At some point we’ve probably all spoken with someone who sought to give us some advice about life. Maybe this was a grandfather, mother, or friend who – living in a different phase of life – tried to help you steer clear of some of the mistakes they made. Can you remember that conversation? Perhaps they looked at you with a concerned look on their face and said, “I wish I had more regrets.”
Maybe that’s not exactly what they said. No one wants to have any regrets, and all too often as we look back at phases of our lives, there are things we would have done differently. As a federal employee you have a host of choices to make as you near retirement. The choices you make at every phase of your federal career make a significant impact on your life in retirement. To help you avoid the pitfalls of many federal employees, let’s look at the three most common retirement regrets.
1. Working too late
For federal employees who love what they do and can’t wait to get to work in the morning this may not be a problem at all; however, after a long federal career you may just be ready to go. Upon crossing that threshold from employment to retirement, you may find that you should have done this five years sooner. Whether it’s travel, spending time with kids and grandkids, or more time for the things you enjoy, retirement has a lot to look forward to.
What’s stopping you from retiring now? Perhaps you don’t feel financially ready to take that step. Maybe you don’t think you have enough information on your federal benefits to walk away yet. If either of these scenarios sounds familiar, we at Retirement Benefits Institute would encourage you to seek out that information now. Ask yourself this question, “If I didn’t have to work two to three more years, would I?” You may be able to retire sooner than you thought.
2. No financial plan
Some federal employees are so ready to retire that they leave without putting the necessary time in to plan for retirement. Unfortunately, whether it’s car payments, insurance, or gifts for the grandkids, expenses do not vanish away once you stop working. For FERS employees your three- legged stool of a FERS pension, Social Security, and TSP may provide you with enough to live on in retirement; however, all of this is not guaranteed. It is critical that you have some estimates run on what these numbers may be as you formulate your financial plan.
As a FERS employee you also generally can retain your Federal Employees Health Benefits in retirement. To learn more about FEHB, see our article, FEHB versus Medicare Coverage.
3. Not setting goals
For federal employees wanting to make the big switch to retirement, goals are incredibly important. Part of this is certainly financial – goals to pay off debt, buy a retirement house, have a certain amount in TSP, etc. – but personal goals can be equally as important. What do these personal goals look like? Setting a goal to spend more time with kids or grandkids can be one. Maybe you want to get engaged in a specific volunteer group you’ve never had the chance to work with before. When it comes to setting goals, the more specific the goal, the better. For instance, don’t just plan to work with the volunteer group, rather plan to work with them every Tuesday morning. If your goals are too vague and general, they may never be accomplished. Goal setting is one of the best strategies to help you evade retirement regrets.