The Slowest Times to Retire

OPM is busier processing retirement applications at certain times of the year. This can increase how long it takes for you to start getting your pension.

With many things in life, when it rains it pours.  

The same is true for federal employees retiring. Everyone wants to leave at the same time.

In 2020, almost 30% of all retirement applications were received by OPM in the first 2 months of the year. Up through March of 2021, more than 30,000 retirement applications were submitted to OPM.

This surge at the beginning of the year often slows down processing times which means that it takes longer to start receiving your monthly pension. As of the end of March 2021, OPM had more than 27,000 applications in the works which is the highest it has been during the last 6 years. 

And with OPM processing between 5,000-10,000 applications per month, it can take some time to work through the surge. 

As of March 2021, the average processing time for a retirement application was 69 days but this number doesn’t include any delays that your agency may have in getting your application to OPM. The 69 days includes only the time between when OPM received an application and final adjudication.

MonthClaims ReceivedClaims ProcessedInventory (Steady state goal is 13,000)Monthly Average Processing Time in DaysFYTD Average Processing Time in Days
Source: OPM Retirement Processing Status

What Can Slow Down My Application?

One of the biggest reasons for delays in retirement applications in incomplete applications. 

Here are some things to look out for: 

  1. Make sure all your personal information (name, social, etc.) is correct. This sounds small but can make a big difference.
  2. Make sure to have notarized consent from your spouse if you are electing less than a full survivor benefit on your pension.
  3. Make sure to have proof of 5 years of coverage under FEHB and FEGLI so that you can take them with you into retirement. 
  4. If you had any military service that you bought back, make sure you have supporting documentation in your application. 
  5. If you have been divorced and your ex gets a portion of your pension then make sure you have a copy of your divorce decree in your application. 

But even if you have a perfect application it still can take many months for everything to be processed. The best thing to do is to submit your application early to your agency and have plenty of savings to last until your full pension kicks in.  

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.