(Hopefully) retiring soon. Who do I tell first? It's tricky*
November 29, 2016 6:03 AM   Subscribe

I work for an agency that allows for retirement after so many years of service, which can include unused personal and sick leave. To start the process, paperwork has to be turned in to a benefits person to verify service and any leave time credit. But, should I tell my boss first even if I am not 100% sure I have enough time?

*I am 99% I have enough time but there is no way to verify that until it is "officially" verified, if that makes sense. I feel like I should tell my boss first, but if the time is not all there, like for whatever reason, I need to work another 6 or 9 months or even a year, I don't want to have a "long goodbye" period where everything is wonky for that period. I would prefer to turn in the paperwork to get time verified, and if it is good to go, then tell my boss and retire soon afterwards, or, if it is not all there yet, hold off on telling her, and wait until it is within 3 months or so.

Also, in the back of my mind, I think once I turn in the paperwork, I think the "cat's out of the bag" one way or the other, though it is supposed to be confidential.

posted by bellastarr to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it a requirement for benefits to alert your boss that you've submitted that paperwork? If you know that this will trigger some sort of message, then I'd tell your boss, but if not, then I'd just check. There's no way to make a request to see if you're eligible without starting the process in earnest? I would imagine others have wanted to know how much time they have left without necessarily needing to start the clock.
posted by xingcat at 6:11 AM on November 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

To my knowledge, it's not a requirement for them to tell anyone, though I am suspicious about HR and any unwritten policies they have on that..
posted by bellastarr at 6:13 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you talk to a benefits person and get it unofficially verified first? Just say that you've been thinking about when you might want to retire and wondered if you're eligible yet. Tell them you haven't made up your mind and don't want to cause an issue with your boss, so you're not quite ready to file the paperwork, but you'd like to know a bit more about what time counts for being eligible so you can estimate.
posted by Diablevert at 6:26 AM on November 29, 2016 [22 favorites]

Retired Fed. here. It is totally something people do, often well ahead of retirement to calculate how long till they could retire. HR folks know this and privacy rules should kick in so they should not share this, whether you are a Fed. or not. Do not tell your boss. Just do the paperwork and ask HR for info. and say it is for planning purposes. I did that 5 years before I actually retired.
posted by gudrun at 6:35 AM on November 29, 2016 [17 favorites]

My workplace may be different from your workplace - but...

As a boss, I would want to know that you are considering retirement. I look forward to retiring myself, and celebrate with my employees when they get the opportunity. But I definitely want more than just a few weeks to fill a position instead of a few months - I would be able to plan for hiring and training.
posted by ElGuapo at 6:41 AM on November 29, 2016

At my organization they have "retirement planning" sessions several times a year where you can schedule brief meetings with HR personnel to go over your retirement options and plans. People who (appear to be, anyway) quite far from retirement attend these meetings, and it is seen as just something you do once you have been here for a significant length of time, rather than a "one foot out the door" scenario. Does your organization have anything similar?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:52 AM on November 29, 2016

Original poster here -

@Rock Steady: No there are no retirement planning meetings

@Diablevert: I don't know of a way to unofficially verify within the organization. The paperwork has to go from our organization to a state agency for verification.

@ElGuapo: I don't plan to announce it with less than 3 months notice (not weeks)
posted by bellastarr at 7:10 AM on November 29, 2016

Is there someone at the state agency you can contact? I am sneaky so I'd probably say something like, "I'm not looking to retire but my financial planner asked me exactly when I would be eligible for full retirement. Is there any way to estimate this date in advance of submitting paperwork?" Or maybe, "Can I submit the paperwork now to get my 'date' without starting the process of retirement?" Then if your boss hears it through the grapevine, you can tell them the same story. "Oh, my financial planner needs to know the date for their software, that's all!"
posted by muddgirl at 7:24 AM on November 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

@muddgirl: No, the paperwork has to come from our benefits manager directly to the state agency. The state won't verify anything without "the form"...
posted by bellastarr at 7:26 AM on November 29, 2016

I think you just need to be very clear when you go to HR that you expect this request for information to remain confidential. You don't need to say why, or give any more detail than you want.

"I would like to start the process to check on my retirement eligibility. And by the way, I expect this to remain completely confidential."
posted by raisingsand at 7:43 AM on November 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think you and everyone else is vastly over-thinking this. The question of when you are eligible to retire is fundamental to retirement savings planning; every single person in your office should have this information about themselves as part of understanding the benefits extended to them as part of their compensation package.

In other words, finding out when you are eligible to retire is not a smoke signal that you are planning to retire. It's just basic fiscal management.

Therefore, I would go an retrieve this information with impunity.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:06 AM on November 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

Yep, what darlingbri said ! Say to hr - Hi, I am being a grown up and trying to sort out my fiscal retirement planning. When am I eligible to retire?
posted by Mistress at 8:12 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would just tell your boss what you said here. You're thinking about retirement, will give at least three months notice and need to verify that you have the proper credit. If you're retirement age and close to the amount of credit you need, your boss won't be surprised. If you're giving lots of notice, your boss will likely be very appreciative.

I've worked in places similar to what you're describing, and this is never a big deal, unless someone literally walks out and then retires. There's not really a period of wonkiness, other than near retirees being really busy training replacements and tying up loose ends. Are you worried your boss is going to fire you without retirement credit?
posted by cnc at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2016

As a boss, I would want to know that you are considering retirement.

If there is any chance they would let you go ahead of your planned retirement, I would not do this. I think officially requesting the information and being explicit about confidentiality would create a paper trail that could then protect you if all of a sudden they decide to re-organize you out of your position or out on the street with less pay or benefits than you anticipated.
posted by amanda at 9:36 AM on November 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Retired many years ago from a Federal Agency. I made several requests for retirement possibilities. No one else knew of that, ever. The supervisor will not even know if they are not informed by you.
posted by JayRwv at 11:30 AM on November 29, 2016

Supervisor here - HR has been completely confidential about retirement inquiries and I've had more than one person say "I figured HR would have told you" when in fact they've maintained perfect confidentiality. HR is not on your boss's side. They're on the institution's side. If it's supposed to be confidential (and you explicitly ask about confidentiality), I would vote for trusting that they will follow their own institutional policy.
posted by Ausamor at 1:05 PM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't mention your jurisdiction, but do say "state agency." I'm a manager in a U.S. state government. I'm seeing lots of hypotheticals up thread, so I'll just mention a few things about my particular state that might be relevant.

#1 There is zero incentive for me to screw around with someone's retirement. There is an agency that just deals with pensions, which operates independently of my agency. It isn't like retirement affects my budget, or I get a bonus or something. The one caveat here would be the case of petty revenge for imagined slights.

#2 The rules around retirement are pretty complicated and literally change on a yearly basis. All U.S. state governments are getting (relatively) smaller, and moving away from pensions in the direction of 401Ks. The net-net of this is that rules change on a yearly basis and it is tricky to figure out what your actual entitlement/retirement date is. The point here is that - as a couple people noted up thread - it is routine for employees to ask "can I retire yet?", because there isn't an easy way to answer.

#3 I've had a number of employees retire and HR has never given me a heads' up about it, I've always heard from the employee. N'thing Ausamor's comment about HR being on the institution's side.

#4 El Guapos' comment about "as a boss, I'd like to know..." I've had a few employees who waited until they could retire and surprised me with a week or two to go. In a recent case - this year - an employee was planning to use his vacation time to coast to his retirement date. He sprung this on me at the last possible moment; I asked a few questions, and, he discovered that he needed an extra couple of months of employment to reach his milestone. We were able to bridge him to his milestone, but the point here is that there are risks to *not* bring your boss into the loop (unless you are in the "petty revenge for imagined slights" scenario). So if you go this route, I would suggest you be 100% sure about your dates and situation.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 8:25 PM on November 29, 2016

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