What Federal Employees Can Expect in the First Year of Retirement

These are five things you should expect in your first year of retirement.

Retirement’s most popular nickname is the “Golden Years” and it really can be golden, but many still describe retiring as “walking off a cliff” or “walking into the unknown.”

Doing something new after a 20–40-year career is always nerve-racking, but to help calm your fears, here are 5 things to expect in the first year of retirement. 

1. What Happens When?

The first thing to know is when big milestones will happen. For example, when will you get access to your TSP or when will your pension start? 

Here is a quick summary of the key events and how long they normally take.

Time After RetirementEvent
1-4 weeksReceive annual leave lump sum
4-8 weeksGain access to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
4-12 weeksReceive interim pension payments
3-6 monthsReceive full pension payments

Note: These time frames are just averages based on my experience. Things could take longer for you. 

2. Your Expenses Will Change

Your life is going to change in retirement and so will your expenses. 

Some expenses tend to go down in retirement like commuting costs or professional clothing for your job, but some people find that they spend more in retirement since they have more free time to spend money. 

Your expenses will definitely change if you have a large change like moving to a new state in retirement. The cost of living and state taxes could be very different in your new location. 

And in my experience, most people want to spend at least what they were spending while working if not a little more, so it is wise to have some wiggle room in your retirement income just in case an expensive hobby sneaks in. 

3. Your Social Circle Just Shrunk

Work doesn’t just provide a paycheck. It also provides colleagues and often friends. But in retirement, that built-in social life goes away overnight. 

We all differ in how much socializing we prefer but we all need some to be happy. What is your plan to make new friends? Do you have a church, community organization, or retirement group? Having a community that will last beyond your career is key to having a smoother transition into retirement. 

4. Vacation is Over

Retirement does feel like a vacation… for a few weeks. After that, most people start looking for structure and meaningful activities to work on. 

What are your plans for staying busy, fit, and intellectually challenged? 

5. Hello Dear… Again

Retirement means more time at home which probably means more time with your spouse. Is your marriage strong enough to handle that? 

Sadly, divorce after retirement is surprisingly common and it is hard to have a great retirement (or life) if your marriage sucks, but the best way to have a great marriage in retirement is to make sure you have a great marriage now (pre-retirement). 

Final Thoughts

A great retirement doesn’t just happen to you. It comes after a lot of planning and work. The more thought and energy you put into your life/money/retirement now the better off you’ll be in the future. 

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.