Posted on Friday, 22nd September 2023 by

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Good news for those planning their retirement and annuitants. OPM’s retirement center has improved considerably over the past few years. When I retired 18 years ago, their online support was a shadow of what it is today, this is why I developed and published the Federal Employee’s Retirement Planning website in 2004.

When I was researching retirement, I couldn’t find the answers I needed to make informed benefit decisions and wanted to share my research and experiences with others. I also relate experiences of many of our site visitors, newsletter subscribers, and from those who comment on our blog postings.

That is one of the principal differences between OPM’s offerings and ours along with many other service providers in this space. It’s reassuring to read about retirement issues from those who are retired and have navigated the same waters as our site visitors.

First Things First

OPM manages our retirement services and they are the only ones that can make desired changes once you leave federal service. Prior to retirement, federal employees must contact their human resources (HR) office to make benefit changes and to initiate their retirement paperwork. The HR office will also provide annuity estimates for several target retirement dates. I took advantage of that service before completing my paperwork.

OPM’s Expanded Offerings

Explore OPM’s Online Retirement Center to research the retirement process, benefits, and to use their various online calculators. It’s also a resource for survivors who need to contact OPM after their loved one dies or to clarify benefit issues.

They recently added a Retirement Quick Guide that is very useful with step-by-step instructions on what to do and when, with timelines for you to follow. This guide starts with an overview of how your retirement is processed, and lists four things to do before retiring: sign all forms, download your personal records, complete payments for any open service credit accounts, and check supplemental documents needed for them to process your claim.

They continue on with benefit explanations, factors that might delay your retirement processing, and how to track your application as it proceeds through the system.  Key terms are explained and helpful resource links are provided to get you signed up for their retirement online services.

Quick Reference Guide

There are numerous links provided for everything from retirement system fundamentals, eligibility guidance for the FERS and CSRS retirement systems, and links to publications and forms of interest. These centralized offerings help you navigate what often seems overwhelming to those approaching retirement. They recently published several videos to help new retirees access OPM Services Online.

The Down Side

Many get frustrated when trying to contact OPM by phone concerning critical issues that aren’t easily resolved online and need immediate attention. Many, especially the older generation of which I am now a member, don’t have online access or care to.

OPM is trying to minimize calls with their expanded online offerings; hopefully once the majority of retirees are aware of these services, those who need to talk with someone won’t have the problems they are having today. When I call their support number at 1-888-767-6738 and get through, wait times are often 45 minutes or longer.


The main reason for developing was to provide a resource for federal employees and retirees because OPM’s support was inadequate at the time. Their service is improving however there is still room for ancillary services like to fill in the gaps when it comes to personal perspectives, recommendations, and insight into complex issues.

One of our site visitors put it best, “I spent 3 hours on the web looking for answers to questions concerning federal retirement. After a Google search yielded your address, it took only 20 minutes to find all of my answers! Thank you!!!”  Rod H.

OPM administers the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), serving 2.5 million Federal retirees and survivors who receive monthly annuity payments. It’s a huge undertaking and they are taking steps to improve. However, retirees and survivors must still have access to specialists to handle critical and sensitive issues that need immediate attention. Hopefully, their expanded online initiatives will reduce call volume and improve service for all.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools

Disclaimer: The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and benefit information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties for assistance including OPM’s retirement center. 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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