A wise traveler doesn’t set out without first consulting a map and considering the safest and most efficient route. Your road to retirement is no different. You might wander into a safe haven, but your chances are far better if you know exactly where you want to go and how you intend to get there. Make sure you arrive at a secure and comfortable retirement by planning the journey far in advance.

The starting point for the plan may be your APERS pension, but you need to consider the wider landscape. What other assets and income will you have? What are your estimated expenses? Will you have house or car payments or recurring medical bills? What is your tax situation? How will you adjust to rising prices, unexpected costs, or even a major catastrophe? Start evaluating your needs and resources as soon as possible so you can set specific goals and determine how to reach them. Finally, as you approach your destination, we’ve plotted some of the final milestones we advise you to pass on this career-long journey.

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Vesting: An Early Marker

After working five years for an APERS-participating or reciprocal employer, you are “vested” in the system and guaranteed to receive benefits at retirement (except for certain General Assembly members who must have ten years of service to vest).

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Twelve Months Before Retirement

When you are within one year of your chosen retirement date, you are considered near retirement and should begin to explore your options in earnest. You might start by attending an APERS retirement seminar. This is not mandatory (and may be inconvenient for members outside Little Rock), but it is a very good way to get answers to your questions and hear others you may not have considered.You should also ask us to estimate your monthly benefits and help you determine if you can purchase additional service so you can decide the benefit options that best suit your needs. You can send us a written request or arrange to meet with one of our retirement counselors in person or by phone.About a year from your planned retirement date, you should also contact your insurance providers to verify your eligibility and check the rates for maintaining your life and health insurance during your retirement.

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Nine Months Before Retirement

At nine months before retirement, you should request the APERS Application for Retirement Annuity, which you will file to set your retirement date and request your benefits . It’s also a good idea to calculate a budget to make sure that your benefits will maintain your standard of living.

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Three Months Before Retirement

At three months before retirement, turn in your retirement application. Completed applications and all required documents must be on file with APERS no sooner than 90 days, and no later than 30 days, before your retirement date, which is the first day of your retirement month.

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Once your application is processed you are officially retired! Your benefits will begin on the first working day of the month you set as your retirement date.Do you want or need to know more about the retirement process? If you have any questions you can contact APERS at (501) 652-7800 or if outside Pulaski County at (800) 682-7377. You can also find many resources such as Member handbooks, brochures, FAQ’s and more here on the APERS website.

(This article first appeared in the summer 2013 active newsletter.)

Arkansas public employees retirement system

Here you will find information based on your role in our system, whether you are an active member, near retirement, a retired member or an APERS participating employer.