Worried about retirement? Join the club

Friday - 5/31/2013, 2:00am EDT

Are you keeping tabs on the money Uncle Sam is losing by furloughing employees? Are you about to retire but fearful it could be months before OPM OKs your first full annuity payment? Does the idea of changing the way retiree COLAs (cost-of- living adjustments) are calculated frighten you?

If you said yes to any of the above, welcome to the club. It includes:

  • Active-duty feds, who in many cases face a string of furlough days between now and Oct. 1

  • About-to-retire feds who wonder how long they may be on half rations, and

  • Current and future retirees worried that a new money-saving plan may save money at their expense.
Here are some thoughts from readers, starting with the OPM backlog in processing retirement applications:
"How about doing a piece on the less obvious effects of the OPM backlog in processing retirement applications. I am about to retire in three days, with our house on the market for sale and looking to relocate to a different area and purchase a new home. I am seriously concerned that timing will have it that we find a home to purchase and I will only have an estimated annuity income to present to the bank to qualify for a loan. I am reading the estimated annuity is anywhere from 70-80 percent of your true annuity. This could adversely affect the home we can purchase. How wrong is this?" — Taking the Plunge
Next up, the dollar cost of furloughs. Earlier, we took a look at how much money the government is losing by furloughing key IRS workers. An IRS employee — who has been furloughed — says the true cost of furloughs isn't as bad as the picture we painted on April 30. Take a look at the column, then check out this commentary:
"Yes the IRS furloughs are costing the government by losing revenue collected, but not all IRS employees collect the money. There are plenty of us behind the scenes doing just the day-to-day operations, not collections. So please recalculate ... it may make headlines to say one employee collects $14,000 a day that will be lost to furloughs, but don't multiply that by the total number of IRS employees!" — Please don't print my name.
Backers of the administration plan to slightly reduce future cost- of-living adjustments for federal, military and Social Security retirees, say it would save billions of dollars and yet retirees would hardly notice the change. The plan — which must be approved by Congress — would base future COLAs for the millions of retirees on the so-called "chained CPI." Currently, COLAs are tied to changes as measured by the CPI-W which looks at goods and services primarily aimed at workers who are 62 and under.

The claim-to-fame of the chained CPI is that it is more flexible and takes into account the fact that when prices go up, people switch to less expensive substitutes.

Opponents of the change say its measurements largely ignore the buying habits of older people whose medical costs on average are much higher. The give-and-take on the chained CPI prompted a retiree in Lawton, Okla., to send this message to his member of Congress:

"There's an effort afoot in Washington to cut civil service retirement by manipulating the way the CPI is computed to screw the people and save the government some money. Please insist on seeing the scientifically researched statistical data and/or academic studies which validate the thesis behind the so-called 'chained CPI.' My guess is you'll find very little hard scientific data to support the decision. The advocates are running with a hypothetical postulate on an unproven fallacious ASSUMPTION. Why? Not in the interest of fairness to the retiree that is for sure. Perhaps to increase the government's revenue. Nah. If you find there are numerous studies on this subject which support the thesis, please enlighten me by reference." — C.L.C


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

An acrylic nail worn by pop star Lady Gaga during a concert in Ireland last year is being auctioned. The nail, which was authenticated by a U.K.-basd auctioneer, reached $12,885 in bidding ahead of the auction's close Thursday.

(Source: UPI Odd News)


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