In the middle of your Federal career:

Once you have been a Federal employee for 5 years, start taking retirement planning courses if available from your agency.  Otherwise, look into attending an open enrollment retirement planning course.  Some of the best are offered by NITP, Inc.  Click HERE for more information on these courses.

It’s never too early to take one of these retirement planning courses.  When I teach these classes, every week I have people in my class ask, “Why didn’t someone tell me about this information years ago (or when I was first hired)?”  Or they say, “I didn’t know about that.  If I knew about that particular benefit, I would have made different decisions earlier in my career.  I could have saved lots of money.”

Also, for the past 10 years of teaching these classes, I catch about 1 out of every 50 people I talk to in the wrong retirement system!  I’m not exaggerating this statistic… and I only talk to about 5,000 folks per year.  In other words, some of these folks are in FERS when they should be CSRS… or vice versa.  You can’t even begin to do any significant retirement planning if you’re in the wrong retirement system.  And if this error isn’t caught until you are preparing to separate for retirement, this will certainly cause a huge delay in the processing of your retirement.  If you were first hired as a Federal civilian employee prior to 1984, you should look into this issue now.

Even if you were recently hired as a Federal employee, there are things that you can learn in these retirement planning courses that can help you make better decisions for you and your family in the middle of your Federal career.  If it were me, I would take a retirement planning course once every five years during my Federal career.  Why that often?  Because I want to keep up with potential changes in the law that could affect my Federal benefits… and the more I hear about some of these complicated rules and regulations that govern my Federal retirement benefits, the more it will begin to make sense to me.  Also, what’s not so important to me now may be more important to me five years from now.  I’m going to listen to information like that a little bit differently at that time.

Review your life insurance needs as you progress through your Federal career.  Do you need the same level of life insurance you signed up for 20 years ago when you began your Federal career?  If so, is FEGLI the best option or should you consider private sector life insurance?  Again, these are the sorts of questions that can be addressed during a mid-career retirement planning course.

Another reason why you want to take courses like this sooner than later is because you might entertain the idea of leaving Federal service mid-career for an opportunity to work in the private sector or as a consultant.  These retirement planning courses can help you understand how these decisions can affect your Federal retirement benefits.  You need the information and tools to understand the various scenarios and options that will be available to you if you start looking at job opportunities outside of Federal service mid-career.

“If I leave Federal service after becoming vested under FERS, what is my family entitled to if I were to pass away before I’m old enough to collect my Federal pension?”  This is just one example of many of the questions that can be addressed during a mid-career retirement planning class.

Continue to Page 3 where I continue to address recommended actions to take in the middle of your Federal career (as well as special considerations for the following types of employees: CSRS, CSRS Offset, FERS Transferees, Law Enforcement Officers, and folks with Congressional Service) to help avoid future delays in retirement processing…