Retirement Countdown Checklist

Published: February 2020

By: Maureen Wilkin, Federal Benefits Specialist

When you start planning for retirement in this era of overwhelming technology and data, the last thing you want is another application or program to work through. Take heart. There is a simpler, tried-and-true method to assist you. It’s a checklist.

The Retirement Countdown Checklist begins five years before your planned retirement date. It includes things you should know and should be doing at various points along the way. Although it is written for Federal Employees and their retirement, the basic planning points might be applied elsewhere.

When you are five years or more from retirement, you should:

  • Review your official personnel records (OPF) for completeness
  • Determine your first eligibility date for retirement
  • Contact your agency’s benefits office and other available resources to:
    • Determine if you have any outstanding civilian deposits, re-deposits, or military deposits
    • Discuss your options for survivor benefit elections
    • Review and verify documentation of your health (FEHB) and life insurance (FEGLI) enrollments
  • Attend a pre-retirement seminar

When you are within one to two years from retirement, you should:

  • Request an annuity estimate for one or two possible retirement dates
  • Meet with a benefits specialist to review your annuity estimate(s) and discuss any questions regarding your retirement
  • Finalize payment of civilian deposits and/or re-deposits; be certain to get paid in full receipt(s)
  • Finalize payment of military deposits; be certain to get a paid in full receipt
  • Review all designation of beneficiary forms for accuracy
  • Attend a pre-retirement seminar to “fine-tune” your information

When you are four to six months from retirement, you should:

  • Pay any financial debts to your agency and pay off any TSP loans
  • Request a retirement application package from your agency’s benefit office
  • Review the application forms and request a consultation, if necessary
  • Choose a specific retirement date and request a final annuity estimate for that date
  • Review all Service Computation Dates (SCDs) with the agency to verify accuracy

 When you are with three months of retirement, you should:

  • Submit your retirement application at least 30 days prior to your retirement and KEEP A COPY
  • Discuss waiver of military retired pay (if applicable) with a benefits specialist
  • Make sure your time and attendance clerk is aware of your retirement date

When you are one month or less from retirement, you should:

  • Review and sign the Certified Summary of Federal Service (SF 2801-1 for CSRS; SF 3107-1 for FERS) as completed by your agency; REQUEST A COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS
  • Request a final consultation with an agency benefits specialist. Be sure to discuss:
    • The time frame for receiving your lump-sum payment for annual leave
    • How long it will take your agency to submit your retirement application to OPM (It should be within 30 days of your separation.)
    • What is the agency benefit and payroll office contact information for any questions you may have after you leave

Pilots use checklists to verify an aircraft’s readiness before the flight. This checklist points to specific information and details that require your attention before retirement. Use it as your own flight plan to a successful retirement. Safe travels!

Maureen Wilkin is a retired Federal employee, who was a Benefits Specialist with the Federal Government for 25 years, involved with Federal employee training for over 20 years.  She has been a presenter for NITP for over seven years.