Posted on Thursday, 11th June 2015 by

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Wow, going on eleven years retired and I’m still learning valuable life lessons! There are so many times in my life when I reflect back on certain events and realize the err of my ways or the good judgment that was made at the time with the knowledge at hand. The reflections that really stand out are the times that I could have, should have, made a different decision.

Recently we had a fence installed in our back yard and they had to drill 54 fence posts. I was concerned about the installation for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you never know what’s underground especially when you have a lawn sprinkler system, drainage pipes, electrical runs for outside lighting and whatever else may be lurking underground. The Call One service, where the utilities come out and mark all of their lines, went smoothly and fortunately we didn’t have any gas, sewer, main power or water lines to deal with.

I was fairly certain where one of our 4 inch PVC downspout drains was located in the back yard and advised the work crew where they needed to be cautious. When I told the crew chief that a 4 inch Schedule 40 drain pipe was probably about 24 inches below grade directly under a fence post location he stated that the dirt in that area hadn’t been disturbed and he thought otherwise. Even though I felt strongly that I was right, and after extending a 6 foot rod in the drain where the water existed the pipe and lining up the path the pipe would take, I let it go. Sure enough 20 or so inches below grade they broke the scheduled 40 drain pipe. The crew chief apologized and It took them several hours to dig out the area and repair the break.

How often have you ignored the obvious because either someone else suggested otherwise or you just let it go because you felt it wasn’t worth arguing about or simply didn’t want to make waves? This situation happens a lot, especially with contractors, and I’ve dealt with them for many years yet I still find myself in these situations from time to time. When we know we are right we have to insist on what makes sense to us unless or until someone else can persuade us differently. Otherwise we lose if we stand by and just let things happen. Retirement and estate planning is like that, you have to take control, find the right answers and solutions you need to make retirement work for you and your family.

I’ve been working with an attorney on and off for about a year to revise our estate plan’s wills and trusts. I thought it time to get a professional involved. Originally I drafted our family’s wills, trusts, and other documents using NOLO WillMaker Plus software in 2004. I ignored my gut feelings and initial reservations about our attorney’s proposed plans. After asking for numerous clarifications I deferred to his expertise. A huge and very costly mistake. Instead of making our plans easier to administer for my wife and heirs it ended up far too complex than I and my wife desired.

The long and short of it is that if I don’t understand something I generally won’t proceed until I do and it seems the more I research and dig into the subject the more questions arise. The more questions you ask an attorney the bigger the bill! What should have been a fairly easy and straight forward plan, considering my wife and I have been married for going on 47 years became unwieldy.

I suppose it’s like reading the fine print on a contract such as an insurance policy. If you don’t understand the intent you or your loved ones could suffer the consequences. For major things like this you shouldn’t leave things to chance.

I don’t know why most attorneys insist on writing wills and trusts in 17th century language that only lawyers and professors understand! The Wills and Trusts that I completed in 2004 using NOLO’s WIllMaker Plus and their Revocable Trust software are written in everyday language and they provide summary documents for your estate executor, trustee, heirs, and/or administrator. The good news is that most can use NOLO’s software to draft wills, trusts, health directives, numerous estate documents, and various powers of attorney. The program explains the process and asks you questions. Your replies and expressed desires are used by the software program to write your will, estate documents, and a revocable trust if desired that is designed specifically in accordance with your State’s laws. If you have special situations such as owning a business, have a large estate, or your heirs have special needs it is suggested you hire an attorney to help you through the process. NOLO has a special offer for WillMaker Plus 2015 purchasers. They are including a free revocable trust program with your purchase.

I am working with my attorney to revise our documents. If I’m not satisfied with the new proposals and additional costs I’ll have to look at other options or possibly go back to NOLO and do it on my own again. My main reason for going to an attorney in the first place was to handle the transition of my business upon my death and to simplify things for my wife and heirs when I’m gone. I discovered too late, after researching the subject, that a simple revision to my company’s operating agreement was all I needed for the business.

Stop, Look & Listen

I leaned over the years to research, observe, and listen first before proceeding. This approach has served me well over the years and saved me a lot aggravation. I did use this technique with our estate plans but somehow we got off track.

Another technique I use to avoid making bad decisions is that when I feel that something isn’t right, question when or If I should proceed or am just emotionally charged, I don’t make an immediate decision. I sleep on it and revisit the matter at a later date when I’m refreshed and able to be truly objective.

Rely on Your Partner

I’ve learned over the years that my wife has tremendous insight. It has taken me a lifetime to truly appreciate my wife’s profound good sense and ability to see things that I’m too caught up with at the moment to appreciate. Use your partner as a sounding board and step back and understand the true intent of their concern without becoming defensive. Retirement is a two way street and your partner is impacted just as much as you are and they need to share in the decision making process and be an active participant.

Approaching Retirement

When approaching retirement employees are concerned about the best date to retire, how to maximize benefits, and if they can in fact afford to maintain their lifestyle in retirement. Retirees are faced with many decisions; when to take Social Security, sign up for Medicare, change our benefits, establish a will and living trust, and a number of other estate planning tasks such as power of attorney, health directives and so much more! It can be intimidating and confusing to say the least. We have to rely on others to provide succinct advice and counsel from those who we can trust and the key is to find someone trustworthy to help us through these hurdles. I call them hurdles because they can be difficult to navigate and much research is needed to make informed decisions or to find a competent advisor to help us along the way. This is why I launched www.federalretirement.net, a federal employee and annuitant’s retirement planning website and blog at http://www.fedretire.net prior to my retirement in 2005. I wasn’t able to find the information I needed to make informed retirement and benefit decisions and as I researched each facet of my pending retirement I posted what I learned, and continue to learn, on these sites.

FEHB Discussion

Recently Jackie, one of our newsletter subscribers, asked me why I have Blue Cross and Blue Shield Basic opposed to the Standard option. She is 62 and her husband is on her policy as well. Over the years she reviewed the Basic option but was concerned about the coverage compared to the Standard Option.

This is just one of the many benefit’s decisions we have to make. I explained that my wife and I have had Blue Cross Blue Shield basic for years without any issues. Basic works more like an HMO with some co- pays and it is less confusing than Standard. The big difference between the two is that you have to use Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BC/BS) preferred providers with the Basic plan and they pay nothing if you decide to go to a physician that isn’t one of their providers. Over the years we have easily found and used their preferred providers and the vast majority of hospitals and physicians are already in the BC/BS nationwide network. Neither of us take prescription drugs so we didn’t need the 3 month mail supply feature that the standard option offers.

Also, when you are age 65 and sign up for Medicare, BC/BS pays all co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles except for prescriptions. Medicare is our primary provider now that we are 65 and BC/BS is our secondary provider. Many at age 65 look for lower cost FEHB plans because at 65 you start paying for Medicare Part B; Part A is free. Here is more information on changing to a lower cost FEHB plan when you sign up for Medicare.

Once you sign up for Medicare Part A and B Blue Cross and Blue Shield, along with most other FEHB plans, pay all co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles ─ except for prescription co-pays ─ because of the savings your FEHB plan receives by not being the primary provider.

Please pass this article on to your friends and associates and I would appreciate any mention of our articles and web sites on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts.

Retiree Job Center Update

If you intend to work in retirement for whatever reason check out our Jobs Center. Employers looking to recruit federal retirees and those soon to retire post job vacancies on our site. Recently THOR Solutions, LLC of Norfolk Virginia posted an opening for a Human Resource , Staffing and Recruiting Specialist. Visit our Job Board for complete details. Another recent posting is for an accountant / bookkeeper.

Request a Retirement Benefits Summary & Analysis. Includes projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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