From Engineering Your Retirement
, Chapter 8:
It is never too late to start planning for your retirement, but once you have left the building, it may not be possible to go back in. Not all technical professionals are given the luxury of choosing the day they exit the workplace. Many are walked out of the building at short notice due to corporate layoffs or dark corporate politics. If you are fortunate enough to be able to pick the date of your exit, don’t waste that opportunity. Think ahead and take advantage of your last days, weeks, and months to put things in order. Some of the office related issues you should plan for are listed below:
• Take all of your personal possessions home before your last day. You will be busy and want to focus on the paperwork, exit interviews, goodbyes, etc. Packing and juggling boxes is not the best way to spend that time.
• Review your computer files. If you have any personal files on your employer’s computer, make personal copies and delete them from the computer.
• Take any vacation, personal holidays, or leave time that will be forfeited once you leave. This depends on the policy of your employer. Some organizations will pay you for unused leave days, others will not.
• Learn what your organization will allow you to do with your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 investments. You may be allowed to keep your money in the plan, roll it over, or be forced to take it out. Make sure you understand the options and the tax implications of those options. Be ready to execute your choice. You should also consider having extra deductions taken from your pay check and placed in these plans to ensure that you get your maximum allowable contributions for the year.
• Learn the details of any pension plan you are vested in. You may have a cash balance due to you. You may have annuity choices to make. Determine the options, the amounts, and tax implications.
• Learn your alternatives for any stock options you have. Are they exercisable? Are they under water? Can you take them with you? Do you understand the tax implications?
• Put a medical insurance plan in place. If you are not getting a medical benefit as part of your retirement package, this process should be started more than 6 months prior to your retirement (see Section 4.1). If you are not prepared with your own plan on retirement day, check on COBRA transitional insurance. Federal COBRA law requires that you be allowed to keep your existing group insurance for up to 18 months. It may be expensive, but it will buy time for you to find your own solution.
• Surf your employer’s internal web sites for any information you may need after you have left. Make a hardcopy or a soft copy, but do not violate corporate policy.
• Compile the contact information (phone, address, email, URLs) for HR representatives, benefits personnel, and other offices. Make sure you know who to contact with future questions about pensions, tax-deferred investments, medical benefits, stock options, and any other future benefit.
• Collect a list of email addresses and phone numbers of any friends and colleagues you wish to keep in touch with.
• Draft a letter or memo of resignation. Keep it simple and keep it professional. See Table 8.1 for an example.
• Say farewell to friends and colleagues. Everyone and every situation is different. You may prefer to speak privately with a few people or slip out the back door unnoticed. Your office mates may want to have a party on your behalf. You might be asked to give a farewell speech. You might want to develop a farewell letter for distribution. However you choose to say it, you probably want to articulate four things:
o Thank-you. Thanks for being fun to work with, for helping me with some aspect of the job, . . .
o I respect you. I have learned to respect and value your insights and opinions, your dedication, your genius, . . .
o I’m sorry. . . if I have failed to help you as much as I should or if we have had misunderstandings in the past.
o Good-bye. . . and good luck.