THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2022 57 AFSA NEWS USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | (202) 712-5267 Now Is the Time to Think about Retirement Whether you’re a seasoned FSO bursting with anec- dotes and memories of your illustrious career or a new officer preparing for your first directed assignment, please start preparing now for your retirement. My AFSA colleagues and I hear from too many FSOs on the cusp of retirement, or worse, retired (or at least out of the system) who face bureaucratic woes during what should be the joyful start of a new adventure. And while the agency does have an obligation to help support you along the road to retire- ment, at the end of the day, it is your retirement. So I am using this column as something of a public service announcement to offer a few observations, suggestions and pieces of informal counsel based on the reports of USAID clients who have contacted AFSA on this subject. The agency has reinvigo- rated its Employee Ser- vices and Benefits division, bringing on new colleagues and taking a more proactive approach toward supporting employees as they approac retirement. A recent agency webinar made clear the renewed focus on customer service and responsiveness. The ses- sion broke into groups part- way through, separating FS and GS colleagues to address their distinct retirement systems; this was a very welcome step. I encourage you to get to know ESB and its offerings now, and make the time to attend the agency webinars. AFSA provides members a broad array of retirement support, including for those who are about to retire and those who have already taken the leap. I encourage you to explore now the range of retirement-related information from pre-retirement checklists to articles, videos and links detailing retirement benefits as well as work opportunities post–Foreign Service. Attend the various work- shops and webinars AFSA offers to members. Reach out to AFSA Counselor for Retir- ees Dolores Brown if needed, and attend the valuable AFSA retirement-related sessions offered throughout the year. You can find more informa- tion at afsa.org/retirement- services. Perhaps one of the most critical steps to take now (and regularly!) is to review your electronic official personnel file (eOPF). Your eOPF has—or at least should have—your permanent and temporary documents for USAID as well as previous federal employment. Many FSOs gain experi- ence in Peace Corps or other federal agencies; please make sure that your records are current and complete, and that your time in other agencies is accurately cap- tured and counted. Review your file and ensure it includes things like certified benefits forms and beneficiary information. Are they there? Are they accurate and up to date? The agency can help track down old records, correct errors and update forms, but you need to start the process. When? Now! As USAID FSOs, we are fortunate to have access to the excellent retirement plan- ning courses offered by the Foreign Service Institute’s Transition Center throughout our careers (learn more at state.gov/career-transition- center-ctc/) . Within USAID, these courses are not always well marketed, and it can be unclear how to register, access and attend them. AFSA is engaging with the agency to make the pro- cess more transparent and accessible for FSOs and their family members. This includes our newest FSO colleagues, so that they can prepare from the outset for their unique FS retirement pathway. Start learning about these courses now. Looking forward, AFSA is (now!) advocating for the agency’s development of a USAID ADS chapter and procedural guidance for FSO retirement. Such a policy would complement USAID’s ADS 494 on Civil Service retirement (viewable at bit. ly/ADS-494) and provide a consolidated guide to FSOs on their retirement and the agency’s roles and responsibilities. Based on the feedback of AFSA members, such a document would be helpful at all stages of an FSO’s career. There are so many retire- ment considerations, and I can only touch on a few in this column. Bottom line: it’s never too early to plan for retirement. I appreciate the very real efforts the agency is making to improve retire- ment awareness, education and support for FSOs. And while I am confi- dent that both AFSA and the agency will continue to collaborate in strengthen- ing services to FSOs, at the end of the day—or rather, career—it is your responsi- bility to plan for your retire- ment. So, get started— now ! n USAID has reinvigorated its Employee Services and Benefits division, bringing on new colleagues and taking a more proactive approach toward supporting employees as they approach retirement.