Your Guide to Virtual Retirement Resources
Advances in technology have made it easier to get educated on federal retirement benefits without leaving your computer.
I don’t think I’m alone in finding a silver lining in the Covid-19 pandemic: It allowed many people to become more receptive to virtual learning opportunities.
I started using Zoom at the end of 2018. It made me excited about the possibility of reaching a wider audience of employees who previously didn’t have access to live pre-retirement seminars or other retirement planning courses. But it was a hard sell to get people to experiment with this unfamiliar comfortable environment for learning.
Fast forward to today and there are many online classrooms providing all kinds of training and learning opportunities. This type of learning can at times be less engaging as in-person events. But it has many advantages, such as the ability to reach a wider audience and to allow people to learn on their own schedule—many training events are recorded for future viewing. It’s also easy to drill down on specific topics that can be addressed in separate sessions.
I have presented in-person and online training, and there’s nothing more rewarding than standing before a group of employees in a classroom or auditorium and seeing the lightbulb moments of someone learning something helpful or finally understanding a complex concept.
However, there are ways to stay engaged when attending sessions on one of the popular platforms for webcasting, such as Microsoft Teams, On24, Zoom and GoToWebinar. Given the convenience and continued advances in these technologies, it’s a sure bet that online learning is here to stay.
If you have trouble staying engaged during a webinar, there are some tips you can try to help you avoid distractions. Turn your phone off or put it in another room. Even the sight of devices can be a distraction and an invitation to try to multitask.
Before teaching online, I take time to prepare my workspace. I organize any paperwork that might be needed and put away things that could take my attention off of the job at hand. I add some honey and lemon to my tea to keep my voice from fading during long sessions. I am often asked to teach for three to six hours in one day, which can be exhausting for the student as much as the instructor. I provide hourly breaks, and during that time, I try to step outside or at least walk around the house so I can stretch my back and neck muscles a little.
The best way to stay engaged in online learning is to participate. If you have the opportunity to ask questions, either aloud or in a chat box, take it. Try to make the questions relevant to the topic being presented and don’t make them too specifically personal. Questions particular to your retirement situation are best left for a follow-up email with the instructor or your agency’s human resources office.
I conduct live webinars and training through a variety of outlets, including:
- The National Institute for Transition Planning
- Plan Your Federal Retirement
- National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association
Several agencies offer online learning on retirement planning issues in both live and recorded forms. Here are some examples:
Office of Personnel Management
- Understanding High Deductible Health Plans
- Service Credit and Voluntary Contributions
- Military Deposits under CSRS and FERS
- Retirement Application Processing
- Federal Employees Group Life Insurance
- Court Ordered Benefits
- Death in Service
- Reemployed Annuitants: Offboarding
Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
- Intro to the TSP
- TSP Contributions: Taking Control of Your Future
- TSP Death Benefits
- TSP In-Service Withdrawals
- TSP Investment Funds
- TSP Loans
- TSP Distributions
- TSP Early to Mid-Career
- TSP Pre-Separation
- Your TSP Investment Options
- Now You Know: Catch-Up Contributions
- Now You Know: Making Traditional vs. Roth TSP Contributions
- Recorded TSP Webinars
- Retirement and SSA: How Social Security Retirement Benefits Work
- Retirement and SSA: Planning for Retirement
- Programs and Online Services
- Disability and SSA
- How-To Series (Examples: change your address; opt out of Social Security notices; appeal if you disagree with a decision)
- What is “MySocialSecurity?”
I encourage you to learn more about how you can become financially secure and mentally prepared for your retirement. That way you can be, like me, an optimist about the future.