Retiring? What a difference a date makes

(Senior Correspondent Mike Causey is on vacation. This column originally appeared Dec. 11, 2013).

Not to get all Zen-like on you, but while there are scores of best dates for you to retire, there is only one best day. Read on, grasshopper.

The best day is when it is as right for you as it’s ever going to be. That is when you’ve got the service time and the age to qualify, when you’ve crunched the numbers.

Or you may need to retire early to help take care of a loved one. Or the job, or the boss, has become unbearable. The best time is when you have something — another job, travel plans, tons of chores or are writing the great American novel — to retire to as well as retire from.


The best day, your best day, is a very up-close-and-personal choice. It is unique to you. And it is possible — just check the obituaries of your local newspaper — that you will be retired as long as you worked. Maybe longer.

When it comes to best dates, however, there are lots of them. Scattered throughout the year. Figuring them out is part art, part science. And involves lots of numbers crunching and calendar-checking.

December and January are the most popular months for feds to retire. And the weather and the old/new calendar are only part of it.

If you are planning to retire this month, or next, two important words you need to know: Tammy Flanagan. Tammy is a former federal benefits expert who now works with the National Institute of Transition Planning. She also writes a regular column for Government Executive and appears regularly on the For Your Benefit show here on Federal News Radio. She also speaks and teaches seminars. Other than that, she is retired.

Tammy figured out, long ago, what some people suspected. As in what-a-difference-a-day makes. Getting the right day can, at the end of the year, allow you to get paid for the maximum amount of unused annual leave, give you a tax break for the following year and apply most of any January federal pay raise to the value of that leave.

The magic dates tend to be Dec. 31 for workers under the Federal Employee Retirement System and Jan. 1, 2 or 3 for those under the older Civil Service Retirement System. This year she says that for FERS employees, the best dates are either Dec. 31, 2013, or Jan. 11, 2014, the end of the leave year. For CSRS employees, the best date is Jan. 3, 2014.

If you plan to retire other than in December or January, of any year, there are other best dates. They change depending on pay periods and sometimes holidays. But it pays to check it out. For Tammy’s column for 2013 retirees, click here.

Oh, when and if you retire, don’t forget to take us with you. Sign up for our email alerts using your home e-mail address. Or check us out anytime at Because nobody (OK, except NARFE) pays more attention to federal and postal retirees than we do.


Compiled by Jack Moore

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