Retirement represents the end of your working life, and may serve as a reward for decades of hard work. But it is also a complicated financial transition as you give up your paycheck and start to live on your investments, pension and retirement savings. By moving through the retirement process carefully, you can make sure that you didn't miss out on any benefits you have coming to you.
Planning and Review
Before you begin the formal retirement process, it's a good idea to review your retirement plans and assess your financial situation. Take stock of your savings, retirement accounts, personal investments and pension plan status. Determine whether you have enough service time to retire with full or partial benefits from your company. Take stock of your personal debts and make sure your retirement income will be sufficient to pay them off in the coming years. Finally, talk with your family and financial planner about your decision, to make sure there are no financial or personal issues you haven't yet considered.
Contacting Human Resources
When you have an idea of when you'd like to retire, contact your company's human resources department. It will be able to explain the company policies and benefits relating to retirement, as well as answer any questions you have left over from your own planning. In some cases, such as federal government jobs, you may need to give at least three months notice before retiring, so don't wait to contact human resources until the last minute and don't expect a typical two weeks' notice to suffice.
Many employers require you to complete an application for retirement at least 30 days prior to your intended retirement date. This enters you into the retirement system, and begins the formal process of preparing your benefits and other paperwork. Your employer may be able to issue you an estimate of benefits, which breaks down your monthly pension and social security payments, as well as what distributions you can expect to receive from an employer-sponsored retirement savings account such as a 401(k). Your application is not a commitment to retire, and you can still choose to continue working if the benefits estimate you receive is different from what you expected, or if other changes occur while you work your way through the retirement process.
The entire retirement process involves paperwork to start your retirement benefits and terminate your employee status. If you will lose your health insurance benefits upon retirement, your employer must notify you and give information about extending coverage, which you mush sign and acknowledge. If you retire only once you're old enough to receive social security benefits and Medicare health insurance, you'll also have to file with Medicare to ensure that there's no gap between your employer-sponsored health care and your Medicare coverage. Your employer may also ask you to complete an exit survey or prepare a report of your work in progress, so that others will be able to complete it once you're gone.