Expectations of a Furlough

In a recent survey, most of those responding expect to be furloughed, do not expect to receive pay for the days they are furloughed, and think that the event will have a significant impact on their finances.

Readers have strong opinions about a possible furlough of federal workers. To gauge concerns and the response of the federal workforce, we asked readers for their opinion on a variety of related issues.  Most people responding do expect to be furloughed:

 Do you expect to be furloughed?
Yes 80.3% 1,127
No 19.7% 277

Despite these expectations, most people have not been notified that they will be furloughed:

 Has your agency given you a notice that you will be furloughed?
Yes 21.2% 296
No 78.8% 1,100

So, if people are furloughed, what do they plan to do? Here are their responses:

 What do you plan to do in the event of a furlough? (Choose all that apply)
Take a vacation 9.2% 129
Stay home 51.6% 725
Work on hobbies 22.3% 313
Take care of household chores 51.6% 725
Work an extra job 26.4% 371

Those responding to the survey, think it will have a significant impact on them financially:

 In the event of a furlough, how much do you expect your income to be impacted?
It will have a significant impact 67.7% 950
It will only have a minor impact 29.1% 409
It will have no impact 3.2% 45

Despite the past experience with furloughs in the government, which usually resulted in receiving back pay for the time they were off of work, the expectations of readers is different this time around:

Do you think that your salary will be paid to you via backpay in the event of a furlough?
Yes 11.5% 162
No 88.5% 1,242

What financial preparations are people taking? The responses vary significantly. Here are a few representative answers:

  • Unlike the administration, I am actually reducing spending
  • Lessen my TSP deduction
  • I have sold my house
  • No vacation this Summer, keeping tax return in savings
  • Work another JOB!!!!!
  • We have cut our grocery/restaurant budget to $400 a month (from $800). We basically eat every meal and snack from food prepped at home. We have also cancelled our summer vacation. We may adjust our TSP contributions if the furlough were to continue past the expected 22 weeks.
  • Reduce TSP, defer any big ticket items until later, save money
  • No vacation
  • Not making ANY purchases that are not essential
  • We used our tax return to pay off the remainder of a car loan to make more room for the lost income. Then we put the rest of the tax return away to try and mitigate some of the lost income during the furlough. Also, not contributing to TSP right now.

A few hundred readers opted to offer their overall comments on the furlough. Here is a sample of the most typical comments sent in by readers:

  • The furlough is a politically motivated ploy and should be stopped immediately. There are numerous wasteful programs that can be eliminated to generate hundreds of millions in savings rather than furlough hard working, loyal employees.
  • Feds are an easy target. We will do our part now do yours and cut more spending.
  • political games are being played and US cannot keep entitlements going the way they are. this is only the beginning of trouble. too much government waste!!!
  • A lot of attention is being given to stateside DoD Federal employees that are going to be furloughed however I am an overseas soon-to-be furloughed employee and with the dollar so poor, those of us who have to live and shop with the EURO will take the hardest hit. It will be a MUCH higher pay cut than 20%!
  • I think that it is rediculous that between the congress and the president 2% of the budget can not be cut. I suspect that my collegues and I could easily find 2%.
  • I do not know who puts these numbers together, but our office has 14 employees doing the work of 20. Now we will be furloughed? That is an even bigger impact on the workload which will cause more COMP time to accrue, not really saving the goverment money in the long run???
  • I now wonder if the public still believes that we make a lot of money. Our benefits are good, but as gas and food goes up, we are still at a pay freeze and now more will be taken from us. It’s going to be hard on all of us, but if we all pull together and help each other we could get through this ordeal.
  • This is my retirement test. If I can live on 20% less with all of my bills, I should be able to live on 68-70% with some of my bills (no mortgage, life ins, CSRS, etc)
  • I blame the President 100% for this. This was his idea, he’s had 18 months to do something about it and instead, all he’s done is campaign for a job he’s never done particularly well. It’s the President’s job to get things like this done, one way or another and he’s failiing miserably.
  • Our so called leaders in Washington need to man up and take care of business. they are ruining this country.
  • I’ve been in federal civilian service for almost 3 years. Theoretically, the position provided more stability than equivalent engineering jobs in the private sector. That major incentive is now irrevelant. Sometimes I’m really tired of being a pawn. Eventually, this political and social disregard will drive me out of government service.
  • I will survive in the short term. Long term will be very difficult. I hope Congress gets what they want soon, because I am tired of being treated like a pawn. And with each passing day I am less sure of who to blame. Seems like a 50-50 split at this point.
  • Congress needs to start at the top and cut their pay and the President’s pay before hitting the lower masses. They also have the nerve to compare regular federal employee salaries with those of federal workers in D.C. who make substantially more than we do. That’s just not a fair way to go about correcting their mistakes in money management.

Our thanks to those who took the time to respond to this survey and a special thanks to those who sent in their additional written opinions.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47