the foreign Service journal
his lyric, from “The Finer Things” by
Steve Winwood, was blaring frommy
car radio on a freeway in San Diego at
the instant I decided to accept State’s
offer to join the Foreign Service in
And, quite consciously, it was also
the first song I played after crossing the
Mexico-U.S. border from Juarez in late
July 2011 as I drove into my retirement.
Words matter and have power.
Early, voluntary retirement can open the door to pursue your dreams.
By Dean J . Haas
Dean J. Haas, a Foreign Service officer from 1987 to 2011, served as
deputy chief of mission in Ljubljana, principal officer in Ciudad Juarez
and executive director of the Bureau of Consular Affairs among many
other assignments. He currently serves as a retiree representative on the
AFSA Governing Board, is a leadership coach and training consultant
at the Foreign Service Institute, andmaintains a private coaching and
So time is a river rolling into nowhere
I will live while I can
I will have my ever after
Before I share some reflections about “life after the Foreign
Service,” including the value of retiring as soon as you’re eligible,
finding a new path and chasing new dreams, let me offer a few
facts up front:
• I was inspired to retire at age 50 by two other colleagues
whom I admire and sawmove away from the Foreign Service suc-
cessfully as soon as they were eligible.
• I wanted to leave the Foreign Service feeling positive about
my career experience and ready to continue contributing to State
in a new way.
• I am single with no children, making the financial side of this
decision somewhat less fraught with nervousness or guilt. (But do
know that the FS retirement package provides a life-long cushion,
the true monetary value of which too many people underesti-
mate, particularly the health care benefit.)
• I left the Service as a Minister Counselor, with 10 years of
time in class remaining. So the decision to retire was mine alone,
not made for me.
Saying “No”—and “Yes”
So, what’s the deal here? What would possess me to walk away
from a successful career and consciously choose a new path?
For me, it was about passion and the need to find a new call-
ing—not unhappiness with my Foreign Service assignments.
and Finding Your
On Life after the foreign service