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Retirement Timeline for Federal Employees

What You Can Expect?


Federal Employee's CSRS & FERS Federal Civil Service Retirement Planning Resources

I retired December 31 a few years back, and my first journal entry was August 17th, about 4 months before I retired. This section outlines the steps you need to take before completing your retirement paperwork based on my personal experience. You will find excerpts from my journal entries for key events.  


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What should I be doing the year before I retire?


Contact your personnel office and obtain annuity estimates for several tentative retirement dates.

  • Estimates should include your federal service record, agencies worked for with dates, and other relevant information and retirement coverage. Check this information for accuracy and let HR know if there are any discrepancies. You can use copies of your Personnel Records SF-50 copies, Military Discharge DD-214 forms, Deposit Credit Records and Earnings and Leave Statements that you retained throughout your career to validate needed corrections.
  • Check your beneficiary elections for the following:
    • Retirement
    • TSP
    • FEGLI
    • Private sector life insurance policies
    • Other financial institutions

Review and confirm the following information:

Review (Continued)


NOTE: If you find many discrepancies or feel the information provided is incorrect you can review your Official Personnel File (OPF) or eOPF. Request a review through your immediate supervisor. They will arrange electronic access or have the hard copy file overnighted to your office for your review.  Many agencies have converted their personnel files to eOPFs, easily accessible electronic copies.

(Journal Entry) Four months before I retired

Time does fly, or at least it seems to. Here I am 55 years old - could have retired earlier this year - and I'm still working. Even after two years of research I'm just getting things wrapped up so that I can leave knowing I'll have a sufficient annuity and other income to live comfortably. I also worked to reduce debts and towards completing, signing, and funding our wills and trusts. Still not quite there yet but will be soon.

Note: I used Quicken WillMaker 2015 software and the book Plan Your Estate to draft our estate plans, wills, and trusts before leaving. You can review these resources to quick start your plans. You can also use a comprehensive set of FREE tools for estimating and analyzing federal employees benefits, Thrift Savings Plan, social security, FERS & CSRS sick leave conversion, military credits and more.

  • Set your retirement date and complete your forms. Complete your forms at least 6 months in advance and send them in 2 to three months before your planned retirement date. There is considerably more retirement activity these days with VERAs and VSIP offers plus many baby boomers are now retiring. The earlier you get this information into your HR office the more time you will have for review and submit corrections if needed.

September 20 (Journal Entry)

This week I set my retirement date for November 30, 2004… I also reviewed my paperwork to make sure I had all of the forms filled out properly. All I have to do is put the date on the forms and mail them to personnel in New York. I intend to do this in Mid October so they will have them about 6 weeks before I actually leave. (Note: I changed my retirement date to 12/31/04 several weeks later.)

October 22 (Journal Entry)

Well, time continues to fly by and I just got back from the doctor's office. I went in for a colonoscopy. I mentioned in an earlier journal entry that I scheduled a physical this year and that I was dreading going in for this check. My doctor tried to get me to do this at 50, again at 53 and when he suggested it earlier this year when I turned 55 and I reluctantly agreed. It wasn't half as bad as I had thought it would be and it is an excellent preventative check for detecting colon cancer. If you have been putting this check off, don't. The worse part was the prep the evening before and it was tolerable. I now have a clean bill of health - and for that matter a very clean colon at least for the time being.


October 26 (Journal Entry)

Well, I sent my retirement paperwork in to personnel today and feel relieved that I finally put a date down on paper. Not the date I originally mentioned earlier in my journal but a new slightly later date, December 31, 2004....

Note: Don’t confuse your “Retirement Date” with your “Date of Final Separation” that you list in block 2, Section B on your SF-2801 CSRS or the SF-3107 FERS Retirement Application Forms.)

I called personnel today to advise them that my paperwork is on the way. I also sent in a SF 2808 Beneficiary election form that personnel will certify and return to me for my records. I sent in the following forms and paperwork:

Note: FERS employees must submit a SF-3107 instead of the SF-2801. Visit and select the forms menu selection to download forms.  

  • Receipt of your Personnel Office Acknowledgement Letter

November 3 (Journal Entry)

I received an acknowledgement letter today from our personnel office advising me that my retirement package was received and is being processed. They listed the personnel specialist that was assigned to process my package and directed me to call them if I had any questions. The personnel office suggests that you send in your paperwork at least two months before your retirement date. This gives them sufficient time to process and check the paperwork so that your first interim annuity check will arrive on time. 

I reviewed my sick and annual leave balances this week and I checked my FAA issued personal property in preparation for turning it in when I leave. I can use my year of unused sick leave towards my annuity and I intend to sell back 448 hours of annual leave. The one year of sick leave takes me to 36 years and seven months total service and increases my annuity by 2% of my high three average salary.

I met with my reporting office management team this week to discuss transition plans for when my assistant and I leave on December 31st. We discussed who would be assigned to backfill my position and when he or she would be coming over for briefings and general familiarization before my departure.

  • Review Your TSP Account Withdrawal Options

December 6 (Journal Entry)

I replied to a visitor’s questions on TSP accounts. The key is whether or not you need the funds to live on. I'm retiring from the Federal Aviation Administration at the end of December and I'm leaving my TSP intact for the time being…  I can tell you that the TSP is one of the safest investments you can have considering that you have NO market risk with the G-Fund. The G-Fund won't decrease in value. Private sector mutual funds that offer government bond funds can fluctuate in price and most, if not all, charge much higher management fees than the TSP. You do have to be cautious of the fund mix though.

  • Retirement Luncheon

December 16 (Journal Entry)

My retirement luncheon was yesterday and I have to say it caught me off guard. Even though I’m looking forward to leaving, it was humbling to see the turnout and to be on the receiving side of so many kind words.

One thing that I wanted to say was that retirement for me is similar to publishing a new edition of one of my books. When I update a title I often add a new chapter or appendix, and revise outdated data as necessary throughout the book. I’m just adding a new chapter to my life. I can’t change or edit the earlier chapters — if we only could — but I do have control, to some degree, over what goes forward from this point on. I'm really looking forward to this new chapter in my life, however. It is always difficult leaving good friends and that’s why it was difficult addressing the people that I respect and have worked with for all these many years.

I suggest that when your retirement luncheon or dinner is planned write down the names of the key people to thank and key events in your life that you want to talk about. Emotions run high for the retiree during these events and the best way to remain in control and to stay calm is to be prepared.

  • Departure Date
    • You will need to fill out your agency’s Employee Clearance Record and Security Termination Statement. On your last day you have to take your signed clearance record to your office and turn in any personal items such as computer, cell phone, pager, credit cards, IDs, keys, etc. If you neglect to do this your lump sum leave payment and first estimated annuity check will be withheld until this is done.

December 29 (Journal Entry)

I’m between Christmas and New Years and so close to retirement that I can taste it. This morning I called our division office because I still didn’t receive a copy of my Voluntary Retirement SF-50 personnel action form or my SF 2801-1, Certified Summary of Federal Service.  Typically you receive this information 4 to 6 weeks after you submit your paperwork along with OPM contact information that you will need to follow-up on the status of your annuity and benefits. The person I contacted went to the personnel office and verified that my package had been sent out Monday and she faxed me a copy of my SF-50.

The SF 50 listed my retirement date, salary, current benefits, and in the remarks column it stated that I elected to continue health benefits coverage. It also stated that a SF-8 was issued to the employee. I’m not sure what that is yet since I still don’t have my package. Hopefully it will be in the mail today or tomorrow at the latest.

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