Tales from the Retirement Crypt

Wednesday - 9/29/2010, 5:44pm EDT

Happiness in retirement is more than having plenty of money.

But not much more!

It is easier to stay healthy and happy if a lack of funds is not a major problem.

Many, if not most, long-time feds find that with their inflation-protected annuities and health insurance for life, they are in a good place. Especially when compared to many of their private sector retiree neighbors.

But a growing number of feds are finding out that without a substantial nest egg, the first months AFTER retirement can be a financial nightmare. That's because it can take awhile before their full annuity payments make it from the U.S. Treasury to their private bank accounts.

Earlier this week, we talked about the sometimes lengthy interim pay hit many retirees face. That prompted some been-there-done-that-hated-it comments from recent feds:

  • "I have been a longtime reader and fan. I have been retired since January 2, 2010 and have not yet had my retirement adjudicated. Starting in June, I called every month to see if there is hope and all I get told is that it will be within the next 30 days. One thing that concerns me is that they will not withhold state taxes and I have no idea what my taxable income for this year will be so that I can accurately pay estimated taxes and that is scary. I worked for the U.S. government for 42+ years (CSRS) and I expected to be treated better than this when I retired!" -- Bill Barnhart

  • "Talk about a bummer!!! Didn't OPM know that the "baby boomers" were getting ready to retire? Seems to me I recall lots and lots of articles relating to the oncoming retirement of the baby boom generation. OPM has, over the years, been notorious for falling behind in payments that we have worked for and deserved for years. One thing's for sure, I was planning on retiring in the middle of next year but not now. I will wait until I am of the opinion that all will be safe in my receiving the funds I have worked over a quarter of a century for. Wonder if OPM and the related folks are up to paying my mortgage and other bills until I receive 100 percent of the retirement funds that I am due?" -- Craig.

  • "...Enjoyed the column...Great recommendation that you should retire with a good sum of money along with your pension.

    "My wife surprised me when I retired. She showed me a bank account with 65K in it. She kept it aside and I was not aware. Nope, I don't do the checkbook or our taxes. What a great surprise. Going on 34 years, aiming for at least 50. Take care and great advice." -- Michael J. Kreps.

  • "...I retired at the end of February 2010. The only way I could communicate with OPM to inquire about the status of my retirement was via a toll free line which was very difficult to get through. I waited patiently for two months then called. The account representative said my application would be finalized within a few weeks. By early August I was getting very impatient and started calling again - waiting for an hour on one occasion - then giving up. I finally got through on August 4. They apologized and promised to "pull my application" for processing. I inquired about the actual effort required to process my application and learned it takes no more than one hour. On August 6 I received a call saying that my application was completed on that day with no changes to the computations my agency submitted. The agency submitted the application timely - less than 30 days after I retired. My September annuity payment was for the full amount. I also received separately a payment to adjust the prior interim payments.

    "Your advice is correct - and I was fully prepared for this - don't rely on receiving your full annuity immediately. I was told that, had I not called, my application would have continued in the processing pipeline. That was not very satisfying. FYI, my application had no unusual features, e.g. crediting of military service." Linda Williams

And lots, lots more.

In fairness to OPM there were lots of early retirements (from the Postal Service) last year. And many agencies drag their feet before sending records (which must be checked by individuals, not computers) to OPM.