If there is a mistake or a typo on your SF-50, it will affect your federal retirement. Or if one of your SF-50s didn’t make it into your OPF (Official Personnel File) or got lost along the way – that time may not be credited towards your retirement, and it happens more often than you would think!
Your SF 50s are the only form of proof you have that you worked in your slot, during a certain period in time. Paystubs or an LES may help prove, don’t officially count.
In all my years of working with my federal employee clients – this is an issue that comes up frequently. Having a solid record of your SF 50s is important for a successful retirement. In fact, it’s the start of your financial and retirement planning process. Having the wrong creditable service is such a critical issue that we often review our clients SF50s together to make sure everything is in order.
Let’s talk more about what the SF 50 is, what it means to your retirement, and what you need to do with it.
What is the SF50?
The SF-50 (Standard Form 50) is officially called a “Notification of Personnel Action.”
You should receive an SF 50 any time you have an increase in step, grade, transfer, pay or any change in jobs. On each SF 50, there is a “FROM” section that will detail your job and pay as it was before the change. Then the “TO” section will show your job and pay details as they are after the change.
You should receive at least one SF-50 a year, typically in January. But you may receive several in a year, if you have other changes in your job.
Records are filed in an employee’s Official Personnel Folder (OPF) to document events in an employee’s federal employment history. These records obviously have long term consequences for the employee and the federal government.
When calculating your retirement annuity (pension), OPM only knows what is in the record. Once their decision is made, it is cast in concrete with a possible, but nearly impossible, method of correction. I think, you would rather be fishing than dealing with a bureaucratic eternity.