Year-end retirees miss COLA boat

Monday - 11/18/2013, 2:00am EST

If you are planning to retire shortly in order to get the 1.5 percent cost-of- living raise effective in January, a word of warning:

The ship has sailed. Without you!

You can retire, of course. But the first COLA you are likely to taste won't be until January 2015.

Retirees (federal, military and Social Security) are due the COLA in January. Federal workers are due a 1 percent pay raise, their first in three years. Given what's been happening over the past several years, many long-time, long-battered feds are wondering if it is worth carrying on.

In addition to the pay freeze (first proposed by the White House, then extended a year by House Republicans), feds have been furloughed this year because of sequestration. Later about half the employees were told they weren't needed (and wouldn't get paid) because of the government shutdown. Congress eventually had second thoughts and insisted that the workers get paid. But, for many, the financial and psychic damage was done.

As a result of the past few years, many feds, who are eligible to retire, have got to be wondering if the daily commute — not to mention what happens when they get to work — is worth it.

For many, the obvious answer is yes. It's been nice to have a good, safe job during this historic and extended recession. Having a paycheck and a guaranteed pension and health insurance is nice when tens of thousands of people were being laid off; when good paying jobs were leaving the country and private and local government workers were forced to take pay cuts.

The issue of when to pull the plug is tougher for some. Especially those with enough time and birthdays to qualify for retirement. For them, the stay-or-go question gets tougher each year.

The dreaded retirement tsunami (predicted since the late 1990s) still hasn't happened. The en masse brain drain hasn't taken place. Yet. But it will someday as hundreds, maybe thousands, become eligible to retire each week.

Meantime, a number of federal workers have contacted us to say the decision to pull the plug is a no-brainer. While they are likely to get a 1 percent pay raise next year, their retired colleagues will be getting a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment. A no brainer. Retire and get more.

The problem is timing. If you plan to retire now so you can get the COLA it is too late. COLAs are pro-rated. Annuitants get one-twelfth of the due COLA for each month they were retired before Dec. 1 of the previous year. So, to get the full 1.5 percent COLA you would have had to have been retired by December 2012.

If you are a long-service employee and you can't take it anymore, leave if you must. But don't retire thinking you will get the 2014 COLA.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

There are 58 versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story. And at least one of them pre-dates the Brothers Grimm version by 1,000 years.

(Source: Smithsonian Magazine)


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