Before & after retirement: To-do list

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From Tammy Flanagan, some key tips on navigating the periods sandwiched around your retirement date.

The specific retirement date for any federal employee is sandwiched between two important periods. In the months before and after the day you retire, there are important items to put on your to-do list.

Six Months to One Year Before 

Request a retirement estimate or consultation with a retirement specialist at your agency. The human resources office can provide you with contact information.

Plan to use up the balances in your flexible spending accounts. Health Care FSAs, Limited Expense HCFSAs and Dependent Care FSAs are treated differently if you retire before the end of a benefit period:

  • A HCFSA or LEX HCFSA will terminate as of the date of your retirement. There are no extensions. 
  • Any eligible health care expenses incurred before your date of separation will still be reimbursed, but those incurred afterwards are not reimbursable, even if you accelerated your allotments.
  • If you use your entire elected amount before FSAFEDS has deducted it from your pay, you will not be responsible for the remaining allotments.
  • You can continue to use the remaining balance in your DCFSA to pay for eligible dependent care expenses until the end of the benefit period or until your account balance is used up. 
  • In order to take advantage of the grace period for your DCFSA, you must be actively employed and making allotments through Dec. 31 of the benefit period.

Four to Six Months Before

Request a retirement application package from your benefits office. Most forms are available online.

If you have an outstanding Thrift Savings Plan loan balance, review the loan program booklet. Consider accelerating your TSP contributions to take full advantage of the tax deferral of your final salary. Use Form TSP 1 or your agency's electronic system to change your allotments.

One to Three Months Before 

Turn in your retirement application package to HR. (Keep copies of everything and be sure you've signed all forms). The larger and older the agency, the sooner you should do this to avoid delays. Especially at the end of the year, there may be many other employees retiring along with you.

Make health and life insurance coverage choices. You must meet certain requirements. Your agency will transfer your Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage into retirement for you if you are eligible. Here’s more information on Federal Employees Group Life Insurance and retirement.

Learn how the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program transitions into retirement. 

If you have Federal Long Term Care Insurance, you can continue it into retirement, as long as you pay your premiums.

Contact the Social Security Administration if you are starting Social Security retirement benefits at the time you retire. You can apply for benefits online

Final Days

Now’s the time to tie up any loose ends:

  • Get contact info for your agency’s HR or payroll office, in case you have questions about your retirement after you leave. 
  • Find out when to expect your lump sum annual leave payment. 
  • Be sure to notify time and attendance, security and others who may need to know of your separation.
  • Request information regarding any post-retirement employment restrictions.

Be sure to ask questions if there’s any part of the process you don’t understand.

After Retirement

Contact Social Security to enroll in Medicare if you or your spouse is 65 or older. If you (and your spouse, if eligible) enroll in Medicare Part B within eight months of your retirement, you can avoid a late enrollment penalty. 

You should not submit a withdrawal request to the TSP until you are taken off the payroll of your agency. This can take up to 30 days after you retire. Review the TSP withdrawal booklet and tax notices to help you to understand your choices. You can also transfer your TSP account to another retirement savings plan, such as an IRA.

The Office of Personnel Management will be your primary contact for retirement and insurance information after you retire. You will receive a Civil Service Active number to use as your identification when contacting OPM.

Finally, get started enjoying life after government!

Published also on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site ("Before and after retirement: A to-do list.") 

NEXT STORY: Getting ready to retire at the end of the year

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