Round Up The Usual Suspects

February is many things to many people....but according to Mike Causey it is Round Up The Usual Suspects time for the federal pay and fringe benefit front...

At a baseball game, scorecards are nice but not essential. But in tracking things like federal pay raises, and improvements — or cuts — in benefits, a combination calendar roadmap comes in handy.

For long-suffering career feds, February is ‘Bring In The Usual Suspects’ month. That’s because this is the time each year when feds find out what kind of pay raise they should be (but won’t be) getting.

Also, January and February are the launching pad months for horrible-but-real-sounding rumors. They are often circulated out of ignorance, or for the purpose of reducing civil servants to quivrieng jellyfish. Happens every year, even though the rumors never come true.

Here’s a quickie survival course!

  • First pay: This is the budget time period when the president proposes an amount for the next white collar federal pay raise. Congress — since the Clinton administration — always counters, saying it is not enough. Congress (with the exception of one year) always wins. The final amount often isn’t known until December but this being an election year, it could come sooner.
  • Fringe Benefits: This is also the time when politicians dust off ideas on ways to save money. Changes in the federal retirement programs are always on the list. But, like the annual proposal to eliminate the tax deduction for home mortgages, the retirement system isn’t touched.

And that’s it.

We’ll be dealing with those issues — the size of the pay raise and attacks on the retirement system, plus rumors, but remember, this is ‘Bring In The Usual Suspects’ month.

TSP Trading Limits

Most 401k plans have limits on the number of trades participants can make in a given period. In the federal 401k plan, about 3,000 investors are considered to be frequent (as in hard-core) traders. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board says the costs of handling their trades will drive up the administrative fees for the other 2.9 million TSP account holders.

So . . .

Beginning next year (probably around April) the TSP plans to limit electronic trades to two per month. Any trades over that amount must be done by mail. Although small (but growing) in numbers, many of the frequent traders are making a lot of noise. They dispute the cost numbers put out by the TSP, and they don’t like what they see as the Nanny State interfering with their right to make more (or lose more) money by moving from fund-to-fund.

On the other hand, many investors want to see the frequent-traders reigned in.

Whichever side you are on, you can comment on the proposed new rules. For information on the situation, click here.

Nearly Useless Factoid

Ever wonder where the term SCUBA (as in diver) came from?

Reader Paul Eaton has the answer:

“SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and was invented by Jacques Cousteau.”

Beats “Frogman”!

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