Federal retirement expert, Chris Kowalik, shares Super Bowl insights and what that has to do with your retirement from federal service.
- What to do when you find yourself as the “underdog”
- How to keep your head in the game and be “In it to Win it?”
- When your play calling becomes a crucial element of your game strategy
- Who to rely on for guidance and leadership when the stakes are high
- Why to always keep your eye on the game clock & understand the rules of the game
- Local workshop locations and dates: FedImpact.com/attend
Transcript of this episode:
Originally released on 2/15/2023
For all of you football fans out there, you may still be recovering from a nail biter of a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. Regardless of which team you were rooting for, I think we can all agree it was quite a game! You might also be wondering what any of this has to do with federal benefits or retirement. Listen in to today’s episode to find out.
Hi, Chris Kowalik of ProFeds here, and welcome to the FedImpact Podcast, where we offer candidate insights on your federal retirement. You guys know this show is all about helping you to get super clear on what you want retirement to look like and taking action to make it happen.
If you watched the big game on Sunday, you know that it was nerve-wracking. Honestly, it didn’t even matter which team you wanted to win – the competition was super fierce on both sides. They both wanted to claim victory in the worst of ways. It was beautiful. These athletes have prepared their whole lives for this moment, and it was up to them to make it happen. It was up to them to draw on their training, their experience, their coaches, their instinct, their gut to make big plays and have a chance to hold that shiny trophy as they celebrate with all the fanfare and the cameras.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all go out in such confetti-spewing glory when we achieve an incredible milestone like this? Well, in today’s episode, we’re going to make you the star of your retirement game. We’ll talk about what it takes to win this very special game and what it looks like if you fall short. Specifically, we’re going to talk about these five key elements to winning retirement.
The first is, what to do when you find yourself as the underdog. Second, how to keep your head in the game and be “in it to win it.” Third, when your play calling becomes a crucial element of your game strategy. Number four, who to rely on for guidance and leadership when the stakes are so high. And five, why to always keep your eye on the game clock and understand the rules of the game. Plus, I have a couple of observations about the game and it has nothing to do with the halftime show, I promise. So we’ll cover those at the end.
So full transparency, I’m a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan. I grew up in Kansas City. I joined the Marine Corps out of there, and I have a giant family there still. In fact, my mom hosted a Super Bowl party with way more people than I’m sure the fire marshal would’ve reasonably allowed at her house. Having said that, the Eagles played one hell of a game.
I thought about this podcast and I wondered if I’d still do this episode if the Eagles came out on top. Luckily, I didn’t have to make that decision with the Chiefs coming out as the Super Bowl champs, but still, what a game! Both teams and their fans should be incredibly proud of their respective performances.
So what does all of this have to do with you and retirement topics that we typically talk about on this show? Well, let’s start with what to do when you find yourself as the underdog.
Key Play #1: What to do when you find yourself as the underdog?
Jalen Hurts and his Eagles were favored to win this game. If you watched the Fox pregame, you know that Jimmy Johnson, Michael Strahan, Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw, all of them went for the Eagles. But Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs were having none of that. They had a plan. They had amazing coaches, and they believed that they’d reached their goal of winning that Lombardi trophy, but the game hadn’t even started yet. So them knowing that they were rated as the underdogs could’ve completely knocked their confidence big time. But here’s a little secret. Sometimes being the underdog inspires people to push themselves and strive for the win.
You might feel like you’ve been a little bit of an underdog in life. We hear it all the time. Maybe you came from humble beginnings. You had a hard start in life as a kid. Maybe you’ve had a terrible divorce or gone bankrupt or lost your house in a foreclosure. You might feel like you’ve been an underdog your whole life in everyone else’s eyes, and maybe even in your own. Like maybe you’re not worth it or you don’t deserve a good life or a comfortable retirement… But when you’re the underdog, you have to fight, fight to give yourself a chance to win the game called life and ultimately retirement. That’s the reward here. Retirement is like the Super Bowl of life and you’re the MVP, but that doesn’t come easy. We have to get after it and get after those goals to make them happen. Okay? So again, being the underdog can fuel you if you let it.
Key Play #2: Keep your head in the game and be “in it to win it”
How to keep your head in the game and be in it to win it? Early in the game, the Chiefs’ kicker, Harrison Butcher, missed a field goal. Honestly, he could’ve allowed that to be in his head for the rest of the game. And if he did, every time his team needed him, he would’ve failed. If he allowed the sound of that ball ricocheting off the outside of the left post, that dreaded “doink!”, that would’ve blown any chance of him going on to nail all five of the extra points following each touchdown. And of course, he went on to have the final say in the game by scoring the winning field goal.
Or how about Patrick Mahomes injuring his ankle again, just before halftime. It was audible, the collective gasp of every Chiefs’ fan watching, wanting to know if that game was over if Patrick was out. Patrick had other plans and none of it was about him. It was about his team and their fans. He had a job to do and he needed his mindset to be right to get it done. In other words, he was totally “in it to win it” and knew his team needed him to bring his A game. They were 10 points down at the half. They came out for the second half in total beast mode and didn’t look back.
Have you found yourself behind in where you thought you’d be on your financial journey as you head towards retirement? Maybe you thought you’d be at a much higher pay grade or have way more saved in TSP by now. It might seem impossible to get caught up, but this is where your beast mode needs to come in. Are you willing to do what it takes to get the ball over the goal line? Dig deep, push through the pain and make it happen? Find that beast mode of yours and let’s get to work. If you need to spend less or save more or refine your strategy, let’s do it. But don’t let the setbacks keep you from winning.
Key Play #3: When your play calling becomes a crucial element of your strategy
The next key element we’re going to talk about is when your play calling becomes a crucial element of your game strategy. Let’s talk about strategy. There’s a lot that goes into winning a football game. It’s not just as simple as throwing the ball for touchdowns. Do you run the ball? Do you pass the ball? Is it a quarterback sneak for a new set of downs? Do you punt? Do you take the extra point or the two-point conversion? All of these are great strategies at different parts of the game.
What I love about the game was the diversification of the plays. So much went into the 73 collective points scored in this game. This wasn’t a one-dimensional game by any stretch.
The game of football is complex, just like your retirement. We talk about the complexity of federal retirement all the time, but having a strategy (which, of course, is made up of a ton of little strategies) is so crucial to winning. When it comes to money, there are lots of strategies out there. You save more, you spend less, you go risky, you go conservative, pay off your mortgage or you don’t, when and how to take your money out in retirement, how to avoid unnecessary or untimely taxes. Gosh, the list goes on.
But here’s something a lot of people don’t talk about with respect to retirement. One of the hard parts of retirement is that, while there might be a defined start in your mind, there isn’t a defined end. Imagine these football players getting to the Super Bowl and not having any clue how long the halves are or having a clear understanding of what the rules are to the game. How do you play THAT game? How do you develop a strategy to win if you don’t even know what winning looks like? More on that later. I promise we’ll circle back around to that.
Key Play #4: Who to rely on for guidance and leadership when the stakes are so high
The next key element is who to rely on for guidance and leadership when the stakes are so high. Chiefs’ head coach, Andy Reid, is quite a legend in both Kansas City and in Philadelphia, having coached in both cities. He and his coaching staff know how high the stakes are and that they must give great guidance to the various members of the team all throughout the game. It’s not just at the end. The Chiefs don’t just have Andy Reid, though. They have a slew of coaches that each have very specific roles and responsibility. Andy Reid just pulls them all together. But this leadership doesn’t end with the coaches on the sideline. Patrick Mahomes has a huge leadership role for his teammates because the team rallies for him because he’s charged with leading them to victory on the field.
I’m curious, who do you look to for guidance to get your retirement right? Are you looking to qualified professionals for guidance on your strategy, or maybe you think it’s easier just to call all the plays yourself? Maybe you look to some peers or a Facebook group for guidance. Maybe instead of finding the financial coach who understands the game you play (as feds with very unique benefits) you decide that working with a coach who doesn’t understand your game makes sense. In our analogy here, instead of the head football coach, you enlist the help of the high school hockey coach. They may be great at their job, but they play a completely different game at a completely different level – a different game with different rules, plays, and strategies. How likely are they to coach you to victory?
I beg of you to work with a financial professional who actually knows those unique complexities of federal employees so that your strategy that you’re building is aligned with the retirement game that you’re playing. It doesn’t do you any good to have a high school hockey coach if you’re a pro football player. This is such an important part of what we do here at ProFeds, that we have an entire network of financial professionals who specialize their practice to work with federal employees. Here, in just a minute, I’ll tell you can be put in touch with one in your area. So standby for that. But I can’t stress the importance of having pros in your corner who have been there, done that, and can help you get over the goal line.
Key Play#5: Always keep your eye on the game clock and understand the rules of the game
Next key element, why to always keep your eye on the game clock and understand the rules of the game. At the end of the game nearing, the Chiefs had the ball and were poised for a touchdown. Patrick was on fire. Perhaps this could’ve been the game-winning touchdown. So when Jerick McKinnon is running the ball and has his eyes set on the end zone, it would’ve been so tempting to run it in. Imagine how pumped he would’ve been to have been able to score a touchdown at the big game! Instead, he intentionally stops two yards short at the end zone. And even some of the most avid Chiefs fans were shaking their heads. Frankly, I was one of them. We all had our eyes on the scoreboard.
But McKinnon and the rest of the team and the entire coaching staff had their eye on the game clock because they knew if the Chiefs scored, we’d hand the ball back to the Eagles and give them enough time to tie it up and force us into overtime. Instead, the Chiefs looked at the strategy and they knew that the best strategy for them was to get a new set of downs, which allowed them to run that game clock down with just enough time for Harrison Butker to come in for that game-winning field goal that we talked about earlier. What a game.
But do you have your eyes on the scoreboard or the game clock? Are you losing sight of the most important elements of winning your game? If you are, you’re not alone. We see this all the time. So please get help. Please get the financial coaching you need to be the MVP of your own game called retirement.
What does it look like if you don’t win this game of retirement?
But what does it look like if you don’t win this game? Everyone has a different perspective on what retirement is supposed to look like, but I think we can all agree that we don’t run out of money at this important stage of life. That’s a universal belief in retirement. Running out of money is what we see happen, but it can be caused by a host of poor decisions along the way. Things like not saving enough, your money being too aggressive or too conservative, not being tax-efficient (meaning we’re paying unnecessary taxes at inopportune times), if we react to poor market conditions that cause bad decisions or reacting to great market conditions that cause bad decisions, too. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it does require your input and your hard work to get retirement right.
Two observations I had about the game
Two observations that I had about the game. The first is the Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni, was spotted crying during Chris Stapleton’s beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, my favorite song on the planet. We could all speculate what that was about, but damn, what a cool sight to see. Here’s the second-year coach making it to the Super Bowl, and he has literally overcome with emotion. I can’t imagine what was running through his head, but I’m going to guess that that was humility and gratitude, and that was a huge part of his heart at that very moment.
Second, speaking of heart. Let’s talk about the heart of all of these players and what they brought to the field. It was really incredible. It was full of power and grit and sheer determination, and at the same time, like I said before, with gratitude and humility. Following the loss, the Eagles quarterback, Jalen Hurts said, “You either win or you learn.” Quite a perspective from this young man who has a really big future ahead of him in the NFL. I hope that we can all take a little bit of a play out of that playbook as it comes to tackling our big goals in this game called life.
So if you need some help (some financial coaching, if you will) please get it. You owe it to yourself not to call your own plays without understanding all of the rules of this game. Retirement’s complicated. I wish it wasn’t as complicated as it is, but that’s besides the point. We are happy to introduce you to a financial professional who specializes in working with federal employees. It’s easy to do. Just pull out your phone and text the word ‘PODCAST’ to 224-444-6144. You’ll answer just a few questions so we know where you’re located, and we’ll link you up with a financial professional in your area. Again, text the word ‘PODCAST’ to 224-444-6144, and we’ll get you taken care of.
So as we wrap up today’s episode, I hope that even if you’re not a big sports fan, that there were some great takeaways for you still about your approach to retirement and that this has fired you up to take some action. Now, of course, remember the five key elements. Fight back when you’re the underdog or you’re down at the half. Keep your head in the game and be in it to win it. Your play calling becomes a crucial element of your game strategy, so get it right. Next, get guidance and leadership from the right types of coaches (the stakes are far too high to mess this up). And last, always keep your eye on the game clock and understand the rules of the game that you’re playing.
Well, that’s it for today. I hope our talk about the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl game has given maybe a little bit of a fun perspective to otherwise a really serious topic of planning for retirement and making sure that we do that right.
I hope that you’ll stay tuned to the FedImpact Podcast to get straight answers and candid insights on your federal retirement. As always, if you haven’t already, please subscribe today so you’re sure not to miss an episode.