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Shows & Panels
Invisible federal millionaires
Wednesday - 9/18/2013, 2:00am EDT
Is the lady in the next cubicle, the one who brings her lunch and reuses the brown bag each day, really a millionaire?
Does the guy who runs your car pool, who adjusts fees when gas prices go up, have a seven-figure nest egg on the side?
Here's a number that will either inspire or depress you:
There are 929 federal employees with Thrift Savings Plan accounts worth $1 million or more.
So it can be done. But it helps to be rich before you take a federal job.
Many of the TSP millionaires got rich before they joined the government. They were doctors, lawyers or in other high-paying professions. Some of them are now federal judges. In some cases, they brought some or all of the money with them, transferring it from their outside 401(k) or retirement plans into the TSP because of its superlow administrative fees, and the supersafe G Fund (Treasury securities) option that is not available to nonfederal investors.
Some of the TSP millionaires are probably members of Congress. There are scores of millionaires on Capitol Hill. Some of them married well. Others got it from family trusts. A few made it themselves. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is listed as the richest member of Congress. His value is estimated at between $135 million (according to Roll Call) or $355 million according to an ABC report. Either way it's a lot. He founded the company that makes anti-theft devices for cars.
Regardless of how much you make (and, just as important, how much you spend), a lot of people are worth more than they think. Federal workers not only qualify for pensions, but they can also provide survivor annuities and pass on health-insurance protection to their survivors. If they have a house, and a TSP account, that adds to the value of their estate. Which brings us to today's Your Turn radio show:
Our guest today at 10 a.m. is attorney Thomas J. O'Rourke. He's a former IRS lawyer who now specializes in tax and estate planning. He's frequently called in to speak to groups of senior executives about wills, trusts and estate planning.
Later in the show, Federal Times senior writer Sean Reilly will talk about the budget, the status of the continuing resolution, phased retirement and upcoming Senate hearings on the Postal Service.
Tuesday's column was about the shootings at the Navy Yard, and how dangerous it can be to be a federal worker. The column ended with: "The bottom line: Working in a federal office can be dangerous. Take care of yourself."
But that obviously irked a HUD employee who wrote:
"I am annoyed by your last sentence in this morning's column.
"What do you suggest I do to take care of myself?
"Work at my desk with bullet proof shielding from head to toe?
"Work at home five days a week?
"Resign from my job?" — B.W.
NEARLY USELESS FACTOID
Compiled by Jack Moore
A total of 33 ingredients is used to make McDonalds' special "Big Mac" sauce, including distilled vinegar, garlic power, egg yolks and mustard bran.
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