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Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-05-2005, 12:53 PM   #1
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Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Specifically, late in life? Circa age 53?

After reading so many posts on this board by those with pensions, reviewing our financial situation, and considering the next, minimum 9 years of work before we could possibly collect SS ... wondered if it is wiser to keep working 60+ hour weeks, with zero pension, and a chance at the brass ring, or ... see if I can get an 8 to 5 government job with lower pay, but less brain damage, and some pension in the next 9 years.

Reviewed the USAJobs.com web site, and frankly, looks as though it is hard to get a U.S. government job if you don't already have one.

And, for that matter, is this entire idea crazy ... is it even possible to build a pension in 9 years? Is there lots of overtime in government jobs as well?

I've always been a private sector guy, but the last few years are making me wonder if not seeing my kids grow up, working 60+ hour weeks, and spending my time with broken private sector companies is really the smart move. Worth considering, and I'll appreciate your counsel.

Thanks.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-05-2005, 01:09 PM   #2
 
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Hi Craig. I read your post twice, carefully. Forget about
the government job. There are better ways (for you)
to get where you want to be.

JG
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-05-2005, 07:11 PM   #3
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

John, I hear you. But here is one thing that prompts my question.

We had a fellow working with us on a temporary basis, who ended up taking a Controller position. We considered offering him a job, and stealing him from where he is now ... but I'm told he has an 8 to 5 deal, no pressure, and doesn't need the extra dough. Made me stop and think. Frankly, I could make it on much less than current income, albeit we would obviously be able to save less towards ER. But the idea of a job with fewer hours (currently working about 60 per week), and little or no stress sounds like nirvana ... my kids could actually get to know me.

Thus, my question. Looking past private employers for now, as my experience has been that they are often relatively short term deals, and often accompanied by financial angst.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-05-2005, 10:21 PM   #4
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

A couple comments from a Govt employee. Check very closely abut the reduction in Social Security if you get any pension not covered by SS. I know people who want to teach after a work career and see the damage that would do to therir SS payment.
Second, if you sense that it would be good for you and your family to spend more time together then make that a bigger priority than maning more money. You will never have another chance to watch your kids grow up, be at school and recreational events. There was some fameous quote about no one on their death bed regretted spending too much time with their family (compared to putting in more time at work).
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-06-2005, 03:18 AM   #5
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?


I work for a defense contractor. This means we interact with "the government types" regularly. My wife is a software contractor at a government facility. We've both noticed the same thing. Yes, most have an easier work schedule. Compared to the people on our side, there's less stress and pressure.

But at what price? Of the dozens of gov't employees I know, most are cynical, whiney, and narrow minded. This is a sweeping generalization, I know, but it's something I've seen A LOT. My wife agrees and says it's the same in her building.

No offense to any gov't employees in the audience.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-06-2005, 03:25 AM   #6
 
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Hello Otis. I worked in defense contracting/subcontracting for the last 10+ years of my career. I agree with your characterization of gov. employees. What's ironic is that my son (even more of
a free spirit/no rules guy than I am) works for the Feds.
I predict his tenure will be short-lived, although he just
got married and took on some debt (should have talked to me first ). That may keep him grounded where he
is for a while. Maybe he is a "happy camper". Doubt it.

JG
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-06-2005, 04:19 AM   #7
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Hey Otis - I'm a fed. govt employee (26 years now), and I don't think I'm whiney, cynical, and narrow-minded

It is true (in my experience, anyway) that most govt. employees generally work fewer hours and have less stress than a lot of private sector employees. That's one of the reasons I took the job that I have, along with some of the perks (nice amount of vacation time, decent pension at age 55). In addition to all that, though, I do like my job and I do feel like the work I do is important (that doesn't mean I want to work beyond age 55 though!).

As for taking a govt. job at age 53 and trying to build up a pension in 9 years, I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing that. For one thing, you wouldn't be able to build up much of a pension in just 9 years. All new govt. employees are in the FERS retirement system, which means that you get a relatively small pension based upon your years of service and high-3 salary, plus a 401-k type account (Thrift Savings Plan). The TSP is good, but you could likely do just as well by pumping as much $$ as you can into your own 401k, especially if you get an employer match.

There is not a lot of opportunity for overtime work (at least in my agency), so you're not going to get rich that way. On the other hand, though, you would have more time to spend with your family. Is there any opportunity for you to cut back your hours at your present job? If spending time with your family is a priority, then maybe the money isn't as important as the extra time at home.

Another thing to consider: it may be hard for someone used to working in the private sector (especially a smaller company) for a long time to adjust to a govt. job. Lots more rules, bureaucracy, etc.. I'm used to it, but it can be frustrating at times. Some people can handle it; others can't.

RAE
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-06-2005, 05:02 AM   #8
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

It makes sense at any age for someone who has a preexisting medical condition (or a family member with one). Health coverage is generally excellent. DH is a fed employee, and I recently started working for the state higher ed system, and both jobs come with great health benefits. We are looking forward to taking these with us when he reaches minimum retirement age (56).

As for pensions, if you put 9 years in at $50k salary, your pension would be 9 X $500 = $4500/ year, so you be the judge on whether that is worth it.

Attitudes of people at work are sometimes an issue- some people are more wrapped up in calculating (and using every bit of) their sick leave and annual leave and taking advantage of every benefit than actually working. That's probably true of workers at many large corporations, not just gov't work. On the plus side, people aren't constantly worrying about being laid off, so perhaps that breeds a more positive work environment.

DH and I both enjoy our jobs and live by the mantra that you get out of life (and work) what you put into it.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-06-2005, 05:12 AM   #9
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Quote:
Hey Otis - I'm a fed. govt employee (26 years now), and I don't think I'm whiney, cynical, and narrow-minded
Hey RAE -- Like I said, no offense intended. Was just my observation as an outsider, and yes, it's probably an unfair generalization. I have met plenty of people who love their jobs and take great satisfaction in the part they play in supporting the warfighter. The procuring office that I work with right now has their employees working 10-12h a day, 6-7d a week because of the necessity of keeping things rolling.

I guess my only point was that from where I"m sitting, I don't know that I could ever take a Gov't job. I've seen plenty of good people who've had the life sucked out of them ... but of course, you could say that about private industry as well.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-06-2005, 06:07 AM   #10
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

I, too, was defense industry person. I believe that govt employees are clock-watchers, probably because their jobs have no soul. Just a lot of paper-shuffling, mostly created work, and in their heart they know it.

On the other hand, this forum is about retirement. If all you want is retirement, if what you want is a life outside the job, then govt employment is the answer.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-06-2005, 06:24 AM   #11
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

American SST, Skylab, Viking, Space Shuttle - long periods of 60-80 hour weeks, alternated with boring schedule slow downs - all keyed to launch schedules.

Overall - definitely not boring. Working for govt contractor - success meant you got layed off - unless there was another project to work. Also moved a lot.

P.S. - Most of the NASA cats, I worked with were determined to 'do the right thing' and often had a similar 'jaundiced' view of some of civil services finer querks.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-07-2005, 04:57 AM   #12
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Our local county government had two supervisors in the same department (911) who couldn't get along. The county spent $20,000 in "counseling" and they still didn't get along. Of course not, why should they.

Now if I as a private sector employer had two supervisors who didn't get along, I would say "get along or you won't be a supervisor anymore". Counseling? Fuggitaboutit.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-07-2005, 08:34 AM   #13
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

It's all about perspective I guess. If I could have recruited a 50 something to fill one of my entry level Field Tech Jobs in IT last time we were "allowed" to fill jobs at all, i.e. hiring freeze was finally lifted, I would have jumped at qualified mature candidates.

Those same numbers in Local Government where Pensions have been negotiated over the years at the expense of high salaries that same 50k Job Janie quoted at paying $4,500 per year would net $11,700 per year (23.4%)for a 62 year old with 9 years of service, plus the option to save as much as you want pre tax (18k per year or more) each year in a 457 plan, not counting the 'catchup provision' for the last 3 years before retirement. Clearly a motivated person could save a chunk in those 9 years tax free. It is conceivable that a smart cookie could achieve a promotion or two during the 9 years, and since pension is based on the high 12 months, the 11.7k could get bumped a couple grand per year if one played one's card right.

I in fact did hire a 60 something ( we are not permitted to ask age so I'm guessing, he could have been 70) a few years ago, and he was the best employee I've ever had. He'd worked for 30 years at IBM and I teased him unmercifully about that for no reason whatsoever, he loved it! He just needed to work to be happy. Opposite of an ER type. Great guy.

As to the anectodal comments about public vs private sector work ethics...first sentence of post still applies.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-07-2005, 01:58 PM   #14
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

The pension may not be that great since you will not have that many years of years. In general, you normally recieve 1 - 2 % for every year of service. For 10 years of service, you may get 20%. If your highest 3-year average salary is $80,000, your pension will be $16,000 per year. It really depends more on your salary in this case.

You also receive medical benefits after retirement.

Another plus is that the job will be less stressful and demanding relative to the private sector.

Cons: lower pay, more red tapes, bureaucarcy.

Overall, I think the government job is still a good thing.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-07-2005, 03:50 PM   #15
 
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Nothing against anyone opting for a government job.
I think everyone should look out for their own best
interests, and for some........ government work may be the
best means to their particular end. I would rather be boiled in my own juices, but that's just me.

JG
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-09-2005, 07:35 AM   #16
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Quote:
... see if I can get an 8 to 5 government job with lower pay, but less brain damage, and some pension in the next 9 years.
You'll vest at 10 yrs service / 50 yrs or older .... 30 yrs service / any age .... or your 'planned' 9 yrs at 70+ yrs old. Doesn't sound like it'll fit your scheme.

Pension is figured at:

Yrs of service X final average salary X pension factor.

You also need to be vested in order to get medical benefits.

The amount I contributed to the pension fund was over 1600 per month in my last 2 yrs ... sis currently contributes over 1k a month and it is going up 2.5% when she gets her 5% raise in October 2005. Yes, benefits are there ... but run the numbers to see if you'd be better off contributing that 20K per year to a 401k <14K> and Roth / IRA <4k this yr> and private investing. We put in a hell of a lot towards our pensions that somehow never get mentioned.

FYI: Not everyone is eligible to overtime ... I wasn't
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-11-2005, 06:56 PM   #17
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Thanks ... lots of good advice, as anticipated.

gayl, I may have misled you ... don't understand why the 9 years is an issue. Could work from age 53 to age 63, and vest, no?

John Galt ... I don't know if I have it in me to desert the private sector, and move to a government job. I know your name well, and share that philosophy (though I suspect you'll scoff, due to my question). But I have to deal with the world as it is, not necessarily the world as I would like it to be. And of late, the world I live in is providing inadequate returns for huge investments of time and heartache, and a lack of time for family and life. I have always believed in pursuing that brass ring, and working hard to build companies ... but when you begin to strongly question if the return is really there, then it makes sense to switch "investments". And, if there is still time to do so, and provide additional stability to my life in 10 years ... then it is worth a gander. If the company we're building now doesn't pay off, then I do believe I'm done chasing options / stock ... we'll see.

Not to mention the fact that in too few years my youngest boy will leave the nest, and I may never have gotten to know him.

Tough question, but I do greatly appreciate all of your friendly advice. Now it is up to me.

Thanks.
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-12-2005, 07:41 AM   #18
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Craig,

You sound like you have a lot of good reasons to move into a public sector job. Even if you have a not-so-great boss, you will get the other things you are looking for - 8-5 job, good benefits, sick leave, annual leave, family leave, etc.

I would also add that while there are plenty of government employees who take advantage of the opportunity to "coast" on the job, you can make your job what you want it to be- and you'll have resources at your disposal to do this. Typically, this includes lots of opportunities to go to training sessions to learn new skills, a computer, possibly a vehicle you can use to attend meetings, and so on. You can establish contacts with other agencies, non-profits, and private sector people in your field.

People who claim to be bored or unsatisfied in gov't jobs probably are lacking the get up and go to make more of their jobs. The fact that it's so hard to fire anyone (unless they do something illegal) ensures that the slackers stay in the system forever. Ignore them!
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?
Old 02-16-2005, 06:54 AM   #19
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Re: Does it Make Sense to Get a Government Job?

Interesting thread. I've thought of looking for a govt job in a few years for the pension and medical benefits (i have a pre-existing condition that will make ER health insurance tough)

Is 10 years a typical qualifying time for vesting for Health Insurance after retirement?
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