Retirement Planning Strategies October 2018

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OCTOBER 2018

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Monsters Are Scarier WHEN YOU CAN’T SEE THEM

In most horror movies, the villain is much scarier when they remain off-screen. That’s because the fears we project onto the unknown will always worry us more than the adversaries we actually have to face. Don’t get me wrong — I bet it’s mighty terrifying to have to run from a monster. But it will never be as nerve-wracking as not knowing what the monster is and where it’s lurking. When you’ve yet to identify your foe, even the slightest disturbance — a creaking door, a gust of wind, a branch rubbing against a window — could be a sign of your impending doom. Strangely enough, that’s the exact same way rumors and scare tactics work for federal employees. There is always something scary lurking just outside of your field of vision. Maybe you hear a rumor about downsizing or read about proposals to massively scale back the federal workforce. In the past few years, those noises have only gotten louder. Many of your coworkers are more than happy to stoke the flames of anxiety, turning speculation and concern into fear. The problem arises when you begin to make the monsters larger and more menacing than they are. When I see statistics stating that federal retirements are up 15.6 percent over last year, I can’t

help but think that more than a few people got the jitters and felt the need to retire earlier than they had planned. At the time, that might’ve seemed a wise precautionary measure — a way to avoid the storm before it arrived. Now however, when it looks like the major change that will occur for federal employees is a pay freeze, those who rushed to retirement may be feeling pangs of regret. THE PROBLEM ARISES WHEN YOU BEGIN TO MAKE THE MONSTERS LARGER AND MORE MENACING THAN THEY ARE. WHEN I SEE STATISTICS STATING THAT FEDERAL RETIREMENTS ARE UP 15.6 PERCENT OVER LAST YEAR, I CAN’T HELP BUT THINK THAT MORE THAN A FEW PEOPLE GOT THE JITTERS AND FELT THE NEED TO RETIRE EARLIER THAN THEY HAD PLANNED. This attitude is somewhat understandable. I’d be willing to bet that, at some point in your career, you’ve had a task or responsibility land on your desk without warning. Maybe a coworker retired or changed positions and you were tasked with doing the work of another for an indefinite period of time. Perhaps you were

given a project that you were not expecting at all, only to have to manage it in addition to your regular workload. It happens all the time, and can make you feel powerless to forces outside your control. When you focus solely on those forces, they tend to become spookier than they need be. While there are countless things you can’t control with regard to your career, there are just as many that you can control. Take time to make a plan — one that’s not based on watercooler gossip. This plan will help keep you grounded in times of turmoil, and those noises around the office will feel less ominous and more like garden-variety creaks and groans. Every career has its scary moments. Odds are you’ve faced many more serious threats than speculations about policy change and downsizing. So don’t let a potential threat turn into something larger and spookier than it is. Maintaining a sense of perspective will make all the difference.

–Ann Vanderslice

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