Federal workers contemplating retirement are reminded that they should have some extra money set aside so they can continue habits developed over a lifetime (like eating and paying rent) until their first full pension check arrives.

Although the Office of Personnel Management has cut into the backlog of pending retirement applications, too many new retirees still find they have a long wait between their going-away luncheon and that happy day when their first check arrives.

Here's a letter from a National Institutes of Health employe who says he is dreading retirement because of what happened to a recently retired friend:

"A coworker said her husband retired Jan. 2 and as of mid-April had still not received a retirement check.

"His personnel office suggested he call Sen. Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland. The senator's office gave him a number to call, in Boyers, Pa. He did.

"The Pennsylvania office where personnel records are kept told him they received his papers the week before and that he could expect to receive a check within three to four weeks. That would make it a total of five months or more without receiving any annuity check. Of course there could be extenuating circumstances in some instances, but others have indicated they had extremely long waits for their checks ." K.E., Wheaton.

Speaking for retirement, a Great Falls reader says he would happily leave the government if Uncle Sam would give him his "investment" in the retirement system. He writes:

"The middle-aged employe is a prisoner of the retirement system. An employe with 25 years can easily have contributed $45,000 to the retirement fund. If he leaves the government before age 55 he gets no pension, just what he puts in. The dollar invested in 1960 is now worth about 25 cents. If his contributions had been compounded and paid a reasonable rate, his money would be worth around $200,000.

"The government is obviously happy when employes quit prematurely . . . . They are helping to underwrite the system for employes who stay longer. If the government wants to see a true 'quit rate,' change the law so that employe contributions to the retirement fund are compounded at prevailing interest rates and refunded to workers who quit early." F.K.

Other letters to the Monday Morning Quarterback deal with religious services on federal property and government turnover.

"A letter in the April 8 column complained about Good Friday services at the Department of Agriculture. I attended them, along with many other employes. We appreciated it very much. The Pentagon offers such services, and the military has chaplains. I wonder if this complaint would have appeared in your column if it had to do with yoga classes, or some cult religion. The midguided writer should know we need more of the influences he (or she) complained about. Indeed, morality is lacking here." J.D., Manassas.

"The Office of Personnel Management proposal to use 'quit rates' job turnover to establish pay raises makes me wonder if OPM believes this should be the basis for setting non-career federal employes' salaries.

"The voluntary quit rate for presidents logically leads to the conclusion that this should be an uncompensated position. Since the voluntary quit rate for the director of OPM stands at 50 percent, is OPM willing to propose that the next director have his/her pay cut by that amount?" J.J.B.