In this issue you will find:
- Twelve Retirement Planning Pitfalls to Avoid
- Retirement Planning
- New Benefit for Overseas Retirees
- AFSA Sponsors Two Long-Term Care Informational Programs
- AFSA Planning (Virtual) Foreign Service Day Programming
- Get Involved in AFSA’s Outreach
- Thrift Savings Plan-Sponsored Webinars – May and June 2021
- The Senior Living Foundation – Just for Us
- Sharing Wisdom (And Curricula!) About Teaching Diplomacy, International Affairs, and Other Associated Topics
- Mailing Your AFSA Annual Dues Payment?
- “The New Old Age”
Twelve Retirement Planning Pitfalls to Avoid
The April issue of The Foreign Service Journal details twelve common retirement planning errors and how to avoid them. Four apply to active-duty employees, five apply to retirees, and three apply to everyone. If you missed it in your mailbox, you can view the article online.
Employees from all Foreign Service agencies who have not taken any of FSI’s excellent retirement planning seminars owe it to themselves to do so. Even if you took one several years ago, you might want to re-take it since rules and procedures can change over time. Watching in-depth presentations by subject matter experts may help you avoid major oversights in your retirement planning. The classes are being presented online through at least the end of this fiscal year and are thus available to employees anywhere in the world.
The seminars are the 2-day RV105-Early/Mid-Career Retirement Planning Seminar (next sessions May 3-4, June 10-11, and July 12-13) and the 4-day long RV101-Retirement Planning Seminar (next sessions June 21-24, July 26-29, and September 27-30). RV101 has two sub-components that can be taken individually if you do not have time to view the full four days: RV103 (1-day, financial and estate planning) and RV104 (1-day, annuity/benefits/TSP).
State Department employees register online via the FSI Intranet site (unless the training is in conjunction with PCS or HL in which case register via your CDO). Non-DOS employees register via their agency’s HR office which submits a funded SF-182 Request for Training to the FSI Office of the Registrar. For details, see https://www.state.gov/career-transition-center-ctc/.
New Benefit for Overseas Retirees
A Foreign Service retiree contacted AFSA's Retirement Benefits Counselor Dolores Brown asking why retirees living abroad are required to pay a $50 notarial fee to the embassy consular section every time they want to send the Thrift Savings Plan a benefit change form (TSP requires a signed, notarized consent by the spouse for withdrawals and for any change in the amount or frequency of installment payments).
AFSA researched the issue and found that federal regulations authorize free notary service: "With respect to documents to be presented by claimants, beneficiaries, or their witnesses in connection with obtaining Federal, state, or municipal benefits." We asked the Bureau of Consular Affairs whether requesting a distribution from the federal government's TSP retirement fund qualifies as applying for a federal benefit. CA investigated and determined that TSP benefits are federal benefits and thus TSP-related forms are exempt from a notary charge under the Schedule of Fees item 45b. Any posts having questions about this may contact CA/C at CAFee-Team@state.gov.
AFSA Sponsors Two Long-Term Care Informational Programs
As a part of AFSA Federal Benefit Series, Nathan Sebert, a Senior Account Manager at Long-Term Care Partners, spoke on the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) in early March. This program is available for AFSA members to watch here. Nathan reviewed the new features of the FLTCIP’s 3.0 plan, which offers a premium stabilization feature, provided tips on designing your own plan, and covered information on eligibility and enrollment.
This program was complemented by another AFSA-sponsored webinar on long-term care (also including life insurance) on April 13, this time from the point of view of the private sector. Stuart Seldowitz, a former FSO and New York Life agent, and his colleague, Dan Rivers, Regional Sales Manager for New York Life’s Long-Term Care Solutions, offered AFSA members insight into not only private sector alternatives but also advantages and disadvantages of self-insuring, life insurance, and relying on family and friends. The recording of this program will be available for AFSA members shortly on the AFSA website: www.afsa.org/afsa-videos. Questions about these programs can be directed to Dolores Brown, Retirement Benefits Counselor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFSA Planning (Virtual) Foreign Service Day Programming
On Thursday May 6, AFSA will offer virtual programming in recognition of Foreign Service Day, commemorated each year on the first Friday in May. All AFSA members – active duty and retired – are invited to join us.
- From 12:00-1:00 p.m. EDT, AFSA’s Director of Congressional Advocacy, Kim Greenplate, will walk through AFSA’s work with our Congressional Champions over the past two years on Capitol Hill and the potential opportunities for AFSA in the 117th Congress. She will outline AFSA’s advocacy efforts to shore up bi-partisan support for the health of the Foreign Service as an institution, morale and retention in the career, and parity with the military and other federal government employees. Click here to register.
- From 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT, AFSA will offer a panel discussion on “Foreign Service Podcasts – A New Opportunity.” At the start of a new administration, we have the opportunity to connect foreign policy and the work of the Foreign Service with the daily lives of Americans. Can podcasts help break through the perennial challenge to communicate who we are and what we do on behalf of the American people? The Foreign Service is fortunate to have current and former colleagues creating interesting and compelling podcasts. Join us for a discussion with two of these colleagues: Ambassador Pete Romero, host of the podcast American Diplomat, and Ambassador Deborah McCarthy, host of the podcast The General and the Ambassador. During the program we’ll learn more about their craft in identifying interesting guests, simplifying complicated stories, and how they see their work helping the Foreign Service. With podcasts accessible to anyone with a smart phone, tablet, or computer, and just one-click away, they offer an interesting opportunity to tell the story of the Foreign Service. Click here to register.
On Friday May 7, as a part of the State Department’s Foreign Service Day programming, there will be a time to remember fallen colleagues. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and AFSA President Ambassador Eric Rubin are scheduled to participate in a brief memorial ceremony, unveiling names of colleagues being added to the AFSA memorial plaques. The ceremony will be available to watch virtually; additional information is forthcoming. To learn more about the virtual programming offered by the Department of State on Friday, May 7, 2021 please email email@example.com
Finally, we hope you will participate in AFSA’s Letter to the Editor campaign. This annual effort is geared toward expanding the understanding of the Foreign Service and AFSA members are encouraged to send letters to smaller, local or regional papers. AFSA has a sample letter available. Please consider submitting a letter to your local paper for publication the week of May 3.
Get Involved in AFSA’s Outreach
In March, we had a successful rollout of our two new speaker series – Inside Diplomacy and Diplomats at Work. Inside Diplomacy, hosted by AFSA president Ambassador Eric Rubin, is geared toward a more traditional foreign affairs audience whereas Diplomats at Work is designed to introduce new audiences to the Foreign Service.
We had a great response to both kick-off events for these new series. Thank you to those who helped spread the word with your friends and families about these events. If you were unable to attend, the recordings are now available: Inside Diplomacy and Diplomats at Work. Please feel free to share these videos with friends and others who may be interested in learning more about the Foreign Service. Mark your calendars for our next Inside Diplomacy event, which will feature James DeHart, U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic, and takes place on May 26 at 1:00 p.m. EDT. We will share the registration information in May.
As always, we have a few reminders:
- If you haven’t already, please do join our Outreach Challenge! There is still time to engage with your local community college and other organizations. Challenge ends on Foreign Service Day, May 7.
- Sign up to be a messenger! As the result of our outreach efforts, we are receiving more speaking requests from a variety of organizations. If you are interested in these speaking opportunities, please do join our messenger roster by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are planning any speaking opportunities, please remember that we have resources, from videos to talking points, available to you on our website: www.afsa.org/first-line-defense.
If you have questions about AFSA’s outreach work, please contact Strategic Communications and Outreach Manager Nadja Ruzica at email@example.com.
Finally, don’t forget to follow us on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and share information on latest podcasts and events with your community.
Thrift Savings Plan-Sponsored Webinars – May and June 2021
The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) advised AFSA of upcoming TSP educational resources, including webinars for the months of May and June. TSP educational resources include a wide variety of programs straight from the source that are designed to help you manage your TSP accounts.
The Senior Living Foundation – Just for Us
AFSA has often turned to the Senior Living Foundation to assist retired members of the Foreign Service and their spouses who may need financial assistance and/or help to pinpoint local resources during times of transition. It is a precious resource and one that may be able to help you or a colleague in times of stress. We owe this resource to a few far-sighted Foreign Service members who founded it over twenty years ago – and it depends on our contributions to continue its activities.
In one recent and vivid example, AFSA referred a newly widowed spouse of a Foreign Service employee to the Foundation. She was challenged by the myriad requirements to access her retirement benefits and needed hands-on assistance to complete them and interface with her bank. The Senior Living Foundation stepped in and offered the personal attention she required.
Sharing Wisdom (And Curricula!) About Teaching Diplomacy, International Affairs, and Other Associated Topics
If you are teaching diplomacy or international affairs, AFSA has a teaching sharing space that could help you design your curricula. The page is available here and includes resources and syllabi for and from teachers. These resources come from a broad array of institutions, including but not limited to the American Academy of Diplomacy, the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Georgetown University, and many of AFSA’s very own members.
AFSA created this resource as members who transitioned into academia in their post-Foreign Service Careers reported that developing curricula is challenging. They emphasized how much they wished they could readily collaborate with other FS personnel who have experience in this sphere. If you have syllabi or suggestions, please be in touch with Dolores Brown, Retirement Benefits Counselor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mailing Your AFSA Annual Dues Payment?
Please use our P.O. Box address to make sure it reaches us quickly.
To ensure quick receipt of the mail while AFSA continues to be on telework, we established a P.O. Box. If you are sending in a check for annual dues, please send it to AFSA at the address below. This will help to better ensure we can receive and process your payment in a timely manner. For any question regarding your AFSA membership, please contact email@example.com.
PO Box 1039
Manassas, VA 20108-1039
“The New Old Age”
New York Times columnist Paula Span has a twice-monthly column entitled “The New Old Age,” to which we’re drawing your attention as it tends to be fresh, ground-breaking and bills itself as discussing the “unprecedented challenges” posed by an aging population.