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Advice on how to prepare for life after government.
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One Big Advantage of Retiring

I’ve met some very good federal retirement specialists over the years. One of them, Denise, recently wrote to let me know she won’t be there the next time I lecture at her agency. She’s not retiring from her job; she’s just retiring from her long commute by transferring to another federal position closer to home and at a lower grade.

Commuting issues are among the top reasons many federal employees look forward to retirement. Here’s what Denise told me about her daily travails:

I was commuting 4 ½ hours each day (no telework available unless expecting inclement weather), five days a week. In commuting 22 ½ half hours every week (providing there were no Metro delays, no traffic issues, or weather to impact the traffic), I found that not only was I missing out on life, I was not living a quality life. I was exhausted, cranky and basically spent more time commuting then I did with my family Monday through Friday. I also found out that I developed mild high blood pressure for which I now take medication.

Many thought I was crazy for taking a downgrade. I did the math; my downgrade actually gave me ...

Taxes: Past, Present and Future

Generally, I keep this column limited to the basics of federal retirement benefits, but sometimes I like to dig a little deeper. This week, my inspiration comes from the following comment on my May 1 column, The 4 Keys to Boosting Your Savings:

May I suggest a similar column illustrating historical tax rates? I realize that with the deficit and expanding demands of our government services because of the exponentially growing public demand and deteriorating infrastructure, taxes can only go up.

That made me curious, so I looked online and found historical rates dating back to 1913 listed in nominal and inflation-adjusted (2013) dollars. For example, in 1948 there was a 91 percent tax bracket, applying to income that exceeded $1,905,344 (in 2013 dollars). But income between $95,267 and $114,321 (in 2013 dollars) was taxed at a marginal rate of 38 percent. The lowest tax rate that year was 20 percent, applying to the first $19,053 of income.

In 1937, tax rates went as high as 79 percent, but income between $95,664 and $127,552 (in 2013 dollars) was taxed at the marginal rate of only 10 percent. That leads me to conclude that ...

Retirement Readiness: How Do You Stack Up?

Last week marked the debut of our Retirement Readiness Assessment, a new tool aimed at helping federal managers and employees get a better handle on where they are in the retirement planning process.

The assessment poses a series of questions on topics ranging from the Thrift Savings Plan to paperwork issues and Social Security. It then issues a rating of the taker’s retirement readiness.

Since we launched the tool, more than 10,000 people have taken the assessment in either its desktop or mobile version. Now the preliminary results are in. Here’s how those who have completed the assessment stack up:

  • Just Getting Started (those needing some help understanding the basics of benefits available to them): 4 percent
  • Beyond the Beginning (those who have started to do their homework, but need some additional guidance): 18 percent
  • On Your Way (those who are on a path to a secure retirement, and just need to take some key steps before they leave): 38 percent
  • Retirement Ready (those who have their ducks in a row and just need to set a date): 40 percent

The early returns show that a significant percentage of the initial assessment takers are paying attention to ...

Test Your Retirement Readiness

Are you really ready to retire? If that question has been on your mind lately, you’re certainly not alone. Thousands of federal employees at all stages of their careers are contemplating where they stand in the retirement planning process.

To help you gain a better understanding of how you’re doing, we’ve developed a new Retirement Readiness Assessment. It asks you a series of questions on everything from annuities to the Thrift Savings Plan to medical benefits.

Based on your responses to the questions, you’ll get a report on your status:  Retirement Ready, On Your Way, Beyond the Beginning, or Just Getting Started. 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

Take Charge of Your Retirement

In 1985, I began a new position at FBI headquarters in Washington as a retirement counselor. This position laid the groundwork and provided the training for my future career as a retirement specialist that I continue today. My official title was Employee Relations Specialist-Employee Benefits, and my duties included communicating laws, policies and regulations regarding retirement matters to FBI employees and providing innovative planning and techniques to help guide them as they planned for retirement.

This week I received the following email that made me reflect on the role of a retirement counselor:

I plan to retire Jan. 3, 2015. The general question is where do I go to discuss retirement issues prior to putting in my retirement papers? I've heard that someone would be assigned as a counselor once they receive my paper work at HR, but I would like some info prior to submitting the papers.

Here’s my response:

Your agency should provide you with retirement counseling both before and after you submit your retirement application. Prior to submitting your application, you should be able to contact your HR office with general questions and you should be provided with a retirement estimate for a single date ...