FBI Retirement: The Big Picture
Transitioning from being a successful Brick Agent to being successful in retirement is intimidating. You fear you don't have the skills needed in today's marketplace. You worry you don't have networking connections. You fear that your job applications will be rejected, or employers that you contact will ignore you. Hell, you don't even know where to start. And it is distracting that executives, which so many people in the organization knew to be worthless bureaucrats, used their government positions to get plumb retirement jobs while you and your squad toiled in the trenches dedicated only to the mission. I've talked with hundreds of agents who find themselves in this position. You need more than help writing a resume or listening to canned stories told by ill-prepared seminar panels. You need a focused plan centered on you!
My first advice to brick agents about retirement usually surprises them. It is to tell them pointedly, that to take your federal health care benefits with you into retirement you must have had them in place for FIVE CONTINUOUS YEARS prior to your retirement date! This first bit of advice seems to brick agents as being a minor point. But it's instructive that if you aren't prepared and informed about your retirement well in advance of your retirement date, it can have devasting consequences to you. It also puts a huge exclamation point on the topic that the FBI has very little interest in giving you good advice. You are on your own. If the Bureau cared about employees, they would be trumpeting this five-year rule constantly. If you bypassed federal health benefits, at some point you signed a form that had disclosed the five-year rule. But it's an easy thing to overlook years later in your career. FBIHQ sends you hundreds of nonsense emails; how about sending just one reminding you when you are within five years of being eligible to retire, of the regulation regarding your health care benefits? It would be a great opportunity to "Lead from the front". There are some real horror stories of agents having to cancel retirement and forego retirement jobs when they realized they would be without their federal health benefits for the rest of their life. With today's dual-career spouses, it is becoming more common for the federal employee to be included in their spouse's (non-FBI) insurance plan, which usually contains more benefits. But many times the spouse's plan cannot be kept in retirement or the benefits decline substantially for retirees. Make sure you have at least five years (60 continuous months) of federal health coverage before you retire!
Most retirement conversations with brick agents result quickly in me advising them of what, in my opinion, is the most important and by far the hardest part of retiring; answering this question for yourself:
What is my passion in retirement, what do I want? Don't blow this question off. Answering it will make everything else about retiring much easier, and more importantly the answer has a good chance to make you successful, wealthy and happy! The answer is the cornerstone, the base variable, the most important single thing for you to know and decide about retirement. Answering it will make developing a plan to reach that goal, easier and manageable. Most brick agents have the luxury to be in a position to ask themselves this question, so take advantage of it because many people aren't as lucky. They don't have a Pension and a TSP account to fall back on. I can report to you that the vast majority of brick agents I've talked to have absolutely no answer to this question, and it's the primary reason they fear retirement or fail in retirement careers. You need to have an answer to this question seven years before retirement to maximize opportunities you have in the FBI that will leverage your retirement success.
Defining your passion and what would satisfy you in retirement is the most important of three critical steps for Post-bureau success. Future articles by The Underground will contain detailed information about each of these three steps, but they are summarized here:
1) Answer the deeply personal question of defining your professional passion in retirement. Is it starting your own business? Is it consulting or writing? Service to your community? Is it working at something that you have an intense dedication to such as teaching or is it more traditional such as working in a security or compliance function at a corporation? Do you want to be part of a small creative environment or part of a larger, structured team? Define as close to as you can what you want retirement to look like for you. Ask yourself, "what am I willing to trade the precious moments left in my life for as a daily career"?
2) The Underground will guide you to develop two detailed plans. An Internal and separate External plan, both aimed at positioning yourself as a highly-competent and desirable partner, business owner, consultant or employee in the industry that you define by answering question #1. Developing and executing these two plans will require a substantial investment of your time and effort. Your Internal Plan is aimed at taking advantage of opportunities inside of the FBI in your final years of employment, and obtaining the education, certificates, seminars, or current practical experience you need for your industry. The External Plan is all about Networking. In today's digital age, networking is a very efficient use of your time that pays huge dividends. Articles to be Posted in our brick agent business incubator will break down networking into manageable categories for you to pursue. They are, traditional (face-to-face); digital; speaking engagements; publishing; liaison; mentoring; and volunteering.
3) Become educated on the nuts and bolts of retiring from federal law enforcement and on how to establish the level of business presence you will need in the private sector economy. Becoming financially educated is critical because it frees you to execute other parts of your retirement plan with much less stress. A few brick agents are experts on their retirement benefits, but that is certainly the exception. Just days before I retired I spoke at length with an FBI executive who is widely known and respected. I told him that my plans for retirement included helping educate and transition brick agents into meaningful, rewarding post-bureau careers. He readily admitted that he had no idea what his pension would be or even how to figure it out. I found his position typical of the vast majority of brick agents I speak to about retirement. The Underground will publish detailed information so that you can understand, in layman's terms, your Pension, military service credit, annual leave lump sum payment and the TSP. We will offer you primers on several financial topics. We will provide information about establishing entities, websites and other marketing and business tools as well as introducing you to mentors in industry.
Getting your FBI retirement act together:
Ensure you have federal health care benefits in place for five continuous years (60 months) prior to your retirement date.
Get serious about your retirement from the Bureau seven years before your retirement date. Anything less than seven years negatively affects your chance of success by limiting your ability to take advantage of opportunities inside the FBI that could greatly enhance your marketability in the private sector.
Answer the deeply personal question: what will make me happy in retirement, what is my passion? What industry, what salary, what environment am I willing to trade the precious moments left in my life for as a daily career? If money were not an issue, is there a career you would labor at for nothing? Do you have a passion or are you looking for a traditional retirement job?
Develop detailed, effective Internal and External plans to achieve success using common sense and free guidance from the brick agent business incubator as a road map.
Become educated in the nuts and bolts of retirement from the Bureau. The Undergorund will help you to become financially educated and assist in establishing a business presence in the private sector. For example: do you need a website? Do you need to file an LLC? What licenses and permits do you need? The brick agent incubator will provide you with free, agent-proof educational resources to help you answer those questions.
Contact the Underground through our Contact Page to get started on YOUR retirement plan!!