Is December considered the best month to retire because you can cash in use/lose (around 50 days) of annual leave?

Are there any other reasons? If you take cashing in leave out as a retirement factor, is January the best month? Is it the best month only because of the January bonus, less tax liability for cashing in leave? Is it perhaps with the raise you’ll get more for cashing in leave? I’m planning on retiring in May so I don’t have to worry about tax implications. Do you see any disadvantages to retiring in May?

Reg’s Response

CSRS employees who retire no later than Dec. 3 can be on the annuity roll in December and entitled to a full cost-of-living adjustment on their annuities a year later. FERS employees would have to retire no later than Nov. 30 to have the same outcome. And, as you pointed out, employees who have annual leave that will be lost if they retire after the end of the leave year will benefit from retiring before that cut-off point. On the other hand, retiring during the year end rush means that your agency may take longer to process your application and delay sending it to OPM, which will, in turn, be overwhelmed, adding to the length of time it takes to put you on the annuity roll.

If, on the other hand, you retire in May. your retirement application will whisk through your agency and OPM, putting you on the annuity roll in record time. Further, when January rolls around, you’ll receive a COLA that represents the period of time you’ve been retired.

Truth is, most people retire at a particular time for reasons other than maximizing their annuity and avoiding losing excess annual leave. They have things they want to do and places they want to be. So they retire on a date that meets their needs.

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Reg Jones, a charter member of the senior executive service, is the resident expert on retirement and the federal government at Federal Times. From 1979 until 1995, he served as an assistant director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management handling recruiting and examining, white and blue collar pay, retirement, insurance and other issues. Opinions expressed are his own.

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