  31, 2027 through Monday, Jan. 3, 2028

Jan. 9, 2028 to Jan. 6, 2029 

  • FERS:  Friday, Dec.  29, 2028 through Sunday, Dec.  31, 2028
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2029

Jan. 7, 2029 to Jan. 5, 2030 

  • FERS:  Friday, Dec.  28, 2029 through Monday, Dec.  31, 2029
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2030

Jan. 6, 2030 to Jan. 4, 2031 

  • FERS:  Friday, Dec.  27, 2030 through Tuesday, Dec.  31, 2031
  • CSRS and CSRS Offset: Friday, Jan. 3, 2031 (This magic date is the end of the leave year, the end of the week, and the end of the leave period.)