The good old days, a time when there was a long career, a gold watch, then a brief and frugal retirement are mostly gone. Some people are now retired for at least as long as they worked. Which can be a blessing or a curse. Things have changed. Mostly for the better. And yet..
The lead obituary in Monday’s Washington Post was about a 99-year old civil servant who had been retired since 1983. Do the math! 38 years is a long time to do anything, whether its working at the same place, being married or being retired. And in the latter case, you start out with a reduced income and under a cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula that doesn’t keep pace with inflation, especially as you get older and your medical costs go up.
If you are one of the 75,000 feds with million dollar TSP accounts and are under the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS ), your financial life in retirement should be pretty good. But most people don’t have anywhere near that amount in their federal 401k plan. Also, most will retire under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), which has a diet COLA formula, meaning that over time their monthly annuity payments can be drastically reduced by inflation.
So what to do? Work until you drop? Wind up staying 5 years longer than you planned? Leave only to find out later you really couldn’t afford it? You have to live with your decision. That is a challenging thought! But you can do it, and do it right with a little thought and preparation.
Today’s guest on Your Turn is Tammy Flanagan. She’s a former fed who is an expert on all phases of retirement. Planning for retirement isn’t rocket science, but in some ways it is more challenging because ultimately you’ll be riding that rocket however long it takes