In this issue you will find:
- What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
- Senior Living Foundation Seminar, Sept. 24
- View AFSA’s Zoom Program Focused on New Legislation and its Effect on Retirees
- Required Minimum Distribution Relief
- Outreach Campaign Launching in September: Join us!
- USAID Job Openings
- AFSA Welcomes New Classes of Foreign Service Members and New Retirees Virtually
- New AFSA Member Discount with Dell Computers
- New Documentary about the Iran Hostage Rescue Attempt
- AFSA Is Experiencing Mail Delays
- Two Facebook Groups for Retired and Retiring Foreign Service Personnel
- “Life’s Third Age”
- State Magazine is (Still) Available Online
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Regarding your retirement benefits, lack of knowledge of key rules and procedures can result in those benefits being delayed or denied. Below is a list of common problem areas. The cited references are posted in the AFSA website’s Retirement Services section.
- Divorce: Divorce can impact the division of retirement benefits. Foreign Service spouses enjoy a default statutory entitlement to benefits if they meet certain requirements. The default entitlements can be altered through a court order or spousal agreement, but only if that court order meets certain requirements. For details, see the May 2019 State Department cable “Divorce and Foreign Service Retirement Benefits.”
- Prior Service: Employees with prior military or federal civilian service can increase their Foreign Service pension by taking steps to buy-back or transfer that credit. But the process takes time and should be completed long before applying for retirement. For details, see the November 2019 cable “Retirement Credit for Prior Service.”
- Remarriage after Retirement: Retirees who remarry after retirement have a limited time to elect survivor benefits for the new spouse. After that window closes, it is not possible to make that election. For details, see the “2020 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter” published by the State Department’s Office of Retirement.
- Annuity Supplement: Employees who retire prior to age 62 are paid an annuity supplement that serves as a financial bridge until they are eligible to file for Social Security benefits. That supplement is subject to reduction if the retiree earns over $18,240 a year in wage income. Most Foreign Service retirees who receive the supplement are required to report their wage earnings to the State Department each year. Failure to do so results in payment of the supplement being stopped. For details, see the “2020 Foreign Service Annual Annuitant Newsletter.”
- Beneficiary Designations: Every year, there are unfortunate cases of death benefits (for example, life insurance and Thrift Savings Plan investments) not being paid to the immediate next-of-kin because the employee or retiree did not update their beneficiary designations after marriage, divorce, or other relationship changes. For details, see the April 2019 cable “Retirement Planning One Year Out.”
- AFSA Membership: At retirement, your biweekly payroll deduction for AFSA dues will terminate along with your salary. To remain an AFSA member in retirement, you need to submit a form if you want to have dues deducted from your annuity. For details, click on the Members tab on the AFSA website or email email@example.com.
Senior Living Foundation Seminar, Sept. 24
The Senior Living Foundation of the American Foreign Service will hold its 9th Planning for Change Seminar on September 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This free event will be virtual and is open to all. Please join if you are entering a new stage of life or helping a loved one adjust to changes. Topics include COVID-19 updates, prescription drugs, senior care management, estate planning and more. For more information and to register, please visit http://slfoundation.org/planningforchange.cfm.
View AFSA’s Zoom Program Focused on New Legislation and its Effect on Retirees
Noted federal benefits expert Edward A. Zurndorfer shared a PowerPoint presentation over Zoom on “How the SECURE Act and the CARES Act Impact the TSP, Other Qualified Retirement Plans and IRAs” on June 23, exclusively for AFSA members.
- Mr. Zurndorfer told participants that the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2020 changes the most popular retirement plans used in the United States and is the first major retirement-related legislation enacted since the 2006 Pension Protection Act.
- Among other things, the SECURE Act raises the age for starting Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) to 72 for all accounts subject to RMDs. It also allows workers to contribute to traditional IRAs after turning 70.5.
- Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—passed by Congress in March—people who are subject to mandatory RMDs from their qualified retirement accounts do not have to take their required RMDs in 2020, he said.
- Individuals, he added, are also allowed to take distributions of up to $100,000 in 2020 from qualified retirement accounts without having to pay a 10 percent penalty on early distribution, if the distribution is related to adverse financial consequences resulting from contracting COVID-19 or related factors.
These are just a few of the facts contained in Mr. Zurndorfer’s presentation, which we urge you to watch to get the full details of these significant changes. Mr. Zurndorfer is the owner of EZ Accounting and Financial Services—an accounting, tax preparation and financial planning firm -and is a frequent contribution to numerous publications on federal retirement topics.
Required Minimum Distribution Relief
Further to the above, you may be interested in a useful article posted on www.myfederalretirement.com, also by Mr. Zurndorfer, which explains the IRS’s recent issuance regarding Required Minimum Distribution relief. This potentially will help almost every individual who made an RMD in 2020 and is looking to return it. To allow more affected individuals benefit from this relief, the IRS in Notice 2020-51 extends the 60-day rollover deadline and waives other rollover rules.
Outreach Campaign Launching in September: Join us!
Next month, AFSA will formally launch our public outreach campaign, “U.S. Foreign Service: The First Line of Defense.” The campaign will kick off on September 22 with a virtual panel cohosted with the National Museum of American Diplomacy. The panel, “Foreign Service on the Front Lines: Bringing Americans Home,” is geared toward college students, and will feature Foreign Service members who worked on the front lines during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this campaign, we are seeking out new audiences to share the message that the Foreign Service, posted across the world, serves as a first line of defense which is key to our national security. We need your help, expertise, and community connections to get the message out to new audiences in your community and garner more support for the Foreign Service. Here’s what you can do:
- Contact Nadja Ruzica at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’re interested in participating in this campaign, whether speaking to new audiences, connecting us to local groups, or in some other capacity.
- Familiarize yourself with the materials on our new campaign page, including talking points, videos, first person stories, podcast, and more.
- Reach out to your local community college and other community organizations to ask if they would be interested in hosting a (virtual) speaker to learn about the Foreign Service.
- Follow AFSA on social media – including Facebook and Twitter – and share our tweets and posts with your community, friends and family.
For more information, join us for our pre-launch webinar on September 10 at 1pm where we will discuss the campaign, the message, and go over the tools (including virtual platforms) and materials available to members. Click here to sign up. We look forward to seeing you!
USAID Job Openings
USAID is recruiting three Career Candidate Coaches and three Assignment and Career Counselors under an agreement with CapeFox as below:
AFSA Welcomes New Classes of Foreign Service Members and New Retirees Virtually
When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, State and USAID postponed the onboarding of new classes. AFSA pushed for the virtual onboarding of new Foreign Service members and beginning in late May, State and USAID began on-boarding, 100% virtually, new classes. Over the summer, AFSA has had the privilege to welcome two new A-100 classes, two classes of Foreign Service Specialists, two classes of USAID officers, and a class of new Foreign Service Commercials officers. While we miss the opportunity to welcome each of these class members to AFSA for lunch with the AFSA President, members of the Governing Board, AFSA staff, and active and retired members of the Foreign Service, we have welcomed the opportunity to share the work of AFSA and the benefits of membership via Zoom and other virtual platforms. This format of course offers more challenges because it removes the important in-person connection we get when welcoming new classes into our building, but we continue to think of new ways to connect with new classes and let them know the important work AFSA is doing to support our members. If you have the opportunity to interact with some of these newest members of our Foreign Service community and discover that they have yet to join AFSA, please encourage them to do so. Finally, AFSA recently had the opportunity to meet virtually with colleagues participating in the Job Search Program. This was a chance to discuss AFSA membership in retirement, including programming and resources geared specifically to FS retirees. We congratulate all JSP graduates on their retirement and look forward to welcoming them to AFSA as retiree members.
New AFSA Member Discount with Dell Computers
AFSA is pleased to let you know that we have renegotiated the membership benefit with Dell Computers so that we are now part of their Member Purchase Program (MPP). This gives us up to 30% discounts and support for your purchases of Dell products. They will also match pricing and offer free second-day shipping. Do you need a bigger screen to see your family and friends during this time of social distancing? Use your membership to AFSA to get the family and friends deals that Dell offers. Log into Dell with www.dell.com/mpp/afsa or call with your member ID number: 530020112061. If you have questions, please email our Dell representative Shalayna Hoekstra at Shalayna_Hoekstra@Dell.com.
New Documentary about the Iran Hostage Rescue Attempt
AFSA members may be interested in a new documentary, Desert One, which is about the secret mission to free the hostages captured during the 1979 Iranian revolution. Featuring both first-person accounts and historical footage, the film includes new interviews with John Limbert, Michael Metrinko, Pres. Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and many others. The trailer is available for viewing now with the theatrical release scheduled for August 21. Information on how to view the film is available through the Desert One website.
AFSA Is Experiencing Mail Delays
With our offices temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USPS is forwarding our mail and AFSA is experiencing significant delays. Additionally, USPS is experiencing delays stemming from the pandemic as well as recent organizational changes that have resulted in reports of mail delays across the country.
We have heard from members who have sent in their member dues checks recently, asking whether we have received them. As of now, we are experiencing delivery delays of 5-6 weeks. For instance, we received many dues checks mailed in May in early August. We share your frustration with this situation and are working as quickly as possible to process all payments as soon as they reach us.
While this situation is ongoing, we encourage members to consider using our online payment system. To access the system, visit https://www.afsa.org/member-login. If you have not used the system before, that page contains detailed user instructions. Once you log in, you will be able to renew your membership and make payments, register for events, make donations or purchase AFSA items such as commemorative coins and memorial markers.
Two Facebook Groups for Retired and Retiring Foreign Service Personnel
You may be interested to know of the existence of two private Facebook groups for Foreign Service personnel who are retiring or are retired. They are full of tips, job postings, and general camaraderie. The first is “FS-Retirement Planning” and the second, “Former and Transitioning FSOs.”
“Life’s Third Age”
Forbes magazine is running a series of articles focused on the concept of Retiring Retirement or Life's Third Age that may be of interest to you. One tantalizing quote to give you a taste of the overarching theme of the series: “The third age has another dimension: there’s plenty of time and opportunity to try new things. Not just to be reflective but to explore new facets of life... Not just to share wisdom but to contribute directly to society in new ways. Not just “retire,” but maybe have an encore career, another modified go-round of life’s second age. The third age is now full of potential for individuals, families, and society… And from this perspective, modern elders are seen…as a living bridge between yesterday, today, and tomorrow – a critical evolutionary role that no other age group can perform.”
State Magazine is (Still) Available Online
We often get questions about State Magazine and why members are no longer receiving it via mail. The magazine switched to an online-only model some years ago but is still published on its same regular schedule. To access current and archived issues, you can visit https://statemag.state.gov/.