Employees should review their official personnel folders—whether that’s in electronic format, still on paper, or both—on a regular basis as a general rule, but it’s essential in the run-up to retirement. Generally, you’ll want to be sure to look at it within six months to a year before your retirement date so that you can make any corrections or take any actions needed to best position yourself for retirement.
Here are some issues meriting attention:
Does your OPF contain information on all service that is creditable towards retirement? For example, maybe you once worked for the Census Bureau or served on a temporary holiday appointment with the Postal Service, or perhaps you held a temporary position with the IRS during tax season.
These may very well be creditable towards retirement. Notify your personnel office immediately if you discover that your file is not complete.
Do you have current beneficiary forms on file? Remember that not all designations are retained in the OPF — FEGLI, FERS, and unpaid compensation will be on file in the OPF, while CSRS and TSP designations are on file with the Office of Personnel Management and the TSP Service Office, respectively. Therefore, you may need to update your designations at the time of retirement. Beneficiary designations are not valid unless properly completed, witnessed, signed, and dated by you.
Have you performed active military service? If so, and you do not see your DD 214(s) in the OPF, you must submit copies to the personnel office along with your retirement package.
Have you made a deposit for military service? If you have paid a deposit, check your OPF for a copy of the OPM Form 1514. If not included in your OPF, you will need to provide proof of payment with your retirement package. If you have not and wish to do so, you must begin the process immediately.
Making sure your records are in order is a big part of retirement preparation, and it’s never too early to start.
The main resource to check is your Official Personnel Folder—which may be in either paper or electronic form—which forms the backbone of your retirement eligibility and benefit calculations. You should make sure that the folder includes:
the beginning and ending dates for each period of employment which will be used for your benefit computation;
the effective dates for each promotion or within-grade increase during the period that will be used to compute your high-3 average salary;
the dates of pay changes or earnings and the pay rate, during employment periods when retirement deductions were not withheld from your salary;
the tour-of-duty during any part-time employment (if you worked more hours than the official tour-of-duty, document the hours actually worked.);
a record of time actually worked during intermittent or “when-actually-employed” service; and,
documentation of the dates of any military service.
If any service is not verified or any of the required documentation is missing, you should obtain assistance from your personnel officer.
Your Official Personnel Folder should contain a record of all of your health benefits registration forms, Standard Form 2809, and, if appropriate, Standard Form 2810, Notice of Change in Health Benefits. In addition, be sure that when you retire, your records will show a complete history of your health insurance enrollment for the last five years. It also should contain a record of your current federal life insurance coverage on a Standard Form 2817, “Life Insurance Election,” and, if appropriate, your current life insurance designation of beneficiary, Standard Form 2823.
Also, review your beneficiary designation for the lump-sum payment of retirement contributions if no one is eligible for a survivor annuity. This designation is made on a Standard Form 2808 for the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or a Standard Form 3102 for the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Make sure the form shows the person or people you want to be designated. If a copy is not available to review, you may wish to file a new designation.
If there is no designation of beneficiary, benefits will be paid in the following order: your widow or widower; our children in equal shares; your parents in equal shares; your appointed executor or administrator of your estate; then your next of kin under the laws of the state you reside in when you die.
Publish Date: August 16, 2021 © Tangerine, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein constitutes general information and is not directed to, designed for, or individually tailored to, any particular individual or circumstance. This article is not intended to be a client-specific analysis or recommendation. Do not use this article as the sole basis for any financial decisions. Consider all relevant information. Information should not be considered as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor and/or attorney regarding your individual circumstances.