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surprised today
Old 12-12-2019, 07:54 PM   #1
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surprised today

The last 2 days I attended a retirement seminar with DW. She is a fed employee with plans to retire in 7 years at 55. There were several things that caught me by surprise. First of all the age of the attendees. Most were older than me (54). Another thing that caught me off guard was the comments from so many of the attendees. So many of them seemed clueless regarding most of the topics. Social security, 401K's (TSP for the gov folks), insurance, etc... The most surprising was the instructor who seemed to be pushing all of them to work until FRA or even longer. The instructor is 69 years old. He says he is retiring next year. He was surprised that at 54 I am down to 32 hrs/wk and looking to RE next year. He actually asked me why. He told me that my DW shouldn't leave at 55 years of age (15 years fed service) because she can't get reduced retirement until 57 and full at 62. He asked me what we were going to do. I said "taxable account" and "rule of 55". That conversation didn't go far. Oh well. Let them all keep working. Fully fund that SS trust fund.
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Old 12-12-2019, 09:33 PM   #2
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When I was working the response when I gently tried to bring up investment topics was typically something like "Well, I have 'a guy' who does that for me. He's doing quite well." Me: "Oh? How is he doing compared to market benchmarks like the S&P 500 or the Aggregate Bond Index, after his fees of course?" Them: [blank look] Me: [I should know better; changes subject.]
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Old 12-13-2019, 05:22 AM   #3
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Since I've worked with a large number of fed workers, I recognize there are different approaches. First, Gov't is a protective cocoon and an employee gets as much info as they care to digest. Come to think of it, most employees are this way.

I think sense of service may lead some to keep at it. And others may need the enhanced pay check.
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Old 12-13-2019, 05:30 AM   #4
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Keep in mind that the average person is not as well prepared to retire as the average participant in this forum. I believe that the advice applies to more people on average than not.
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Old 12-13-2019, 07:25 AM   #5
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Keep in mind that the average person is not as well prepared to retire as the average participant in this forum. I believe that the advice applies to more people on average than not.
As they say, plus 1. In those extremely rare cases where money/retirement gets spoken of, I find ignorance (outside this forum) to be amazing. Recently discovered that with BIL, who at 66 is working and always made way more than I did. I'd add that he's very tight with money. Yet knows very little about SS and Medicare. I will say he seems to enjoy his work, but still....
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Old 12-13-2019, 08:18 AM   #6
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Retirement seminars for Feds are not aimed at people like the OP. OP has undoubtedly been analyzing the numbers and implications for years whereas most employees don't understand the basics of the system they work under. This isn't limited to Feds, it applies to the vast majority of people. By and large a Fed under FERS would probably be well advised to wait a couple of years until reaching minimum retirement age (presumably 57 in her case) to receive an annuity rather than leave at 55 and wait until 60 for a differed annuity. I agree that the instructor should be prepared to discuss differed annuities and other factors involved when leaving before eligibility for an annuity and should be very well versed on the rules governing reduced annuities for those leaving early with an annuity.
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Old 12-13-2019, 09:45 AM   #7
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Many of my friends give me the standard "I'll have to keep working until i'm dead", and to that statement, I usually ask "why" like the OP was asked.

I decided a long time ago to research all the angles of investing, and financial independence so I could retire early, and enjoy my golden years. I never made much money, but always had a good savings rate, lived frugally, and picked the right investments that almost always outperformed the Market standards. I try to help my co-workers, but ignorance, and obstinance ruled out them learning anything that day.
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Old 12-13-2019, 10:10 AM   #8
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Several years back, I had a colleague at the office tell me "I'll never be able to retire". I asked her "How do you know?" And the answer was that she didn't.

We talked for a bit and I said "it is really quite simple. How much do you or will you spend? What will you get in pension and social security? How much do you have in investments to cover the shortfall?" She had no idea as to her spending, no idea as to what she could expect to get in pension and no idea as to what she would get from social security. The good news is that she has been maxing her 457 for a long time, doesn't have a mortgage and stands to inherit a good amount.

We went through her situation with some rough assumptions and I think I showed her that if she retires at normal retirement age, she'll be fine. I suggested that if she wanted to have a better grasp of her situation, she should find out exactly what she spends (I gave her a blank copy of the formatted spreadsheet I use to track spending) and should go look up the easily available information on the internet to figure out her pension and social security. I even sent her an email with the proper links. She seemed eager to take charge of her future and I was encouraged to see it.

Sadly, when we spoke again this summer right before I retired, she still had done none of it. I have no idea why. The old adage about horses and water applies. At least she is a saver by nature, and she will get a pension and social security, even if she doesn't have the foggiest notion of how much.
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Old 12-13-2019, 10:45 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post

Sadly, when we spoke again this summer right before I retired, she still had done none of it. I have no idea why. The old adage about horses and water applies. At least she is a saver by nature, and she will get a pension and social security, even if she doesn't have the foggiest notion of how much.
I think this is pretty much the norm. Over the few years I have been retired, I have had friends ask me questions on what they might be able to do to retire early. First thing I say is know what you spend and curb purchases that may not make sense. Two weeks later, they will post on Facebook the brand new car/motorcycle/etc they just bought...."ON GREAT TERMS!!!" of course.
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Old 12-13-2019, 10:57 AM   #10
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I worked for the state in human services and everyone knew when they could retire and how much they would get. They had a online calculator for you to use and PERS would do a estimate a year before you expected to retire.
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Old 12-13-2019, 11:13 AM   #11
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I worked for the state in human services and everyone knew when they could retire and how much they would get. They had a online calculator for you to use and PERS would do a estimate a year before you expected to retire.
And yet......, DW was a teacher and IMHO the most clueless about 403b investments were teachers, a friend founded the 403(b)wise web site, even with data and presentations its hard to get through about investing for a lot of otherwise educated people.
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Old 12-13-2019, 12:34 PM   #12
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Also, don't forget, any coworkers of your DW who would fit in just fine here (or are already members!) likely already knew that the retirement seminars would be a waste of time for them.
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Old 12-13-2019, 12:47 PM   #13
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It starts early.

I still remember - mostly because I'm smug about it - while at a college visit to an out of state private college which my oldest son was considering, I attended a session called "Paying for college". The session was an hour long and went into great detail on the different kinds of loans available, and how to sign a master promissory note, and how to wait for your loans to fund so you could buy textbooks, and how to make loan payments after you graduate, and how to defer loans for hardship and so forth.

There was no mention of 529's, ESA's, summer jobs, jobs in high school, scholarships, ROTC, taxable savings, work study, or even IRA withdrawals for higher education (I think that's a thing?). I went up afterwards and asked the session leader(s) about the lack of mention of these topics. I don't recall the answer but it was in the neighborhood of "Whatever, we talk to people about what they need to know."

I've been talking to my kids since they were little about all this stuff. I'd like to go through stuff in greater detail with them soon as they are college-age now, but I also realize that unless it's relevant it's hard for someone to learn. So for example I can't talk to them much about taxes yet as their tax situations are between not having to file and having to copy a couple of numbers over from a W-2.

Also, I'm realizing that it's more important that I teach them how to find the proper information and how to strategize and think about financial matters. I have a lot of specific ideas and conclusions, but as things change over time and if their goals differ from mine, these specifics may not apply.
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Old 12-13-2019, 12:48 PM   #14
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The "Horse to Water" metaphor truly applies here. I can't teach/help you with anything if you don't want to learn it. Just keep your head in the sand, and it will all workout somehow...eventually ! Hopefully !
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Old 12-13-2019, 01:15 PM   #15
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Not surprising to me. It was difficult to get our team members to attend retirement and investment seminars.

A good percentage did not even take advantage of the matching money that the company put on the table.

The vast majority of our employees who participated in the DC program NEVER revisited their initial investment choices, performance etc. after their first selection.

I can count on one hand the number of employees in the DB plan who ever bothered to read the documents or understand any of the age plus service benefits.
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Old 12-13-2019, 02:55 PM   #16
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The most surprising was the instructor who seemed to be pushing all of them to work until FRA or even longer.
Interesting. My credit union has a financial planning group they partner with to put on personal finance and retirement seminars. Since most credit members are federal workers, the seminars have that orientation. I did attend one on "when should you take SS" just to see the angle the instructor was coming from. Interestingly he was more making the case of taking SS early if one did not need to live on it, and invest it (he was not pushing specific investments, but talked about AA), as his charts and table were showing that one would make out better in the long run.

It sounds like we were at similar seminars, but the instructors had different views. Not too surprising.
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Old 12-13-2019, 04:17 PM   #17
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Since I've worked with a large number of fed workers, I recognize there are different approaches. First, Gov't is a protective cocoon and an employee gets as much info as they care to digest. Come to think of it, most employees are this way.

I think sense of service may lead some to keep at it. And others may need the enhanced pay check.


Fed workers are so special! I went to a seminar with DW and 2 SILs. I knew more about FERS and CSRS than most of the attendees and the people that REALLY need the info wonít go to a seminar until itís too late. As it was a few of the attendees had already submitted paperwork. The presenter was excellent and several folks said they had been to other seminars that paled in comparison. It had to be a different group than what OP described. The two main plans (FERS and CSRS) are pretty straight forward but it gets complicated for people with military and/or law enforcement careers. It was a about 5 hrs with a free lunch. The presenter was sponsored by a local FP but attendees were paid to attend. FP was soft selling follow up meetings to create personalized reports.
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Old 12-13-2019, 04:58 PM   #18
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They do absolutely none (zero) onboarding counselling for new DOD employees and ive onboarded with 3 diff dod agencies. You take a civilian oath and fill out I9 and tax paperwork. My friend in HR said they are forbidden from doing any type of benefit counseling. They will give you the websites for health/dental/vision options and tsp(401k equiv). Never heard of any type of retirement counseling/estimates etc other than what you can find online if you're smart enough to find your file. Interestingly also, no annual reviews follow you if you change (say from air force civilian to maby civilian). You're a new baby on probation with zero reviews on file. The good news is it doesnt matter because they have zero to do with promoting. also all the estimates i found even TSP work under the assumption you continue to work a super long time.
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Old 12-13-2019, 05:00 PM   #19
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I was pretty clueless about retirement until my mid-50's. Always socked away a lot in my 401K, but clueless about AA, fees,diversification, etc. Got "spun up" quickly via the internet. Once I got through all the sponsored crap and found early retirement and FI sites, it didn't take long to see we appeared to be tracking well for retirement. But, like others have stated, thinking about retirement was like peering into the abyss.

At 58, received an invitation to attend an Army Reserve retirement workshop at Fort Bragg. DW and I made it an overnight date event.

It was well structured and informative (I was wearing my retirement training wheels at that time). There were reps from DFAS, Social Security, VA, JAG (wills, trust, PoA, etc). I was ignorant about SS spousal benefit. That was a pleasant surprise. Anyhoo, we felt it was a day well spent. I went home, put together a plan to retire at 60. Now 62.5-ish and happily retired at 60 years and 26 days old.

Just after retiring, we received several FA dinner invitations at local high end joints. They all promised that great wisdom and secret sauce would be doled out for those who attended. We opted to pass on on those.
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Old 12-13-2019, 05:26 PM   #20
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Many years ago and two j*bs back, I had a colleague who celebrated her 50th birthday in the office with some cake. After lunch I saw her coming back into the office with a large folder with the HR logo on it. "Now that I'm 50, I decided it was time to sign up for the 401k," she said with a smile. I gulped and gave her a weak smile in return. I often wonder what ever happened with her. BTW, our employer had a very generous double digit match at that time.
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