Ep #12: Finding the Right Planner

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Today Micah’s sister, Jamie Shilanski, joins the show to talk about financial planning and the inconsistent advice that many people are hearing regarding their finances. Jamie is also an advisor based in Alaska, and she has great insight and stories to share that will help you find the right advisor and make an effective plan.

Listen in to hear what common things get missed when it comes to making the most of your FEHB benefits, as well as what to look for when choosing a planner who will understand your needs. You’ll learn the importance of understanding the intricacies of federal retirement plans and actively and consistently incorporating tax planning into your financial plan.

What We Cover:

  • What mistakes to watch out for when working with a financial planner.
  • FEHB mistakes and what often gets missed.
  • Gross vs. net and what really matters.
  • The importance of taking taxes into account when making a retirement plan.
  • Why cash flow is the heartbeat of retirement.
  • The role of tax planning.
  • Why we don’t call your pension an annuity.

Resources for this Episode:

Ideas Worth Sharing:

One thing you don’t understand about those benefits could really alter—irreversibly—a retirement plan for a federal employee. – Jamie Shilanski Share on X 

There’s rules that you need to keep in place and meet in order to keep FEHB benefits into retirement. – Micah Shilanski Share on X 

Finding somebody who understands the complexity of your benefits and speaks that language is so so critical to your long-term success. – Jamie Shilanski Share on X

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript
With Your Hosts
Micah Shilanski and Tammy Flanagan

You can spend. You can save. What is the right thing to do? Federal benefits, thrifts, savings plans, too. You can save your own way, with help from Micah and Tammy. You can save your own way, save your own way…

Micah Shilanski:  Well, welcome back to the Plan Your Federal Retirement Podcast. I’m your co-host, Micah Shilanski, and with me is a very special guest. Tammy wasn’t able to make it today, but we were able to find a wonderful person to fill her spot, and I’m only slightly biased because she may or may not be related as my sister, but Jamie is on the line with us. Hey, Jamie, how’s it going?

Jamie Shilanski:  Hey, Micah, what’s going on?

Micah Shilanski:  Super excited that you could join us today on the podcast. For those that don’t know, Jamie Shilanski is, yes, she is my sister and she is a wonderful advisor up here in Alaska, and so we thought we would get together today and chat just a little bit about financial planning, and recently, in a slew of client meetings, we’ve come across other financial planners’ advice, recommendations, proposals to clients and other people that we’ve met with that had some pretty interesting inconsistencies with them, so we wanted to share those stories to help you or listeners improve your, not only your knowledge of financial planning, but what mistakes do you need to be careful of, do you need to watch out for when working with another financial advisor?

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah, Micah, I think that’s a phenomenal topic to discuss because a lot of times, especially when we meet with federal employees, which we specialize in, for the very first time, a lot of them come in with this paperwork or they say, “Hey, I just met with a financial planner. We did this about a year ago, this was their recommendation, this was their advice, and I always find myself just like, “Oh, please be accurate. Please be accurate. Please have understood those federal employee benefits,” because they’re so unique and that just one thing you don’t understand about those benefits could really alter irreversibly a retirement plan for a federal employee.

Micah Shilanski:  Yeah, and there’s a lot of great planners out there, right? Let be clear. We’re not saying that you have to work with us or that you have to work with a planner.

Jamie Shilanski:  No.

Micah Shilanski:  But the responsibility is yours as the federal employee to make sure you understand these benefits to make sure you know how everything gets put together on this, and I know, Jamie, a little bit offline, we were talking about a story about FEHB, all that can happen if we don’t understand the best way to set up our benefits.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah. Recently, I want to take a little time to share with your listeners because it was so important to understand, and in this particular case, regrettably, there was nothing we could go back and do. I had a client come in, recently widowed. Her husband worked for an agency, had been with the federal government for over 20 years, and was very much a do-it-yourselfer. Big Vanguard guy, liked to do everything himself. Every five years, he would go meet with a financial planner. He would have them review how he had everything structured just to make sure it was okay and he was getting a little objectivity inside of that. Now, he was the-

Micah Shilanski:  Jamie, was it the same financial planner that he was working with most of the time? Was it different? Did it mix it up or …?

Jamie Shilanski:  … It was different. He mixed it up, yep. He was really cost-conscientious and he wanted to be open to different objectivity, so he would set a calendar date, she would tell me, and every five years, he would go get his plan just reviewed, all his statements, how he had all his spreadsheets, what he had done, everything, just to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. He was a federal employee, his spouse, his wife was not a federal employee. She was in the healthcare and worked in the private sector, so along the way, it had been given to him, a piece of advice, that in order to save money from a cash-flow perspective on a monthly basis, that he should enroll in FEHB, Federal Employee Health Benefits, as a single individual, because her employer also offered health insurance and her employer covered around 60% of the health insurance costs, so it literally saved them roughly $42 a month if she had her own health insurance and he had his own health insurance under Federal Employee Health Benefits.

Micah Shilanski:  Now, as you’re saying this, right, if you understand federal benefits, your alarm bells are just going off in your mind, right? Because keep in mind that FEHB is not only one of the best benefits you have as a federal employee, and I say this on the outside looking in, but there’s rules that you have to keep in place and meet in order to keep it into retirement, Jamie. I know that you know.

Jamie Shilanski:  I know you can feel where I’m going with this because I can hear your anxiety getting up, right?

Micah Shilanski:  Yes, yes. There’s not only rules for the federal employee, there’s rules for the spouse.

Jamie Shilanski:  The spouse, yes.

Micah Shilanski:  This is sometimes what gets missed.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yep, so we fast-forward into the future. They’re doing, they’re cooking along, they’re planning for retirement, their cash flow is good. He gets sick and he died within four months and now she is a widow. He had a very advanced stage of cancer. It took him very, very quickly. He did leave her a survivor benefit on his pension, so she was able to get that, and as she was coming in to meet with me, we were going over everything, one of her biggest concerns was health insurance because she just saw her husband just whittle away into nothing. He was gone very quickly. How was she going to make sure that she had adequate coverage? I said, “Well, tell me a little bit more about it,” and she said, “Well, I’m with my employer, but I just can’t go back to work right now. Just mentally, I’m not there to be able to visit with patients and give them advice and I just need time,” so luckily, they were in a good enough financial position that she could take time off of work.

                           Now, when she was ready to go back, we had a national pandemic, right, so her full-time employment status got dropped to part-time status. She was no longer eligible to enroll in any type of health insurance with her employer and one of the critical components of this is as we sat down and we’re going through all of her survivor benefits and helping her with the Office of Personnel Management, OPM, and going through the paperwork, she was ineligible to enroll in Federal Employee Health Benefits. She had permanently irreversibly lost the ability to enroll in healthcare coverage because they saved $42 a month.

Micah Shilanski:  Well, Jamie, let’s put some perspective on that. Let’s go over the rules, right, on how this puts into place. It’s a very fine, nuanced point. I’m sure the planner they were working with, every intention was there, but federal benefits are really complex, and as we’ve talked about multiple times on the podcast, the federal employee has two rules they have to meet in order to be eligible for FEHB into retirement. Number one: You must retire with the eligibility of an immediate pension. Number two: You must be in FEHB for five years prior to retirement and that has to be consecutive.

                           All right, well, he might have been on the track to meet those requirements, but your spouse has two requirements that you have to meet as well. Number one: The spouse must be receiving a survivor benefit, which in this case she was going to be. Okay, so that one marked, but the second one is the spouse must be in FEHB before the federal employee passes away, and this doesn’t matter pre or post-retirement, that’s the same rule that’s going to be there, so when we have situations like this, that’s a real big reason that family plans, self-plus-one plans are so important on the federal side because we’re buying insurance for insurance reasons, right?

Jamie Shilanski:  Right.

Micah Shilanski:  This is one of those things that really, really matters.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yep. I mean, I think, Micah, you and I, when we’re meeting with our federal employee clients, I probably say this a dozen times a week because it’s very easy for Micah and I to say how jealous we are of the Federal Employee Health Benefit because we are jealous, we’re on the outside looking in and we see how phenomenal, not only are the benefits under the health insurance, but the fact that you get to carry those for the rest of your life into retirement, that is a phenomenal plan.

Micah Shilanski:  Amen.

Jamie Shilanski:  It rarely, if ever, exists in the private sector, so as we’re sitting down with this dear client, she’s a widow. She can’t go back to work, doesn’t want to go back to work. Doesn’t matter what the circumstance is, right? She’s lost FEHB. Now, it’s not my job to sit down and say, “Okay, you’ve lost this benefit. This was so awful. Who gave you this advice? I know that they were trying to look at this cash-flow perspective, but somebody should have understood your benefits for the long term,” right? Maybe the person giving the advice didn’t think he was going to die, but we don’t get to control that clock. We don’t know when that’s going to happen. You have to plan now for today.

                           So rather, here’s what we did with the client. We sat down, we said, “Okay, great. Here’s where we are. Now, we need to go buy this insurance on the marketplace.” Right? We had a life-triggering event, loss of coverage because death of spouse, and we have to go into the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act and purchase health insurance for around $1200 a month for this particular single individual for a high deductible plan and I’m going to tell you right now, it wasn’t nearly as good as any of the benefits under FEHB. Why? Because FEHB is probably the best benefit you have as a federal employee. A little louder for the people in the back.

Micah Shilanski:  Yeah, so we talk about that frequently on the podcast, right, how important that FEHB is. Here’s just a real-life example of how it comes in. Everyone is willing to offer advice, but few people offer wisdom. This is where you got to be a little bit careful on where you’re getting advice from, and even from us on the podcast.

Jamie Shilanski:  Absolutely.

Micah Shilanski:  You guys are taking the first step, listening on the podcast and educating yourself on your benefits, but you also got to step back and say, “All right, where does this fit into the mix? Does this pass the straight-face test? Does this jive with other things that I’m hearing?” If it doesn’t, that’s when you need to start looking a little bit more in-depth, getting more experience, getting more understanding, et cetera, even if it comes from OPM, even if it comes from the website, from HR, et cetera, it doesn’t matter. All of those things, you need to be able to understand. Your benefits are complicated.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah, and even this particular client who passed away, he was a great do-it-yourselfer. He did phenomenal work. I mean, he did phenomenal work and he tried to be the type of person who was open-minded, every five years, setting a clock, getting an objective piece of opinion from somebody outside to make sure he was doing those right things, and he was willing to pay for that advice, right? But finding somebody who understands the complexity of your benefits and speaks that particular language is so, so critical to your long-term retirement-planning success.

Micah Shilanski:  Jamie, I want to pivot this story just a little bit into another one that came up a couple of weeks ago. I was meeting with someone that came in and they were working with interviewing us and another financial planning firm, one down in Colorado, and was chatting with them and they gave me the summaries and reports that was made and this is another planner that supposedly specializes. I don’t mean that negatively, right, I just don’t know them, but they say they specialize in federal benefits.

Jamie Shilanski:  Sure.

Micah Shilanski:  So, great. I’m looking at their information and it looks like they got a decent handle on the pension, it looks like some of those things are accurate and just straight-face test, everything is jiving, and I look at the retirement projections. I noticed some glaring errors, but this time it wasn’t from the federal benefit side, it was purely from the tax side of the equation. When the planner put together the projections for this client in retirement, they confused a couple of concepts. Number one: They confused gross versus-

Jamie Shilanski:  Gross versus net.

Micah Shilanski:  … You got it, yep.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yes.

Micah Shilanski:  Exactly right, so the client said, “I want to spend X amount a month in retirement,” and they said, “Great,” and of course, that’s the net amount they wanted to spend, the client, cash-flow-wise, and this particular planner, they put everything in gross, right? What was your gross pension? What’s your gross social security? What was your gross investment income? What’s your gross, et cetera, TSP distributions that are coming out? But as we all know, the gross doesn’t matter. Well, Aunt Iris loves that, right, because that’s what you’re going to pay taxes on, but us, it’s the net that matters, so the first thing I saw off the top, man, gross versus net looks like it was off.

Jamie Shilanski:  Ugh. So, you’re going to tell the client that he gets an 18 to 24% haircut?

Micah Shilanski:  Right. Right, right, so then I get to look like the good guy, but on top of that, in these projections, nowhere in there did they account for taxes. I want to throw this out there to our listeners: If you’re working with somebody, a planner, et cetera, that’s out there, and there’s a ton of great ones, right? I mean, all over.

Jamie Shilanski:  Absolutely, absolutely.

Micah Shilanski:  Yeah, there’s phenomenal planners that are there, but just a warning flag for you: If they do not ask for your tax return and they do not show you how much taxes are going to play effect in your retirement, that is a huge red flag because Aunt Iris-

Jamie Shilanski:  Pick your stuff up and leave.

Micah Shilanski:  … Yeah, I mean, I would highly suggest that because, again, Aunt Iris is going to be involved with anywhere between 20 to 30% of your retirement. That’s a big number and they were making a lot of projections in place for the client. Ended up for this particular person is they were making about a $50,000 a year mistake in their retirement projections. Well, $50,000 a year, that’s a lot of money as a mistake, so that’s one thing you really, really got to be careful of, again, is taxes. Why do we preach about it so much in the podcast? Because it affects your retirement so much.

Jamie Shilanski:  Oh, absolutely, Micah. I would say that that is one area, and as you were just mentioning, what do we think about, do we think about the gross or net? I’m always asking clients, “How much do you want to spend in retirement? Talk to me about your cash flow,” and nobody ever says, “Oh, I gross this amount every single month,” it’s always, “What money is hitting my bank account? That’s what I care about.”

Micah Shilanski:  Right, that’s what I’m spending.

Jamie Shilanski:  “That’s what I’m spending.”

Micah Shilanski:  We like to say cash flow is the heartbeat of retirement, right?

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah, absolutely.

Micah Shilanski:  It’s the heartbeat of getting to retirement, just to be clear as well, right?

Jamie Shilanski:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Micah Shilanski:  Because if we have enough cash flow coming in, we get to do the things we want to do. Life is good, everything is happening. It works out really, really well. But when we don’t have that cash flow, either now or in retirement, that’s when it becomes a little challenging, so we got to look at all factors that affect that cash flow and how do we make decisions around that.

Jamie Shilanski:  Micah, I got to ask you a question. I meet with a lot of federal employees and I’m going to give a comment that I hear very frequently and you tell me if you hear this also, what is your response to it: “Well, of course I’ll have to pay taxes, but I won’t be working, so my taxable income will be far lower and it won’t matter.”

Micah Shilanski:  Sure, right. That’s a common misconception that we hear from federal employees because federal employees are so different than the normal retiree that’s planning, so let’s just dive into that just a little bit. Now, if you’ve got questions on this, we’ll put a link on the podcast page to a video that actually outlines this where we go through explaining, about five or 10 minutes. This episode is number 12. That’s planyourfederalretirement.com/12, as in the number 12, planyourfederalretirement.com/12. That’ll bring you to the page and we’ll put a video diagram explaining this. But Jamie, as you know, just as we said, right, when we’re planning on retirement, as Tammy and I have talked about in the past, when we’re saying, “How much do you want to spend in retirement?” it’s not 80%, it’s not 60%, it’s not some other arbitrary figure. It’s a hundred percent.

Jamie Shilanski:  Right, it’s a hundred percent. I want to spend everything that I’m making.

Micah Shilanski:  I want to spend everything I’m spending now, right?

Jamie Shilanski:  Yes, yes.

Micah Shilanski:  That’s where we start in retirement. Yes, there’s random exceptions, but that’s where we start when we do planning. Well, if you want to spend everything that you’re spending now, okay, your spending is going to stay the same. Now, let’s go ahead and take a look at where that income is coming from. Well, if it’s coming from your pension, your first pension, okay, that’s taxable. Yes, my new part of that is tax-free, right, but for the discussion, it’s taxable income, your TSP, more than likely, it’s taxable. Your first supplement is taxable, your social security is taxable, et cetera, right, so now, you have all of these taxable sources of income that’s coming in. Well, if I want to spend the same thing I’m spending now, and all of that income is taxable in retirement, why are my taxes going to go down?

Jamie Shilanski:  Right? What are we giving up? What income is going to decrease in retirement?

Micah Shilanski:  Right.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah.

Micah Shilanski:  Now, you have some control in retirement. If we’re smart about planning and we do things in advance, you do have control to help lower your taxes through retirement, so there are things you can do, Roth IRAs, different investments, different opportunities that are there to lower your future taxes, so it’s absolutely possible. But for the vast majority of people coming in to meet with us that are getting ready for retirement, most of their money is all pretax. That means when we take it out, we have to pay taxes on that money.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah. I think that’s a really critical point for all the listeners. If you get anything out of this podcast today is that tax-planning is critical in your retirement planning. It’s an ongoing conversation. It’s something that you should be discussing, either reviewing independently if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, discussing with a federal employee benefit specialist you’re already working with, or if you’re interviewing a financial planner to potentially work with, taxes, taxes, taxes, it has to be one of the things that is incorporated in your financial plan every year, right? Because we’re always going to be paying taxes.

Micah Shilanski:  Now, we’re slightly biased, just to be a hundred percent clear, right, because we like the way that we do planning, think it’s a good way to go, but the way that we look at this is we are active participants in tax-planning for our clients. That means we’re not saying, “Great. It’s time for taxes. Go talk to your CPA.” CPAs are wonderful, but a lot of times they look at things in the rearview mirror. They’re really good at telling us what happened last year and how much taxes we owe because of it. Well, that’s history. There’s not much I can do about history. There’s a whole lot I can do about the future, so our role in tax-planning, a good advisor’s role in tax-planning is coming out with a 20-year plan. What’s our 20-year game plan for taxes? How are we going to lower things over the next 20 years legally, right? It’s all doable with time.

Jamie Shilanski:  Now, for all the listeners that are turning out their microphones really quick to hear you correctly, you didn’t say 20 months, you said 20 years, right?

Micah Shilanski:  20. I know, right? Everyone enjoys taxes so much in March and April. Why not do it for the next 20 years as a planning opportunity? It’s so much fun.

Jamie Shilanski:  Right. We sit down with a lot of clients and we work hand-in-hand with their CPAs because we’re not CPAs, right? We’re financial planners. We’re planners. That’s what we do. We’ve got a good handle on taxes, but we’re not CPAs, so when we sit down and we work with the CPAs, a lot of times, we hear from them in that March-to-April timeframe and they say, “Okay, here’s your bill. Here’s what you owe based on what you earned,” so as Micah was saying, that rearview mirror, we like to say it’s a historical perspective: Here’s everything you spent, here’s everything you can deduct, here’s what you took out, here’s your tax bill. We like to look at things and say, “Let’s project that income,” right?

                           If you’re a federal employee and you’re retiring, whether you’re a tandem federal employee, which means husband/wife, husband/husband, wife/wife, and you’re a federal employee both retiring with a pension, or if you have some private sector inside of there as well, what does that look like? How can we project your income? Maybe you have a side-time gig, right? Maybe you want to do a little part-time employment after you retire. How are we projecting that income out to do that tax-planning? In years where you don’t have a lot of income coming in, where can we use that advantageously?

                           As Micah was mentioning, as a federal employee, when you go to retire, most of your benefits were tax-deferred, so when you pull the money out of your traditional TSP, we’re not speaking to the Roth component, but your traditional TSP, that was all tax-deferred, so that money is going to be taxed at your current income tax rate in the moment you distribute it from there. I know I get a lot of questions sometimes from federal employees asking if it’s a capital gains tax. No, it’s not. It’s ordinary income. It comes right down to you as the federal employee at whatever tax rate you’re currently at, so really understanding that and projecting over, as Micah was saying, not 20 months, 20 years, how are we going to shift those tax-deferred assets to potential tax-free vehicles? How are we going to plan for them to come out? How are we going to project what income taxes may be in the future?

                           Now, Micah, especially right now in the country, we hear a lot about volatility about what taxes are going to do. What is your advice to federal employees about guessing where taxes are at in the future?

Micah Shilanski:  We look at taxes. You want to step back and say, “Okay, where do we think taxes are going to go?” That’s an interesting discussion, but we’re going to make our decisions based on the law we have today. What are the rules today? Congress can always change the rules, right? I’m frequently asked, “Can they-“

Jamie Shilanski:  Tax code is written in pencil.

Micah Shilanski:  … That’s right. I’m frequently asked… And permanent, right, just means 10 years. It’s going to be changed. I’m constantly asked about, “Well, can Congress change this?” Short answer is yes, right, just to be clear.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yes.

Micah Shilanski:  Will they change it? This is a different discussion, but we got to play with the rules we have today. Congress gets to set the rules of the game. We all have to play the game. They get to set the rules of the game, good or bad, but we get to play it, and nine times out of 10, we get to play it better than they do, so we look at the rules that are there, we say, “Great. How do these apply?” and we make the best plan. When Congress changes the rules, we do the same thing again: We go back through, we read the rules, we figure out how it’s set up, how does it apply to you, what’s the most advantageous, and we move forward.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yes. Advice to federal employees: Can tax law change? Absolutely. The good news is, though, it literally takes an act of Congress to change tax law.

Micah Shilanski:  All right, so let’s jump onto something else real fast as fun, as exciting taxes are. Something we don’t talk about on the podcast or really on our website very much because it’s a bit of a hot button, but I’ve recently come across it with a couple of people come into my office and they’ve gotten some recommendations, again from some other advisors, and they’re recommending, someone that’s out there, someone that’s saying, “Hey, your retirement income. You want to make sure your retirement income is secure. You want to make sure it’s put away. You want to make sure you have an income in retirement, so the best thing to do is let’s take your TSP, your IRAs, your investments, and let’s put 65 to 90% of them into annuities.”

Jamie Shilanski:  No way, no way. You do not hear that much of your retirement assets going over to annuities.

Micah Shilanski:  Yep.

Jamie Shilanski:  That just blows my mind.

Micah Shilanski:  Blows my mind. All right, so what are annuities? This is a good question, right? Annuities, and this is the reason when we talk about your pension from the federal government, we’re talking about your pension as a pension, not as an annuity. I know OPM calls it an annuity. We don’t do that because we don’t want it to be confused-

Jamie Shilanski:  Confuse you.

Micah Shilanski:  … when we’re talking about, yeah, real annuities, which are products from insurance companies. Now, annuities aren’t bad. I’m not going to rat on them. I don’t really think there’s any bad investments. Maybe it’s not appropriate for you. This could be a valid decision, right? But all investments are just tools and the question is: How do we best use the tools in your particular retirement plan?

                           The challenging part with annuities, and they can sound really good, they can do some wonderful things, annuities are generally there to provide some security, provide some income that you can never outlive. These are very true points of some annuities, but they’re very restrictive in how we take our money out. This is where we have to be careful. General rule of thumb, I would never want to see a client put anywhere north of 50% of their money inside of an annuity.

Jamie Shilanski:  No.

Micah Shilanski:  I would get really worried about that. Now, that’s a rule of thumb, right, so there’s always exceptions, I get that, but that’s a good walking around number. If someone ever suggests a lot more than that, definitely hit the pause button. Also, when we go into retirement, Jamie, you know this, when we teach our federal benefits classes, one of the things that I say so frequently is when you’re thinking about investments and we’re getting close to retirement. The question should be, “How do I get my money out?” because you’re going from a deferral stage, a growth stage, right? We’re stuffing everything away. We want everything to grow and to build for you. Now, you’re in a distribution phase and now we need to know, how do I take my money out? This is where it can be a little concerning.

                           Again, it’s a little bit of a hot topic for me because I’ve just seen a couple of people come into my office that people have presented this and I’m like, “Ooh, you really got to be careful.” Especially if you couple that with the other mistakes that are being made, this could be a detrimental plan in retirement, so you really need to be aware of how all those finite nuances work.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah, and I think that’s really important to understand, Micah, for the listeners is that annuities aren’t bad, they’re a tool, right, and so is a hammer, but a hammer is not going to screw in a nail. You got to have the right tool for the right job, so making sure that you’re working with somebody, making sure that you as the federal employee understand the terminology being used. You don’t have to understand all the intricacies, investments, and vehicles and different tools and financial options, but at least have a good baseline.

                           As Micah’s saying, when you’re going into retirement, how do you access your money? How do you get that? Sometimes I get federal employees, especially that have been in service for greater than 25 years that say, “You know what? I’ve done a really good job of living on a fixed income and I have a fixed set of expenses,” I don’t know if you ever hear this Micah, “And so when I go into retirement, I really won’t need more than my pension, I really won’t need more than these dollars coming in.” But what I feel that these people fail to plan for is what if those expenses go up and you don’t get to control that? Now, I’m not saying you’re planning more additional travel trips. What if groceries go up? What if medical expenses go up? What if electricity and heat and all of these different things inside of here that we have to plan for inflation inside of your financial plan? So, knowing when you can access the money that you’re going to need to supplement your lifestyle in retirement, really important to understand as a federal employee.

Micah Shilanski:  This podcast is all about empowering federal employees to not only understand your benefits, but take the next action in understanding your benefits and apply this information that we’re talking about.

                           Jamie, let’s transition to some action items that are there. Now, I was talking to one person that listens to podcasts who’s getting some wonderful feedback. Thank you, guys, by the way, for the feedback that you’ve given us on the podcast. It really helps us direct where we’re going to go, what we’re going to do, et cetera, so please keep that coming, [email protected] is a great place to email us to any suggestions. Post comments and reviews is great, but one of the things that I heard was was one listener was like, “Micah, I listened to it and I have one-and-a-half, two times speed. Yep, I get it, I get it. Yep, I’m pretty educated on my benefits. I know what’s going on. Then all of a sudden, you’ll say one thing that completely shifts my way, I’m going to do something and it’s just that one thing that makes a huge difference.”

                           That’s the part of learning. Even when I go to conferences, that’s one of the things that I say when I’m going to a conference is I just want to learn one thing that shifts my approach that improves it, makes this better, and that’s what I would encourage you to do. When you’re learning about your benefits, focus on just that one thing. What’s that one thing that you didn’t quite understand, that one thing that you can implement, that one thing that makes us a little bit better for you as you’re moving forward?

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah, and Micah, we get all those questions in from federal employees on our social channels. We get them via email. We write article contents called First Federal Fast-Check that go through a lot of what we consider are myths within a federal employee community and we look and say, “Okay, how does the rule actually work, right?” Maybe it’s a question that my HR couldn’t answer for me, or I didn’t understand their answer: “Can you help me know how my benefits work, particularly in concert with the private sector, right?” Because your HR is going to be able to answer your benefit questions, hopefully, but they’re not going to be able to necessarily answer all of these other questions about how they work in concert with your IRAs, with your private sector, spouse, with all of these different other components, taxes, et cetera, so I would say a big action takeaway is to ask questions. You are not alone in planning for your long-term retirement planning as a federal employee. There are great resources out there. One of my favorite ones is planyourfederalretirement.com

Micah Shilanski:  Completely unbiased.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yes, but you have great resources. OPM does a really good job as well. There are federal employees, not just Micah and I, that specialize in your benefits. Just make sure when you’re interviewing them that they do actually specialize in your benefits. We’re giving you great takeaways here on how you can just listen to the conversation and make sure they’re bringing up certain points.

Micah Shilanski:  Just a reminder, on that note, in December, I believe it’s December 16th, so coming up pretty quick, Tammy and I will be doing a webinar on the seven classic mistakes people make when planning their retirement. This has been a popular item. We’ve talked about it in the past. I think there’s a little bit of seating left, so highly encourage you. If this has been interesting, take the next step, join us on the webinar. Learn more about your benefits. We’re going to do roughly an hour on a presentation. Then we’re going to stick around for Q&A to help answer your questions about benefits.

Jamie Shilanski:  Yeah, Micah, this webinar is so… You’ve done it, I think a year ago, year-and-a-half ago, and it was so popular within the federal employee community that we had many people emailing in afterwards saying, “Hey, how do I let my coworkers know about this?” or, “I work with an agency that’s down in the states,” or, “Hey, my HR has to know it, because these seven classic mistakes saved me from making detrimental retirement planning mistakes,” so if you know people that maybe don’t listen to this pod yet, aren’t on our website, social share, get the information out there. We’re passionate about working with federal employees and understanding their benefits, but we can’t do it alone, right? We need you guys to spread the good information to get this in front of other federal employees to know what their resources are.

Micah Shilanski:  All right, wonderful. Also in the reviews, let us know how Jamie did on the podcast so that we can see how that goes.

Jamie Shilanski:  You don’t have to me know how we did on the review. Micah will let me know at Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays.

Micah Shilanski:  All right. Well, thank you guys so much for staying tuned, and as always, until next time, happy planning.

Jamie Shilanski:  Happy planning.

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herein are solely those of Shilanski & Associates, Incorporated, unless
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