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A Book to Put Under the Tree
MICHAEL LEWIS’ “THE FIFTH RISK”
The holidays are here, which probably means you’re looking for some gifts to put under the tree. I can’t pretend that I know what will put smiles on the faces of your loved ones, but I recently read a book that would be a welcome addition to the wish list of any government employee. It’s called “The Fifth Risk,” written by renowned author Michael Lewis, and it just might be the best book I’ve read all year. I’ve been a fan of Lewis for years. He has an uncanny knack for tackling subjects that should be dry and boring — the real estate products behind the financial collapse of 2008 in “The Big Short,” baseball analytics in “Moneyball,” among many — and turning them into riveting page-turners. So when I heard that Lewis’ new book would tackle the operational aspects of the federal government, I knew I’d be picking up a copy as soon as it hit the shelves. When you think of the biggest threats to the viability of our government, you probably think about a nuclear tussle with North Korea or another external threat. Lewis, however, finds other massive dangers working inside our government: operational incompetence and an undervaluing of our civil servants. He holds our government and the workers
within it as some of the biggest driving forces for good in our nation. “The Fifth Risk” is largely a celebration of public- sector work and a rallying cry against the folks who want to slash government programs at all costs. WE WOULD HAVE NEVER MADE IT TO THE MOON WITHOUT NASA. GPS, WHICH WE ALL USE EVERY DAY, WAS THE RESULT OF A DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PROJECT. MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THAT EVEN THE WEATHER DATA THEY CHECK EVERY MORNING WOULDN’T BE WHAT IT IS WITHOUT THE WORK OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES. Lewis defines the fifth risk as “the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.” In terms of how that applies to government programs, the short-term solution is almost always to cut the program. But Lewis warns that myopic thinking like that will only lead to a nation that is worse off than before. After all, some of our greatest achievements as a nation required a wealth of federal support. We would have never made it to the moon without NASA. GPS, which we all use every day, was the result of a Department of Defense project. Most people don’t know
that even the weather data they check every morning wouldn’t be what it is without the work of federal employees. The pervasive misconception about what the federal government actually does is what makes “The Fifth Risk” so refreshing. As I was reading — though it’s probably more accurate to say devouring — there were so many moments when I wanted to high-five Lewis through the pages. I will note, as a warning, that Lewis does interject some of his personal political views into the book, but they’re far from the crux of the piece. No matter where you stand ideologically, it’s impossible to argue with Lewis’ sober arguments regarding the value of federal programs and the need to run them efficiently. With animosity toward the government at a fever pitch on every side of the aisle, his message couldn’t have come at a better time. No matter what else you’re hoping to unwrap this holiday season, I strongly encourage you to gift yourself a copy of “The Fifth Risk.” It’s a great read, but more than that, it will make you feel like there’s somebody out there who understands the value of your work. It’s enough to fill any public servant with cheer. –Ann Vanderslice
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Finding Harmony in Retirement
JOAN FITZPATRICK’S NEW PURSUIT
“I could not have asked for a better career,” says Joan Fitzpatrick of her 33 years working for the Department of the Interior as a scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey. “I was very fortunate to pick a great major in college, one which propelled me toward a challenging, fascinating career.” Joan had the type of career everyone aspires to, but that also made things a little scary when it came time to retire. “When you work in a field for as long I did, it becomes a part of your identity,” Joan notes. “My co-workers were my tribe, my family. The communication between us was easy and natural, and needless to say, we had a lot in common.” Joan’s feelings in this regard aren’t unique. After all, many federal employees work in specialized professions that have a high barrier to entry. A lot of our clients feel the same misgivings about retiring that Joan did. But you can’t wonder, “What if?” forever. Eventually, you have to take the plunge into retirement. After retiring in March of 2016, Joan admits it took a little while to adjust. “At first, life without being a professional scientist was difficult,” she reveals. “It was all I had known and it left a big hole, but thankfully, I was able to find a pursuit just as challenging and rewarding as my career had been.” That pursuit was playing the harp. “As a child, I always wanted to play the harp,” Joan says. “When I had the chance to do it in 2002 while still working, I jumped at it. Almost immediately, it became a very serious avocation. I joined two community orchestras here in Denver, and things took off from there.”
One of the ways Joan has been improving her playing is through the Academy Week hosted by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra every June. During this week, the symphony gives serious, adult- amateur players from all over the world the chance to rehearse and play with professional musicians. “I first attended Academy Week six years ago, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” Joan says. “It’s a huge boost to my skill level and a lot of fun. This year, we were able to perform the ‘Isle of the Dead’ and ‘Symphonic Dances’ by Rachmaninoff, which is something I’ll never forget.” Playing has now become a full-time passion for Joan, who also serves as the personnel manager for one of her community orchestras. “I took on the role specifically because I wanted to be outside of my comfort zone,” she states. “It’s a chance to meet and talk with people in large groups, which is not my natural forte but something I’m determined to get better at.” Like many of our clients, Joan found Ann’s expertise with federal retirement programs to be a huge boon for her. “I’d met with financial advisors before,” Joan says. “But they didn’t really understand my specific situation in detail. Ann was enthusiastic, knew her stuff, and had a great support team. She also gave me the confidence to approach retirement with the same enthusiasm I did my professional life.” We’re always happy to see our clients accomplish amazing things after their career has ended. Joan has certainly done that, and so can you.
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5 Common Financial Struggles for Seniors
WHETHER YOU’RE RETIRED OR NOT
Planning for and navigating through retirement is the most pressing financial concern for older adults. While understanding how to budget and spend as you approach and enter retirement is crucial, it’s far from the only issue that seniors face. Last year, a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) investigated the most commonly reported complaints the organization had received from adults age 62 and older. Aside from retirement savings, here are the five major issues reported by seniors. DEBT The number of seniors and retirees with debt is at an all-time high. Many seniors carry excessive debt in order to ease the burden on their children and grandchildren. Some still have student debt from their college years or other outstanding loans. Others turn to credit cards to defray a
surprise cost like a medical emergency. If you’re in danger of falling behind on payments, contact your lenders before opening a new credit account. REVERSE MORTGAGES Many seniors have reverse mortgages, which allow them to buy into home equity provided they repay it when the property is sold. In this mortgage structure, however, people still need to pay property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. These mortgages can end up being a trap for seniors, which is why Jean Setzfand, a senior vice president at AARP, refers to them as a last resort.
your statements often to ensure that any foul behavior is caught as early as possible.
CONFUSION REGARDING FEES Many seniors reported charges they didn’t understand to the CFPB. Often, they were signed up for subscriptions they didn’t use or weren’t sure how interest was being calculated. As with identity theft, monitoring your statements for unusual charges is the best way to avoid this source of stress. LOSS OF A SPOUSE The loss of a spouse presents challenges much greater than the financial burden, but that is often a major part of navigating the death of your partner. Accessing bank accounts and other assets can prove difficult, especially if it was the deceased who primarily managed the finances. Working with a financial planner or elder law attorney can help make this process less daunting.
SCAMS AND IDENTITY THEFT Sadly, many identity thieves and
cybercriminals target the elderly. While your credit report can be corrected after such an event, many seniors are unequipped to deal with the process. The best defense is to check
Buttery Roasted Chestnuts
Inspired by Bon Appetit
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 2 pounds fresh chestnuts, unpeeled • 2–3 sprigs rosemary • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
5. Pat dry and transfer to a medium bowl. Add rosemary, butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Toss to coat and transfer to baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer. Gather the edges of the foil together, leaving an opening at the top. 6. Roast until peels curl up, about 30–45 minutes. 7. Transfer to a platter and serve while hot or warm.
1. Heat oven to 450 F. 2. Place a large sheet of foil on a rimmed baking sheet. 3. On a large, flat workspace, place chestnuts flat side down. Using a sharp knife, carve an X on the rounded side of each chestnut. 4. In a large bowl of hot water, soak chestnuts for 1 minute.
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issue INSIDE THIS
A Book That Celebrates Our Government PAGE 1 A Perfectly Orchestrated Retirement PAGE 2 Financial Struggles Older Adults Face PAGE 3
Buttery Roasted Chestnuts PAGE 3 Holiday Decoration Tours PAGE 4
CHRISTMAS TOURS Get Away and Be Festive This Holiday Season There’s nothing quite like the magical lights of the holiday season, and some destinations in the U.S. have perfected the craft of holiday decoration. If you’re looking to get away this December and still engage in seasonal festivities, add one of these places to your must-visit list. NEW YORK CITY’S ROCKEFELLER CENTER New York City is an iconic location for Christmastime. The scene is like a Hallmark card: Ice-skating lovers glide past miles of twinkling lights underneath an exceptionally tall and amply decorated tree. The tree is specially selected by Rockefeller Center’s landscaping crew, who scout out trees years in advance. It remains lit from November to early January, so you have plenty of time to check it out. RANCH CHRISTMAS IN JACKSON, WYOMING Jackson, Wyoming, takes its frontier culture to the next level during the Christmas season. All year, the city proudly displays four elk antler arches, but around the holidays, they are lit up with white string lights and flanked by snow. The Christmas decorations and lights surrounding the archway make for a Western-themed holiday
pulled right out of a John Wayne classic. For holiday admirers looking for a unique spin, Jackson has you covered.
YEARLY YULETIDE IN SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA This one’s for the Christmas lover. If you can’t make it out to Santa Claus, Indiana, this holiday season, you can still celebrate Christmas in this tiny Midwestern town in January, June, or even October. Embracing its unique name, the town boasts a museum, holiday shopping center, and a Christmas themed park. In a moving tribute, the town’s residents also write responses to children’s letters to Kris Kringle himself. It’s impossible to avoid holiday cheer in this town throughout the year. DISNEY WORLD’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC What better place to celebrate the most magical time of the year than in the most magical place on Earth? Walt Disney World’s halls are decked to the max with gingerbread homes, strings of lights, festive parties and even a parade. Plus, the cost to visit Disney World can be less expensive during the Christmas season, so keep an eye out for a vacation steal.
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