Beseiged Feds: Shelter-in-Place or Take Off?

When faced with a serious, life or career threatening situation, there are generally only two options.

Fight or flight.

Do something or do nothing.

Shelter-in-place or head for the hills!

For under-the-gun federal workers it is a tough call. Consider:

  • White collar federal workers are already under a pay freeze. No raise this year, no raise next year. That was by order of the White House and Congress. A study group appointed by the White House actually proposed a 3-year pay freeze. Salaries have been frozen for two years, and that freeze may be extended another one, two or three years.
  • Congress, as reported here last Friday, is seriously considering requiring feds to pay more for their retirement benefits. If it happens, and this is not a drill, it would reduce the take home pay of workers under both the CSRS and FERS programs by 5 to 6 percent. Which is just about everybody.
  • Congress and the administration are also considering a formula change that would reduce benefits for workers retiring in the future – presumably after the bill was (if it is) enacted into law.

If the benefits formula is changed, or if federal and postal workers were required to pay more for their annuities, retirement eligible employees might choose to leave now. The question is how many. Would it produce the dreaded brain drain (which has been imminent since 1999)? Or would feds, given the state of the economy, hang tough?

  • “I retired 4 years ago and with these proposals I would be out the door.” Michael D.
  • “So, if Congress decides to make federal workers pay more into our retirements… who’s to say that we have to contribute at all? Why don’t they forfeit their salaries, retirements, health insurance, etc. since most are wealthy?” IRS
  • “There is no joy in Mudville this morning. We have struck out. I believe the situation is even more grim than you explained. By increasing our retirement contribution rather than giving us an honest pay cut, we will continue to pay the same amount in federal and state taxes. With a pay cut, we would pay less in taxes too. Congress has its cake and is eating us too.” Just trying to get by, Laura in D.C.
  • “If Congress does reduce future retirement benefits by basing employees’ annuity payments on their highest 5 years of service, how fast would that happen? Would those of us in CSRS be able to retire quickly before it happens?” Virginia M.
  • “Is there a provision for grandfathering current employees? Depending on when these changes are implemented, Congress may just make my retirement decision for me!!!” William W.

The effective date of the change, if there is one, is yet to be determined. Typically the implementation would be at some future date, meaning people would have time to get out. But there is no guarantee. Stay tuned.

Want to know how your fellow feds feel on the subject? If so, check out the comments section in Friday’s column. Want to let Congress know how you feel? Will you retire or hunker down for another few years? Sound off at:

Paul Says It All

Here’s my favorite e-mail reaction to Friday’s column about charging you more for your retirement benefit: “Just out of curiosity…did someone inform you so you could time this column with my colonoscopy this afternoon?” Paul (so close to retirement) Miller

Late Breaker – Debt Ceiling

You’ve probably heard/seen it coming: the government has officially reached its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit. As the AP reported, “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Monday that he will immediately halt investments in two big government pension plans so the government can continue to borrow money.”

As the Federal Times reported in April, Treasury will borrow money from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, and the Thrift Savings Plan’s Government Securities Investment Fund, or G Fund. By law, both funds have to be repaid with interest, according to the GAO, and Dan Adcock, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association said he would anticipate “no impact,” in the long term.

Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s Director of External Affairs, Tom Trabucco, told Federal News Radio “all of the G Fund monies would still be on account with the Treasury, and the interest which would accrue if the G Fund were fully invested would still be credited to the G Fund.” Not only will G-fund investors not lose anything, Trabucco added, “disbursements of TSP loans and withdrawals would not be delayed, nor would the amounts of those payments be reduced.”

As Federal Times put it, the “government has taken similar steps before with no effect upon federal retirees.”

Much more to come, I’m sure, but in the meantime, you can read an interview with the TSP Board’s Tom Trabucco by clicking here.

To reach me:

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

A fall from any height wouldn’t be good for the bulky tarantula, so nature has built in a sort of safety net: BreakingScience reports tarantulas shoot silk from feet.


Defense cuts result in contractor layoffs
Other headlines included in this morning’s Federal Newscast include: OMB may soon be unionized, USAF Thunderbirds fly on biofuels, Endeavour launches with VA payload.

Pay Agent rejects new locality pay areas
The President’s pay agent said federal employees should not receive locality pay adjustments in 2012, despite recommendations by the Federal Salary Council for an increase.

Don’t panic – Why the debt limit won’t affect your TSP
As the government reached the $14.3 trillion debt limit, the Treasury Department has stopped issuing securities to the Thrift Savings Plan’s G Fund so the government can continue borrowing. However, Treasury will continue reinvesting the full balance of the G Fund in non-interest-bearing Treasury accounts.

Federal pensions next on budget chopping block?
The amount of money you must pay to your retirement fund could be going up. The 2012 budget proposal from House Republicans would require you to contribute 6 percent of your salaries. That’s a jump of more than 5 percent.



Jan 24, 2022 Close Change YTD*
L Income 23.0998 -0.004 5.42%
L 2025 11.8788 -0.0041 9.75%
L 2030 41.7457 -0.0202 12.37%
L 2035 12.5177 -0.0065 13.43%
L 2040 47.2981 -0.0258 14.51%
L 2045 12.9364 -0.007 15.40%
L 2050 28.3038 -0.0157 16.34%
L 2055 13.8741 -0.008 19.90%
L 2060 13.8738 -0.0081 19.90%
L 2065 13.8737 -0.0081 19.90%
G Fund 16.7539 0.0022 1.38%
F Fund 20.5114 -0.0212 -1.46%
C Fund 66.6178 0.185 28.68%
S Fund 74.2811 1.2775 12.45%
I Fund 37.7682 -0.4925 11.45%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.