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Old 06-24-2010, 12:09 AM   #41
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"The three-year sabbatical can turn a threat into an opportunity."

I prefer a 30-year sabbatical with good pay.
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Old 06-24-2010, 12:54 AM   #42
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I think missing in the discussion of cutting benefits by saying that they are applied retroactively for work already delivered is missing an important fact. Many of current retirees started working under pension programs that were far less generous than that started off working under. They have benefit from increase pensions benefits that were given to them retroactively for work already performed.

Imagine Joe, a 70 year old retired state employee, who worked for 30 years and has been receiving a pension for 10 years. This person started working in 1970, in many cases they start work without a COLA provision. Then inflation took off in the 70s and by 1980s COLA were common for most public pension. But Joe spent 10 years working without the promise of a COLA to his pension and was granted a retroactive benefit. Even worse many states changed their pension calculations. For instance California use to give workers credit for 2% per year and than about 1985 they increased it to 3%/year. So now Joe instead of getting a pension of 30% (15 years * 2%) now finds his pension is increased 45% (15 years *3%) This enables Joe to collect 90% of his salary and retire at age 60 instead of the 70% he was counting on and retiring at age 65.

Meanwhile in the 1990s health insurance started to become a big issue. Guys like Joe near retirement age start to become very active in public employee Unions. They succeed in getting health benefits for early retirees. Once again although Joe is going only work for 5 more years he gets a nice retroactive benefit for the 25 years that worked.

Now realistically it would be an administrative nightmare to say Joe you only get 2/3 of COLA since the first 10 years you worked were without a COLA provision 1/6 of the health care subsidy etc. However, when we are talking about cutting benefits retroactively, it is worth noting that many current pensioners 'earned' these same benefits retroactively.
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Old 06-24-2010, 04:51 AM   #43
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If state pensions were too generous... Those states will find a way to adjust the equation. If it is just a matter of an underfunded pension plan... they will come up with the money through some sort of tax increases.

The biggest issue is underfunding of the pensions (over years) and for some pensions... perhaps being too risky managing the pension plan (as opposed to being too generous).

Unless we have a growing population and economy... many of the state pension programs are going to have to be managed differently.


They can balance the books without decreasing the pension benefit.

I suspect some of that tax money will come from increases in inheritance taxes at the state level. That income source will track right along with the boomers population (front end helps fund the back end). While no one likes taxes... they tend to care more about the money being "pried from their live warm hand" than being "pried from their cold dead hand".
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:39 AM   #44
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I think missing in the discussion of cutting benefits by saying that they are applied retroactively for work already delivered is missing an important fact. Many of current retirees started working under pension programs that were far less generous than that started off working under. They have benefit from increase pensions benefits that were given to them retroactively for work already performed.

Imagine Joe, a 70 year old retired state employee, who worked for 30 years and has been receiving a pension for 10 years. This person started working in 1970, in many cases they start work without a COLA provision. Then inflation took off in the 70s and by 1980s COLA were common for most public pension. But Joe spent 10 years working without the promise of a COLA to his pension and was granted a retroactive benefit. Even worse many states changed their pension calculations. For instance California use to give workers credit for 2% per year and than about 1985 they increased it to 3%/year. So now Joe instead of getting a pension of 30% (15 years * 2%) now finds his pension is increased 45% (15 years *3%) This enables Joe to collect 90% of his salary and retire at age 60 instead of the 70% he was counting on and retiring at age 65.

Meanwhile in the 1990s health insurance started to become a big issue. Guys like Joe near retirement age start to become very active in public employee Unions. They succeed in getting health benefits for early retirees. Once again although Joe is going only work for 5 more years he gets a nice retroactive benefit for the 25 years that worked.

Now realistically it would be an administrative nightmare to say Joe you only get 2/3 of COLA since the first 10 years you worked were without a COLA provision 1/6 of the health care subsidy etc. However, when we are talking about cutting benefits retroactively, it is worth noting that many current pensioners 'earned' these same benefits retroactively.

In many cases those retroactive benefits were taken in lieu of a salary increase. And the COLA benefit was reflecting what occured with Social Security. Many of these state workers had 8 percent of their salary withheld and are not eligible for Social Security and are receiving 22K on average, at least this is the case in the state of Illinois, I am not sure about Colorado and Minnesota although I expect their cases to be similar
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Old 06-24-2010, 09:04 AM   #45
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This guy thinks the next bubble to pop is the retirement bubble. He seems to be pushing for semi-retirement as a way help us get out of this mess. He has some interesting ideas in his blogs on transitioning from full time work to part time work that you like (life sabbatical). His ideas and tone may be a tough sell on this forum.
Frankly I think it makes some sense IF we can finally decouple health insurance from full-time employment.
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Old 06-24-2010, 11:30 AM   #46
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In many cases those retroactive benefits were taken in lieu of a salary increase.
If that is true, why does study after study show equal or better current pay, without regard to benefits, in the public sector?

More "protect me for I am special" pleadings.
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:41 PM   #47
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OK, I have two COLA pensions. One is "in the bag," my reserve component military pension that starts paying in 2026, when I turn 60.

The other is my FERS pension. I'm still working, so still contributing and building this pension.

How do I plan my future retirement with all the pension uncertainty?

Quit public service, get a job in private sector with big salary increase and no pension and save more in the 401K?

What if the best and brightest all did this? Leaving behind the deadwood/unemployable.
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:57 PM   #48
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OK, I have two COLA pensions. One is "in the bag," my reserve component military pension that starts paying in 2026, when I turn 60.

The other is my FERS pension. I'm still working, so still contributing and building this pension.

How do I plan my future retirement with all the pension uncertainty?

Quit public service, get a job in private sector with big salary increase and no pension and save more in the 401K?

What if the best and brightest all did this? Leaving behind the deadwood/unemployable.
You are in great shape. The Feds have no pension problem. When they set up FERS they made the employee and agency contributions actuarially complete - i.e. they cover the full costs of the system. Of course the retirement trust fund is like the SS trust funds -- it is just IOUs from the Treasury. But that is no different than other Treasury securities. When the Feds get around to dealing with the deficit it will not involve reneging on Treasuries or FERS.
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Old 06-24-2010, 04:35 PM   #49
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OK, I have two COLA pensions. One is "in the bag," my reserve component military pension that starts paying in 2026, when I turn 60.

The other is my FERS pension. I'm still working, so still contributing and building this pension.

How do I plan my future retirement with all the pension uncertainty?
Agreed with donheff here -- I don't think anyone with federal pensions have anything at all to worry about. The federal program is more solvent for one thing, having watered down the unsustainable CSRS pensions with FERS more than a quarter-century ago. Also, unlike states, the federal government can regularly spend into deficits and print money.

I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep over worry about federal pensions. All the ticking time bombs in that department are in state and local governments.
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:20 PM   #50
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In many cases those retroactive benefits were taken in lieu of a salary increase. And the COLA benefit was reflecting what occured with Social Security. Many of these state workers had 8 percent of their salary withheld and are not eligible for Social Security and are receiving 22K on average, at least this is the case in the state of Illinois, I am not sure about Colorado and Minnesota although I expect their cases to be similar
As I have shown in many posts in the past, the 8% (which use to be lower) contribution by state employees results in a pension benefit which is 50-100% more generous than a private benefit.

Finally it is the exception not the rule for state workers to not be covered by social security.
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Old 06-24-2010, 09:22 PM   #51
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If that is true, why does study after study show equal or better current pay, without regard to benefits, in the public sector?

More "protect me for I am special" pleadings.
How about posting those "studies"
To get you started

In 2008, local government
workers were paid closer to 12 percent less than
their private sector counterparts. Thus, despite average
wages that are some 12 or 13 percent higher, the
adjusted wage gap in 2008 is roughly the same size,
but negative (see Figure 1). The adjusted wage gap
provides an estimate of comparability, and the estimate
suggests state and local workers are, on average,
underpaid, controlling for other determinants of wages.
In other words, controlling for education and other
characteristics, the data show that local government
workers are paid substantially less than their private
sector counterparts.29 The major driver in this basic pattern
is the fact that government workers have jobs that
demand more education, which is not accounted for by
raw averages.30
http://www.nirsonline.org/storage/ni...april_2010.pdf
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:30 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by Emeritus View Post
How about posting those "studies"
To get you started

In 2008, local government
workers were paid closer to 12 percent less than
their private sector counterparts. Thus, despite average
wages that are some 12 or 13 percent higher, the
adjusted wage gap in 2008 is roughly the same size,
but negative (see Figure 1). The adjusted wage gap
provides an estimate of comparability, and the estimate
suggests state and local workers are, on average,
underpaid, controlling for other determinants of wages.
In other words, controlling for education and other
characteristics, the data show that local government
workers are paid substantially less than their private
sector counterparts.29 The major driver in this basic pattern
is the fact that government workers have jobs that
demand more education, which is not accounted for by
raw averages.30
http://www.nirsonline.org/storage/ni...april_2010.pdf
haha- yes, process is what counts, not product. Sorry, won't wash.
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Old 06-25-2010, 05:10 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by Emeritus View Post
How about posting those "studies"
To get you started

In 2008, local government
workers were paid closer to 12 percent less than
their private sector counterparts. Thus, despite average
wages that are some 12 or 13 percent higher, the
adjusted wage gap in 2008 is roughly the same size,
but negative (see Figure 1). The adjusted wage gap
provides an estimate of comparability, and the estimate
suggests state and local workers are, on average,
underpaid, controlling for other determinants of wages.
In other words, controlling for education and other
characteristics, the data show that local government
workers are paid substantially less than their private
sector counterparts.29 The major driver in this basic pattern
is the fact that government workers have jobs that
demand more education, which is not accounted for by
raw averages.30
http://www.nirsonline.org/storage/ni...april_2010.pdf
You realize that posting a study from an organization which despite its misleading name is made up entirely of State employee retirement managers lacks credibility. It is pretty much on par with the Tobacco Institute study showing that cigarette smoker smoke because they enjoy it.
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Old 06-25-2010, 05:26 AM   #54
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You realize that posting a study from an organization which despite its misleading name is made up entirely of State employee retirement managers lacks credibility. It is pretty much on par with the Tobacco Institute study showing that cigarette smoker smoke because they enjoy it.
The study is by two university professors using public data. I'm well aware of the technical limitations of any such study but feel free to post any
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Old 06-25-2010, 09:12 AM   #55
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Any study on this from any source is bound to be of questionable value. It is near impossible to adjust for differences across the work environment, job security, future advancement, etc, etc. No, it *is* impossible, as what is valued by one employee may be a negative to another. In cases like this, I like to do the equivalent of cutting the Gordian Knot:

The free market laws of supply and demand cuts through all that data and comparison, although they are complicated by union influence in some cases. So to me, the real question is - does the public sector have any trouble filling job openings with the current total compensation package? If they have qualified people generally lining up for most openings, then I say that public sector is not maintaining its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. OTOH, if they can't fill the position, they may need to make a more compelling total package, so the needs of the community are served (assuming the job is actually serving us).

Most companies won't survive by offering more than they need to get qualified candidates. So, do we have any data on how quickly jobs are filled private versus public? I think that would tell us more w/o even needing to do much questionable adjustment for working conditions, etc. The market will tell us.

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Old 06-25-2010, 09:28 AM   #56
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Any study on this from any source is bound to be of questionable value. It is near impossible to adjust for differences across the work environment, job security, future advancement, etc, etc. No, it *is* impossible, as what is valued by one employee may be a negative to another. In cases like this, I like to do the equivalent of cutting the Gordian Knot:

The free market laws of supply and demand cuts through all that data and comparison, although they are complicated by union influence in some cases. So to me, the real question is - does the public sector have any trouble filling job openings with the current total compensation package? If they have qualified people generally lining up for most openings, then I say that public sector is not maintaining its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. OTOH, if they can't fill the position, they may need to make a more compelling total package, so the needs of the community are served (assuming the job is actually serving us).

Most companies won't survive by offering more than they need to get qualified candidates. So, do we have any data on how quickly jobs are filled private versus public? I think that would tell us more w/o even needing to do much questionable adjustment for working conditions, etc. The market will tell us.

-ERD50
The OPs assertion was that "If that is true, why does study after study show equal or better current pay, without regard to benefits, in the public sector?" I was responding to the assertion

IMHO union influences pale in megacorp compared to the cozy relationship between CEOS and "pay committees". the assertion that the free market determines salaries is testable but is not taken as a given. There is a great deal of "friction" aka market failure in the labor market for some jobs.

The other issue is the "quality" of worker you hire. (not merely "qualified" ) We needed to hire a dean of engineering with a salary package worth about 300K. We could not interest any of our top 6 choices at that pay level.




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Old 06-25-2010, 09:44 AM   #57
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IMHO union influences pale in megacorp compared to the cozy relationship between CEOS and "pay committees". the assertion that the free market determines salaries is testable but is not taken as a given. There is a great deal of "friction" aka market failure in the labor market for some jobs.
It is true that there is an incestuous relationship in a lot of corporate boardrooms; many CEOs sit on each other's BODs and simply approve each other's ridiculous pay and bonuses. ("You vote for my $5 million bonus and I'll vote for yours.") That's a practice that needs to be called out.

Having said that, there's also the fact that there are very few executives relative to rank-and-file, and it takes a much smaller increase in rank-and-file compensation to "move the needle" in terms of total dollars. Plus, people have the choice to not use a particular company's products or services if they find their executive compensation policy excessive or if those compensation costs price their products out of a competitive position. We have no such choice in public employment compensation policies funded by taxes -- meaning the latter is more coercive since people can't "opt out" of what they consider offensive, unethical or too expensive.

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The other issue is the "quality" of worker you hire. (not merely "qualified" )
It depends on the position. Sometimes you will hold out until you find that very best applicant, and you need to be willing to pay up for it. But sometimes "good enough" really is, and that's where it makes little sense to provide a compensation package that brings in 100 reasonably qualified applicants for one opening. When that happens in a situation where you don't need to pay top dollar for the very best, you are paying too much.
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Old 06-25-2010, 09:47 AM   #58
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Originally Posted by Emeritus View Post
How about posting those "studies"
To get you started

In 2008, local government
workers were paid closer to 12 percent less than
their private sector counterparts. Thus, despite average
wages that are some 12 or 13 percent higher, the
adjusted wage gap in 2008 is roughly the same size,
but negative (see Figure 1). The adjusted wage gap
provides an estimate of comparability, and the estimate
suggests state and local workers are, on average,
underpaid, controlling for other determinants of wages.
In other words, controlling for education and other
characteristics, the data show that local government
workers are paid substantially less than their private
sector counterparts.29 The major driver in this basic pattern
is the fact that government workers have jobs that
demand more education, which is not accounted for by
raw averages.30
http://www.nirsonline.org/storage/ni...april_2010.pdf

The one thing I will say.... I was talking to my sister who is about to start her retirement pay... and got a quote online for what an annuity would cost today for what she is getting... just south of $700,000..

Now, she worked for about 22 years (bought 3 years)... so say a total of 25 years.. That is about $28,000 per year... now, I am not back dating the pay to figure the past value etc... someone else can do that... all I am saying is... that is a pretty good amount of money to make up for any 'lower pay'... BTW, her wage was NOT lower than the private sector... people came and went from where she worked with about the same wage... she did computer programming..

also, she worked part time for about 10 to 15 years of that time.. but the final pension counted all those years as 'full time'... so even better...
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:03 AM   #59
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Originally Posted by Emeritus View Post
The OPs assertion was that "If that is true, why does study after study show equal or better current pay, without regard to benefits, in the public sector?" I was responding to the assertion
And I think that that question is a dead-ender. There is just no value in attempting to answer it, as no two people would agree on what 'equivalent' jobs were. Without that first step, you can't take the second step.


Quote:
IMHO union influences pale
ziggy covered that, thanks.

Quote:
The other issue is the "quality" of worker you hire. (not merely "qualified" ) We needed to hire a dean of engineering with a salary package worth about 300K. We could not interest any of our top 6 choices at that pay level.
I don't see any conflict with what I posted. If your definition of 'qualified' is 'one of those top six people', and they won't take the job @ $300K, then you will need to do something to make the total package more attractive (not necessarily salary). It's that simple.

-ERD50
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:30 AM   #60
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The one thing I will say.... I was talking to my sister who is about to start her retirement pay... and got a quote online for what an annuity would cost today for what she is getting... just south of $700,000..

Now, she worked for about 22 years (bought 3 years)... so say a total of 25 years.. That is about $28,000 per year... now, I am not back dating the pay to figure the past value etc... someone else can do that... all I am saying is... that is a pretty good amount of money to make up for any 'lower pay'... BTW, her wage was NOT lower than the private sector... people came and went from where she worked with about the same wage... she did computer programming..

also, she worked part time for about 10 to 15 years of that time.. but the final pension counted all those years as 'full time'... so even better...
FWIW, each state is different. I am a state employee here in Texas. A software developer, and I am making much less then I did when I was in the private sector. The difference is so great that, despite the pension and job security, I am actually thinking about quitting and returning to the private sector once the economy is going strong again.

Personally, I would prefer if they nixed the pension plan and made our salaries more equitable with private industry (with salary incentives). Merit raises are almost nonexistent here without switching jobs, and we having had a COLA raise in 3 years.

You don't have to take my word for it. My salary and other Texas State employees are public domain.

Databases - State of Texas salaries | chron.com - Houston Chronicle
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