Posted on Friday, 26th February 2010 by

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On our latest trip south this winter we discovered some really neat travel aids that helped make the journey enjoyable and safe.  Traveling in the winter months is always a concern and this year we used the web site http://www.trippish.comto determine the best day to leave based on the weather forecasts along the route.

This web site also provides directions and it suggests the best time to start the trip to avoid bad weather. You can review detailed weather forecasts along the route. The Web site even forecasts the weather several days in advance of your scheduled trip.

Whenever traveling  I set up a temporary office at my new destination and hotels along the way to check messages, answer emails, and for calling business contacts and family back home.  This trip I purchased the magicJack (associate link).  I hooked up the device to my computer’s USB port and within minutes had national and local phone service. It worked GREAT and I used it for the entire trip for only the cost of the unit, $39.95.  Prices have gone up a little since I purchased mine. You need high speed Internet service for it to work and after the first year you have to pay $19.95 a year to continue the service, quite a bargain.

You not only receive free local and long distance calling, you get free voicemail, directory assistance, and a phone number that you select from any area code. It also connects to 911 in your area if properly configured. I purchased an inexpensive portable phone to plug into the back of the Magicjack, clicked on install, and within 5 minutes I was making calls. You have to follow the installation instructions carefully and mine didn’t auto install completely. I had to click on the installation exe file that popped up on the screen for the installation to complete.  All in all, it is a cost effective alternative for anyone needing phone service while away on trips. Yes, I do have a cell phone. However, with business calls and long discussions; this was the way to go.  On previous trips I exceeded my cell phone minutes and was hit with heavy additional minute fees.

Our trip took 10.5 hours with three short stops and XM radio made the trip easier and much more enjoyable. This trip I purchased Bill O’Reilly’s A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity (associate link) audio CDs narrated by the author. It is a 6 CD package and we listened to about 4 hours of the book on the way down and the rest of the story on our return trip. It was well worth the price and Mary and I thoroughly enjoyed his life story, growing up in Levittown, NY. O’Reilly is our age, around 60, and his story brought back many good memories of the times. I highly recommend his book and audio CD series, a great way to make a long trip seem all so much shorter.

Winding Down and Around in Retirement

I am envious of those who are truly retired and can devote time to their many interests and pursuits. I often find myself driven with business interests that keep me fully employed and always working to keep everything on an even keel. That said, I am learning to wind down even while working full time and I’m constantly evaluating ways to improve efficiency, streamlining operations, adding employees and consultants to the mix to make things less hectic and to share the tasks at hand.  Now that I’m 60 it seems a good time to wind down a bit and I’m planning a part time schedule by the time I hit 65.

Federal employees are fortunate to be able to retire at 55 or younger in some cases and still have time to enjoy the many fruits of their labor. I hear from many federal employees who feel trapped and forced to stay working long after their eligibility date.  To retire early you have to prepare and plan your escape, many simply just keep on keeping on without much thought to planning for their future.   Getting started is half the battle and if you find yourself in this predicament check out our “Getting Started” page to give you some ideas on what you need to do NOW!  It’s never too early or too late to start planning your exit.

TSP  Update

I received my 2009 TSP annual participant statement last week and my account has appreciated considerably this past year due to initially selecting a conservative investment mix. When I first retired I had the majority of my account in the G Fund which has performed much better than the S&P Index over the past ten years. After a year or so I switched half to the L 2020 fund and left half in the G Fund. I like the G Fund because it is the only fund anywhere that is guaranteed not to go down in value and over the past ten years it has earned from a high of 6.43 % in 2000 to a low of 2.97 % in 2009.  The 10 year compounded rate of return for the G Fund was 4.62% compared to -0.94% for the C Fund.  About 18 months ago, when the market was close to its bottom, I mentioned in one of my articles that I switched much of my account to the C and S funds and they have performed well. The funds grew respectively 26.69 %  and 34.85% in 2009!

With the run up in prices this past year I’ll be going back to a more conservative mix in the not too distant future.  As always, I don’t recommend anyone changing their TSP allocations based on my personal preferences.

A Roth conversion is of interest to me for several reasons. First, your principal, capital gains, and dividends in a Roth account are tax free and you don’t have to take a minimum withdrawal at any age like you do with a standard 401K or IRA.

Another consideration is that taxes are projected to increase substantially next year.  I’m willing to take the hit and pay the taxes on whatever I decide to transfer to a Roth this year while taxes are still at their current level. You have the option to pay the taxes in two installments starting in 2011 however taxes will more than likely increase after 2010.  There are few tax free earnings options today like the Roth other than state municipal bonds but they are a bit too risky for me because so many States are having major financial difficulties. You can convert all or any portion of a 401K plan including the TSP without any limits on personal earnings like in the past.  One downside is the requirement to hold a Roth for 5 years prior to making qualified withdrawals, withdrawals taken before the five year point may be subject to a penalty.  Contact your financial advisor or Linda Duncan, our benefits and finance forum host, to discuss your options. Most financial management firms like Fidelity and Vanguard offer free retirement advice and can set up ROTH accounts for you. Linda Duncan is writing a comprehensive article on TSP fund withdrawal options for her March column and you will find her article on Roth Conversions highly informative.

Learn more about TSP benefits and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and financial information is subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact your benefits coordinator and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our reply is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice. Our reply is time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change.”

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    Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS | Comments (0)