Saturday, May 17, 2014

Countdown to Wheels Up

34 days and counting.  Things are falling into place and when June 20 rolls around, I'll be out of here.  As a gift to myself, I'm taking a side trip to the Greek island of Santorini for 3 days, then onward to the good old U.S.A.  This trip through a mine field called Retirement from the Department of State has been a challenge every step of the way.  As frustrated as I have gotten many times, I think things will work out.

One of the biggest things was to make sure I was financially ready to retire. We all hope and pray that when that time comes we'd be ready.  With the State Department, once you reach the age of 65, you are out.  Mandatory retirement. For the past 6 years, I've dreaded June 30, 2014, the last day I would work as a Foreign Service Diplomat.  But as time went by, I began to embrace the idea.  I will miss the travel, living overseas and meeting wonderful people and of course, the bi-weekly paycheck!  But I think I'm ready to enter the next chapter of my life as a Rowdy Retiree.  So many of my retired friends have said that they are busier in retirement than they were when they were working.

The whole time I've been at this job, I'm managed to max out my contribution to the government's version of a 401(k), called the Thrift Savings Plan.  It is really a very generous plan, envied by many.  If you aren't contributing the maximum amount, you are really missing out.  That's true with any company sponsored 401(k).  I've also been contributing to the catch up part as well as putting a fixed amount into my personal Roth IRA.  If all this sounds like a foreign language to you, I suggest you begin educating yourself on financial planning.  Your retirement will be here before you know it.  There are plenty of websites that can inform you about IRAs and saving.  My favorite is Fidelity's site,  This site will explain, in very simple terms, about IRAs.  Take the time to meet with a reputable financial planner so that your pathway to retirement gets started out on the right foot.  The sooner you start, the better.  I wish I had started years ago!

I went home to Fort Worth, Texas the first 2 weeks in May.  My goal was to find and buy a house while I was there.  Fortunately I was able to do this and am now a homeowner once again.   I am very lucky to have such a good friend that I could entrust with any and all details following the purchase of my house since I had to return to Pakistan.  Delta may not have known what she was agreeing to when she said she would help out.  But she's been wonderful!  I had  a power of attorney drawn and she was there for the closing on my house, signing my life away!  She has had to deal with selling the stove, getting the plumbing inspected and finding someone to mow my yard! These are times when you appreciate good friends, and she is one of the best.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my final 34 days in Karachi, Pakistan. I know that sounds crazy, but I really have enjoyed my time here.  Two years in Pakistan is a long time and not for everyone, but for me, it made it possible to put a large down payment on my house, making my mortgage very affordable. Danger pay will help do that.  

I've had many 'firsts' during the last 6 years.  Recently, the consulate held a Family Day for the local staff.  I held a snake for the first time.  

And the last time.