How difficult could retirement really be? All you have to do is stop working, right? For anyone who has retired, or put much thought into the matter, it becomes quickly apparent that retirement is not quite this simple. Oftentimes retirement is a crossroads for not just one facet of life, but a combination of several paths. The ending of one career, a major financial shift, and moving from one state to another can all be encompassed in the word retirement. In spite of the convergence of so many paths, retirement does not have to be the stressful time that so many federal employees experience. Let’s look at three practical steps to smooth your transition from federal employee to federal retiree and avoid those retirement blues.
1. Plan ahead.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the importance of planning for the future cannot be overstated. During the busyness of work life, it can be difficult to take a few moments to think about retirement. We at RBI encourage you to set some time apart to seriously consider your federal retirement. If you find yourself caught up in the day-to-day struggle of meeting deadlines and striving to find the right work-life balance, schedule 30 minutes, an hour, or even a day to sit down and begin retirement planning. This can be as simple as asking yourself, “When do I want to retire?” That simple question alone can really help you gain momentum as you seek to make retirement a reality.
Perhaps attending a retirement seminar that addresses your benefits or talking to a financial professional familiar with the federal retirement system is appropriate for your planning needs. Whatever your retirement planning needs may be, setting aside a specific time to focus on the future will be of tremendous benefit to you. If you need more help, consider reading Bob Buford’s book, Halftime, a great resource to prepare for the next phase of life.
2. Live on a retirement budget now.
The transition from full-time employment to no longer working can be a scary one. As you take that daunting step into retirement you enter a significantly different phase of life—the distribution phase. If you are nervous about how you will live on a potentially reduced income in retirement, then try living on a retirement budget today. The first step is to estimate how much you think you will bring home in retirement. For FERS employees, this means obtaining an estimate of your retirement pension, Social Security, and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). For help with this step, click here.
Once you have an idea of what you will be living on in retirement, formulate a budget based on that amount. If you can live within your retirement budget while still working, you can gain confidence that the transition to retirement can be a smooth one for you.
3. Get involved
Retirement is not just about the numbers. As you mentally prepare for leaving federal employment, it is vital to understand that there’s more to a successful retirement than just drawing an adequate amount from your pension, Social Security, and TSP to financially sustain your lifestyle. Retirement carries with it a very real and often overlooked emotional element. As you close out one chapter of your life it is crucial that you prepare for the next phase. This means getting involved. For some federal retirees, this translates to spending more time with kids and grandchildren. Maybe for you, it means more time for church or volunteering in the community. Some retirees walk straight out the door on that last day of employment and head to the airport for a month long trip! One of the joys of retirement is having the opportunity to put more time in the areas where you didn’t before. Be sure to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity. The Retirement Boom is a great book to read if you want to explore more of these opportunities and begin conquering the retirement blues.
Retirement can be a wonderful time. For federal employees, those last few months of employment should be a time to wind down a successful career, say goodbyes, and sashay into the next phase of life. All too often this is not the case, but it doesn’t have to be.