Best retirement date to maximize leave


Q. I’m in CSRS. My service computation date is July 31, 1978, and I maintain the maximum of 240 hours of annual leave. I also have 3,702.4 hours of sick leave. Since annual leave is projected forward, is the first pay period of the new leave the best time to retire to receive a lump-sum payment for 448 hours of unused leave?  However, I don’t know how this will affect my sick leave. Is there a formula or software that can determine the best year and date to retire to maximize lump-sum payment for unused annual leave and sick leave?

A. To maximize your lump-sum payment for unused annual leave, you should retire before the end of a leave year, any leave year. If you entered the year with 240 hours of annual leave and didn’t use any hours you earn during that year, you could end up with a lot of annual leave to cash in.

To maximize the amount that your annuity will be increased through the addition of unused sick leave, you should continue working as long as you can. However, I’d recommend that you retire while you are still able to enjoy retirement. Wait too long and only your spouse or heirs would benefit by your effort to maximize your benefits.

While figuring out how to milk Uncle Sam for additional pennies can be a goal, don’t let it stand in the way of a more important one: retire when you feel the time is right and the numbers look reasonable.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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