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

Beware of Hucksters

I’ve conducted a lot of retirement planning seminars over the course of my career. I’ve taught at least 3,000 federal employees the basics about their benefits in the past year -- over 100,000 during my career. There aren’t very many of us who conduct such classes for federal employees, so it’s not surprising that thousands miss out on agency-sponsored pre-retirement planning classes. 

There are many good reasons to attend an agency-sponsored seminar. First, there’s access to seasoned professionals and the materials they bring, with no sales pitch. There also are opportunities to ask questions—and to learn from answers to colleagues’ questions. Perhaps most important, such sessions give employees some needed time and space to focus on retirement planning.

Consider these retirement statistics:

  • From 2005 to 2014, 275,059 employees retired from the Federal Employees Retirement System (average age: 60.6 years; average length of service: 28.2 years).
  • During the same period, 331,973 employees retired under the Civil Service Retirement System (average age: 59.8 years; average length of service: 33.8 years).

Although the vast majority of retirees were covered under CSRS or FERS, there are a few other retirement plans...

Risk and Retirement: Managing Your TSP Investment

A new law requires the Thrift Savings Plan to invest the automatic contributions of recently hired federal employees into an age-appropriate lifecycle fund.  Eric Katz outlined  this change to the TSP under the Smart Savings Act, which President Obama signed into law in December 2014. The G Fund previously was the default option for the TSP.  Besides new employees, the switch also will affect new survivor annuitants and re-hired federal employees who have a zero balance in their TSP account. 

How is a participant’s default L Fund determined?

According to TSP Bulletin 15-2, the L Fund selection for each participant will be based on a projected retirement age of 62. For example, the age-appropriate default investment fund for someone born between 1973 and 1982 would be L2040, since they would be expected to begin drawing on their TSP funds between 2035 and 2044.

In last week’s column on 12 practical tips for a successful retirement, I urged readers to consider their tolerance for risk. Participants subject to the new default investment rules will receive a letter from the TSP that includes such risk information as required by the Smart Savings Act. 

The TSP spells out the investment risks...

Pay Attention: Nobody Else Is Going to Fund Your Future

It's never too early to start planning for retirement. 

I recently was copied on a letter from a dad (federal employee, Scott Stoddard) to his four children after a recent family reunion.  Here is what he said:

Dear Kids,

Please seek retirement counseling ASAP–as early on in your career as possible. 

All four of you are extremely bright but I know from my own experience that retirement didn’t factor into my career choice.  Now with another 5-10 years to go before your mother and I want to live out our retirement, it is the one MOST important benefit that is on my mind constantly.  Find out who is responsible in each of the companies you work for and schedule an appointment.  It will be WORTH IT!

Again it was great to be with each one of you and your precious children at the reunion. 

Thanks Again – Love You All!


This is great advice to any young person starting out in their career. There are so many demands on young millennials who are beginning their adult life that they’ll need all the help they can get to properly prepare for their future retirement years.


Best Dates to Retire 2016

Download the Best Dates to Retire 2016 Calendar

Are you financially ready to retire? Will all of your sources of retirement income -- federal retirement benefits, Social Security, Individual Retirement Accounts and other savings -- cover your ongoing expenses? Will you be able to make them last for the next 20 or 30 years?

Also, are you mentally ready to retire? Are you looking forward to life after retirement, rather than dreading the loss of your identity?

If the answer to the above questions is “yes,” then it’s time to start thinking about the best dates to retire. This week’s column and the accompanying downloadable calendar will explore the best dates in 2016. (If you’re ready to go even sooner than that, check out Best Dates to Retire 2015.)

If you’re thinking about retiring now or in the near future, you may want to consider several potential dates, so you can compare their relative benefits. For example, you might consider retiring at the end of the leave year to accumulate the maximum leave accrual for a generous lump sum annual leave payout. Or you might wonder how postponing the date another six months or even an additional year...

Quiz: How Ready Are You To Retire?

More and more federal employees are taking a hard look at just how ready they are to retire.

If you’re among this group (or even if you’re not -- yet), we’ve developed a tool that can help you figure out  where you stand. The Retirement Readiness Assessment debuted last year, so some of you already may have completed it. If so, this is your chance to take it again and see where you stand now. If not, maybe now is the time to get a clearer picture of your prospects.

Based on your responses to the questions in the assessment, you’ll get a report on your status: Just Getting Started, Beyond the Beginning, On Your Way, or Retirement Ready. You’ll also get a few tips on next steps in the planning process.

Are you ready to take the assessment? Let’s get started.

Take the Retirement Readiness Assessment

(Image via Jerry Sliwowski/