Lost days between jobs: You will lose days (or weeks) of service credit if you are not careful how you plan your transition between jobs.

Most of the retirement systems in Massachusetts are in the habit of marking your “start date” as the day you first work – and paid for – in their system.  For example, if your last day of work with us is Friday, and you start your new job in Hampshire County on Monday, you will lose the two days in between.  Not a big deal if it is only that one time. However, if you leave one of our units (Orange, for example), and you take your remaining vacation pay in a lump-sum  – and wait a few weeks before you start your new job – you will lose those few weeks.  The solution? Take your vacation pay regularly (not lump-sum) and have your official resignation date be the day before you start your new job.  Also, make sure the person (treasurer/payroll person) at your old job uses the correct date when they report to us what your last day was.  A good idea is to keep a copy of your resignation letter/notice – and make sure you use the best date (send us a copy?). One note: there has to be pay associated with the service time (maybe with the exception of the weekend scenario (change jobs mid-week?)(resign the old job as of Monday morning?)). Another note: when the treasurer/payroll person is issuing the checks for your “regular” vacation, don’t let them date them all the same – have them date the checks every two(?) weeks and mail them on those dates.  Otherwise, when we see the payroll records, we might consider them as lump-sum payouts and not grant you the service credit.)

What is important here is that you are aware of this snafu.  ASK AHEAD-OF-TIME HOW YOUR SYSTEM HANDLES THE GAPS. If these gaps happen every time you switch jobs – they will add up to months (maybe) of lost service credit.  You think you’ve worked 20 years and can retire but guess what? You need 2 or 3 more months!

Another thing to watch out for – the retirement system that throws away the extra days.  That’s right – if you transfer out of their system after 5 years, 3 months, and 10 days of worked service – your old system might drop the ten days and only give you years and full months! Ask before you leave.

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