Federal employees target a retirement date that suits their personal situation and desires. There is no standard convention that dictates when one should leave or for that matter retire at all. The decision to retire is based on many factors and your personal circumstances. Some can’t afford to leave until they pay off their home or other bills while others take the plunge simply because they are tired of the old routine and want a change. Health considerations are also a major factor for many. Everyone has their unique reasons for leaving and select a departure date accordingly.
To maximum your retirement annuity and benefits select a departure date that meets your needs and leaves you with the highest annual and sick leave balances  as possible. We publish an Excel Leave Chart each year that federal employees can use to track their annual, sick, credit, and comp time hours. You can also track your work schedule with our free 2015 spreadsheet. Download the current year leave schedule  and share it with everyone in your organization.
The benefit of knowing exactly what leave balances you have at any point in time is critical to ensuring you receive the maximum benefits allowed, including leave buyback for the tentative retirement dates that you select. You will know how much sick leave credit you will be able to carry into retirement and your annual leave lump sum payment that you will receive shortly after you leave. I selected my retirement date for end of year so that I could carry over the maximum amount of annual leave. I had a total of 448 hours, 240 hours that I saved over the years plus 208 hours that I didn’t use my last year. A month after retirement I received an annual leave lump sum check for the full amount less 20% that they kept for taxes.
I also timed my departure so that that I had just over one year of sick leave (2087 hours equals one year) on the books which added another year to my annuity computation. Even if you don’t leave at the end of a year you can select a date that provides as much credit as possible. If you retire with 5 months and 29 days of sick leave (1038 hours) on the books you effectively loose the 29 days and only receive credit for five months. Staying until you accrue 1044 hours, two more pay periods, will give you a full 6 months credit. Our Sick Leave Conversion Chart  can be used in conjunction with your leave schedule balances to determine how much sick leave you will have on the books for any given target date less any unforeseen medical emergencies.
Helpful resources: (Forward the following reports and spreadsheets to others in your organization that are approaching retirement)
- Best Dates to Retire 
- How to be Emotionally and Physically Prepared When You Retire 
- How to be Financially Prepared When You Retire 
- Strategies for Increasing Your Retirement Annuity and Income 
- 2015 Leave & Schedule Excel Chart  (Excel chart tracks actual leave balances)
If you are within three years of retiring start by requesting retirement annuity estimates from HR for several target retirement dates. Use the resources listed above to start planning your retirement.
- Request a Retirement Benefits Summary & Analysis . Includes projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.
- Retirement Planning Guide 
- Master Retiree Contact List  (Important contact numbers and information)
- Survivor’s Guide 
- Estate Planning Guide (An 11 part series that will help readers prepare for retirement, understand basic estate planning techniques, and compile their personal “Survivor’s Guide” binder.)
Visit our other informative sites
- Federal Government Jobs & Career Center 
- FREE Federal Employee’s Retirement Planning Guide 
- Federal Employee’s Career Development & IDP Center 
The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.
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