Gov Careers

By Phil Piemonte

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Retirement—is it time to run for the hills?

For years—as in many years—those who watch the federal government have predicted that a “retirement tsunami” and a subsequent “brain drain” would hit the federal workplace when the Baby Boomers started to reach retirement age. 

But year after year—because they either wanted to or needed to work longer—these Boomers failed to exit on cue.  

Still, this large cohort of feds continued to age in place, so to speak, and the numbers remained on the side of those doing the predicting, so the forecast has persisted for the better part of a decade.

But things may have changed in favor of the prognosticators. Maybe not a tsunami, but … 

If you have ever been on the beach when a hurricane is 1,000 or so miles off, you may have observed the following phenomenon. A wave comes in normally. Then the wave goes back out. And out, and out, and out some more. 

You now can see sandbars you didn’t know were there, suddenly exposed, hundreds of yards offshore.

Then the ocean pauses for what seems like a long time, and then the wave starts to come back in. Real fast.

And you, after a frown and a moment’s thought, turn and start to run for higher ground, back up over the dunes. 

That moment may be approaching for the federal government. 

According to a report in the Federal Times this week, Office of Personnel Management statistics show that in the first 10 months of 2011, retirement applications grew 24 percent over what they were at the same point in 2010. 

At that rate, according to the publication, the number of retirement applications could reach about 104,700 by the end of this calendar year. The numbers really jumped in October, the report said—42 percent higher than in the same month the prior year, and 60 percent more than in October 2009.

There certainly are lots of motivators and incentives to retire these days—both positive and negative. Far more then there were even a few months ago. 

From good to bad to worse, these include (to name only a few) buyouts and early retirement offers, the two-year federal pay freeze, and threats to extend the freeze and make what some call “draconian” changes to federal retirement benefits.

Federal pay and benefits have been under intense, continual legislative attack for more than a year. Even though the most radical efforts have failed so far, at this point those who advocate trimming the federal workforce might finally be succeeding in simply scaring it smaller without even passing legislation.

Right at this moment in Congress, bills are circulating that propose to do any number of things that would make federal employment less appealing to long-time feds, and seem like less of a good employment deal to prospective ones.

As a result, the attitude among a growing number of feds—in particular those who are eligible for retirement—increasingly seems to be “git while the gittin’s good.”

Are you one of them? Let us know.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Dec 13, 2011 at 12:13 PM


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