Threats to FERS: TMI or ‘GMM?’

Do you remember 2017’s threats du jour to your retirement plan, and how real they seemed at the time? There were quite a few, some recycled ideas and others brand new with lots of steam behind them. And some were so drastic that feds said they were considering retiring to beat the proposed changes and qualify for the benefits they were promised when they joined the government.

At the time, Congress, or at least some House Republicans, were deadly serious about whacking the Federal Employees Retirement System and tightening up the older Civil Service Retirement System. One proposal that was seriously considered through the fall of 2017 would have eliminated FERS entirely.

Many private companies have abolished their costly pension plans, meaning no more defined benefits and whatever you get is up to you.

In a government without FERS employees, workers would be responsible for building and furnishing their own retirement nests via the Thrift Savings Plan and Social Security. The FERS annuity — so-called the defined benefit — would have gone away. And that was just one of five equally unpleasant legislative plans.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees warned members not to retire or leave their jobs because of what Congress might do. But rather, they said to stay tuned so they would know of the threats and how to fight them.

Every day, we at Federal News Radio get calls or emails from readers and listeners who want to know the latest, the cost and the timetable for action. Rather crying “TMI” (too much information), their plea is a new acronym I’m coining now called GMM (give me more).

We don’t tell them what’s going to happen because we don’t know. But we do tell them the consequences — in reduced take-home pay, loss of the FERS Social Security supplement and the end of cost of living adjustments  — if the worst should happen.

Understandably, some people are sick of the bad news, as this reader advised me Thursday:

“Good morning,

“You know, if you would stop, or at least limit your predictions of all things that you ‘think’ may happen with the retirement systems, you could provide us with other actual events and occurrences that are factually known and documented to happen. Anybody and everybody can theorize, and your uncanny ability to make a living out of speculation is getting rather annoying.

“Why don’t you just wait until the final decision ‘on anything’ you report is made. You can then write about it for the next year or so, much like [you] constantly do now with issues still in flux. The government is full of what if’s: what if this happens, what if that happens, etc.

“My father would give me hell every time I would say, ‘if this or if that.’ He also told me that the rabbit would have won the race with the turtle, if he didn’t stop to take a s—.” Michael G

So, your call: TMI or GMM?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Saccharin, also known as benzoic sulfinide, the first artificial sweetener, was accidentally invented in 1878 by Johns Hopkins University researcher and professor Constantine Fahlberg. He forgot to wash his hands after working in a laboratory and had spilled a chemical on them, which caused his food to taste sweet. The source was an overboiled beaker in which o-sulfobenzoic acid reacted with phosphorus (V) chloride and ammonia.

Sources: Science History Institute

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