November’s Newsletter

Debbie HatchBlog, Federal Retirement, Health & Wellness4 Comments

Pinnacle Personnel Services LLC  |  Debbie Hatch

Hello friends,

In addition to expressing my hope that you’ve had a blessed Thanksgiving, this month’s newsletter strives to do a couple of things. First, ensure you are finishing up your research on open season benefit changes. Second, to urge you to take care of your health, wealth, and personal fulfillment as we move into the holiday season.

OPEN SEASON

‘Tis the season to make changes to your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) and/or Federal Dental & Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). This is also the time to sign up for a Health Care (HCFSA), Limited Expense Health Care (LEXFSA) or Dependent Care (DCFSA) Flexible Spending Account. The federal open season runs through 23:59 on Monday, 9 December.

Until then you can change plans; change who you’re covering (Self Only, Self +One, Self +Family), and opt out of premium conversion if you’re so inclined.

 

There are several resources I’ve found to be helpful as you weed through open season decisions.

OPM’s website has a number of fact sheets, calculators and frequently asked questions. LTC Partners is hosting a virtual benefits fair where you can review 2020 plan details, watch videos, and register for webinars. While you can log in at any time to gather information, representatives from all participating carriers will be available to take your questions live on Wednesday, 4 December from 1000 – 1700 eastern.

After teaching classes for almost 16 years now, I’ve noticed several things around open season. First, many employees find the process confusing so they either don’t bother or they wait until the last possible moment to make a decision. The resources above will provide a ton of information to you in clarifying decisions. As far as how to make changes:

  • If you are working, you make your FEHB open season changes through your human resources benefits office. If you are retired, you make those changes through the Office of Personnel Management.
  • FEDVIP changes are accomplished at https://www.benefeds.com FSA enrollment is done at https://www.fsafeds.com (there’s also a link to this program on the benefeds site).

Many federal employees stay with one health insurance through their entire career and even after retirement. The benefit of this, of course, is familiarity. While plans can (and do) change from year to year, if you keep the same plan you generally know which doctors you can see, and understand what kind of benefits are included. The negative consequence can be that as our lives change (e.g. you are now eligible for and enrolled in Medicare) we never review benefits. We can end up carrying a top shelf insurance when maybe all we need now is a supplement.

Third, many federal employees don’t understand the value of, and therefore don’t participate in flexible spending accounts. These are a great way to save some money on income taxes while you are working. FSAs are not available after you retire. This year a couple filing a joint tax return with income between $78,951 and $168,400 pays 22% federal income tax. With health care expenses of $1,850 for the year, an individual could save $407 by participating in an HCFSA. Use these calculators to run some scenarios for yourself.

HEALTH

Like everything, the health and wellness industry has changed a lot over the years. These days, reputable coaches (there are still plenty of people just trying to take your money) realize that pills, potions, fads, and extreme diets are neither healthy nor do they “work” long term. Eating a piece of pie on Thanksgiving day – or even going back for multiple plates of food – is not going to derail your health or fitness. The problems, and annual 5-10 pound weight gains, arise when we treat 15 November – 15 January as one continually buffet.

WEALTH

I wrote a blog about Black Friday the other day. Be careful out there! This weekend is ripe for identity theft. Spending money we don’t have just because “it’s a sale!” can also leave us in a tight spot when the January credit card statements come due.

Over 90% of people who shop today make occasional impulse purchases that they didn’t intend to buy initially.

 

Buy the things you can afford; the things you were going to get anyway while they’re on sale.  Ask yourself though: “Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?” “Can I afford to pay cash for this?

 

If I charge it, am I going to be able to pay off my credit card balance next month so that I don’t end up paying (on average) 17% interest?”

2020 Social Security key numbers have been released.

PERSONAL FULFILLMENT

As this decade winds down, amid the Facebook 10-year challenge, holiday induced stress, and calendar year close out, it’s important to give thought to what you want to do with this next year of your life. Jon Bon Jovi (I was a teen in the 80s…what can I say?) when talking about his restaurants (JBJ Soul Kitchens) said, “find your good and do it.” I love that!

 

I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. Many of them make it seem as it we will become a brand new person on 1 January and I’ve never known that to be the case. Rather, I choose to set personal goals and I have identified several for 2020.

I want to help more people understand their retirement and benefits. I am filming my virtual class the first week of December – that WILL be a reality in early 2020 and I won’t be limited by the number of cities I can fly to in a week. I’m branching out so that I can help more people – even those that don’t work for the federal government, get a handle on their retirement planning. I’m increasing my personal consultation business. To make room for all of this, I will stop teaching my Foundations of Supervision, Conflict Resolution and Leadership classes. I’m rebranding my website and all of my slides/books. You’ll be seeing a new logo that I think better communicates where I’m going.

As a military family, this summer will be a PCS year. We’ll likely receive orders sometime in December and I expect this will be the last active duty move. Brent has been in (USMC & USAF) 29 years come January.

Plus, I have my sights set on competing in a powerlifting meet at the World, not just national, level. It will take a lot of work but I think I’m up to it.

What are your 2020 goals? Some studies show we are 42% more likely to achieve goals if we write them down. While there is conflicting opinion as to whether sharing goals with others makes actually them more concrete, many of us believe accountability partners do help.

4 Comments on “November’s Newsletter”

  1. Deb,

    thanks so much for your personal investment to help others, you are a godsend!

    Yours,
    Ezekiel “EZ” Allen

    1. What an awesome message to see first thing this morning! I can’t thank you enough for your support, EZ. I appreciate you.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Debbie! Sounds like you’ve got a good handle on a whole lot of things. I resonate with your goals and your newsletter is inspiring, thank you! I will check out the open season information and probably have questions. Would like to keep in touch and learn from you as you spread your wings even further and farther! Thanks!!

    1. What a sweet message to see first thing this morning. Thanks so much for your support, Valerie.

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