In my last three articles I described the roles you, your agency and OPM have in moving you from being an employee to being a retiree. However, suppose you have second thoughts.
For example, the light bulb goes on and you realize that you aren’t psychologically ready to retire. Or, you discover that your annuity won’t be big enough for you to get by on. Or, you’ve learned that your agency is about to offer a buyout and you don’t want miss out on it.
Changing Your Mind about Retiring
The good news about changing your mind is that you can so that and withdraw your retirement application at any time before OPM has completed its adjudication of your case. However, if you received any interim annuity payments, you’ll have to pay that money back.
The potential bad news about changing your mind is that you may not have a job to go back to. For example, if your position has been being abolished (common in early out and buyout situations). Or, if your job hasn’t been abolished but someone has already been hired to replace you. Even if that person hasn’t yet come on board, your agency can still deny your request to go back to your old job. They’ll have to do that in writing, explaining why.
Changing Your Mind about Survivor Benefit Elections
Suppose you haven’t changed your mind about retiring but want to change an election of survivor benefits.
If you want to reduce the amount of survivor annuity you elected to provide for your spouse. Since the law requires you to provide a full survivor annuity for him or her, you can only reduce (or eliminate) that amount if your spouse agrees to that in a notarized writing. However, there’s a very short window of opportunity for you to make a change: no more than 30 days from the date of your first regular monthly payment, but less than 18 months from the beginning date of your annuity.
On the other hand, if your spouse agreed to a lesser amount of survivor annuity or none at all and you now want to increase the amount, you’ll have to make a one-time payment representing the difference between the old and new election amounts. This one-time payment also includes a percentage of your annual benefit. That percentage is 24.5 percent if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a full survivor benefit or 12.25 percent if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a partial one.
To make a change in your original survivor benefit election, you’ll have to send a letter requesting that change to the following address: OPM, Retirement Operations Center. P.O. Box 45, Boyers, PA 16017. Your election must include your claim number, the amount of your new survivor election, and your spouse’s name, social security number, date of birth, and a copy of your marriage certificate.
Now you know the possibilities and potential pitfall of changing your mind about retiring. Next week I’ll close this series by raising a scary question. What if you die?