Retirement Checkup

By Tammy Flanagan

April 29, 2011

This week, I took my car in for its 35,000 mile checkup, which included an oil change, tire rotation and safety check. While waiting for the service to be completed, I realized that taking care of my vehicle so it will last for many years is a lot like preparing for retirement (which I also hope will last for many years). There are things to be done periodically to make sure you stay on track to meet your retirement goals. Sometimes you need to make minor adjustments along the way.

Let's look at the major "service points" in a typical federal career.

Five Years

When you have five years of civilian federal service you are vested for a retirement benefit. This means that even if you resign, you will receive such a benefit (under either the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System) either immediately (if you're already 62 or older) or at a later date that is dependent on the amount of service you had when you left.

Here are some things you should do at this point in your career:

Ten to Twenty Years

The midcareer period is a good time to make adjustments and reevaluate your goals. By this time, you may have bought a house, gotten married and started a family. Your retirement plans may be different from when you were first hired. You may now have new objectives such as saving for college, reducing debt, or saving for a house.

During this time of your career, you are likely climbing the career ladder and probably have some idea of where your salary might be headed. So redo the five-year checkup, adding your new goals and new numbers. If your agency offers a midcareer retirement planning seminar, take the opportunity to review your goals and gain a better understanding of your benefits. Here are some additional things to look at during this career checkpoint:

Thirty or More Years

Now you are at the pre-retirement stage. It's time for a reality check. Are you meeting your savings goals? Will your retirement income be enough to afford the lifestyle you desire? Even if you're eligible to retire, have you considered the benefits of working a few more years?

Here are some things to do at this stage:

So when was the last time you took your retirement plan in for service? Maybe it's time for a checkup. While you're at it, you can begin to make plans for your life after retirement. Be sure to keep in mind that without your good health, the money you have saved will not be enough. So you might want to go in for a health checkup, too.

Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars. She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.

For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Monday mornings at 10 a.m. ET on or on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington metro area.

By Tammy Flanagan

April 29, 2011