I typically write a short article each year about revelations in my life related to retirement. A break from the benefit issues I most often discuss. Another eventful year has passed and as always, with various trials and tribulations along the way.
Last year I signed-up for Social Security and am glad that I waited until age 70. Waiting more than doubled my benefit. Fortunately, I had 29 substantial earnings years and my Windfall Elimination Penalty (WEP)  was minimal. According to the Social Security Administration, 90% of Americans begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits  at or before their full retirement age. On average 45% start at age 62, the earliest age. Many have no choice and need the income in retirement to survive month to month. Only 3.7% wait until age 70.
I can tell you from first hand experience that the time from age 62 to 70 was a blur, it passed by at lightning speed. If you are approaching age 62 and considering applying for Social Security, read the article I wrote on this subject last year titled “Should I defer Taking Social Security Until Age 70.” 
Last year I was required to take my first RMD at age 70 ½ and wrote an article titled “Managing Your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).”  However, under the new SECURE ACT passed by congress the age that individuals must begin taking RMDs increased to 72 from 70½. I missed the cutoff by one year and still must take another RMD this year at age 71. The Thrift Savings Plan  (TSP) is currently looking into how the SECURE Act will affect participants and our RMD withdrawal options. We will update you as more details are finalized.
Now, the downside to increased retirement benefits and the requirement to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) at age 70 last year increased my Income Adjusted Medicare Premiums for my wife and I. Just a fact of life, I’m not complaining. I’m blessed to still be on this earth, enjoying life with my wife and children, and spoiling our young grandchildren.
I completed one of my major bucket list items that I’ve had on the back burner for many years. The Early Years; A Road Less Traveled, a memoire of my life up to age 30 took me on an enjoyable journey. A full year’s immersion through my mother’s correspondence, family history, old photographs, school records, letters from my wife when I was is the military, and others I wrote over the years to family members. Many treasured family photographs are included in this work. The draft’s first edit was recently returned and I’m looking forward to completing the book layout and design this year.
Another major milestone; my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last year! FIFTY YEARS; where did the time go? Writing my memoire was a tribute to our life together and brought back many fond memories of those early years. My mother only spent 16 short years with my father; he died when I was 22 months old in 1951, leaving my mother with 4 small children to raise on her own.
Lastly, I negotiated a great deal on a new metallic black cherry 2020 Chevy Traverse LT3 model last December. Plus, Costco was offering a $700 gift card if you purchased a new Chevy through their auto referral program. After test driving several Fords, a Lincoln Aviator, Kia Sorento, Toyota Highlander, several GMs, and Buicks, I couldn’t pass up the Traverse. Actually, from my perspective the Traverse LT3 performance, trim levels, and options far exceeded the Buick Enclave’s.
It’s ride, with 20-inch wheels and quiet tuned suspension takes the road like a luxury car. The All Wheel Drive (AWD) function is unique. You can select 4 wheel, 2 wheel or off road drive functions. The infotainment system is intuitive and easy to use unlike several other manufacturer’s complex systems. The 360-degree rear view camera with cross traffic alert is unbelievable. You actually see your car as if the cameras are flying overhead. it makes parallel and backup parking easy and safe. After backing up, when you start heading into your parking space the display changes to a front view.
This car also has a HD rear view camera option that allows a clear rear view even with passengers in the back seats and cargo packed up to the ceiling!
The one downside was the start stop feature that can’t be disabled in this model. Many, if not most manufacturers are incorporating this feature. Essentially, the car engine turns off under certain circumstances at full stops to save gas and improve mileage. As soon as you take your foot off the break, the engine restarts seamlessly. I’ve found ways around it; if you shift the transmission to (L) select shift on the console just before stopping, the engine doesn’t shut down. Also, I anticipate red lights a head and slow down to avoid stopping which I believe also saves gas. Some manufacturers have switches to disable this feature which I would have preferred.
I was able to negotiate 17% off the MSRP sticker price! They also offered me $6,000 for my 2009 Traverse with 60,000 miles on the odometer, $2,500 over the book trade-in value, and I had them include pin stripping. I have a GM credit card and was able to apply $1,500 of the points towards the purchase. All in all, a great deal for a car that was just released several months before. The $700 Costco card was the icing on the cake.
I almost gave up on American cars over the past decade. However; their quality and performance has improved, and prices are often negotiable. I still love the old American classic cars. Their unique styles, two tone paint jobs, and chrome trim made them a sight to behold.
We were on vacation recently and I started counting the number of American cars to foreign models in the parking lot. I was surprised to find that only 2 out of 10 were American made. Now, I understand that many of the foreign models are assembled in the USA and that a percentage of the parts are manufactured here. Still, it was sad to see the difference from when I walked the streets of Wilkinsburg growing up. Foreign cars were far less prevalent back then and often considered rust buckets and lower quality. A sea-change from today.
I’m looking forward to the year ahead: family time, travel, and new projects. They say 70 is the new 50! I only wish that was true.
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Helpful Retirement Planning Tools / Resources
- 2020 GS Pay Scales 
- Retirement Planning For Federal Employees & Annuitant 
- Federal Employee Retirement Benefits Seminars – Check Availability 
- Financial Planning Guide 
- Budget Work Sheet 
- Medicare Guide 
- Master Retiree Contact List  (Important contact numbers and information)
- 2020 Leave and Schedule Chart  (Use this chart to set target retirement dates.)
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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.
Last 5 posts by Dennis Damp
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- Prescriptions Revisited (FEHB)  - June 4th, 2020
- Prescription Coverage Dilemma - FEHB Plans  - June 1st, 2020
- Finding Help – Retirement Planning Assistance  - May 15th, 2020
- Request an Updated Retirement Benefits Booklet  - May 2nd, 2020
- A New Reality  - April 25th, 2020
- Checks Are on the Way – CARES Act Summary  - April 17th, 2020
- Avoid Retirement Processing Delays (Update)  - April 10th, 2020
- Keeping Up to Keep Up – The Saga Continues  - April 3rd, 2020
- Federal Retirees Needed to Provide COVID 19 Pandemic Support  - March 29th, 2020