Poking the retiree beehive

Currently, there are 2,625, 261 federal retirees and their survivors. Right now, as you read this, another 300,000 active-duty federal workers are eligible to retire and will, sooner or later, do so. That’s a lot of people. Go into any McDonald’s, from Scottsville, Kentucky, to Pismo Beach, California, at any time of the day and you will likely see a former fed, or six, chowing down and talking.  The same for your local grocery store, whether it is in Washington, D.C., to Washington Court House, Pennsylvania.  Or on Guam or American Samoa.  Former feds, and their wallets, purses or credit cards, are just about everywhere.

Years ago, a very sophisticated federal retiree — my mother — who lived near Fort Myers, Florida, explained that lots of people continue to eat out after retirement, “we just do it earlier.”  So we may not see them, but they are definitely there.  According to data from the Office of Personnel Management, just over 17 percent of all federal retirees have monthly annuities of $4,000 or more.  Another 22 percent get between $3,000 and $2,999, while 14 percent get $1,000 to $1,999.  Fewer than 9 percent get $1,000 or less per month from their civil service retirement benefit. Most of the current retirees are under the older CSRS system, which fully indexes their annuities to inflation regardless of age. Workers retiring under the FERS system get cost-of-living adjustments (starting at age 62) that are partially indexed to inflation.  At least since the Reagan administration.

But life-after-retirement (for current feds too) could change drastically if Congress goes along with the Trump administration’s plan to charge current workers 6 percent more for their retirement benefits, to reduce COLAs for CSRS retirees by giving them 0.5 percent less than the actual increase of inflation each year, by eliminating COLAs completely for FERS retirees (9 out of every 10 current workers is under FERS and would become part of the zero-diet COLA group), and to eliminate an annual “gap” payment that now goes to FERS retirees until they reach age 62 and become eligible for Social Security.

Although they too retire under an enhanced version of the civil service retirement program, many politicians at the House, Senate and now White House level view federal workers either as clowns, drones or creatures from the swamp.  They lap up studies — usually from conservative think tanks —showing federal workers are overpaid and ignore those that show feds, particularly at higher grade and skill levels, are dramatically underpaid compared to their private-sector counterparts in Washington, Houston, San Francisco and New York City.

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Reducing the buying power of federal workers (by making them pay more for their pensions) and retirees, by reducing or eliminating COLAs in the future, could hurt many communities that depend on the federal pay or pension dollar to stay afloat. So how big a deal is the federal-postal retiree dollar?

Check out this chart from the OPM.  It shows the number of retirees (and their survivor annuitants in each state, and the value of their annuity payments.  The chart does not include the value of Thrift Savings Plan accounts the retirees have or any Social Security payments they received for covered work before or after they were in government:

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Jory Heckman

The racehorse Secretariat dominated the competition due to the fact that his heart was nearly two-and-a-half times the size of an average horse’s.

Source: Wikipedia

Read more of Mike Causey’s Federal Report.