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Advice on how to prepare for life after government.
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The Index: 2016 Edition

Maybe it was the way I was raised, but I love to organize and clean house. My mom did fall and spring cleaning every year. I grew up in Pittsburgh when the steel mills were still operational, so there was a good reason for all of her effort.

This time of year, I clean house in a different way: by scrubbing the index to my Retirement Planning columns. Every year for the past 10 years, I’ve gone through the previous year’s columns to decide which ones are worth saving in the index. I also evaluate the current index to determine which columns are still relevant.

I hope you will refer to the index when you have a question about a particular retirement planning topic. Some of you may be retiring in the near future -- or maybe you’ve already retired at the end of 2015. Others may have just begun working for Uncle Sam. My goal has always been to write about a variety of topics in a way that simplifies complicated retirement benefit issues. It is my sincere hope that the columns will help you to take charge of your retirement with confidence.

Retirement Processing

Retirement Modernization...

Rushing Retirement Could Cost You

January is often a time of reckoning. It’s when many of us resolve to get more exercise, save more money and finally get around to doing all those things we’ve put off for too long. It’s also when a lot of federal employees put in their retirement paperwork. If you’re on the fence, there are things you need to consider before submitting your paperwork.

To help you work through those things, download Tammy Flanagan's new eBook, “Take Charge of Your Retirement: Planning for Life After Government.” It provides a good overview of many of the things that will affect the kind of life you have after your federal career.

Perhaps most importantly, there’s a list of things to do before you leave government to ensure you get the most out of your retirement benefits. You’ll also find helpful information about taxes, insurance and other things that will affect your quality of life, as well as information about estimating your income.

Retirement is an opportunity for new beginnings. But make sure you begin it with care.

(Image via auremar/Shutterstock.com)

Retirement Modernization, Take Five

The Office of Personnel Management has made various attempts to modernize the federal retirement process over the past couple of decades. These efforts have involved developing an integrated system and automated processes, but have failed to meet their goals. Recently, AINS Inc. announced that OPM had awarded the company a contract worth a potential $24.1 million over five years to use its cloud-based case management platform to try again to modernize federal retirement, and also upgrade the agency’s investigative processes.

I recently interviewed AINS CEO Moe Goswami about the contract and whether the new effort will succeed where others have failed. An edited transcript of our conversation appears below.

What product will be used to upgrade the system?

eCase is the product that was acquired for this contract. OPM is also considering many other products. The eCase platform allows us to build any kind of case management system.

Do you have experience with projects of this scale at other government organizations?

We have completed similar projects for other federal agencies, such as HUD and DHS. We will work with OPM to implement this project as a partnership between our two organizations.

Will the retirement process become employee-driven, like...

Getting the Best Health Plan Deal: An Experiment

As I’ve noted in recent columns, open season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program provides an opportunity to consider switching plans and potentially saving some money. Before this year’s open season ends on Monday, I wanted to provide an update on the non-scientific experimentI conducted with five friends this year. They switched from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Option to the new Aetna Direct high deductible health plan during last year’s open season. This plan was new for 2015 and was designed to work with retirees who are enrolled in Medicare parts A & B.

Three of my friends who made the switch -- Ellie, Sharon and Edie -- are widows in good health who range in age from 72 to over 90. All three of them have decided to stay in Aetna Direct, which, with a self-only enrollment, provides a health fund of $750 a year for out of pocket expenses. (Self plus one or self and family enrollments provide bigger funds.) Ellie, Sharon and Edie all will carry unused health fund dollars into 2016. The self only monthly premium for 2016 is $118.33.

For my two other friends, Wanda and Cliff, deciding whether to...

Solving the Open Season Puzzle

Do you remember those plastic sliding tile puzzles? They’re a timeless classic. The object of the game is to slide the numbers around until you get them in order. Choosing the best health plan during Federal Employee Health Benefits Program open season can be a lot like solving one of these puzzles. Sometimes moving one tile will cause your entire strategy to change.

With more than a week left in the 2015 open season, which ends Dec. 14, I think solving the puzzle is worth the effort. If you make the best choice for you and your family during open season, you can put more dollars in your pocket in 2016. In last week’s column, we explored some of the psychological barriers to making a change during open season. This week and next, let’s let’s get down to brass tacks and focus on the details of evaluating your options.

Before we begin, some of you might wonder, why I spend time in a retirement planning column on open season. It’s because health benefits are just as important to retirees as they are to federal employees. Health insurance is one of the most valuable benefits an...