The Foreign Service Journal, November 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2021 87 RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: Steps to Manage Your Retirement As we approach the end of the year, now is a good time to assess your plans for the future. Here are eight steps that I encourage you to take to manage your retirement: 1. Review your FEHB Plan. This year’s open season for Federal Employee Health Benefits plans runs from Nov. 9 to Dec. 14. Even if you are satisfied with your current coverage, reviewing other plans could potentially save you money. For example, several plans currently reimburse you $800 per year if you have Medicare Part B coverage. AFSA helps you weigh your options by giving you access to The Checkbook, a great tool for comparing FEHB plans. Members will receive an email providing online access in mid-November. 2. Read the official State Department Annual Annuitant Newsletter. Each November, coinciding with the start of FEHB open season, the Department of State’s Office of Retirement posts an updated Annual Annuitant Newsletter on under the “What’s New?” tab. You must access that newslet- ter if you need the form to change your health insurance or to file an earnings state- ment in January if you receive the annuity supplement. All retirees should at least skim through the updated newsletter each year to remind themselves of key policies governing their federal benefits. 3. Brief your survivors. Because our family members are often unfamiliar with offices and functions in the foreign affairs agencies, AFSA has created a list of steps to take in the event of the death of a Foreign Service retiree, spouse or ex-spouse. That list is posted in the Retirement Services section of the AFSA website (afsa. org/retirement-services) under “Reporting Deaths of Foreign Service Retirees or Survivors.” The list is also included in the 2021 AFSA Directory of Retired Mem- bers. Make a copy of the list, show it to your next-of-kin, and file it with your will. 4. Reassess your Thrift Savings Plan. If your retire- ment income derives in part from the Thrift Savings Plan, an individual retirement account (IRA) or other finan- cial investments, you should review the risk-versus-reward balance in your investment allocations periodically to make sure that it is still appropriate to your specific situation. Investing in stock funds with relatively high average rates of return will increase the chances that your invest- ments will generate gains in the coming decades that out- pace inflation, but they also put you at risk of short-term losses during stock market downturns. You may wish to consult a professional financial adviser to determine what is best for your individual needs. A list of financial planners, tax advisers and estate planners is linked to the Retirement Services page of the AFSA website. 5. Check for age mile- stones . Are you approaching age 62 and needing to decide when to file for Social Secu- rity? Are you approaching 65 and considering whether to sign up for Medicare Part B? Are you approaching 72 and wondering what to do about required minimum distri- butions (RMD) from your investments? The Retirement Services page of the AFSA website has information on these topics, including videos of presenta- tions by experts on Social Security, Medicare Part B and TSP withdrawals. 6. Be aware of deadlines. Post-retirement divorce, marriage or death of spouse must be reported promptly to the State Department. Failure to do so could delay, or in some cases perma- nently prevent, the benefits adjustment. Likewise, beneficiary designations for retirement benefits, life insurance and TSP must be updated after marriage, divorce or other relationship changes. Failure to do so will preclude the cur- rent next-of-kin from receiv- ing those benefits. 7. Get questions answered. The Retirement Services section of the AFSA website has nearly 100 docu- ments, videos and links to information on retirement benefits. AFSA’s annual retiree directory includes 20 pages of guidance on retiree issues. If those sources do not resolve your question or concern, please con- tact AFSA’s Counselor for Retirees Dolores Brown at or (202) 944-5510. 8. Keep supporting AFSA. Help AFSA defend both the active-duty For- eign Service and the earned retirement benefits of Foreign Service annuitants by maintaining your AFSA membership. If your membership depends on your writing a check each year, please con- sider switching from annual billing to paying dues via annuity deduction. Switching will save AFSA money and ensure that your member- ship does not inadvertently lapse due to lost or unnoticed mail. Email for more information. n The Retirement Services section of the AFSA website has nearly 100 documents, videos and links to information on retirement benefits.