One of the toughest, most important decisions, any worker ever makes is when to call it quits. Even people who are sick, tired or hate their jobs find it difficult to let go. Will it work financially, and emotionally? What happens next? Today’s guest column is No. 3 in our five-part series. These are from real people, some like you maybe, who have been there-done-that-got-the-T-shirt. Today’s guest columnist, Connie Hendryx, spent a long (mostly happy) time with Uncle Sam. She advises people how to prep for retirement.
I worked for the Klamath National Forest in Northern California since 1979. I was lucky enough to work in this beautiful area most of my federal career. My last job was a great, but very busy and demanding, job. Retiring after 35 years of federal service is a great achievement, but there are things future retirees need to consider before deciding to retire. Many columns have covered these points, much better than I can. But having recently retired (Nov. 1, 2013) from the U.S. Forest Service, I feel that I have some points to share with future retirees.
The hardest decision for me was the decision when to retire. Luckily, I was able to retire under the Civil Service Retirement System Offset (the best of both worlds, I’d like to think!) I was able to retire at age 55 rather than my minimum retirement age of 56 under the Federal Employees Retirement System. However, I also contribute to Social Security, so when I turn 62, my CSRS retirement will be “offset” with my Social Security. My decision to retire on Nov. 1 was partially due to the fact that I didn’t want to commute the 20 miles over a mountain pass during the winter weather months of November and December.
I would suggest that everyone take as many of the pre-retirement classes as you can, and as early in your career as possible. The information given at the sessions is invaluable as you continue on your federal career. Start work early on your retirement estimates. The program that I was able to use estimated my retirement fairly well and was able to give me an idea of what I would be living on once I retire.
Hindsight is always the best, but not always available! So once you have an idea of what day you will retire, you need to plan as far ahead as you can. One thing I did was not use any of my annual leave during 2013. I still was able to take vacation; I just used my credit hours and comp time that I had accrued (remember that I said my job was very busy and demanding?) I was able to save just over 400 hours of annual leave. This is important because you will be getting a check for these hours fairly soon after you retire (minus federal taxes) and you can live on that while waiting for your retirement checks to start. (I haven’t received either, so this is a hopeful statement.)
Once you are no later than 90 days from your retirement date, be sure to initiate your SF-52 for retirement. Luckily, there are human resource specialists to help you fill it out. When this is done, you will be assigned a retirement specialist. Treat this person well, as they have your future in their hands! They are well informed on what to do, so feel free to ask them all the questions you have. They have the ability to run various retirement estimates for your use in decisions (survivor benefits, etc.)
Once your retirement parties are done and you’ve packed up your office, don’t relax too soon. My supervisor was on vacation the week I retired and I entrusted my last and most important form (my AD-139, Final Salary Payment Report) to an acting supervisor. About two weeks after I retired, I asked when the form had been turned in (since my check for my annual leave wouldn’t be issued until that form was received). Am I glad I did! It appeared that my form had gotten buried on the over-worked acting supervisor’s desk. Luckily, they were able to get the form turned in so that I should be receiving my first retirement check in early December.
Only time will tell whether all my preparations worked. I am still extremely happy with retirement and only miss my friends, not the work, at my office.
The screenplay for the 1945 film To Have and Have Not, based on the Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name, was written by William Faulkner. It’s the only time a Nobel Prize-winning author’s work has been adapted for the screen by another Nobel Prize winning author.
A look back: Top federal stories of the year From technology failures to shrinking budgets, 2013 was a turbulent year for the federal government. Federal employees reported significantly lower morale than in prior years, and 13 people were killed in a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Click through the gallery to view the top 11 federal stories of 2013.