CSRS is now old enough for a Smucker’s jar

The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) celebrated a big birthday last Friday, but there are few federal participants left in the government's once signature...

The Civil Service Retirement System just marked a big milestone; it turned 100 years old on Friday.

It’s old enough now to get a birthday message from the former NBC weatherman Willard Scott, and for Smucker’s to superimpose its image on one of its jars.

Congress passed the Civil Service Retirement System Act a century ago on May 22, 1920. CSRS became effective a few months later on Aug. 1 of that same year.

In 1920, Woodrow Wilson was president. Americans were just a year or so removed from the 1918-1919 Spanish flu, the pandemic that’s become such a familiar precedent and talking point for us all now. The concept of a defined benefit pension plan was new and exciting.

CSRS, of course, has been largely phased out in favor of the Federal Employees Retirement System, which covers workers hired after 1983. Congress wanted to move federal employees closer to a defined contribution plan, which had become the trend in the private sector.

No surprise, the number of federal employees covered under CSRS has been on the steady decline since 1994. The split between the two retirement systems was just about even, with 52% of employees in CSRS and 48% in FERS.

Just 4% of the federal workforce, or 108,000 employees, were covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) in 2018. (Congressional Research Service)

As of 2018, just 4% of the federal workforce, or 108,000 employees, were enrolled in CSRS, according to the latest data compiled by the Congressional Research Service.

Under CSRS, the average annuity for federal employees who retired in fiscal 2018 was $4,973 — well above the $1,834 average annuity for FERS retirees that same year.

Annuities for CSRS retirees are more generous, while FERS participants are also eligible for Social Security benefits and get up to a 5% percent government match on their total pay toward their Thrift Savings Plan accounts.

According to the data, CSRS retirees tend to serve in government longer. The average CSRS enrollee retired at around age 63 with 37.5 years of service. Though FERS retirees tend to retire at a similar age — the average employee departs at age 61 — they’re leaving federal service with 24 years under their belts.

Most CSRS retirees live in California, Florida, Maryland, Texas and Virginia.

The American Federation of Government Employees recognized the big CSRS birthday late last week, calling it a “landmark legislation” that allowed federal workers the chance to retire with financial security.

“At this critical time in our nation’s history, when citizens are depending on the federal government to lead the way in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better opportunity to recognize Congress for helping foster the professional civil service we have today,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.

No doubt the pension system has served millions of federal employees well. But with every few years, CSRS participation nears closer to a relic of the past.

A look at the CRS data, which the service tends to compile on a biennial basis, shows the number of CSRS employees has dropped 2-to-3% every two years since 2010.

It’s Memorial Day, not a holiday

It wouldn’t be the Federal Report if we didn’t at least mention Memorial Day.

It’s difficult to write as eloquently as your usual columnist Mike Causey has in past Memorial Day columns. But as he has written many times before, today is not your typical holiday in the traditional sense of the word. Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have served and died for our country.

This year, it seems especially fitting to thank and remember those who serve. Many of them have and continue to serve in ways that may have seemed unthinkable a year ago: they’re directly on the frontlines of the government’s response to this pandemic.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost some civil servants as a result of this virus.

According to the latest data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 30 employees there have died due to complications from coronavirus. Six employees at the Transportation Security Administration, and five workers at Customs and Border Protection have passed away as a result of this virus.

There are others.

So this year, whether you’ve served in the past or you’re in the thick of it right now, we’ll keep it simple but sincere: Thank you.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By David Thornton

Smucker’s fruit spreads can’t legally be called “jam.” In the 1970s, Smucker’s released a line of lightly sweetened fruit spreads for sugar-sensitive breakfast eaters (and likely to combat sugar shortages of the ’70s). Because there was so little sugar in the finished product, the Food and Drug Administration banned the company from marketing it as jam (jams contain about 60 percent sugar).

Source: MentalFloss

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