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Retiring at the End of the Year?

Are you retiring at the end of the year? If so, here are several tips that may make the process less stressful.

Are you planning on retiring at the end of the year? If so, you won’t be alone. There are advantages to retiring year end (mainly the receipt of a large annual leave payment) that result in some agencies seeing as much as 50% of their annual retirements in the month of December and into early January.

When you retire, your paperwork will be processed by your agency’s payroll office and then sent to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to be finalized. The bulk of the people who do the processing work will not be retiring at the same time you are. That means that many of them will be taking their use-or-lose leave just at the time of the highest workload of the year.

If you are retiring at the end of the year it is to your advantage to get your retirement paperwork in well in advance. In fact, if you’re retiring at the end of this year and haven’t begun the process yet, today might be a good day to start.

When you retire, you will be placed on “interim pay” until your annuity is finalized. Interim pay should begin on or about 30 days after OPM receives your paperwork. Please note I used the word “should”, I have heard a few horror stories about delayed retirement payments in my day. I must say that when I retired, everything went like clockwork.

Interim pay is less than what you are entitled to. When your annuity is finalized by OPM, they will give you the amount of underpayment along with your first fill annuity payment. Those who retire at the end of the year are usually on interim pay longer than those who retire at other times.

Prospective retirees who are concerned about having enough money during the period of time they find themselves on interim pay should take steps beforehand to ensure they will have enough money to cover their living expenses for a month or two. It is better to be prepared, having the money and not needing it, than to need the money and not have it. This might be a good use for that emergency fund that financial planner say we are supposed to have. The fund can be replenished once OPM finalizes your annuity and gives you what you have coming.

Once your annuity is finalized you will receive an explanation of your benefits form OPM. From that point on, you will only receive notices when your annuity changes; you do not receive statements with each payment.

After retirement, all inquiries should be directed to OPM rather than your former agency’s HR office. OPM has email addresses for retirement related inquiries, as well as an 800 number: (1-88USOPMRET — 1 (888)767-6738). They still have a mailing address too.

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Retirement Operations Center
Post Office Box 45
Boyers, PA 16017

OPM does not initiate contact with retirees by email, as many retirees do not have email addresses. If you contact them by email, they will respond via email.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at [email protected] to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.