Using a “Big Toe”: How Federal Employees Can Find Balance in Their Retirement Planning

When federal employees’ financial plans get out of balance, it can impair their future retirement years.

Federal employees who do not have a solid plan for retirement could find their financial situation is on unstable footing once they reach their golden years.

In our fast-paced, crisis after crisis solving lives, many people will pay little attention to the importance of a Big Toe (both literal and figurative)…unless they stumble because they are either missing or never had one.

Big Toes get taken for granted and are the taste buds of the foot world. We CAN live without them, but not without missing them greatly. They mostly exist in sock and/or shoe covered obscurity. 

Similar observations may be equally true about financial Big Toes. They are taken for granted, overlooked, and not recognized for their importance to balance and forward momentum, yet are intuitively yearned and ached for during times of need when they are missing.

There are apparently 206 bones in the adult human body. None are more essential to the gait and balance of human movement than those found in a single Big Toe. 

On the humanoid frame, the Big Toe serves as an arch stabilizer for a person’s stance; it is also a small but powerful shock absorber as well as a key factor in initiating forward propulsion.  

Lose an ear, and you can probably still hear. Lose a tooth, and you should still be able to eat. Lose your hair, and you can warm your head with a hat. Lose your big toe, however, and you may find yourself struggling to maintain balance, walk in a straight line, or be the lead ballerino or ballerina in a major ballet group.  

Of course, a human can live without a big toe, but that missing appendage will likely slow that person’s progress and balance significantly.

NoteAccording to the online Bing Dictionary, BALANCE means, “An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady…A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” They also list a synonym of balance to be “impartiality.”

This definition fits for both the body’s physical Big Toe and the financial servicing version.

Consider the thoughts and words of a well-known military trainer, and conceptual thinker, of the early 1980s, concerning his thoughts on the importance of the Big Toe:

An army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe. And Sergeant Hulka isn’t always gonna be here to be that big toe for us. I think that we owe a big round of applause to our newest, bestest buddy, and big toe… Sergeant Hulka.s

John Winger (Bill Murray) in the 1981 movie Stripes

Meet Charlene

Charlene (not her real name) started working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the same year Stripes hit theaters (1981).  

Charlene is 65 years old, divorced, has two adult children, and retired last year. 

Charlene started her career under the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) but converted to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) in the late 1980s. Additionally, Charlene retired with a little over $550,000 in her TSP account.

During her years of government labor, Charlene had a rather unbalanced way of managing her retirement assets. When she heard the markets were doing well, she would move out of the G fund (Government Securities Investment Fund) into the C fund (Common Stock Index Investment Fund). When she learned markets were not doing well, she would reverse this move. She admits this wasn’t a well-thought-out approach. She just reacted to her gut and fears, mostly missing the beginning of market movements in either direction.

When it comes to investing, no approach is perfect, and most approaches, no matter how unusual they may sound, perhaps possess at least some prospects of meeting established goals. However, certain options are more widely accepted and seem better equipped to mitigate risks and offer a chance of success than others.  

Charlene’s “gut and fear” approach may be riddled with potential drawbacks. It leaned heavily on her ability to accurately TIME market movements. At best, this is a difficult and potentially risky tactic. Missed timing (missing the beginning of a new market swing) could lead to “losing” (value dropping) and/or “losing out” (missing valuable market growths). That could equate to losing retirement value both on the way up and on the way down.

When Charlene was approaching retirement, a recently retired co-worker suggested she re-evaluate her asset management approach. After heeding this advice, she determined instead to pursue an approach that didn’t react to her fears but pursued balance and impartiality. 

Charlene searched for and found her very own financial Big Toe. They helped her create and manage a more balanced approach to her retirement plan and retirement assets. Rather than trying to time market-moving world events or remain tied to her past knee-jerk approach, she now has a comprehensive financial plan that pursues improved results in positive and negative market conditions. AKA – Balance!

Mr. Miyagi’s philosophy concerning balance

Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), The Karate Kid, 1984

Don’t fall for a missing Big Toe

During my high school days, I played football for the “Mighty, Mighty” Tigers. On our team was a behemoth of a boy named Ronnie (not his real name). Ronnie had size, heart, strength, desire, and football smarts. What Ronnie didn’t have was a Big Toe. Seriously, don’t laugh; the poor guy was missing one of his big toes.  

Competitively speaking, everything else was in place for Ronnie, though due to no fault of his own (unless mishandling a push-mower on a wet hillside counts against him), he didn’t have speed, agility, or balance. As hard as he would try, his greatest efforts (literally) would leave him face planted on our mostly dirt, lightly vegetated field. 

During stamina training (running laps around the school track), I recall seeing Ronnie doing his best to keep pace with the rest of the team, only to drop like a stone with no warning whatsoever.

No tip-toeing around it – Ronnie unknowingly demonstrated how a toe qualified to anchor the other toes on a foot can be invaluable to a body’s balance, steadiness, speed, agility, and the often taken for granted ability to remain upright.  

Locating a Financial Big Toe 

What should you look for in a financial Big Toe of your own? At a minimum:

  • Be wary of a Pinky professing to be a Big Toe – They need extensive Federal employee retirement systems knowledge. Many Big Toe wannabees will try to be all toes to all feet. Find one that has focused on federal retirement  (I usually suggest for at least five years). Ten years as a licensed financial adviser would also be preferred.
  • Avoid a one size fits all approach. No two people are alike; therefore, their needs are likely unique. If you are going to trust a Big Toe, make sure that person can help design a plan that is uniquely appropriate for you.
  • Share, share, share – When you find a great financial Big Toe, be prepared to open up to them. They can’t do a good job for you or make personalized specific suggestions if they don’t know who you are. Remember, your Big Toe should help you search for balance, support, and appropriate financial stability. Help them help you.  

Update – From what I hear from high school friends today, Ronnie is a successful small business owner, husband, and father. He coaches kids sports and is an avid cyclist. He appears to have found overall balance in his life. 

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

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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.