Federal Employees Are Lucky

The author says that although federal employees may not think of themselves as lucky, they have plenty for which to be thankful.

Are we lucky – or what?

As federal employees we often don’t think of ourselves as lucky, but we are. Let’s look at the reasons why.


First, we have a pension. All federal employees have a defined benefit plan; FERS for most current employees and CSRS for a remaining few old-timers. Uniformed service members participate in either the Legacy Retirements System (LRS) or the Blended Retirement System (BRS).

Recently, I saw a figure that only 11% of private sector employees have a pension; that’s down from 14% just a few years ago. A FERS employee who works for 30 years will have a pension of 30% or 33% of their high-three salary. LRS will pay 50% of base pay after 20 years; BRS will pay 40% after the same period. That pension goes a long way toward providing retirement security.

Social Security

Second, like almost all (94%) American workers, we are entitled to a benefit from Social Security. Because the average federal salary is higher than the average private sector salary, our Social Security benefit will be higher than that of the average Social Security recipient.

The average annual Social Security payment in 2019 is $17,532. Consider that this benefit is the starting point for most workers, as they have no pension to rely on and therefore find themselves having to rely more heavily on other savings for retirement security.

Thrift Savings Plan

Third, we can contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan.

35% of private sector workers have no access to a defined contribution plan. Of those that do have access, 20% are not given any matching contributions by their employers. Plus, the 5% match available for FERS and BRS participants is higher than the average (4.17%) and most common (3%) matches provided by other employers.

Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

Fourth, we have the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) for civilians and TRICARE for military. Both FEHB and TRICARE can be carried into retirement and even past Medicare eligibility; a rarity in the private sector.

Job Security

Fifth, we have greater job security than those in the private sector. Once we have passed our probationary period, we can only be removed for cause or due to a reduction in force.

I’m sure I didn’t cover everything. Why don’t those of you who comment on this article add additional items of things for which we, as federal employees or uniformed service members, should be thankful?

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at johnfgrobe@comcast.net to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.