Retirement Planning Retirement PlanningRetirement Planning
Advice on how to prepare for life after government.

To-Do List

Many of you may be at the point of setting a date for your retirement and wondering what needs to get done before you go. One of my readers came up with a "countdown checklist" to help prepare for the big day. (She doesn't want to take credit for it publicly, since for her, the cat isn't out of the bag yet.) I've gone through the list, adding to it and rearranging things in the hopes of making it as useful to you as possible.

Gather Forms and Publications

Item Location
Application for Retirement
SF 2801 (CSRS), SF 3107 (FERS)
Retirement and Insurance Publications
Application to Make Service Credit Payment (if you owe a deposit) SF 2803 (CSRS), SF 3108 (FERS)
SF 2804 Voluntary Contributions Election Form
RI 38-124 Form to Elect Payment of Voluntary Contributions (CSRS only)
Designation of Beneficiary (if you need to update)
SF 2808 (CSRS)
SF 3102 (FERS)
SF 2823 (Federal Employees Group Life Insurance)
TSP 3 (Thrift Savings Plan)
CSRS and FERS Handbook/Chapter 40/Planning and Applying for Retirement
Application to Make a TSP Withdrawal (when separated)
TSP 77 (partial withdrawal)
TSP 70 (full withdrawal)
Change of Address for TSP (after separation) TSP 9
Change of Name for TSP (after separation) TSP 15
Publication 721, Tax Guide to U.S. Civil Service Retirement Benefits
W-4P Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments
SF 1199A Direct Deposit Sign Up Form

To Do: Before Retirement

Time Frame Item Contact/Comments
6 months-1 year Request a retirement estimate and/or consultation with retirement specialist. Your agency human resource office can provide you with contact information.
4-6 months Request retirement application package from your benefits office. Most forms are available online (see above Web sites).
1-3 months Turn in retirement application package to HR. (Keep copies of everything and be sure you've signed all forms.) The larger and older the agency, the sooner you should do this to avoid delays.
3 months Contact Social Security Administration. or 1-800-772-1213
3-6 months Contact TSP if you are in the process of paying back a loan and won't finish prior to your retirement date. In addition, consider accelerating your TSP contributions to take full advantage of the tax deferral of your final salary. Go to to download the loan booklet. Use Form TSP 1 or your agency's electronic system to change your allotment to the TSP.
Final days on the job Request final consultation for last questions.
Get contact info in case you have questions for HR or Payroll after you leave.
Find out when to expect lump sum annual leave payment.
Be sure to notify time and attendance, security and others who may need to know of your separation.
Request information regarding any post-retirement employment restrictions.
1-3 months Continue coverage under Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
6 months-1 year Deal with balances in flexible spending accounts. Balances in your health care FSA, Limited Expense HCFSA and Dependent Care FSA are treated differently if you separate or retire before the end of the benefit period. Your HCFSA or LEX HCFSA will terminate as of the date of your separation. You can continue to use the remaining balance in your DCFSA to pay for eligible dependent care expenses until the end of the benefit period or until your account balance is used up, whichever comes first.
1-3 months Continue long term care insurance. Coverage is fully portable --- you can keep it as long as you pay your premiums.
1-3 months Make health and life insurance coverage choices. You must meet certain requirements. Your agency will transfer your health benefits coverage into retirement for you if you are eligible. Fill out form SF 2818 to continue life insurance. FEHB and Retirement
FEGLI and Retirement

To Do: After Retirement

Time Frame Item Contact/Comments
Within 8 months Contact Social Security if you or your spouse is 65 or older. If Medicare has been your secondary insurance while you were working, it may now become your primary insurance. If you (and your spouse, if eligible) enroll in Part B within eight months of your retirement, you may avoid the late enrollment penalty for Part B. 1-800-772-1213
30 days or more You should not submit a withdrawal request to the TSP until you are taken off the payroll of your agency. This may take up to 30 days after you retire. Review the TSP withdrawal booklet and tax notices to help you to understand your choices. The TSP Web site has easy to use calculators to help you determine a pay out option. You may also choose to transfer your TSP account to another retirement savings plan such as an IRA.
Ongoing The Office of Personnel Management will be your primary contact for retirement and insurance information after you retire. You will receive a Civil Service Annuitant Number to use as your identification when contacting OPM.
Before or after retirement Consider becoming a member of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

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.


Tammy Flanagan has spent 30 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits. She runs her own consulting business at and provides individual counseling as well as online training for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, Plan Your Federal Retirement and the Federal Long Term Care insurance Program. She also serves as the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars.

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

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