Gloom at the top

For many Americans — or for that matter most Turks, Brazilians or Ugandans — it is hard to feel sorry for someone who makes only $172,500 per year. Especially when all sources say that individual, because of their job, skill, expertise and responsibilities, deserves much more. And is in fact, according to government data, being paid thousands less each year, therefore compiling a smaller 401k (TSP) benefit. Not to mention a lifetime annuity that is much less than they, by law, would get based on a larger salary. Over time that’s a huge difference. And it’s a lifetime loss!

But stuff happens.

Tough times, which are always relevant, happen in government. And sometimes especially at or near the top. Each time rank-and-file employees get a pay raise, folks, often the bosses, at the Grade 15 level get nothing because of an artificial but very real pay ceiling. Those people don’t move up unless the so-called cap is raised. That means the executive pay level in turn can’t go up until members of the House and Senate give themselves a pay raise. Because that is politically dangerous, and because about half the members are already millionaires, that doesn’t happen often.

The current pay cap for most civil service jobs is $175,000. In Atlanta, where GS-15 starts at $134,438, that means those at step 10, the top of the civil service ladder, didn’t get a raise. Just the thanks of a grateful nation, as one put it.

By contrast GS-15s in the Washington-Baltimore (which has the most) hit the pay cap at Step 7 of their grade thanks to the new pay raise. GS-15 in the D.C. metro area starts at $144,128. But now workers top out about midway up the 10 step grade pay ladder. It is worse/better in San Francisco where GS-15 federal jobs start at $156,235 and bump up the ceiling sooner than high-paid (relatively) feds in other cities.

In New York City, GS-15 starts at $167,275.

Thanks to locality pay, a GS-15 in Pikeville, Kentuky would start at $128,078. But that’s sort of a moot point in RUS (the rest-of-U.S. locality pay zone) which don’t have a problem with the federal pay cap because nobody around has probably ever seen a GS-15, capped or otherwise.

It’s easy to make fun of feds who are well paid — by most standards — who are “capped” at 6-figure salaries. But then you find out what so many of them do in national defense, scientific, medical and diplomatic jobs. Whether you feel sorry for the boss or not, check out what pay scales look like now in your area and where GS-15 caps begin in each locality.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

The first ever item listed and purchased on eBay (then known as Auction Web) was a broken laser pointer in 1995. The item was listed by founder Pierre Omidyar and bought by a man named Mark Fraser for $14.83.

Source: eBay

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Jan 25, 2021 Close Change YTD*
L Income 22.4290 0.0023 5.15%
L 2025 11.3187 -0.0001 -
L 2030 39.4738 -0.0027 11.26%
L 2035 11.7976 -0.0011 -
L 2040 44.4263 -0.0058 13.16%
L 2045 12.1231 -0.002 -
L 2050 26.4490 -0.0055 14.79%
L 2055 12.7910 -0.0061 -
L 2060 12.7911 -0.0061 -
L 2065 12.7912 -0.0061 -
G Fund 16.5178 0.0012 0.97%
F Fund 21.0851 0.0471 7.50%
C Fund 57.4356 0.2073 18.31%
S Fund 79.4762 -0.1268 31.85%
I Fund 36.0432 -0.2115 8.17%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.