The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 57 Experts explain how to prepare for retirement throughout your career, from your first days on the job until you turn in your badge on the last day. Are You Retirement Ready ? Donna Scaramastra Gorman is the Journal ’ s associate editor. A writer whose work has appeared in Time Maga- zine, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor, she is the spouse of a Diplomatic Security agent. She has lived in Amman, Moscow, Yerevan, Almaty, Beijing, and currently resides in Washington, D.C. W hen it comes to prepar- ing for retirement, there are a lot of different strat- egies out there. One of the most common, and least useful, is the file- and-forget approach. You know this one: you sign all of the required papers when you join the Foreign Service—Thrift Savings Plan alloca- tions! Bank accounts! Life and health insurance!—and then you jump feet first into A-100 and promptly forget what you signed. One day, a decade or so later, you start to wonder— what exactly did I sign? Am I saving enough for retirement? And where did I hide my TSP password, anyway? It’s easy to let this happen when you’re not sure where FS KNOW-HOW to start. But we’ve talked to multiple financial experts, all of whom are experienced in designing retirement plans specifi- cally for members of the Foreign Service, to figure out what you should be doing at every stage of your career, from the very first day until the last. Here’s what they told us. In the Beginning: New to the Foreign Service Most people aren’t thinking about retirement on their first day on the job. But all of our experts agree that now is the time to begin taking action for a secure retirement. Thomas Cymer, the president of Opulen Financial Group, recommends that all new Foreign Service members focus first on building a solid cash reserve. He encourages his FS clients to create a budget estimating monthly expenditures and then “systematically put money aside until you have at least a six-month cushion in place.” Patrick Beagle, owner of WealthCrest Financial Services, works almost exclusively with Foreign Service and other federal employees and members of the military. He tells clients to “maxi- mize theThrift Savings Plan to the greatest extent that you can” in these early years. He recommends saving no less than 10 percent of your pay in the TSP, saying that “the time value of money in BY DONNA SCARAMASTRA GORMAN ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/BRIANAJACKSON