When Can I Expect to Start Receiving My Pension?

Federal employees could find themselves with a temporary income gap right after they retire. The author says it’s wise to plan ahead.

Retirement is an exciting time. It is a major transition from a long career to a lot more free time. 

Many people look forward to the time that their pension checks will come in every month without them having to get to work. The problem, however, is that many people don’t plan for the time between when they stop working and when their pension actually starts. 

Now, I am not just talking about a deferred or a postponed retirement. With those types of retirement, it is obvious that people will have to wait (for years generally) before they can start their pension. 

What I am referring to is the time between when you retire with an immediate retirement and the time that you actually see any money from OPM. 

How Long Before I Receive My First Pension Check?

Most of the time, federal retirees will not receive a pension check for at least 3 months after they retire. It can take even longer if OPM has trouble with your application. 

During these 3 months, OPM is generally doing a preliminary check to make sure you have the needed age and service requirement to retire, but it generally takes OPM at least another 3 months to process your entire file. 

This is why you don’t receive your full pension right away. The payments that you receive about 3 months in are often called interim payments. They are supposed to be about 80% of your full pension but they can be much lower as well.

Once OPM has processed your entire application (usually 6 months into retirement), you will start receiving your full pension along with any payments that you should have received during the time that your application was being processed plus interest, so you won’t be out any money that you deserve but it can take some time to get it. 

But we have to note, sometimes it can take much longer to start receiving anything. If there are complications with your file, it has been known to take close to a year.

Be Prepared!

Unfortunately, outside of filling out your retirement application correctly and retiring during a slow time, there isn’t much federal employees can do to speed up the process. The best thing to do is to be prepared to fill the gap with some savings. 


Just to get a feel for what the numbers might look like, let’s go through an example.

Let’s say a federal employee is eligible for a gross monthly pension of $3,000 per month, but when we take out common deductions, we have the following:

Gross: $3,000


Survivor Benefit: $300

FEHB: $450

Taxes: $300

Net Pension: $1,950

But if we remember, we won’t get the full net pension right away. The actually retirement timeline might look like this:

The Month You Retire$0
Month 1$0
Month 2$0
Month 3$1,560 (80% of full net pension)
Month 4$1,560 (80% of full net pension)
Month 5$1,560 (80% of full net pension)
Month 6$1,950 + pension owed plus interest
Month 7$1,950


Retirement can be an incredible time, especially if we know what to expect during that time. Having a healthy emergency fund can take a lot of the pressure off if your application takes longer than expected.

About the Author

Dallen Haws is a Financial Advisor who is dedicated to helping federal employees live their best life and plan an incredible retirement. He hosts a podcast and YouTube channel all about federal benefits and retirement. You can learn more about him at Haws Federal Advisors.