The Story of Carl 'n' Barb book

Clinton Smith, left, and Galen Bargerstock held copies of their book.

Retirement is a monumental point in anyone’s life. It marks the time when a person leaves the working world and has the rest of their lives stretched out before them. It can also be a time of confusion and stress, especially if you go into it without planning.

Clinton Smith and Galen Bargerstock of Government & Civil Employee Services (GCES) have taken it upon themselves to help make that transition easier for federal employees.

The two have penned a book, “The Story of Carl ‘n’ Barb,” which offers insight into the services GCES provides as well as information to help employees navigate their benefits and avoid pitfalls when it comes to planning for retirement.

The book isn’t a standard “how-to” book. Carl and Barb Miller are two postal employees and the book follows them on a journey as you get to know both them and their family. Each of the characters are brimming with their own personalities. Barb, who narrates and tells the story from her perspective, works with the USPS and loves white wine. Her husband, Carl, also works for the postal office and loves to fish. They have two kids, Emily and Jake, as well as Barb’s father, who is lovingly called Pap.

The book follows the Millers as they consider the many points that go along with planning for retirement as well as their future as a family, with children who will one day grow up and go to college, get married and have families of their own; an elderly parent who may need help in the future; and what they want for themselves — like maybe a vacation.

Smith and Bargerstock, of White Township, wanted to make sure the book was funny and heartwarming as well as informative.

“The idea of the book was to have a fun way for federal employees to learn about their benefits,” Bargerstock said. “We wanted to do it in a whimsical, humorous, yet educational way.”

Being presented as such helps bring interest to what tends to be a dry and complicated subject.

“A lot of people in our industry will write a book where life insurance is chapter one, annuities is chapter two and retirement planning is chapter three,” Smith said. “And in the end it’s kind of boring and the people that are reading it don’t really understand what they’re reading anyway, so they still need that interaction with a person.”

Their book allows readers to actually see what it’s like working with GCES as a federal employee. The company, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, was started to help others. As individuals who dedicate themselves to doing so, Smith and Bargerstock said they are excited to present this book to further their cause.

GCES works with both state and federal employees, but the focus of this book is on postal employees, a rather large demographic.

“There’s more postal employees than any other branch of the government,” Bargerstock said. “If you take all of the other branches and add them together, it still doesn’t equal the post office. So the post office is our primary client.”

“We just want people to have an understanding that there is help out there,” Smith said. “With the post office, they don’t have an HR department on site anymore and no one can tell them about where to go to talk to about all the aspects of their retirement. This just helps show that there are years to look out for in their lifetime based on life events and aging into retirement.”

Bargerstock added that many employees might not feel they need a financial person or retirement person.

“There is help out there. You could do it on your own, just like you could do your own plumbing in your house and your own electrician work, but we really are there to help them,” he said.

“A lot of people think they don’t need someone,” Smith said. “But we can really help to make their retirement better. Some people will just go their whole lives without looking at their retirement (savings) … but you still have to do things along the way.”

This final iteration of the book has been a long time coming. Smith and Bargerstock started it in 2017, but Smith volunteered much of last year as the fundraising campaign chairman for the United Way of Indiana County.

“That pretty much took up all of my time last year,” he said. “The project took longer than we thought it would.”

But with the addition of Shawna Jones and Mellissa Houser doing the illustrations, it eventually came together.

“We’ve had the book since May or June of this year,” Smith said. “We wanted to release it and have a release party along with our 10th anniversary, but because of COVID it didn’t happen.”

There are also some plans to do some local tie-ins once the pandemic eases, he said.

“In our book, Carl and Barb actually come here to town,” Bargerstock said. “We send them to the Jimmy Stewart Museum and have drinks with them at Levity. So our plan is to have a release (at Levity) probably next year.”

The book is available on Amazon.