Expert's View

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Reg Jones

The year-end rush to retire ended months ago. In the time since then, most of you who retired probably have found a load of things to do, ranging from taking a long-awaited vacation to tackling that list of household chores.

But lazing on the beach and cleaning the garage do not fill a life. After that initial phase, the reality of no longer working day in and day out fully sets in. What next?

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If you’ve already started a new job or set up a business, the way forward is clear for you. However, that’s more the exception than the rule. Many more are left wondering what to do with all that newfound time.

One thing many retirees do initially is try to keep up with former co-workers who were as much friends as colleagues; they miss those social connections, even if they may not have been as much in-person during these last several years. Having been in that situation myself, though, I can tell you that those connections can fade over time, unless for example you were in a specialized occupation and remain involved in a professional association that includes both current and former employees.

You may want to get involved in something outside the home—in community or faith-based organizations, for example. From experience, I can tell you that you won’t have to look for places to get involved. It’s like newly retired employees give off a scent that attracts recruiters, all of whom know you now have plenty of time on your hands. But beware, you can quickly get overcommitted and end up putting in many hours of what is essentially unpaid work.

Another opportunity that opens up to federal retirees is the ability to get more involved in partisan politics. In most cases you couldn’t do that while working because you would have run afoul of the Hatch Act. However, the Hatch Act doesn’t apply to retirees. Now, you are free to help with partisan activities—fund-raising, knocking on doors for a candidate, whatever—and even run for office yourself. Given your experience with government, doing so may be very good for your community, as well as for yourself.

In closing, I want to point out that you may find that some of your neighbors are jealous of you. Those who haven’t worked for the federal government often think that people like you work less and get paid more than “real” workers do. They think of us as pigs with our snouts in the public trough. Ignore them. Studies have shown that public servants like you usually work harder and get paid less than their counterparts in the private sector.

You have benefits that most of them don’t: a guaranteed annuity backed by the federal government and health insurance for life with an employer contribution, and survivor benefits under both—plus a Thrift Saving Plan which resembles their 401k. Don’t rub it in to them, but don’t feel guilty about it either. You earned it.

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