Buyout time? Recheck your expiration date

Are you nervous in the civil service? Tired of your job, your commute? Have you been through one too many changes of administration? Does retirement look better all the time? If so, welcome to the club. But first, some background …

One of the top worries of about-to-retire folks is money. As in, will they have enough to maintain a decent lifestyle, have some fun and be able to take care of themselves. Especially if retirement lasts 20 or 30 years. According to new studies, nearly half of all American retirees live off their Social Security payments. Many don’t have pensions or retirement savings such as a 401k plan.

Current and future federal retirees are generally much better off than many of their neighbors. Those under the CSRS system get annuities based on salary and service that are fully indexed to inflation. Many also have income from their federal 401k plan, the Thrift Savings Plan. Some also get Social Security benefits for work before, or after, retirement in the private sector. Feds who retire under the FERS program will get reduced (compared to CSRS) benefits. But they will also get Social Security, which is indexed to inflation and if they put at least 5 percent into the TSP, the government matched it with another 5 percent. By some estimates, their TSP will account for one-third to one-half of all the money they have to spend in retirement.

Tens of thousands of feds are at, or past, their retirement age. According to some, all it would take is for Uncle Sam to put a little something extra in the kitty. Like a buyout. So what’s your number? All things being equal, what would it take to get you to put in your retirement papers this year? First, take this quiz:

  • When was Newt Gingrich Time Magazine’s Man of the Year?
  • Who, or what is a Newt Gingrich?
  • When did Starbucks launch its Frappuccino?
  • If you live outside of Seattle, D.C. or Manhattan, who or what is a Frappuccino?
  • In what year was a famous athlete-actor found not guilty of murder after his attorney told the jury “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit?”
  • When did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame open in Cleveland?
  • Why is there a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and where is Cleveland?

If you guessed correctly — that the year was 1995 — either you have a lot of rings on your tree or you are a student of late 20th-century history. Either way, you know that it was the mid-90s when the government started offering buyouts, by the thousands, that were worth $25,000 before deductions. Lots of time has gone by but, except for Defense, the buyout payment remains at its 1990s level. Defense can offer $40,000, but some employees say even that is not enough. Like this fed who is waiting for a decent offer.

“Mike, re your Buyouts: Show ‘em the money article, $25K in the 1990s is worth $48K today. So the $40K offer is an insult to folks. With that aside, if the administration and Congress want to decrease the headcount, then it will have to offer a worthwhile, clean, simple, no strings attached incentive. How does $100K across the board sound? The icing on the cake would be waiving the age requirement for immediate retirement so long as the employee has 20 or more years of service. Now that would clear the deck quickly.” —Ed

Maybe. Probably. But it took two years for Congress to approve the $40,000 buyout level for Defense only. In requesting it, the Pentagon said it would take $49,000 and change to equal the mid-1990s buyouts buying power. But it decided, probably correctly, that wasn’t going to happen. Meantime, DoD is sitting on its buyout authority, probably to wait and see what kind of a military buildup the Trump administration will seek.

Meantime, what’s your magic number? How many $$$$$$ would it take to lure you out the door?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

Director Alfred Hitchcock paid $9,000 anonymously for the film rights to Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho.

Source: IMDB