The Foreign Service Journal, December 2019

68 DECEMBER 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: 10 Steps to Manage Your Retirement The end of the year is a good time to take stock of where you are and to think about the coming year. Here are 10 steps that I encourage you to take this month to empower yourself to effectively manage your retirement. 1. Read the official State Department Annual Annuitant Newsletter. Each November, 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 newsletter if you need a form to change your health insur- ance during Open Season or to file an earnings statement in January if you receive the Annuity Supplement. But all retirees should at least skim through the news- letter to remind themselves of key policies governing their federal benefits. 2. Consult the AFSA Directory of Retired Mem- bers. AFSAwill mail retiree members a copy of the 2020 edition of the AFSA retiree directory in January. It includes 20 pages of guidance on retiree issues, along with contact information for AFSA staff members and Depart- ment of State offices that serve FS annuitants from all agencies. Review that guid- ance to make sure you are aware of important rules and procedures. 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 AFSAwebsite (www. under “What Surviving Spouses and Children Need to Know.”The list is also included in the 2020 AFSADirectory of Retired Members. 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 TSP, an IRA or other financial investments, you should review the risk-versus- reward balance in your invest- ment allocations periodically to make sure that it is still appropriate. Investing in funds with relatively high average rates of return will increase the chances to 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 with a professional financial adviser to determine what is best for your individual needs. 5. Check for age mile- stones. Are you approaching age 62 and need to decide when to file for Social Secu- rity? Are you approaching 65 and need to decide whether to sign up for Medicare Part B? Are you approaching 70½ and need to figure out what to do about required minimum distributions? The Retirement Services page of the AFSAwebsite has information on these topics, including videos of presenta- tions at AFSA by experts on Social Security, Medicare Part B and TSP withdrawals. 6. Be aware of deadlines. Post-retirement divorce, mar- riage or death of spouse must be reported promptly to the State Department. Failure to do so could delay, or in some cases permanently prevent, the benefits adjustment. Likewise, beneficiary designations for retirement benefits, life insurance and TSPmust be updated after marriage, divorce or other relationship change. Failure to do so will preclude the current next-of-kin from receiving those benefits. For more information, see the AFSA retiree directory or State’s Annual Annuitant Newsletter. 7. Access your annuity records. Visit the Annuitant Express website to view your monthly annuity statement or annual Form 1099-R, or if you need to change your tax with- holding, electronic deposit institution or mailing address. Logon instructions are in the AFSA retiree directory and State’s annuitant newsletter. 8. Review your FEHB Plan. This year’s Open Season for Federal Employee Health Benefit Plans ends Dec. 9. Review your FEHB Plan to determine whether it remains the best choice for you. AFSA can help as you consider your options by affording you access to The Checkbook, a great tool for comparing FEHB plans. Members received an email providing online access in mid-November. 9. Get questions answered. Official answers to nearly 300 Frequently Asked Questions can be found at or by emailing State’s Human Resources Service Center at If those sources cannot resolve your questions or concerns, please contact AFSA’s Retirement Benefits Counselor Dolores Brown at or (202) 944-5510. 10. 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 you 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. n