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Federal Employee Financial Planning: Know The Score (EP45)

Much like keeping track of a game's score on a scoreboard, it is essential to know the score of your financial plan. Understanding this score is paramount in your financial planning journey, as it can mean the difference between running toward your goals or making costly errors. In this episode, John, Mike, Ben, and Tommy will emphasize the importance of careful consideration when selecting a financial planner.

Listen in to gain insights into questions like determining your retirement income needs and whether your house should be paid off before retirement. They will also shed light on the significance of not overlooking survivor benefits, which can provide 100% income replacement. By understanding the score of your financial plan, you'll learn how to plan effectively, efficiently, and accurately for your retirement.

Listen to the full episode here:

What you will learn:

  • Why your financial score board is not as easy as you think. (3:50)
  • The importance of due diligence in hiring a financial planner. (7:30)
  • How much gross retirement income you need. (10:00)
  • Why you shouldn’t turn down survivor benefits. (16:45)
  • How to ensure you’re planning correctly for your retirement. (20:20)
  • What to do if you are not sure about your retirement savings. (25:30)
  • How to bring the right people into your life. (33:00)

Ideas worth sharing:

  • “Do not turn down survivor benefits because you will have 100% income replacement with survivor benefits.” - Mason & Associates, LLC  
  • “Your decision on who you hire as your financial planner should be a lot more thought out than who you’re going to hire to replace the roof on your house.” - Mason & Associates, LLC  
  • “Taxation of retirement is typically much better than taxation of working.” - Mason & Associates, LLC  

Resources from this episode:


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Read the Transcript Below:

Michael Mason: You've got an opportunity of a lifetime. The NFC championship game, Dallas Cowboys against the Washington Redskins — oh, wait a second, the Washington Commanders.

And they're about to kick off and the coach is sick. And they look up in the stands and they see their number one fan, and you're their number one fan up in the stands, and they wave you down.

They say, “The coach is sick, will you take the job for this game?” And of course, you say, “Yes. What else am I going to do?” I can't do any worse than the guy that was coaching a minute ago, and I've got a front row seat.

So, they start that first quarter, and what are you doing? The coaches know what to do. The quarterback knows what to do. So, what are you doing?

You're running around the field, you're getting autographs from the Commanders football players, and then the second quarter kicks off and now, you're getting autographs from the cheerleaders.

And you go into halftime, and they're looking at you and they say, “Coach, are we doing okay?” And you're nodding the head because you see all the autographs that you have.

And you come out in the third quarter and instead of coaching, you're depending on those players to do what they're supposed to do. And you're getting autographs on the Cowboys sideline now.

And now, it gets critical. The entire fourth quarter, the Cowboys have the football. You have used up all your timeouts getting autographs. You finally get the ball back with two minutes to go and no timeouts. What do you do? Do you run or do you pass? And why?

Ben Raikes: Mike, this is a little easy for me. I am absolutely going to put points on the board. I got to score. Put as many points on the board as I can to make Dallas look bad. So, I'm going to pass the ball.

Tommy Blackburn: Now, Ben, how did you get to that answer? Why didn't you run the ball? You assumed you were down, you assumed you had to air it out, that you had to come back. It's a football game. I think the answer was right there in front of us. If you just would've looked up at the scoreboard, you'd have seen you were winning.

Michael Mason: So, the answer was on the scoreboard, Tommy. And if you're down by a touchdown, you have to throw. If you're up by three, you just run the clock out.

So, the answer to this question surrounds knowing the score. If you knew the score, you had the right answer, and guess what? I think it works that way as a federal employee in your retirement.

John Mason: Unfortunately, knowing the score of life and knowing the score of your financial plan is not as easy as looking up at a scoreboard. Stay tuned to learn about how you can learn your score of your financial plan.

Congratulations for taking ownership of your financial plan by tuning into the Federal Employee Financial Planning Podcast, hosted by Mason & Associates, financial advisors with over three decades of experience serving you.

John Mason: Welcome to the Federal Employee Financial Planning Podcast. I'm John Mason, president of Mason & Associates.

And today, we have all four of your hosts: Tommy Blackburn, Mike Mason, Ben Raikes. And today, you heard that intro, we're talking about knowing the score of your financial plan, knowing the score of life. And unfortunately, it is not as easy as looking up at a scoreboard to know if your financial plan's on track.

And in fact, financial planning software, if you're working with somebody that showed you a speedometer of success at a 100%, that may not even be an accurate scoreboard. Because folks, bad input is bad output. And we've seen that cut both ways.

We've seen probabilities of success at a 100% that were not. We've seen probabilities that were at zero that should have been at a hundred. So, your financial planning scoreboard is not as easy as you think. And in this episode, guys, we're going to talk about knowing the score of your financial plan.

Michael Mason: And trust me, and John's seen it, we have done that story in front of thousands of people. And maybe 1%, maybe 5% will say, “Look at the scoreboard.” But everybody else assumes they're behind. We set it up that way, John, in these seminars we do by saying Dallas had the ball the entire fourth quarter.

But that's indicative to people in their financial planning. They think they're behind. They think they're behind because they could have started sooner. They could have saved more.

So, knowing the score, and we're going to help you know the score really easily today, knowing the score is tremendous in your planning, because you could be throwing when you should be running.

John Mason: And passing is more aggressive, running is more conservative. And I think even more powerful than Dallas having the ball the entire fourth quarter is actually everything that led up to that moment with two minutes left to go.

Coach Jones in this example, did not watch a play the entire game. He was too busy getting autographs, eating hot dogs, drinking a beer, whatever he was doing those first three quarters until the last two minutes of the game, he didn't watch one play.

Well, if you're not working with a financial planner, you're not in tune with everything that's going on with Social Security and Medicare and tax law changes and federal employee benefits, you have not watched a play the entire game of life, potentially.

And now, you have to make potentially irrevocable, one-time decisions, and you weren't even a participant in the game yet. And so, everybody's chomping at the bit, how can you begin to learn the score of your financial plan? Well, there's a couple ways.

Number one best way, is to give us a call and schedule an introductory phone call. Bias, that's great. That's how you're really going to know the score.

If you don't know the score there or you don't want to take that leap, YouTube channel, podcast, subscribe, share, hit that bell notification, all of these things because all of our content's going to help you best way. And then Mike, everybody's chomping at the bit

Michael Mason: Well, I mean, the one thing we set this up, there's no way in the world a professional football team is going to reach up and pluck some guy out of the stands to coach them in the fourth quarter or in the last game of the season. But sometimes, you guys do that.

You spent three and a half, four quarters getting prepared for retirement, and you go through the yellow pages ,and you find that financial plan that hasn't watched one game that God doesn't even know the rules of the football game or the rules of a federal employee.

So, no professional football team would ever pluck somebody out of the stands. But sometimes our audience is going to pluck somebody out of the stands that doesn't know their score.

John Mason: Well, I guess to your point, the equivalent is you're hiring a head coach who you plucked out of the stands who has no experience, maybe no clients, has never worked with a federal employee, all of these things.

Your decision on who you hire as your financial planner should be a lot more thought out than who you're going to hire to replace your roof on your house.

But we know for a fact that people get three, four, and five roof replacement quotes, then they work with their financial planner that their next door neighbor said was a good dude or a good woman.

So, more due diligence can go into these other decisions than oftentimes, goes into who they're hiring as their financial planner, which we would like to think that should be reversed, don't you?

Michael Mason: Absolutely, absolutely. And you know what? That NFL team would definitely, if that coach couldn't come back, they would go out and in search of quality talent, and not just who do you think's a good guy?

So, let's start to understand your score. Let's start this with how much income am I going to need in retirement, and I'll pose a couple of questions and let you guys fill it in.

How much income replacement do I need at retirement? Do I have to have my house paid off as XYZ financial planning firm says or media based financial planning, you have to have the house paid off?

Should I replace 100% of income? Is 70% enough? So, let's begin to understand the score. Maybe the score starts with how do I win? How many points do I need to put on the board to win?

Tommy Blackburn: I think most people, and hopefully, I'm going to stay on script with where we're wanting to go with this, but most people would define retirement success, being able to retire as maintaining my standard of living. Here's what I'm used to, I want to maintain that. And so, then the question is, how do we get to that answer? What does that even equate to?

And I think most people from a simplicity standpoint would say, if I'm making x, I'll call it $100,000. You guys let me know if we want to choose a different number. But just figured a nice round number. If I'm making $100,000 working, I need to make $100,000 when I'm retiring. And that way, I can maintain my standard of living right? Eh, wrong.

We need to either do a bottom up, add up all of our expenses and figure out what that number comes to, or we have a different kind of way to get to that same number, which is pretty accurate.

And it'll maybe even shed some light on why you've heard the 70% to 80% number thrown around, and kind of how it ends up usually aligning to that, but how we get there. So, we're going to walk you through that.

Michael Mason:Yeah, we've got a name for it, John; modified current income.

John Mason: Modified current income. And we even got recently a comment on our YouTube channel that said, “I love modified current income.” So, if you want to see this on YouTube, it's under the “avoid the common financial planning mistakes” playlist, and I think it's the second episode.

But modified current income simply states you take your income that you have today, then you subtract off the expenses that you have now that you will not have when you retire. So, for example, if you are a FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System) and you're making that $100,000 like Tommy said …

Let's assume you're putting 10% into TSP. That's $10,000 expense that you have today that you won't have tomorrow. You're also contributing $10,000 a year to Social Security, Medicare, and FERS rounding.

Maybe you're paying for Federal Employees Group Life Basic and Option B, that's an expense. Maybe your kid's about to graduate college, that's an expense. Maybe your house is about to be paid off, that's an expense. So, we take all of those expenses, and we subtract them off your gross income to arrive at modify current income.

So, let's go through an example, $100,000, 10% into TSP, 10% into retirement. That's $20,000. So, your modified current income is now $80,000. Our retirement goal for you is 100% income replacement, which means we need to produce $80,000 of gross retirement income.

And we're going to let the cat out of the bag here. $80,000 gross retirement income is higher than $80,000 gross working income. So, if we can replace one for one gross, you're actually retiring on a higher quality of more money in retirement than you are while you're working.

Tommy Blackburn: And what you're referring to there, you might as well just keep going down, it is FICA. So, Social Security and Medicare taxes that you pay while you're working.

So, we already subtracted that off to say we're not going to pay that in retirement because it's a different type of income, it's not earned. So, you're not going to pay that tax in retirement. So, we just go ahead and account for that.

John Mason: Social Security income is tax-free in many states. Some of your federal employee pension may not be taxable either federal or in certain states. So, taxation of retirement is typically better than taxation of working.

Michael Mason: Oh, absolutely. And if we just throw some numbers to it, and again, we use easy. And Tommy, great using $100,000 high three. If you've worked 40 years under the first system, you have a $40,000 income replacement. It's really $44,000. Because you couldn't work 40 years and not be age 62. So, it's $44,000.

And then, we buy survivor benefits. So, now we're back down to that $40,000 number. And let's say your Social Security is $30,000. So, $40,000 and $30,000 is $70,000. If you have a $250,000 in your Thrift Savings Plan, 4% withdrawal on that is 10 grand. I did the math right there, didn't I?

John Mason: It was a lot of numbers really quick, so I'm going to trust you.

Tommy Blackburn: Yes, that was correct. And we'll maybe we'll slowly recap it again because you ran through it very fast, and it was great. So, I believe we said we had-

Michael Mason: 40 years.

Tommy Blackburn: 40 years. So, at 1%, 40 times 1%, that's 40% of our pay at $100,000 high three, that gave us $40,000.

From there, we then threw in Social Security, I believe was the next number. And just based on what we see, it's entirely reasonable to expect that it would be at least $30,000 a year from Social Security. So, $40,000 plus pension after we paid for our survivor benefits. You went through that.

So, $40,000 plus $30,000 Social Security got us to $70,000. From there, John led with, we were definitely getting our match the entire time we were working. We no longer need to save in TSP.

So, if we were putting 5% or 10%, it should be safe to assume we've got at least $250,000 in investments, 4% on $250,000 is 10. So, that was $40,000 plus $30,000 plus $10,000 got us to $80,000 which we said was better than 100% replacement.

100% income replacement and retirement. And I can just speak from our days early at Mason & Associates, when we would present modified current income more frequently to clients, it was such a better way to think about retirement because it's like we have 100% income replacement, not we're replacing 70% of your current income.

And most folks don't even think it's possible. There is no way I will ever replace 100% of current income. And then they start making decisions that are inherently bad or inherently not in their interest because they think that they're losing or they think they won't be able to have a great retirement. And what am I talking about?

Well, number one, they're taking more risk in their investments than they need to because they think they're losing. Number two, they haven't taken a family vacation in 30 years because they think they're never going to be able to retire.

Number three, their kids have enormous student loan debt because they didn't know they could help.

Number four, they've worked too long and now they're unhealthy and their body won't let them enjoy vacations or their grandchildren because they've spent so many years slaving away at the federal government because they didn't know the score of the game.

So, we make all of these decisions. We got the beater instead of a reliable car. We got the discount roof instead of the reliable roof. We got the bad life insurance policy instead of the good one.

Tommy Blackburn: We forwent survivor benefits because we thought we needed every dime we could get out of that pension.

John Mason: We went with the discount financial advisor instead of the premium financial advisor. There were so many decisions, and Mike, I think we had a radio commercial that went something like this: “You're a millionaire in your benefits package. You should start planning like a millionaire.”

And as we think about that, as we think about how well off federal employees are, they're doing themselves a disservice by not going after premium, by not realizing that they can afford premium in retirement and while they're working, and those decisions really can add up over your lifetime.

Michael Mason: You gave me some grief for being real quick, and you were quick with a bunch of things. But the most important thing, and Tommy picked it up, if in the scenario that I painted, 40 years federal service, which is 44% gross retirement. 40 times 1.1.

And if you don't know the score, the first thing you think of is I'm going to give up 100% of income for a 44% pension. And they want me to give up 10% of that too? I didn't know how I was going to make it on 44% versus 100%. Then you make a bad decision because you don't know the score.

We need to make sure that in the fourth quarter of your game, and we're going to kick that winning field goal, we bring that reserve in, that SBP guy to come in and put it through the uprights and finish the game. So, do not turn down survivor benefits because you didn't know the score because you're going to have 100% income replacement with survivor benefits.

John Mason: There's somebody listening to this podcast — well not right now because we're recording it now, but there will be somebody who was hired 1984, FERS. There's going to be at least one in the country. We know that there's thousands of downloads of these podcasts.

There'll be at least one person who's FERS who's hired in 1984, who's spent the last 37, 40 years, disgruntled, unhappy, mad, angry, peeved. Any words you can think of; “I missed CSRS by this amount of days and I am fried and I'm angry about it.”

Well, we hope that you would listen in to the FERS calculations and you've heard through other episodes, FERS is just as good as CSRS. And what I'm thinking about here is knowing the score. It's amazing how many people who have FERS pension guys think that it is not good when in fact, it is amazing.

Michael Mason: Yeah, as I think about it, we've said — now, there're not many of these still that one income earner households. But I tell you what, if you're that CSRS person, you replace 80% of your $100,000, and there is no Social Security for your spouse.

They don't say in CSRS, “Oh, you'll get 80% and oh, your spouse didn't work, so we'll pay that spouse 40% or 50%.” No, it's 80%. In the scenario we just talked about, it's 44% for the FERS, call it $40,000 net. It was $30,000 Social Security-

Tommy Blackburn: For one earner.

Michael Mason: For one earner, and then throw in another 15 grand for the spouse that didn't work. And it's already a better plan. Not to mention that if you've been there since ‘84, you've probably got $1,000,000 even if all you did was put 5% into TSP the whole time.

John Mason: Well, I think we all just hope that as a federal employee, I hope that our clients feel empowered. I hope that the people who listen to our podcast and watch our videos on YouTube feel empowered.

But I just think about knowing the score and how many FERS employees are out there who really are disgruntled, who think they've missed the gravy train, and they devalue.

I'm just going to have only that $30,000 pension, or I'm only going to have a $40,000 pension, or I'm only going to have a $20,000 pension. Well, Ben and Tommy come from a world where they did their first 10 years of financial planning and the average pension at your prior firm was how much?

Ben Raikes: Zero.

John Mason: Yeah, it couldn't have been much more than zero because it wasn't average to have a pension. So, as we think about that, we only have a $20,000, we only have a $40,000 pension. It sure would've been nice to know how valuable that was. We have episodes, Know the End and The Beginning, that I wasn't a part of (I know we recorded).

Knowing the score is so impactful because it can empower you and motivate you to do things to today. What good is it to wake up at 65-years-old and realize that you've got the world by the tail? You can't change what's happened the last 40 years and maybe it's too late to change habits at that point as well.

Ben Raikes: I think we need to take a step back and you just spoke of impact and maybe go back to those original numbers. You're a federal employee, as we said, making $100,000. And we went through those numbers once and then twice again.

And what we came up with, okay, if you're making a $100,000 now, in retirement, that's really $80,000. So, we're saying that you actually only need to make $20,000 less, cost adjusted for the rest of your life.

That is a monumental difference as far as a financial planning standpoint of what you need to live on for 35 plus years. We can go through the numbers so quickly in our heads because we've done it hundreds of times. But think about how critical it is to know that score and to know, hey, this is actually my number. This is actually what I need to do.

At the beginning of the segment, I said, “Hey, I want to score some points.” What's the use in throwing Hail Marys if you just need to go into victory formation at this point?

Tommy Blackburn: The only person that's going to lose the game at that point is you. And I guess that's the scenarios we were painting of being overly aggressive with your investments or foregoing SBP, you're not making informed decisions.

So, knowing the score puts it into perspective. We can now make informed decisions, and we can plan from there. And we can even add up, well, we know the score now, we know that we got there already, so let's go enjoy life.

Michael Mason: Keeping the football analogy, John, and I'm going to set this up and you're going to pick it up as I go through it. We had a situation where I think it was a female prospective client was told she was losing the game, a FERS retiree. She was losing the game and she needed a $1,000,000 more to be able to retire.

And it's because she picked a coach out of the stands to do her financial plan. And John simply looked and effectively went to the scoreboard, and called a video replay and said, “I think you've missed two touchdowns.” And instantly, she won the game. Tell them what the video replay was.

John Mason: The financial plan was beautiful. PDFs, hundreds of pages, Monte Carlo simulations, retirement probabilities of success, assumption after assumption, everything except for mystery date. No, that's just a quote from the Santa Claus.

It was missing her first pension. It had an entire financial plan, hundreds of pages. And the financial plan rate of success was zero because it did not include a $40,000 cost of living adjusted income stream for this family.

So, it looked beautiful, but it was a sham. It was a completely worthless document that didn't include their largest asset, which was the federal pension.

Tommy Blackburn: And in the scenario we started with, that was half of the income need was missing.

John Mason: Half of the income need was missing.

Michael Mason: Guaranteed cost living adjusted for the rest of her life.

Tommy Blackburn: Easily, a million-dollar asset in our eyes.

Michael Mason: The one thing about the financial plan, that was right, she was a million dollar short, they just didn't know she already had it in the first pension.

Ben Raikes: That's not just not knowing the score, that's not knowing that the ball is brown. That's not knowing that you play in a stadium, that's not knowing the team name. I mean, what an impact that you all could have on someone immediately just from being able to say, “Hey, something missing here.”

John Mason: I think back to a few different conversations and clients over the years, and there was one family in particular who had extensive medical needs early on in their life and their family's life.

And I remember Mike and I were to deliver a financial plan to show them that they had probably 100% chance of success that they would replace 100% of current income. And I just remember tears in the office.

It was like I never thought we'd get here. All those dollars all those times away, all those trips to the hospitals, all those nights eating beanie weenies, we never thought we would ever get here. And our initial reaction was like, “That's amazing, that's why we do what we do.”

And then it was sadness. And the reason it was sadness is because it would've been really nice for them to know when they were going through all of those medical treatments 35 years ago that everything was going to be okay then.

It would've been really, really, really nice to know 35 years ago, it would've been really nice for the other example for them not to go 20 years thinking there's no possible way that I'm ever going to win this game.

I mean, it's not just poor advice. It's like emotionally devastating what not knowing the score is. And it's one thing to not know the score of your game because you're not paying attention. That's another thing to pay somebody to tell you the wrong score. That's just not good.

Michael Mason: All those nights in the hotel near the Mayo Clinic struggling to pay it, thinking they'll never catch up. Not knowing that that defined benefit pension, that CSRS defined benefit pension was going to take care of them. It's not just the pension, go ahead.

John Mason: I was just going to say guys, we've focused a lot so far on knowing the score with the assumption that you're winning. But there are people listening to this podcast who are losing, okay.

Tommy Blackburn: Or maybe they haven't won yet.

John Mason: But they could. Maybe they're not winning big time or they're losing, or they haven't won yet. So, knowing the score is also impactful because it is true that you could have made some decisions up to this point in your life that have caused you to not be able to retire successfully. And the sooner you know that, the better.

So, I think we should also not be scared to position this in a negative way, knowing the score you're losing, what do we do? Or even something as simple as Tommy, knowing the score of a rental property.

I mean we've seen this time and time again where people are convinced that losing money, physically losing dollars is somehow beneficial to them on a rental property.

And it's like but it's providing a tax benefit. It's like, well, you still lost you. Here's the ledger, you are losing money every single day, and do you want to hold onto that losing asset for the next 30 years? Or do you want to help somebody realize or help you realize that that's a dog and we've got to get rid of that thing?

Tommy Blackburn: Definitely a dog. Yeah, you got to know the score. It's like the foundation for how you come up with a strategy from here on. We have to know that so we can now know how do we plan going forward. Rentals definitely like a pet peeve of mine probably bends all of ours.

See so many times where somebody says it makes me money. We look at the tax return and we say even after we back out depreciation, which is just a paper expense, you're losing. This thing is cash flow negative. So, I'm not sure why you're telling me that it's cash flow positive unless this tax return's not accurate, that's usually not the case.

And then you say you got a tax benefit. Well, you have what are called suspended losses. So, the government doesn't even let you take the loss until you sell the property. And then I see we've got $90,000 of suspended losses-

John Mason: But we're making money.

Tommy Blackburn: But we're making money. So, it can be very confusing, but we had to get to know the score and that's part of what we do, is educate. No, that rental is not making you money, but I think now that we've educated you, we can go forward with a plan to maximize the situation.

Michael Mason: And folks, we can't directly help every person with financial planning, but our podcast guys can. And John, you made a good point. Maybe right now, you're not winning, but the other podcast know the end and the beginning.

If you're that federal employee and you haven't calculated your retirement to know that you're going to replace this income, well, you're on the path to win.

But if you've made some mistakes or you haven't been saving in TSP at all, the sooner we know that you're behind in the game … well, just like in that football game, if we've got four quarters to fix it, then we're much better off.

If you're two years from retirement and then you call us after you retired and turned down survivor benefits, maybe you just made the last call that destroyed your financial plan. Maybe you did that.

But the sooner we know, and you know the score, the better. And maybe it's not always a financial plan from us, but it could be 30 some podcasts that are pretty good for 40 and 45-year-olds to listen to.

Ben Raikes: Well, I think there's a reason that the Hail Mary is the play of last resort. The Hail Mary says, I've done everything wrong up until this point and I'm praying that I can throw this ball 95 yards down the field in 10 seconds and win the game. Don't put yourself in a position to need a Hail Mary.

You need to get in front of this in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter. Find yourself a financial advisor that knows you, that can speak to your benefits. So, that when we're in the fourth quarter, we're not looking at Hail Marys, we're looking at kneeling the ball and walking into the locker room and celebrating.

John Mason: We live in an interesting time. I feel like I'm getting old.

Tommy Blackburn: Maybe we’re cursed to live in an interesting time.

John Mason: We live in an interesting time and an interesting world. There's crypto and bitcoin, and there's all sorts of high-flying stocks any given day. And I just feel that if folks were really educated and they knew their score, they would just make better, more prudent financial planning decisions.

We made a podcast a few episodes ago, Don't let perfect get in the way of good enough” . And it's like, well if you know the score, then just buying some index funds and tracking the market is all we need for you to succeed.

We don't need to hit a Hail Mary on crypto, we don't need to buy Tesla when it's down. We don't need to have single stock risk in our portfolio. We don't need rental properties, we don't need to overcomplicate things because we know the score.

Like all of these things, if we do too much of all of that, that is what blows up a federal employee financial plan, is doing all of those things incorrectly because you think you need to, to succeed so you didn't know the score.

So, knowing the score benefits you in two ways. One, it's emotionally very satisfying to know that you're not getting your butt kicked. Two, it helps you make a lot more prudent financial planning decisions and better financial planning decisions. And I've never seen a case where the more informed person made worse decisions than the uninformed person.

Now, that doesn't mean the uninformed person doesn't get it right every once in a while, doesn't get lucky. But consistently, the person who has more information will make better decisions. And in this example, knowing the score is having more information than everybody else.

Michael Mason: And I want to do a round robin and wrap this up in a timely fashion. Knowing the score, we've spent a lot of time knowing the score basically on your pension. But you have to know using our sports analogy that your team is already so far stacked against the other team.

The other team being people that do not have pensions. So, you're already stacked. So, let's talk about pieces of your game that are almost as important as your pension.

So, I'll start with health insurance, and I'll start with health insurance with a dual retired military now federal. It's important for you to know that you have the greatest medical insurance in Medicare and Tricare for life.

But for less than what most people have to pay for their health insurance, you can also add long-term care insurance to that. And now, you've got health insurance and long-term care insurance for less than what most people have to pay just for their health insurance. So, that's kind of stacking the deck and knowing the score.

Tommy Blackburn: Yeah, the health benefits, man, that's got to be one of the best right after the pension. I think we need to know our tax strategy. That's part of knowing the score.

We need to have a lifetime distribution strategy. So, we had to accumulate to get to this point of knowing the score of what we were shooting for. Now, we need to have that distribution strategy in place.

Ben Raikes: A lot of folks have these, but not everyone does, your Thrift Savings Plan. Obviously, if you put 5% into your TSP, you'll essentially get a match for 5%. So, over a career, getting a total of 10% into your plan working for 30 to 40 years, we all said around this table multiple times, I mean, there's no reason you should have anything less than $250,000 in that account.

Tommy Blackburn: John, I'll jump back in here. As we think about one of the best … I mean, talk about the deck being stacked here, is not only do you get a pension, which most people don't have, but you get a cost-of-living adjusted pension. That also has a survivor benefit attached to it for a very reasonable premium. So, again, the deck is stacked.

And then, I just think to myself, what if you add Mason & Associates to your team? Well, now, the deck is incredibly stacked in your favor.

John Mason: Well, keep in mind, because we have another episode coming, it’s “Planning for an early retirement” and there is no COLA between 57 and 62. So, keep that in mind. Check out that future episode.

But that cost-of-living adjustment, Tommy, like you said, is a marvel because as inflation runs hot, our clients' financial plans get better.

And one final parting thought is you are our audience. You're the best quarterback, you're the best running back; whatever sport you love, you are the best and you have the worst coach.

You are not an all-star player. You will not make the Hall of Fame, you'll not get that big contract, and you'll not succeed because you have the worst coach. What do I mean by that? The decision that you make on the people that you bring into your life is very important.

Now, professionals, Tom Brady, maybe he was great by himself, maybe he was even better because of Bill Belichick.

And Tommy, that takes me right to your point, is we really believe that when our clients hire us, it enhances their quality of life, it enhances their financial plan. And not only do we believe it, I think we can show that through evidence that we make a difference.

So, I want to leave this with you, the audience, a tangible action item, who you bring into your life, your coaches matter, your estate planning attorney, your tax CPA. Who's doing your tax planning? Who's helping you with insurance? Who's helping you with retirement?

The people that you bring into your game will make all of the difference to determine are you an all-star or are you an also ran?

So, think about that as you hire your team, as you approach retirement, these are onetime, sometimes irrevocable decisions, and you need a quality team around you.

Folks, this has been another episode of the Federal Employee Financial Planning podcast. We're so appreciative.

Thank you for being with us every two weeks as we release that new content. And we would love to hear from you. And if you're interested in becoming a client, you can start that process at .

We'll see you next time with Retire Early.

The topics discussed on this podcast represent our best understanding of federal benefits and are for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as investment, financial planning, or other professional advice.

We encourage you to consult with the office of personnel management and one or more professional advisors before taking any action based on the information presented.