By Kaleb Robuck
Retiring from a government job can feel a little like choking on an overload of information. Between the PowerPoint presentations and booklets and forms and “helpful” websites, it can feel like you’re drowning in all the information thrown at you. And when it comes to retirement, the details do matter.
Today, we are going to break it up into bite-sized answers so you can feel confident you understand everything you need to know to retire as a government employee. This way, you’ll be able to easily skim the information that is important for your retirement plan and simplify the planning process.
- What material is critical for me to make smart decisions about my future?
- Will any of these options cause a problem for me or my spouse later on?
- Can I create a steady “paycheck” for myself when I’m no longer working?
- Is it possible to maintain my current standard of living once I retire?
- Is there anyone I can reach out to who’s knowledgeable in government employee finances and retirement?
Keep reading to learn more about some of the steps you can take to find some answers.
Step #1: Take a bird’s eye view
What do you already know? For example, you may already know that you have access to a pension, or that you have a plan that’s more like a 401(k) type of scheme, such as the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for federal workers.
Depending on the entity that would work for, you could have a mandated retirement age. Or you have an ideal date in mind.
As a government employee, you may have access to some special perks. For example, you may be able to buy long-term care insurance inexpensively through your group plan. Or your current healthcare plan continues past your retirement date, or maybe you have access to prepaid services.
Vital questions to ask:
- Do I understand what type of plan I have access to in retirement?
- How much money will I need to live on?
- Is what I currently have access to enough for me (and my spouse) to live on comfortably?
- Are there special perks I can tap into?
- Have I spoken with a professional with specific experience who could help me highlight opportunities and potential pitfalls?
Step #2: Tackle the fine print
What effect will your retirement decisions have on your future plans and on your spouse’s benefits? If your spouse is currently on your health plan, will they be able to stay on it until they’re eligible for Medicare? If you predecease them, will they lose access to your retirement benefits?
Sometimes there are issues with coordinating public and private sector benefits in retirement. For example, some federal employees don’t pay in Social Security. If you work for a state or local government, there’s about a 28% chance you’re not covered.2 If your spouse pays into Social Security and you don’t, will your pension affect their government benefits later in life?
Vital questions to ask include:
- What effects do my retirement decisions have on my future as well as my spouse’s?
- Are there implications for the special benefits I’m entitled to if I predecease my spouse?
- Are my estate-planning wishes aligned with the options on my retirement benefits?
- What kind of lifestyle do my benefits allow?
- Have I spoken with a professional with specific experience who help me highlight opportunities and potential pitfalls?
Step #3: Create your framework
Once you’ve got a handle on what you’ve got and what you might need to coordinate, you’re ready to assemble your bite-sized pieces into an easily digestible strategy.
Combined with your spouse’s income, you’ll know how much of a “paycheck” you’ll be generating in retirement from your pension, plan, assets, and other sources. Pay attention to the deadlines on your paperwork to ensure that you get the options that you want. Don’t allow your approach to be committed to a default state just because you didn’t respond in time.
By thinking about these questions, you’ll know what to look for in that pile of retirement information that your employer has been stacking up in front of you.
Vital questions to ask include:
- Will I have enough income from Social Security and pension sources?
- Are my assets invested in a way that allows for future growth but also protection against market declines?
- Am I taking in to account the rising costs of health care and future care?
- Have I discussed my framework with a professional with specific experience who could help me highlight opportunities and potential pitfalls?
It’s important to break the big pile of information you receive about retirement into more manageable pieces. As a government or federal employee, you’re used to a steady paycheck and reliable benefits. You already know that preparing for the next chapter of your life is important, but all the information you’re trying to choke down makes you less confident that you’ll get it right.
If you’ve been researching on the internet, know that a lot of online advice is aimed at the private sector, so it may not be applicable to you. The sooner you shift the pile of overwhelming information into manageable chunks, the sooner you can create your personal retirement framework and start enjoying the benefits of the retirement future you’ve created.
If you need any help digesting this information or want professional guidance with your retirement plan, contact us at 712-623-5726 or here, and we would be more than happy to assist!