AFSA Retirement Newsletter - August 2019

In this issue you will find:

  1. Join AFSA for Fall Events
  2. New TSP Rules Take Effect in September
  3. …And an Expert Explains the Ramifications
  4. What Your Family Needs to Know
  5. Getting Ready for the 2020 Directory of Retired Members
  6. Paid Family Leave
  7. New Resources for Local Outreach
  8. Honoring Those Who Served
  9. Next ‘Next Stage’ Events?
  10. AFSA Welcomes New Addition to Membership Department
  11. Don’t Forget: New Options for EFM- and FS Retiree-Owned Businesses
  12. Contacting AFSA
 

Join AFSA for Fall Events

In addition to the September 4 program detailed in a separate item below, we hope members will take the time to join us for two very fun events in September.

On September 13, the fourth annual Foreign Service Night will take place at Nationals Park, as the Nats host the Atlanta Braves. The game begins at 7:05 p.m. It’s a Friday night, so no excuses about staying out too long! Click here for information on how to purchase tickets.

Our fall happy hour will take place on September 26 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. We want to thank our sponsor and longtime FSJ advertiser, Chambers Theory, for providing the refreshments for this event. Join us for a good time with friends and colleagues and an opportunity to meet the new AFSA board! Click here to register.

We are in the final stages of putting together a discussion on how to choose the right person for the right position, scheduled for late September. Stay tuned for an invitation in the coming weeks!

 

New TSP Rules Take Effect in September

The more-flexible rules authorized by the 2017 TSP Modernization Act will take effect on September 15. Key changes include:

  • Employees who are 59½ or older can take up to four in-service partial withdrawals each year.
  • Retirees can take multiple post-separation partial withdrawals.
  • Withdrawals may come from your Roth balance, your traditional balance, or a proportional mix of both.
  • Retirees who are currently receiving monthly payments can switch to quarterly or annual payments and can stop, start, or make dollar amount changes to those periodic payments at any time (instead of just once a year).
  • Retirees no longer must make a full withdrawal election at age 70 ½ (but still must take required minimum distributions which TSP will automatically send to you if you do not withdraw enough on your own).

Now is a great time to visit tsp.gov and review your investments by logging into MyAccount. Full details on the new withdrawal rules along with associated forms will be posted on the TSP website on September 15.

If you are considering taking advantage of the more-flexible withdrawal options, please keep in mind that increased withdrawals during your career or early in retirement will reduce the TSP income available to you in later years.

 

…And an Expert Explains the Ramifications

Noted expert Edward A. Zurndorfer will return to AFSA Headquarters on Wednesday, September 4 from 12:00-2:00 p.m. to speak primarily about these new TSP features and new tax laws and their possible impact on retirees. Mr. Zurndorfer is a repeat and valued participant in AFSA’s Federal Benefits Speakers Series. Both a Certified Financial Planner (CPA) and Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC), he is a recognized expert on federal benefits and retirement and tax planning. Mr. Zurndorfer also is a prolific writer on these subjects on websites such as www.myfederalretirement.com. A formal invitation to this event is forthcoming the week of August 19. Registration will be required as we expect high interest in this subject.

 

What Your Family Needs to Know

If a Foreign Service member dies on active duty, their agency will initiate the process of authorizing survivor benefits. But when a Foreign Service retiree dies, their next of kin must take the first steps. Because our family members often are unfamiliar with offices and functions in Foreign Service agencies, AFSA has created a list of steps to take in the event of the death of a Foreign Service retiree.

Click here to view the one-page checklist. We suggest that retirees download and print it (perhaps on a brightly colored sheet of paper), show it to your next of kin, and leave it in a place where they can easily find it if the need arises.

 

Getting Ready for the 2020 Directory of Retired Members

One of the benefits of AFSA retiree membership is our annual directory of retired members, sent out at the beginning of each year. While the primary goal of the directory is to connect colleagues and friends, it also includes a thorough resource section with information on retirement benefits and considerations, a list of whom to contact for Foreign Service retirement services, as well as information on AFSA benefits and local FS retiree associations across the country. Each year AFSA reviews the resource section to ensure members have the most up-to-date information.

If you have moved and/or changed your email address or phone number, please make sure AFSA has your most up-to-date information. You can always update your information by logging into your account on the AFSA website. Alternatively, you can email AFSA.

As an AFSA member you can always access our directory by logging into your account on the AFSA website. As such, if you would prefer to not receive a hard copy of the 2020 Directory of Retired Members please let us know.

 

Paid Family Leave

AFSA joined with other federal employee groups in successfully urging the House to adopt an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child; to recover from a serious health condition; or to provide care to a family member suffering from a serious health condition.

The Senate version of the NDAA does not contain a parallel provision, so a House-Senate Conference Committee will decide whether to include it in the final version to be sent to the President. That decision is expected in late September.

 

New Resources for Local Outreach

As fall programming starts up again, many retired members are invited to speak at universities, Osher Life Long Institute programs, and a variety of other community groups. AFSA offers resources on our website designed to help members tell the story of the Foreign Service, including talking points, our ever-popular Ambassador tracker, and links to resources from other Foreign Service agencies and AFSA’s strategic partners.

AFSA’s new three-minute animated video, Economic Diplomacy: What Diplomats Do and Why It Matters is also available from this page. With an accessible and engaging format, this video is designed to be used by members to increase general awareness of the wider global presence of the Foreign Service in 277 U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. With an emphasis on economic diplomacy, the video helps to remind Americans of the important work U.S. diplomats do to help American businesses succeed overseas which, in turn, promotes prosperity back home. We encourage members involved in local outreach to view the video and consider how you might incorporate it into your presentations. AFSA has developed a companion packet for the video with talking points, discussion questions, and other materials. We also welcome feedback on the video.

 

Honoring Those Who Served

Several years ago, AFSA created the Foreign Service Medallion which is a beautiful keepsake that can be used for multiple occasions, including being affixed to grave markers (for more info, go to www.afsa.org/medallion). The emblem on the medallion features a version of the Great Seal of the United States along with the words “United States Foreign Service.”

Acting on the suggestion of Foreign Service retiree Ted Strickler, AFSA asked the Washington Post if they would include AFSA’s Foreign Service emblem in death notices and in-memoriums of Foreign Service members and retirees. They agreed. To place a death notice in the Washington Post, call (202) 334-4122 or email deathnotices@washingtonpost.com.

AFSA would be glad to make this same request to any other large-circulation newspapers that offer military emblems in death notices. Members who know of such newspapers can inform us by emailing member@afsa.org.

 

Next ‘Next Stage’ Events?

Do you have thoughts about possible “Next Stage” programs that would be valuable to AFSA members? Would you be willing to help put a program together to share your experience and give solicited advice to the FS community about how you navigated the transition from FS to your next career?

“Next Stage,” as you may know, is a new AFSA programming initiative, which focuses on what are popularly known as “encore” careers. These new programs are geared to retired Foreign Service personnel and to active-duty members who are considering their transition plans post-Foreign Service. The idea of an encore career dates back to 1997, when a San Francisco-based nonprofit captured the phenomenon of people returning to work after retirement, sometimes in unrelated fields, sometimes for financial reasons, and at times with the primary goal of giving back to society. In the case of the Foreign Service, work after retirement is nothing new. Indeed, FS personnel often retire early enough to have significant second or even third careers.

Thus far, AFSA has presented three programs in the series: 1) Teaching International Affairs and the Art of Diplomacy, which you can watch by clicking here; 2) Taking Up the Pen: Writing and Publishing in the Foreign Service, available here; and 3) Transitioning to the Private Sector – Parlaying the Global FS Dimension. If you have ideas about possible future programming, please be in touch with Dolores Marie Brown, AFSA’s Retirement Benefits Counselor, at brown@afsa.org or (202) 944-5510.

 

AFSA Welcomes New Addition to Membership Department

Longtime AFSA staff member Perri Green has moved into a new role at the association, where she will oversee membership recruitment efforts—with a particular focus on increasing retiree membership—as well as identifying possible new benefits for AFSA members. As Coordinator of Member Recruitment and Benefits, Perri joins a robust team focused on providing top-flight service to AFSA members. Perri has been with AFSA since 1999 and has most recently run AFSA’s awards program, the national high school essay contest and the memorial wall program.

 

Don’t Forget: New Options for EFM- and FS Retiree-Owned Businesses

AFSA has launched a new page on our website to help boost the visibility of small and medium-sized businesses owned by members of the Foreign Service and their Eligible Family Members. Listings on the page are free to all AFSA members and their family members. This page is a terrific resource to not only promote your own business, but to support the businesses of former colleagues and friends.

Not surprisingly, the FS- and EFM-Owned Businesses page demonstrates the diversity of interest and ingenuity within the Foreign Service family. Businesses listed so far offer tutoring, clothing, travel, real estate, consulting, physical fitness, photography, and more.

If you have a business that you would like to list, please send the following information to lau@afsa.org:

  1. Name of business
  2. Website
  3. A high-res version of the company’s logo (if any)
  4. Email/telephone/other contact information
  5. Physical address (if any)
  6. One-paragraph description of the services/products offered.
  7. Category into which the business falls, e.g. education, counseling, real estate, financial, etc.

As a part of this initiative AFSA is also offering big discounts on ads in The Foreign Service Journal. A minimum of two 4-color quarter-page ads solely for FS- and EFM-owned small and medium enterprises will be reserved for each issue on a first come, first-served basis. The regular rate for such a placement is $1,530. However, qualified advertisers will be offered the highly reduced rate of $250 for a one-time placement. For more information about this opportunity, please contact Business Development Manager Molly Long at long@afsa.org or (202) 719-9706. (Note: The business owner or spouse/parent of the owner must be an AFSA member; the company must also be a new advertiser in the magazine.)

We encourage you to check out this new resource and support FS- and EFM-owned businesses!

 

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 member engagement generally, contact Senior Manager of Programs and Member Engagement Christine Miele at (202) 944-5517 or miele@afsa.org. Coordinator for Member Recruitment and Benefits Perri Green is available at green@afsa.org or (202) 719-9700. For address updates and obituary notifications, please contact Member Accounts Specialist Ana Lopez at (202) 338-4045 x500 or lopez@afsa.org. AFSA retiree vice president John Naland is available at naland@afsa.org.