Crisis averted short-term with a view at the long-term impact

Monday - 8/1/2011, 7:06pm EDT

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By Andrew Mitchell
Federal News Radio

At a time when federal workers' pay and benefits seem under siege by politicians anxious to cut the government's budget, there is one thing you as an agency employee can do to fight back: keep your job.

That's the message from this week's panel of experts on For Your Benefit, a program that airs live on Monday mornings at 10:00 on Federal News Radio and is presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning (NITP).

Co-hosts Bob Leins and Tammy Flanagan were joined by Federal News Radio's Senior Correspondent Mike Causey.

"Stay cool, watch what's happening, stay informed" was Flanagan's advice.

"Keep doing what you're doing," she added. "Keep coming to work every day.

"If you wanted to retire and you can afford to retire, go for it.

"If you're not ready, don't make any rushed decisions because of what could, or possibly might, happen."

The three panelists agreed that all of the changes being considered to federal workers' pay and benefits have yet to occur, so it is impossible to plan at this time for what may or may not happen.

Options under consideration in Congress include extending the pay freeze for current workers, changes in the way the cost of living is calculated for retirees and calculating pensions based on the salary of the highest five years of earnings, as opposed to the current standard, which is the highest three (the so-called "high five" and the "high three").

Flanagan also said she foresees more early retirement and buyout offers in efforts to shrink the size of the federal workforce.

As for the "high five," Flanagan said she personally does not think it will happen. But even if it does, she said, there is something a federal employee can do about it: "If you're not going to leave for another five years, or if your plans are flexible, you can offset the effect of the 'high five' by working longer."

Flanagan also said that knowledge about retirement benefits can be a federal employee's best friend.

"What we found from our retirement seminars is when people come the year before they leave their biggest comment is 'wish we would have had this 20 years ago.'" she said.

Causey said that, in offering retirement seminars to employees, "this is one area, it seems to me, where the federal government excels."

"I have never heard of a company, large or small, that will bring in a team like yours and pay for it - or even make it available," he told NITP's Leins and Flanagan.

Email us or call the show live at (202) 465-3080 to have your questions answered by the experts.