Senate-House budget conferees have voted to eliminate two major retirement benefits for federal and postal workers. Given the ax was the so-called "look-back" provision that allows persons to take advantage of the cost-of-living raise that went into effect just prior to their retirement. The conferees also have shut the door on individuals who retire days or weeks before a COL raise. A 7.7 percent COL raise went into effect Sept. 1. People who retired as late as Aug. 31 got all of it. The Senate-House action will put a stop to that.

With the changes taking place, many would-be retirees are asking about the latest date they can quit and still take advantage of current provisions in the law. The conference action on the COL changes will be effect upon enactment into law -- that is when the president signs it.

The Senate and House are planning to recess next week and stay away until Nov. 11 or 12. It is unlikely the conferees can finish up their work and get it through the full Senate and House and on Carter's desk before they recess so it probably will be mid-November before the retirement changes take place. That gives would-be retirees until early November to decide whether to quit.