Your Two-Month Timeline...

Monday - 8/13/2012, 2:00am EDT

Unless you get a better job offer, or drop dead in your prime, odds are that you will retire — sooner or later — from the government. Maybe from the very job, in the very agency, you are in now.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Then consider, when should your end days planning begin?

I have a fed friend who has been retiring for the last six years. Maybe more.

She sets a date, begins the planning, but doesn't tell any of her colleagues or bosses. She doesn't want to be a lame duck and fears, probably correctly, that she might be passed over for key training, or a promotion, if they know she's leaving. During this time frame she got one grade promotion and one within-grade raise. So her high-three has gone up despite the pay freeze.

This time, she says, for sure. She's leaving either in December or January. No matter what. But she still hasn't told her agency!!!

Meantime, along comes an email from a very thorough fed, an attorney, who wants to retire in December. But she's concerned about the stories she's read about the retirement backlog at the Office of Personnel Management. It's been a problem for decades. In some cases retirees wait a year, or more, before they get their first full annuity check. Interim payments can range from 80 percent to, in a worst case scenario, 44 percent.

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry (who happens to be a long-time fed himself) has made eliminating the backlog a top priority. New people have been hired (it takes some time to get up to speed) to handle the paperwork. The backlog has been reduced 27 percent since the first of the year. OPM is getting — and processing — more claims than expected each month. With all the buyout offers, there could be a crush of retirements at the end of the year.

So our about-to-retire attorney asks when should she put in her papers:

"I would like to know how early I can submit a request for retirement? I plan to resign at the end of the year and my first unreduced retirement check would be paid on the first day of the month after my 60th birthday. The question is, how early should I submit my request? I was told two months. Can I put it in earlier — maybe July — so they could work on it and maybe have it done on time?"

David Snell, director of Retirement Services at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees, says the two-month rule is a good one IF...

"If the employee is eligible for an immediate retirement at the end of the year, the two-month period suggested to him is a good one. He/she needs at that time to submit a date he plans to retire — he should not resign if he is eligible for an immediate or postponed annuity — and complete his retirement application.

He should also keep in mind that his agency will not submit his application to OPM until the effective date of his separation from service. The important piece in the retirement process, the one really necessary to ensure OPM processes his retirement in a short period of time, is making sure that all of the forms/documents/information OPM will need is included in his agency's submission of his retirement package.

OPM suggests employees start the retirement process a year prior to the date of retirement. But as far as actually submitting the application forms, two months prior will work. One caveat: He should keep in mind if his agency is a large one and they think there will be a large number of end-of-year retirements, his agency HR and payroll office might get swamped, which could slow processing down." — David Snell


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore and Amanda Iacone

Mmmmm...s'mores. In case you missed it, Friday was National S'More Day to honor the gooey treat, an invention largely attributed to the Girl Scouts.

Learn how to create a s'more with more and read an original recipe on NPR's food blog "The Salt."


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