Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Timeline for first retirement check

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Q. I am a fully vested CSRS employee with the Environmental Protection Agency for 33 years at age 55. I have received my numbers, but I missed my first date to retire. How long does it take to receive my first full check? Worst-case scenario? Best-case scenario? And is there any way to speed up processing?

When will I receive my annual leave payment? Will it be immediate in one lump sum without taxes since I already paid taxes on my leave?

Should I take all of my Thrift Savings Plan out at once or leave about 10,000 in and roll it over to a Roth IRA or leave it in TSP?

Is there a financial counselor at TSP to speak with about taxes and IRAs vs. TSP?

I was told the first three days of the month or the last day of the month are the best times to go out to receive the check earlier? Is this a good idea?

A. Reg: I don’t know how long it will take for you to get your first full annuity check; nor, I expect, does anyone else. However, once your retirement package arrives at the Office of Personnel Management, they will put you in interim pay within a week or two. A complete and accurate retirement package speedily sent to OPM by your agency is the best hedge against delayed processing.

You’ll have to ask your agency when it will send you your lump-sum payment for unused annual leave. That can’t happen until your agency closes out your account. Since you couldn’t have paid taxes on that money until it was received, it will be treated as ordinary income from which taxes will be deducted.

To pick the best date to retire, try to find one that is at the end of a pay period — to get credit for any annual and sick leave you earned during that pay period — and as close to the end of a month as possible — so the time between when you are employed and on the annuity roll is as short as you can make it. Note: As a CSRS employee, you can retire up to the third day of any month and be on the annuity roll in that month. While you will be paid for the additional days you are employed, your first month’s annuity will be reduced by 1/30 for every day you are still employed.

Mike: You should leave your money in the TSP for as long as possible, since it is the best retirement investment vehicle you’ll find. You’ll find information about taxes and the TSP at www.tsp.gov. You may contact the Thrift Line with your specific questions, although I doubt they’ll help you with questions about IRA taxation.

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