AFSA Retiree Newsletter - February 2018

In this issue you will find:

  1. Threats to Your Retirement Benefits
  2. Foreign Service Day Events at AFSA
  3. Retirement Planning 5 to 10 Years Out
  4. Insights from a TSP Millionaire (by Anonymous)
  5. Last Chance for AFSA High School Essay Contest
  6. Job Openings for Retirees
  7. Join AFSA at an Upcoming Event!
  8. AFSA Retiree Directory
  9. Contacting AFSA

Threats to Your Retirement Benefits

The good news is that the bi-partisan budget deal approved on February 9 does not include any of the earlier proposals by President Trump and some lawmakers in the House of Representatives to cut federal retirement benefits. The bad news is that the President’s FY19 Budget Request released on February 12 resubmits several proposals not enacted last year, including requiring employees to pay more into their pension trust funds, calculating pensions based on five years’ salary instead of three, and eliminating the annuity supplement for retirees under age 62. AFSA will continue to oppose benefits cuts in coordination with the Federal-Postal Coalition made up of 30 organizations including the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), the Senior Executives Association, and the large civil service unions. The Fed-Postal Coalition represents 2.7 million federal employees and 2.6 million federal retirees.

On February 6, the Fed-Postal Coalition sent a letter to Senate and House leaders, with AFSA as co-signer, opposing further cuts to federal retiree benefits. The letter noted that federal employees since 2011 have already contributed $182 billion in budget savings by way of three years of pay freezes, three years of reduced cost of living adjustments, and increased mandatory contributions to federal retirement funds by new-hire employees.

 

Foreign Service Day Events at AFSA

AFSA is looking forward to welcoming its members to Foreign Service Day, May 4, 2018. As a complement to activities offered at Main State, AFSA invites you to stop by our offices to learn about our outreach and advocacy activities, socialize with friends and colleagues, or even get a professional headshot for use in your post-retirement career. Our doors will be open and we hope to see you at one or all of the following events:

  • Advocating for the Foreign Service in Your Community. Retired members of the Foreign Service have been critical in efforts to tell the story of the Foreign Service and highlight the importance of diplomacy and development. On Thursday, May 3 (time TBD), we invite you to join us for a session at AFSA headquarters, 2101 E St NW, on how to be effective advocates for the Foreign Service in your community. More details to follow.
  • AFSA Open House. On Friday, May 4, AFSA will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We welcome you to come by for refreshments, meet with staff, learn about the work we’re doing and resources we have available, and possibly run into old friends. We will also have a professional photographer on-hand to take free head shots that we will provide to you for use on social media, bios, etc…. We’re just two blocks from Main State so plan to come by, we’ll be here.
  • Memorial Plaque Ceremony. On Friday, May 4 AFSA will commemorate fallen colleagues in the memorial plaque ceremony held in the C Street Lobby, tentatively scheduled from 4:15-4:45 pm. For those participating in Foreign Service Day activities, the ceremony will be broadcast in the Dean Acheson Auditorium.
  • AFSA Reception. As in previous years, we’d like to invite you to a reception at AFSA, Friday, May 4 from 5:00–6:30 pm. We will have light hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine, and soft drinks. This is a good chance to re-connect with friends and colleagues as well as hear the latest update from AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson.
  • Note: Please direct all questions about Foreign Service Day activities at the Department of State to foreignaffairsday@state.gov; AFSA does not organize the annual luncheon, ticket sales, briefings or other events at State.

Finally, for the third year in a row AFSA will be promoting a coordinated Letters to the Editor campaign in support of the Foreign Service. Beginning in April, AFSA will provide templates and messaging that you can include in a letter to your local paper. The most important thing is that local papers hear from their readers about why a strong professional Foreign Service is critical to sustaining U.S. global leadership.

Would you take a moment to fill out a quick survey about your interest in participating in the activities above? It will only take a couple of minutes and be very helpful to our preparations. Thank you and we hope to see you in May!

 

Retirement Planning 5 to 10 Years Out

AFSA presented the latest installment of our Federal Benefits Speakers Series at AFSA Headquarters on February 8. The presentation by former director of the Department of State’s Office of Retirement John Naland summarized steps that mid- and late-career employees should take to position themselves to enjoy life after the Foreign Service. A video of the February 8 presentation is posted on the AFSA website at www.afsa.org/video. Also on the AFSA website at www.afsa.org/retiree, we have posted copies of two AFSA pre-retirement checklists and official State Department guidance on key issues including the steps to obtain retirement credit for prior civilian or military service and the impact of divorce on Foreign Service retirement benefits. The AFSA website’s retiree section also includes the Retirement Planning 101 guide.

 

Insights from a TSP Millionaire (by Anonymous)

The Thrift Savings Plan reported at the end of 2017 that 23,962 TSP participants had accounts that exceeded $1 million. I am one of those TSP millionaires. While a few employees got there in part by transferring in funds from another retirement account (such as a 401(k) from a prior job), most reached $1 million by doing the same two things I did:

Invest over a long period of time. The typical TSP millionaire contributed for nearly 29 years. Like me, most probably contributed a substantial amount each pay period even as a junior employee and then stepped up to contributing the maximum amount allowed as they climbed the career ladder. By “paying yourself first” via automatic TSP withholding from your salary, the money you contribute to TSP never appears in your take-home pay to potentially be spent on short-term splurges instead of being saved for long-term living needs.

Invest substantial amounts in stocks. It is simply not possible to get to $1 million by investing only in the G Fund (government bonds). Instead, the path to growing your TSP account requires taking some risk by investing primarily in stocks and taking a long-term perspective by holding those positions even during market downturns. For example, while the C Fund (stocks of large and medium-sized US companies) plunged 36.99 percent in 2008, it has risen nearly 250 percent since then. But market volatility is inevitable (as we have experienced this month), so each TSP account holder must decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to take.

This information is provided for informational purposes only. You should conduct your own research and due diligence and/or consult with a professional financial adviser to determine what may be best for your individual needs.

 

Last Chance for AFSA High School Essay Contest

If you get a chance to engage with high school students in your community, please suggest to them that they participate in AFSA’s high school essay contest. Now in its 20th year, the contest offers students the chance to take on the role of a U.S. diplomat and solve a foreign policy issue. More information is available at www.afsa.org/essaycontest; the deadline is March 15, 2018.

 

Job Openings for Retirees

FSI’s Career Transition Center hosts a “FSI JSP Alumni Network” group on LinkedIn which features job openings posted by companies and non-profit organizations that are seeking to hire former employees of USG foreign affairs agencies. The site also fosters discussion and networking about career transitions and job leads, and seeks to build comradery among foreign affairs agencies' alums, particularly those who attended the Job Search Program (JSP) at FSI. Most of the group’s 500+ members have attended the JSP. To join the group, go to LinkedIn and search “FSI JSP Alumni Network” (you must have a LinkedIn account). When applying, please specify if you are a JSP graduate or, if not, which USG foreign affairs agency you retired from.

 

Join AFSA at an Upcoming Event!

There’s always something going on at AFSA – here are some events we hope you can attend.

  • Two important deadlines on March 15. Applications for AFSA scholarships are due on that date, as are entries to AFSA’s national high school essay contest.
  • The first AFSA networking happy hour of 2018 is scheduled for March 29. Click here to register.
  • This year’s Foreign Service Day is May 4. Invitations should reach retirees in March; as always the tickets are first come, first served. Email foreignaffairsday@state.gov for additional information.

And if you missed any event, most of them are recorded and made available on the AFSA website at www.afsa.org/video.

 

AFSA Retiree Directory

The 2018 AFSA Directory of Retired Members has been delayed by a production glitch, but copies will reach the mail boxes of retired members before the end of February.

 

Contacting AFSA

If you encounter problems with your federal retirement benefits or have related questions, AFSA’s Retiree Counselor Todd Thurwachter can be reached at thurwachter@afsa.org and (202) 944-5509. Retiree Outreach Coordinator Christine Miele is at miele@afsa.org and (202) 944-5517. AFSA Retiree Vice President John Naland can be reached at naland@afsa.org.