Our lives and careers are often split up into different stages and phases. Each phase has its own ups and downs and things to know to be successful.
5 years before retirement is a crucial phase in planning a great retirement because so many (often irreversible) decisions are made during this time.
Here are a handful of things to know and do at least 5 years from retirement.
Education! Education! Education!
Knowledge is power and ignorance can be crippling during this phase of your life. I have spoken to far too many feds that have misunderstood their benefits and have had to work much longer than they’d like as a result.
Most agencies offer retirement seminars which can be a great start in this process. Even if you have to take time off of work to attend, this investment in your future is often worth its weight in gold.
In some cases however, your agency-sponsored retirement seminars may not be as beneficial as you’d like so you will have to do more research on your own.
Regardless of how you learn about your retirement, you will want to feel very confident that you understand all of your relevant retirement benefits.
As you approach retirement you will want to request a pension estimate from your human resources office. This will give you a great start to understanding how much you can expect on a monthly basis.
This estimate will also introduce you to some of the key decisions that you will need to make at retirement like survivor benefits and life insurance elections.
Note: Some HR offices are not very willing to run estimates until you are within a couple of years of retirement but it never hurts to ask.
As you approach retirement it will become much more clear on what you might want your retirement to look like. 5 years out is a good time to think about where you’d like to live and what you’d like to do in retirement.
While you don’t have to plan out all the details of your daily life in retirement, it can be extremely helpful to at least have a general idea. This will make retirement planning (ie budgets, housing, etc.) a lot easier for you.
Big 5 Year Test
One of the biggest reasons to start planning at least 5 years out is the 5 year rule that applies to your FEGLI (your federal life insurance) and FEHB (your federal health insurance).
Basically, you have to be covered under FEHB for at least the 5 years before retirement to be able to continue coverage after you retire. The same applies to FEGLI as well.
For FEHB you are allowed to switch which plan you have during those 5 years as long as you have continuous coverage during that time.
Surprises are great when talking about birthday parties or bonuses but are generally not so fun when it comes to your retirement.
You don’t want to be surprised at retirement time that your benefits are not what you thought they’d be. The best place to start is by educating yourself so you know exactly what things will look like when you are ready to retire.