Retirement Planning Retirement PlanningRetirement Planning
Advice on how to prepare for life after government.

Are You Ready?

This week, Tammy Flanagan, the regular writer of this column, appeared at the Excellence in Government conference (co-sponsored by Government Executive) for a lively, informative session on the subject of "Retirement: Are You Ready?" She and Raymond Kirk, manager of the Benefits Officers Training and Development Group at the Office of Personnel Management, addressed a standing-room-only crowd of folks who clearly had the idea of preparing for life after government on their minds.

Kirk noted that there are now four recognized career stages: school/training; job; a high-activity life after retiring from a primary career; and full retirement. OPM surveys show that 60 percent of state, federal and local government employees work after initial retirement, he said.

Under orders from Congress to improve retirement financial literacy, OPM is pushing a three-part model involving wealth planning, networking and social engagement (that is, what you're going to do with your life after retirement), and overall health. Kirk handed out print copies of OPM's Retirement Readiness Questionnaire, which he said would be available in online form starting late this fall.

In her segment, Flanagan focused on three tips for federal employees in communicating with their agencies about retirement issues:

  • Ask specific questions. "What do I need to do to retire?" is not as useful as a detailed query about your work history, benefits choices and retirement options.
  • Understand the limits of your agency's role in your retirement.Yes, the agency maintains your records, provides annuity estimates, transfers your health and life insurance benefits and issues a lump-sum payment for unused annual leave. No, the agency does not provide financial or tax planning services, or process TSP withdrawals or Social Security applications.
  • Select the best retirement date. This is the one that everybody wants to know about. For full details, see Flanagan's Feb. 3 column.
Next week, Flanagan will be back with a new column focusing on the issues that single people face in planning for retirement.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website,, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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