Shutdown lessons (not) learned: Clinton, Obama, Trump and Starbucks

The typical federal worker has been through at least four shutdowns. So what have people in and outside of government learned? Apparently not much. Politicians who get paid on-time during shutdowns or furloughs still use them, as we so recently discovered.

And they may again, as soon as this month. So what’s it like for long-serving and suffering feds who have been to this rodeo before, but perhaps not with such intensity or financial hardship?

We asked Abraham Grungold, a long-time U.S. Postal Service worker in Florida and financial coach, to dig into his memory bank:

“Approximately 40 percent of federal employees are 40 years and older, and approximately 30 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree. Compared to the private sector, we are a very experienced and well-educated work force.


“My first experience at a federal shutdown was in 1995 and 1996 under Clinton. The two shutdowns were five days and then 16 days. I was not worried because in addition to my federal job, I had a part-time job working 15 hours per week. I took a large pay cut to work for the federal government and my federal salary was not enough to pay my monthly bills and allow me to maximize my contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan. I worked that part-time position for the first 11 years of my federal career.

“During 2013, we had a 21-day federal shutdown under Obama. I was only working one job and my wife was laid off from her position. For me, a federal shutdown is like the sword of Damocles looming over my head at the end of the fiscal year. Every year, I prepare for a federal shutdown like I prepare for hurricane season. I make sure I have enough cash to pay the bills.

“This shutdown, I have watched seasoned federal employees discuss their hardships on the TV and state that they live from paycheck to paycheck. I asked myself that terrible question, ‘Why is that?’ I have coached employees over the years about retirement, long term care benefits and saving for an emergency such as a cash reserve. I always hear the same response, ‘I will think about it’ or ‘I can’t afford to do that.’ Meanwhile they do not hesitate to spend their hard earned money on luxury cars and exotic vacations.

“If you sacrifice the value of a flavored Starbucks during one year, that coffee would amount to $1,825. And from the last federal shutdown in 2013 to this shutdown in 2018 you would have saved $10,950. That amount should carry most families for two months.

“Federal employees need to adjust their lifestyle and live by the five Ps: Proper planning prevents poor performance. I wish you all well and if you need assistance, you can find me on Google or Linkedin.”

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

The name for Ouija boards supposedly means “good luck” and was coined by Helen Peters, a Baltimore medium, in 1890 while asking the board what to call it. The heart-shaped planchette “spelled” out ouija.

Source: The Guardian

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