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Daily Dose: Most Fed Make Six-Figure Salaries – Fact or Fiction?

As union leaders are preparing to defend federal workers against paying more for their pensions to “help pay down the deficit and extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits,” they are trying to prove that federal works represent “the typical middle America of this country.”

But are they? Fiscal conservatives and Republicans often claim that these feds make six-figure salaries on average, which is above “typical middle America”.

An article in the Washington Post yesterday debunks this myth – as of September 2010, the average full-time, salaried federal employee makes $76,231 per year.

An OPM database shows that as of September 2011, there were 1.856 million full-time, permanent, non-seasonal federal employees. That figure is a head count that excludes part-timers and certain other categories of employees. (It differs from the number used in the White House budget proposal released Monday, which measures work year equivalents.)

The database shows about 423,000 employees making less than $50,000, almost the same number as the 420,000 making more than $100,000. The remainder — just above 1 million employees — make between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.

So what does this new legislation mean to federal employees? By increasing their payments by 1.2% in the next 3 years, an employee earning $50,000/year would pay $600 more annually towards their pension.

Where do you stand? Do you think asking federal employees to pay more to their pensions too much to ask?

How much do federal employees earn?


“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great stories in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send them to[email protected].

Previous Daily Dose posts:

Social Security Administration Worker Removed from Position due to Age, Race, and Sex

Another Government Shutdown?

Get off a Govie’s Back Already!

Secret Service Ready for a Busy 2012

Boxers, Briefs, or Ballistics?

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David Johnson

It seems since the cost of living increases Federal employees receive are to keep up with inflation, and Congress has been the decision authority on that, we cannot be over or under paid. I believe the problem is in the private sector where employees have not been given compensation increases in accordance with inflation. Feds are paid appropriately, many in the private sector are not as extra profit has gone to executives and shareholders. Instead of people saying since Feds have received appropriate inflation-based compensation adjustments and companies are shorting their employees, they say private sector wage is the “correct” one and Federal employees are overpaid. There is no sense to that. Especially since Congress has been the entity adjusting the cost of living increases, there is no basis for them to say federal employees are overpaid. Address the real problem of companies not properly adjusting their employees’ pay.

David Dejewski

I’m concerned. It’s hard to argue against saving for retirement – forced or otherwise. But it’s what happens to your money from the time you “save” it until the time you can withdraw it that has my attention. I ran the math. As a government employee at the top of the GS scale, my salary was right around $150k / year. A 1.2% “forced savings” increase means about $1,800 out of my check per year. With 21 years from current retirement age, that means I am going to give an extra $37,800 the government can do whatever they want with. Being born when I was, my minimum retirement age would be 67 or higher under current law, up to 72 or higher under some proposals floating around today. That could mean $41,400 or even $50,400 of my money in government hands instead of mine.

Given the viability of the Social Security program and the status of the US fiscal scenarios, it’s very possible that money (my money) won’t be there when I am ready to retire. At the end of the day, what I’ve done is helped to fund the current fiscal crisis. I’d have nothing to show for it beside a promise that can no longer be honored.

It’s not a coincidence that I now own my own business, that it’s an investment company, that I specialize in real estate, or that my retirement accounts are fully self-directed and showing double digit growth. It literally pays to be aware and take action on your own behalf – above and beyond a salary paying job.

What it means, in my opinion, Allison, is that we are seeing another in a long string of changes that amounts to creeping normalcy. The old approach of getting a good government job, putting in years and living off a pension are over for many of us. It’s still working for some 20 years my senior, but a beloved way of life is dying the Death of a Thousand Cuts.