Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Phone Call from Quello and some Serious Considerations

There was a message waiting for me on our home phone Tuesday afternoon when I came home from work requesting that I call my doctor to find out the results of some blood work that was done on me while I was in the hospital. All the nurse could tell me was that I was a carrier for a condition called Factor V Leiden but that I'd need to meet with my doctor to learn more. I was familiar with Factor V because a friend at work is also a carrier and she suggested early on that I may be as well.

I don't want to sound dramatic but my whole world stopped for a time as my mind immediately began to explore worst-case scenarios and what it would mean to me. The most pressing question I had was would I be able to come off Coumadin in one year as we'd planned so I could resume my riding or would I be left on it permanently and somehow have to forget about ever riding the roads again? I called right away and made an appointment for the next day.

Air traffic controllers have a mandatory retirement age of 56. Some make it that long but they're very much in the minority. It's always been my plan to work until then but lately, I'm not so sure I still have it in me to go the distance; another 18 months. Of all the guys I hired on with 30 years ago, I'm the only one who has yet to retire. The recent health issues I've had have me reconsidering my options. I want to be careful to not make any decisions while I'm at a point of weakness which is where I feel I'm hovering now. I'll see where my thinking is at in a few months after I've had more time to get my strength back.

I sat in on a retirement seminar at work Wednesday morning. It was information I'd previously heard but that was several years ago. There are one or two key decisions I'll have to make with respect to survivor benefits and I'll only have one chance to get them right. In the plan I'm leaning toward it will cost me 10% of my annuity to provide 55% of my retirement benefits (a survivor annuity) for Tammy should I die before her. A quick refresher of the other available options couldn't hurt I figured.

We were asked to fill out some personal contact information as we entered the room which I found somewhat odd. I was expecting that those conducting the briefing would be federal employees but curiously enough they weren't. An hour into the talk it all began to make sense when the main speaker attempted to convince us that the cost of our survivor annuity was a huge waste of money. Oh really? There was some subtle groundwork being laid for a whole-life insurance policy pitch (at least that's how it appeared to me) for phase 2 on Friday where they'll be discussing some alternative investment strategies. And what better audience than a room full of folks nearing the end of their careers with some nice government pensions waiting in the wings. It sure beats cold-calling.

We have our vehicles and homeowners insurance policies with our neighbor who's an agent with State Farm. I gave Brian a copy of my retirement package last year to look over with a request to come up with a better plan for covering Tammy than what I'm being offered through my government pension. By that I mean I would take my full pension rather than a reduced amount to provide for her and I would use the money I saved by taking my full annuity to purchase life insurance outside of the government on myself in case I die first; some sort of term or whole-life policy.

Brian contacted me a few days later and said he couldn't do it. He had no plan that would give me the same assurances or better than what the survivor annuity option of my federal retirement provided me with a similar cost. I want to be sure she has no worries and who can say what the value of a policy in today's dollars will be 25 years from now? By staying within my government pension all of those values will increase through cost of living adjustments leaving me with less to be concerned about. I mean, I think that's why you have insurance to begin with; so you don't have to worry.

All during the briefing, my mind kept wandering to my appointment I had scheduled with my doctor for 10:30. There was a lot riding on what he would tell me. At one point the guy doing the briefing singled me out and asked me what my plans were for retirement...what would I do with my spare time? I had to think. Had he asked me that question a month earlier I wouldn't have hesitated to tell him of some serious riding I've been dreaming of but I had no answer; just a shrug of my shoulders and an 'I don't know' look. I hadn't considered a backup plan to my retirement where riding isn't a key focus and I felt stupid as I sat there pondering the question flat-footed and preoccupied with other thoughts while he waited for my answer. But I wasn't even sure what my doctor would tell me. All I knew was that I didn't want to get my hopes up to have them come crashing down so I was preparing myself for the worst while praying for anything but that.

Sorry for being a tease but this is getting a little long and I've been up all night at work so I'll finish this later...


SB said...

Kevin, be advised that without some survivor benifits your spouse will lose the ability to continue health coverage. I almost made this mistake when I retired, but was informed by a good employee in the ASO.

Kevin said...

Thanks, SB. I intend to go with full survivor benefits for Tammy. I want nothing to worry about in terms of the value of today's dollar in 20 or 30 years from now. A one million dollar term policy may sound like a fair amount of money now (a typical amount that guys here are settling for) but who knows how it will hold up down the road. I feel my cost of living adjusted survivor benefits will leave me with nothing to worry about in terms of providing for her.

Maybe I'm paying too much. I don't know but my insurance salesman thinks I can't go wrong and he'd love to sell me one of his policies.

Thanks for your comment!