Should you collect unemployment before your first FERS Pension check arrives?

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Nealy asks a question that we see every now and then from federal employees: “Should you collect unemployment while you’re waiting on your Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) pension check to arrive?”  

Can federal employees collect unemployment while waiting for their FERS pension to arrive?

No, federal employees cannot collect unemployment when they retire from FERS while waiting for their pension check to arrive.  When we work with our federal employee clients we want to ensure that they have financially prepared for retirement – and how long it can take the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to process your paperwork – so that you’re not wondering if you need to collect unemployment while you wait for your pension. Here is how we help clients during the years leading up to retirement.   

How long does it take to get my FERS retirement check?

Plan on 6 to 8 months before you receive your FERS retirement check once you have retired. OPM has done a tremendous job to reduce the time that it takes to process retirement applications since 2009.  It used to take in some cases 12+ months for federal employees to receive their retirement checks from OPM.  Today, we are seeing applications processed in half of the time.  Will I get an interim check while waiting for FERS retirement check? When your Human Resource office sends your Official Personnel File to OPM, you will start to receive an interim check. An interim check is OPM’s best guess at what your pension might be.  Your FERS interim check is normally 50% or less of what OPM thinks that your pension will be. Keep in mind that they have not audited your file yet so this is their best guess at what your retirement pension will be. Once OPM audits your Office Personnel File and certifies your pension, they will send you out your regular pension check.  When this happens, they will also send you a one time payment which is the difference between of what you received from an interim check and what your pension should have been during that time.   

Before you retire you should have 1 year of cash set aside.

Before you retire from federal service you should have a strong cash position – not invested but liquid cash available to supplement your lifestyle while you are waiting for OPM to process your retirement.  Creating a cash flow plan for our federal employee clients is something we visit with them often about. We are always looking at how we can ensure that when there is a short fall – like waiting for a pension check to be processed by OPM – that we aren’t tapping into investments to cover shortfalls. Rather, we want to know what our financial plan is for OPM taking longer than expected BEFORE our clients retire. If you have questions like this about your retirement from federal service, make sure to reach out to us.
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