Take Charge of Your Retirement

By Tammy Flanagan

May 8, 2014

In 1985, I began a new position at FBI headquarters in Washington as a retirement counselor. This position laid the groundwork and provided the training for my future career as a retirement specialist that I continue today. My official title was Employee Relations Specialist-Employee Benefits, and my duties included communicating laws, policies and regulations regarding retirement matters to FBI employees and providing innovative planning and techniques to help guide them as they planned for retirement.

This week I received the following email that made me reflect on the role of a retirement counselor:

I plan to retire Jan. 3, 2015. The general question is where do I go to discuss retirement issues prior to putting in my retirement papers? I've heard that someone would be assigned as a counselor once they receive my paper work at HR, but I would like some info prior to submitting the papers.

Here’s my response:

Your agency should provide you with retirement counseling both before and after you submit your retirement application. Prior to submitting your application, you should be able to contact your HR office with general questions and you should be provided with a retirement estimate for a single date or a comparison of more than one retirement date, upon request. After you submit your application, you will have a specific specialist assigned to your case and you will be able to discuss your retirement application and the decisions you will be making.

The only problem today is that it may be more difficult to get in touch with a retirement specialist. From 1991 (the year the number of specialists peaked) to 1998, agencies cut almost 30 percent of their employee relations specialist positions. There’s been a small but noticeable shift in the HR profession away from specialists and toward generalists. Many employees who hold generalist positions are limited to lower grades.

In the end, getting through the retirement process is a shared responsibility between you, your agency and the Office of Personnel Management. Here’s how those responsibilities break down.

Your Responsibilities

The retirement process starts with you. You should:

Your Agency’s Responsibilities

According to OPM, it is your agency's responsibility to guide you through the retirement process, supplying all the information you might need. This includes the following:

Office of Personnel Management

OPM’s job is to process your formal retirement application once it has been filed by your agency.

(Image via mstanley/Shutterstock.com)

By Tammy Flanagan

May 8, 2014