Surviving a Financial ‘Bear Attack’

A recent retired federal employee is worried about the stock market drop and asks what he can do to protect his retirement savings.

Q. Randy, I am 63 years old and recently retired. I worked for the Treasury Department for 32 years. I receive a federal annuity and Social Security. On top of that, I take income from my TSP savings.

I understand we are now in a Bear market. I am concerned about taking money out of my investments when the markets are heading downward. My plan is already looking like a mess. What should I do?

A. I have been hearing this question a lot in recent weeks/months. I will do my best to address your situation, but please allow for the fact that I don’t know your entire financial picture.

5 things you can do to survive this “Bear Attack”

1) Generally, one size does not fit all. 

I guide my clients to view their retirement savings (TSP, IRA’s, old 401k’s, etc…) as the final income source they should turn on. My reasoning is that inflation (even without a bear market) often catches up with retirees at some point, meaning their early retirement income may lose its vitality as time passes. Example: According to, for every $1 needed to survive in 2000, a $1.50 is required today. With an eye on inflation, by holding off on using retirement savings early, a fed may be able to grow their savings and stretch their income to last throughout retirement. 

2) Based on your question, I am not sure if you are working with a professional or not. If not, I would suggest quickly finding an advisor that has a full understanding of federal retirement income benefits and has significant experience focused on working exclusively with federal employees. They should be able to help you devise a comprehensive retirement plan, one which looks at best, nominal, and worst-case scenarios.

3) While no one had a crystal ball, before the current coronavirus pandemic, there are (and have been) tools available to you to help mitigate your overall risk exposure. In particular, I would suggest educating yourself on your personal investment risk tolerance. This step could assist in exposing you to your real, measurable investment pain levels. Knowing and understanding your risk tolerance may help identify a course of action for your retirement savings that will potentially be a better fit for you. 

4) You referred to your retirement savings as your “TSP savings.” I assume you are referencing where those funds originated, not where they remain today. 

There are many reasons to appreciate the TSP during your retirement savings “accumulation” phase, however, the TSP does have some potentially significant shortcomings. Therefore, at this point (at retirement or 59 1/2, whichever comes first) in your retirement path, you might benefit by looking at investment options outside of the TSP. See #2 above.

5) If you are in a position where you don’t currently NEED to take from your retirement savings, now may be an excellent time to place that income stream on pause. At the very least, give it a chance to recover from the recent market volatility. Then, if circumstances allow, you may find value by continuing to put off TSP savings withdrawals until you just can’t wait any longer, or when you turn 72, whichever comes first. 

Note: 72 is the latest you will likely be able to put off making withdrawals from your TSP or other “qualified” retirement accounts. 72 is the new required minimum distribution (RMD) age as of 01/01/2020.


To summarize, you may want to take a deep breath. Understand, historically, the markets have always bounced back; it’s just been a matter of time. So, give your retirement savings as much time as possible to recoup before making withdrawals. Finally, work with your advisor to create a plan that is designed to address your tolerance for financial pain along with your need/desire for gains. 

Infinity Financial Services is a Registered Investment Advisor and a member of both the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA®) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

Any opinions expressed in the article are those of the author alone. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Investing involves risks, including the loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Silverlight Financial, Infinity Financial Services and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. For a list of states in which I am registered to do business, please visit >

About the Author

Randy Silvey is the published author of You FIRST, Federal Employees Retirement Guide, one of the bestselling books of its kind on Amazon and Kindle. For over 18 years, he’s been educating and guiding Feds in pursuing wealthier retirement lifestyles. Randy can be reached at 816-524-1515 or visit his website at Securities offered through Infinity Financial Services. Member FINRA/SIPC.