Twins take different career paths

In places where Uncle Sam is either “the” place to work or simply a major employer — Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Huntsville, Ala. or Ogden, Utah, to name a few — a mixed marriage isn’t racial, ethnic or people of different faiths tying the knot. It is when a federal civil servant marries someone from the private sector. D.C. is full of them. Most families have children, in-laws, uncles and aunts who work and play for the other team. My mother was a long-time fed. Ex-wife, FBI, etc. I can truly say, without a hint of smugness or sanctimony, that some of my best friends are feds.

That said…

I heard from one of them the other day who’s in a mixed family. A twin sister who works for the government, her brother who is also with one of Washington D.C.’’s major, but fast-disappearing industries — the news media!

They are both 56 years old. He may kill me. He will probably never see this. Or, like many men, may feel that his charm, power and looks have never been better. Nice to be a guy sometimes. She works for Uncle Sam, he has been in the private sector all his life. Mostly with the news media, mostly on the radio side of it. He served in the Army, but otherwise no federal time.

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Both have been working for 30 plus years. She graduated college. Not sure if he did or not. She has been with the U.S. Information Agency and a couple of other federal operations. He was with the Washington bureau of a Midwestern paper until it downsized. Then with several other radio stations or groups. Like many feds, she’s been furloughed several times but always got paid — eventually. He’s been laid off several times. Took a 25% pay cut during the 2008-2009 recession. With a different media outlet. His current employer cut pay 25% in March or April. He’s told he will be laid off either in August or September. None of the companies he worked for made any matching contributions to his 401k plan.

By contrast his fed sister got, and gets, a 5% match to her federal 401k, the TSP. And no layoffs or paycuts thus far.

She said that as kids they had their own radio station with a one person audience (their mother). She opted for a federal career while he took what both thought was the path of their dreams as news reporters. “We used to kid about how dull my job was compared to his. You know reporting riots and news events.” She said she often envied his “freer” lifestyle compared to her 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday drudgery. She said he never teased her about her “dull” job but over time both of them have had some serious talks — financial and philosophical — about how they’ve lived their lives and their financial futures.

“We never talk about it in terms that one of us perhaps took the wrong path or just got unlucky.”  But, he says, “it’s out there.”

The stress of the pandemic has given us all more time to think. And more things, many of them very heavy, to think about.

In this case, a tale of one city, two people — different choices.

Sound familiar?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

Accumulating at two cents a day, the biggest fine paid for an overdue library book is $345.14. The poetry book, Days and Deeds, was checked out of a public library in Illinois in April 1955 by Emily Canellos-Simms. The book was due back later that month but was returned 47 years later when the misplaced book was finally found and the renter returned it and paid the fine.

Source: Guinness World Records