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may 2016


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

March 1987.

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

consulting practice.

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.

Retiring Early

and Finding Your

“Ever After”


On Life after the foreign service