It’s now common knowledge that, as many as 30% – 50% of the federal employee workforce will be eligible to retire within the next couple of years. Factor in the management experience that could just walk out the door and there is some cause for concern.
Oodles of melodramatic devastations have been reported as worse case scenarios related to a collective mass exodus. Substantial departures could:
- Leave an unfillable hole in federal management.
- Lead to major deficiencies in federal services.
- Cause gold to lose its luster.
- Start a zombie apocalypse.
- Trigger the next ice age
- Cause Ben and Jerry’s “Chubby Hubby” to be removed from retail freezers everywhere.
In short, a total breakdown of society.
I don’t buy it. Remember the warnings at the end of the last century? Computer clocks would hit the year 2000 and go haywire because they hadn’t been programed to recognize anything beyond 1999. (I wonder how many bought horses and butter churns in preparation). Isn’t it more likely that this is just another case of media overreaction?
My father, a simple farmer, has always had an ability for sharing down to earth, Midwestern insights. He may be a legitimate “farmer philosopher.” Phil Silvey’s view on stressing over future unmanageable events – “Knock it off! Nothing’s ever as good or BAD as you think they are going to be!” Ok, so he’s no Aristotle or Plato, but, there is an undeniable country wisdom in his prose.
My point is, there may be a little growing pain as the old guard (current federal leaders) pass along their duties to the new. But, not the massive disaster that seems to be a common concern.
There is however, in my opinion, a much larger crisis that seems to be getting largely overlooked. Some of the wrong Feds are staying, while others are leaving prematurely. What factors may be triggering this genuine dilemma?
Wrong Feds staying
When Steve (a long time fed) first sought me out, his first question was, “How soon can I retire?” This is a common question by many long term feds today. Steve was 59, GS – 11, worked for the government for 24 years and had put 10% of his annual income into his TSP for the past 15 years. Steve was convinced that he would have to continue to work until he was, at least, 66. We looked at all the variables that would influence Steve’s retirement needs.
Steve’s results were fairly common. Steve was better prepared for retirement than he thought. When we completed his “Retirement Readiness Review” (RRR), Steve learned that he could comfortably retire, nearly 6 years ahead of schedule. Steve will retire next year, at age 60.
Steve was nearly one of those misguided Feds that continue to work much longer than they need or want to. He would have been a typical example of the wrong Feds staying. Steve was both financially and emotionally ready for the next phase of his life. Yet, he nearly lost 6 years of retirement.
Wrong Feds leaving
Some Federal Employees may be leaving their careers earlier than is (financially) wise, largely because they are “fed up.” (No pun intended). According to the Hay Group and the Partnership for Public service – 43% of federal employees express negative work satisfaction.
My findings lead me to consider, many of those that have expressed their dissatisfactions are simply tired of being kicked around. They appear to be dejected and despondent with, what I am calling, Federal Employee Eviscerating, Trite Statesmen (F.E.E.T.S.)…some of our elected officials.
I met Patricia in February of 2015. She retired after an 18 year career in October, 2014. She was 55 and had built her TSP account to $205,000. We completed an RRR and found that Patricia’s federal retirement income benefits were insufficient to support her. Patricia admitted that she knew that she had “retired” too soon. But, she was physically and emotionally exhausted. She pointed to the “do more with less” mantra she had heard for years, as one of her deciding factors. She felt she was doing the job of 2.5 people. In short, she was tired of being stepped on by FEETS.
FEETS may well be responsible for many (financially unprepared) Federal Professionals leaving federal service early. For thousands of hard working feds, FEETS is treading on their: work ethic, integrity and even their current and future livelihoods.
Criticizing federal employee conduct while also attacking their “overpriced” pay and benefits has become pure political gold for FEETS. They kick around (publicly) the idea that Feds are lazy, indifferent and overpaid. Once FEETS heels get dug in, it’s on to creating bills and making speeches designed at attacking Federal pay and benefits. Their rhetoric works well at attracting publicity and strong support from odoriferous news outlets.
The smelly truth is, FEETS may well be stomping on federal employment enough to effectively boot good people out and persuade fantastic candidates to drag their heels on stepping into the federal workforce.
Popular FEETS issues that cause federal employment stenches, regularly include:
FEETS Stench #1- Federal Employees are a large drain on the federal budget. With HIGHER THAN AVERAGE INCOMES.
Cleaning up FEET Stench #1 – At any given time there are approximately 2 million federal employees. Of course federal pay is a large drain on the federal budget. However, on average federal employees make less than their private sector counterparts. According to last year’s Federal Salary Council Report, Federal Employees make 35% less than those that perform equivalent jobs in the private-sector.
FEETS Stench #2 – Federal employees aren’t as productive as their external counterparts.
Cleaning up FEETS Stench #2 – A point I believe uses skewed and/or missing “facts” in order to support the conclusions that FEETS is looking for. For example, I know the equipment used by many federal employees is several years behind the equipment utilized by the rest of us. It’s hard to compete in a race when other competitors are driving the newest model Corvette and you are operating a 1970 Ford Pinto wagon.
FEETS Stench #3 – Federal Employees benefits, are just too darn good compared to the average Americans benefits.
Cleaning up FEETS Stench #3 – Federal Benefits is the one area where federal employees do have an advantage over many Americans. However, federal agencies need to keep their best personnel and attract new skilled employees to help drag federal agencies into the 21st century. I think it’s unlikely that top candidates will be attracted by lower pay and sub-par technology. Take this lure away and we can forget about enticing bright prospects into federal service.
FEETS perhaps it’s time to stop using Feds futures as political pawns. Your (proverbial) heels are on the throats of hardworking and dedicated federal employees. Try a unique approach, it seems that comparable pay, up-to-date technology and great benefits could actually:
- Keep and attract the best and the brightest.
- Improve morale.
- Improve productivity and services.
- Decrease overall costs.
Or remain FEETS and persist in using the outmoded and ineffective “Do more with less” approach.