AFSA Retiree Newsletter - April 2019

In this issue you will find:

  1. AFSA Planning a Full Day of Programming for Foreign Service Day
  2. Take a Fresh Look at AFSA’s Retirement Services Web Page
  3. Financial Readiness
  4. Interested in Teaching?
  5. A New Eldercare Resource
  6. New Tax Law Makes QCDs More Attractive
  7. Do You Have a Seasonal Address?
  8. It's Time to Think About Nominating Colleagues for AFSA Awards!
  9. Contacting AFSA
 

AFSA Planning a Full Day of Programming for Foreign Service Day

If you plan to be in Washington, D.C. for Foreign Service Day this year we hope you’ll schedule time on Thursday, May 2 to join us at AFSA HQ to participate in our full day of programs. All members are invited to stop by any time between 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. for our Open House to learn about AFSA programs, meet up with colleagues and AFSA staff, and take a free professional headshot (offered from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 1:00-4:00 p.m.). You will also find food trucks in the AFSA parking lot from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 pm. Participants last year commented on how much they enjoyed the event and the celebratory atmosphere.

In addition to the Open House we’ll offer three specific programs largely geared toward our retired members:

  • From 12:00-1:00 p.m. Ambassador Barbara Stephenson will provide insight into AFSA’s advocacy work on Capitol Hill and an update on international affairs funding and the status of AFSA’s other key priorities. This is a chance to learn more about how AFSA works with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to identify opportunities and address challenges for the Foreign Service.
  • Following this program, from 1:30 -2:30 p.m., retired AFSA members interested and/or engaged in local outreach will have the opportunity to share tips and best practices for helping to build awareness of what diplomats do and why our work matters to all Americans. This will be a facilitated discussion to share information with colleagues, ask questions and review resources available from AFSA.
  • From 3:00-4:00 p.m. AFSA will offer a panel discussion, Taking up the Pen – Foreign Service Authors on How to Publish. The second program of AFSA’s new “Next Stage” series, the panel will feature members of the Foreign Service who have focused on writing as a second career or sideline. Panelists will share their experience and focus on practical tips and advice for getting started and having work published.

Additionally, please plan to join AFSA for two events at the State Department on Friday, May 3:

  • AFSA’s annual Memorial Ceremony provides a time to remember fallen colleagues. It will be held in the C Street Lobby from 4:15-4:45 p.m. The ceremony will be broadcast on BNet and live in the Dean Acheson auditorium.
  • 2019’s Foreign Service Day will conclude with AFSA’s annual reception, this year at the U.S. Diplomacy Center (located at the 21st Street entrance) from 5:00-6:30 pm. All active-duty and retired members are invited. Light drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served and AFSA’s exhibit on the centennial of The Foreign Service Journal, “Defining Diplomacy for 100 Years”, will be on display.

For those not in Washington, D.C. for Foreign Service Day we hope you’ll participate in AFSA’s Letter to the Editor campaign. Due to the efforts of AFSA members, this campaign has continued to grow with over 50 letters placed around the country last year. This effort is geared toward expanding the knowledge and understanding of the Foreign Service and members are encouraged to send letters to smaller, local or regional papers. AFSA has a sample letter available; all retirees should have received the sample letter in early April. We hope you’ll submit it to your local paper for publication the week of April 29.

 

Take a Fresh Look at AFSA’s Retirement Services Web Page

AFSA staff reviewed the content of the retirement services webpage with the goal of putting as much salient, Foreign Service-centered information in one place for our membership, both active duty and retired. Here are the highlights:

  • Up-to-date guidance from authoritative sources: AFSA has collected the most recent information available from the Department on everything from new REA/WAE bureau coordinators to the newest retirement transportation and travel briefing from A/LM/OPS/TTM. You’ll also find a host of recent AFSA-produced video presentations by recognized experts.
  • There’s something for everyone, active-duty and retired: Retiree Services is now called Retirement Services. This name change may not seem particularly important, but it does signify that AFSA considers this information to be critical not only for retirees, but also for its active-duty members. One constant refrain about retirement is that it takes time and repetition to understand all its elements, and knowledge to make the right financial moves years before the big date. It helps to start this familiarization process early and the first portion of the site, “Getting Ready for Retirement” and the “Financial Management” portions do just that.
  • Federal benefits series and “Next Stage” information: You’ll see information and videos from AFSA’s new “Next Stage” initiative as they become available. These programs are focused on career options post–Foreign Service. In addition, these videos are in addition to AFSA’s ever-popular Federal Benefits Series programs. We will be adding a special reading list of links to the most pertinent articles related to retirement from The Foreign Service Journal archive, including the popular “Life After the Foreign Service” series of stories about what our colleagues do after leaving the Foreign Service.
  • Expanded list of resources: Finally, we have expanded the site to include websites germane to preparing for and living in retirement.
 

Financial Readiness

While no one is predicting a government shutdown this fall, if you went without pay during the partial shutdown last winter, now is the time to consider making precautionary financial moves.

Financial experts recommend maintaining an emergency fund large enough to cover at least three months of basic living expenses. A cash reserve that size could also cover a large unexpected medical, home repair, car repair, or other expense. To build an emergency fund, put aside money from every paycheck or annuity payment until you have accumulated your rainy-day fund. Alternatives such as taking a hardship withdrawal or loan from your Thrift Savings Plan account risk sacrificing your long-term finances to meet a transitory financial need.

During the last shutdown, some federal employees were able to tap interest-free loans or other assistance from their bank or credit union. If your financial institution was not so helpful, you might consider switching incase history repeats itself and you need that assistance.

 

Interested in Teaching?

AFSA welcomed 70 active-duty and retired members to its headquarters on March 26 for a panel on what it’s like to teach international affairs and the art of diplomacy on the university level. This was the first in AFSA’s new “Next Stage” series, which consists of programs geared to exploring post-Foreign Service career options and the skills you need to take advantage of them.

Ambassador (ret.) Larry Palmer, ambassador in residence at Howard University; Ambassador Mark Storella, senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy; and Jillian Burns, FSO (ret.) and adjunct professor at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs comprised the panel. Consistent with the Next Stage series’ focus on practical advice, the panelists offered ideas on how to find and apply for university-level teaching positions.

A recording of the event is available at www.afsa.org/video. Stay tuned for announcements on upcoming Next Stage programs and contact Dolores Brown (brown@afsa.org) AFSA’s retirement benefits counselor, with suggestions and feedback.

 

A New Eldercare Resource

The Senior Living Foundation of the American Foreign Service (SLF) has long assisted retired Foreign Service personnel and their spouses who find themselves in need (see www.afsa.org/taking-care-our-own). SLF recently expanded its services to assist elderly parents and parents-in law of active duty Foreign Service personnel. Grants of up to $5,000 per year can be made based on the parent’s financial circumstances. Funding can help pay for temporary care services as well as ongoing care management services. For more information, go to www.slfoundation.org and see the brochure “Parent Program” under the “About Us” tab.

 

New Tax Law Makes QCDs More Attractive

Certified Financial Planner Edward A. Zurndorfer wrote this article on how the new tax law impacts Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs). He also reminds us that QCDs can only be taken from IRAs (and not the Thrift Savings Plan). Members brought this subject up quite a few times during tax season at AFSA, hence the inclusion of this instructive article on the subject. Mr. Zurndorfer is a recognized expert in federal benefits and is a frequent speaker at AFSA. He is slated to appear at AFSA headquarters in September to discuss the new tax law and other issues of interest to our members. He confirmed that the information in the linked article remains accurate.

 

Do You Have a Seasonal Address?

AFSA is considering adding a new feature to the AFSA Retiree Directory, which would display the seasonal addresses of those members who have them. Before we embark on this project, we would like to gauge the interest of our members in this option so that we know what to expect in terms of workload and resources. If you would like this feature to be added to the Retiree Directory, please let us know at retiree@afsa.org. (No need to send us an address yet; just let us know whether you would find this useful.)

 

It's Time to Think About Nominating Colleagues for AFSA Awards!

AFSA has started taking nominations for two of the key awards given out each October – for constructive dissent and exemplary performance. To learn more about the criteria for the dissent awards and how to nominate someone, please visit www.afsa.org/dissent. To learn more about the Performance Awards, the criteria, and how to nominate someone, please visit www.afsa.org/performance. You will also find a link on both pages to learn about previous recipients.

Nominations for these awards are due by Friday, May 24, 2019. If you have any questions about either award, please contact Perri Green, AFSA’s Awards Coordinator, at green@afsa.org or (202) 719-9700.

 

Contacting AFSA

We are here to help and love hearing from members. For assistance with retirement benefits and related issues, contact Retirement Benefits Counselor Dolores Brown at (202) 944-5510 or brown@afsa.org. For questions about outreach, retiree associations and our speakers bureau, contact Manager of Retiree Outreach and Engagement Christine Miele at (202) 944-5517 or miele@afsa.org. For address updates and obituary notifications, please contact Member Accounts Specialist Ashley Baine at (202) 338-4045 x525 or baine@afsa.org.