Author: Matt Pierce

OPM Continues To Review Hiring Process

OPM Continues To Review Hiring Process

 

There is a total of 164 authorities, available to agencies that can be used to hire new employees to the federal government. Not many of the hiring appointments go on to help the agency managers in identifying talent that would ideally meet their minimum qualification standards. Of course, the ideal selection of new diverse and vigilant applicants is out of the question. The Office of Personnel Management or OPM along with Congress have also acknowledged the fact that there are no quick fixes to the problems related to business, policy, and technology in the federal recruiting process.

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OPM PUSHES FOR INCREASED TARGETED RECRUITMENT:
OPM has suggested in this regard: Agencies should change their overall approach rather than just hoping that posting the jobs to USAJobs.gov will end up bringing out the most talented candidates for them. The agencies should instead target and reach out to pools of talent consistently.
The “post, wait and pray” tactic used by the agencies while posting on the USA jobs website is not very commendable. The President of Avue Technologies, Linda Brooks said to the Governmental Affairs, and Senate Homeland Security Committee this past week,
“You should always be recruiting; you should never stop. In the National Park Service, let’s just say I need 2,000 air conditioning mechanics. You should have one posting. You should always be taking applications.”
OPM is currently trying to make incremental and periodic updates to the job portal. The first step towards an improved portal came back in last year, and the agency has planned to continue bringing out improvements.

Special Category Employees and Retirement Benefit Differences

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Federal Retirement benefits are not always the same for every employee. If you are considered a Special Category employee, there are some distinguishable rules that you should be aware of. The categories that fall in this domain include the firefighters, law enforcement officers, and the air traffic controllers.

Retirement benefits differ for Special Category employees:

The firefighters and the law enforcing officers can retire if they are 50 years old or more. Of course, another condition in this regard would be the completion of 20 years of service. The retirement age that is mandatory for everyone is 57, and it’s only when an agency’s head thinks that it’s wise to continue can the age go up to around 60.

The main reason behind the difference in the retirement benefits is the fact that the careers of these Special Category employees last much shorter than the average employees. For example, the CSRS annuity can be calculated by taking 2.5 percent of the high-3 average pay and multiplying the answer with the 20 years of service. Follow the process by taking 2 percent of the high-3 times if there remain any years of service unaccounted for.

To calculate the FERS annuity, you will have to consider 1.7 percent of the high-3 average pay and whatever answer comes needs to be multiplied by 20 years of service. Similarly, take 1 percent of any of the remaining years of service.

The careers of the special category employees are filled with meeting and tackling situations that normal employees would never have to face, so it’s only natural for them to expect a little more compensation when it comes to getting Retirement benefits. There are other worth mentioning differences too, and they all contribute towards the effort to make the post-retirement lives of special category employees easy and comfortable.

Fed Interest Rate Hike and TSP Growth

Economic growth has triggered a Fed Interest Rate Hike and TSP Growth coincides.  Since the start of 2017, the US economic data has steadily improved, and the Federal Reserve is raising rates as a result. A steady increase in the financial data is demonstrating a sound reason for higher rates. The increased economic activity is also helping the government pave the way for continued increases in the interest rates. The Federal Reserve rates had been predominantly stagnant over the past decade, and this rate hike may be something that suggests more ‘Interest Rate Normalization.’

Fed Interest Rate Hike and TSP Growth

Since the November election, there have been a solid number of new jobs and an overt acceptance by much of corporate America that the future under Trump looks rather bright. Corporate America’s excitement about prospects may prove to be a great sign for the federal government.

This increase in jobs and economic data has caused the Federal Reserve to raise rates in recognition that the economy needs less help under Trump to achieve the desired 2% target growth. Federal employees who are investing in their Thrift Savings Plan have likely seen a rather sharp increase in their account values due to the market’s run-up since the election. Wednesday’s rate hike, which in decades past has typically been seen as a negative to the potential of the market were met with near record-high closes for the DOW, S&P, and NASDAQ.

To be able to see a higher rate bias from the Fed finally is something that has brought smiles on the faces of many people – especially fixed income savers. Here’s hoping that the rate increases lead to a more normal interest rate market and that that market brings about ongoing economic expansion.

Federal Employees Spill the names of best Employee Engagement Agencies in the FEVS Survey

The results of the FEVS survey conducted on federal employees by the OPM are out. It has mentioned which large and small agencies are at the top with regard to employee engagement. It also revealed which small agencies are at the top. The results also name the large and small agencies that have improved the most in keeping the employees engaged.

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Topmost Large Agencies Named by Federal Employees

The topmost large agency in which got a score of 82 percent is the Federal Trade Commission. The next is NASA with 80 percent which is closely followed by Office of Management and Budget at 78 percent. Then comes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Regulatory Commission that scored 77 percent and 74 percent respectively. The scores were offered as per the federal employees’ opinion.

Small Agencies Making it to the Top

As per the data released by OPM, 92 percent was the score at Marine Mammal Commission and it was 90 percent at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has succeeded in scoring 90 percent while the Federal Relations Labor Authority managed to get 84 percent score. Overseas Private Investment Corporation has also made it to the top 5 with 83 percent score.

The Improvement

The survey data also reveals that 7 big agencies have managed to improve their employee engagement scores in the last year. The score of Securities and Exchange Commission was boosted by 5 percent. The scores of Federal Trade Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development Department, National Archives and Records Administration and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased by 4 percent each. The Energy Department saw the maximum boost of 14 percent.

The small agencies which managed to increase their employee satisfaction score include the African Development Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts that gained an increase of 18 percent.  The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board gained 14 percent while the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission gained 13 percent. The Office of Special Counsel and the International Boundary and Water Commission gained 12 percent each. The Postal Regulatory Commission ended up gaining 10 percent.

Conclusion

After seeing the aforementioned results based on the federal employees’ opinion prove that the small agencies are doing better improvement as compared to the larger ones as more small ones have managed to improve their percentage in double digits.

Federal Employees’ Families to get Better Death Benefits Thanks to Obama

The Obama government has introduced a new proposal that benefits the families of dead federal employees’ if the employee dies on the job. The amount of two types of death benefits will be increased soon. The death benefits payment is done by the agencies’ discretion, according to OPM. It is estimated that about 3000 employees have been killed since 1992.

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The Need for Increasing Federal Employees’ Death Benefits

There is a need for increasing the death benefits of federal employees because one of them was increased two decades ago and the other was increased five decades ago. Now, the amount of these benefits must be adjusted as per the current inflation and living expenses. The raise would help the families of the federal employees who died to stay away from financial burdens, says OPM Acting Director, Beth Cobert.

The Benefits

The first benefit is the gratuity paid for the death of a person in the line of duty. This benefit would be given in cases of a criminal act, terrorist attacks, retaliation for carrying out official responsibilities and facing extreme risk while performing a job. Currently, the members of families of the feds who die get a gratuity of $10,000 and this amount was fixed in 1997. Now, this amount would likely rise to $100,000.

The second benefit is a funeral allowance of $800 which was set in 1966. It will be given for an employee who died in the line of duty. This amount has been increased to $8,800.

Agencies’ Power

OPM has stated that as per the current policy, the payment of such benefits varies from one agency to the other because there are varied rules in the employing agencies. In some cases, the amounts are even reduced due to various reasons.

The Numbers

OPM did not seem willing to share the number of federal employees who die every year and are eligible for either or both of these benefits. In 2011, the Congress enacted a law as per which the families of federal employees who died in the line of duty were given American flags from the agencies. Sponsors say that nearly 3,000 feds have died in the line of duty since the year 1992. The number includes those employees who died while being on the job due to criminal acts, natural disasters or even terrorist attacks.

The Bad News Regarding Retirement Benefits of Baby Boomers

We recently reported how Baby Boomers are meeting the retirement challenges nicely. Unfortunately, all is not as good as it seems. There are some negative findings in the 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers. These findings state that baby boomers might not be able to work for as long as they wish. It also highlights that baby boomers have low savings, menial backup plans and minimal knowledge of social security.

Retirement Benefits

Why Baby Boomers Won’t Increase their Retirement Benefits by Working Longer?

Many baby boomers expected to increase their retirement benefits savings by working for a few years after retirement but this may not be possible. The reasons may vary from declining health to lack of job opportunities, says the 2016 Retirement Confidence Survey.

Employers are not Aging Friendly

About 47 percent baby boomers accepted in the TCRS survey that their employers may allow them to work past retirement as they are aging-friendly. The rest of them think that they might not be able to keep the job post retirement. About 29 percent admitted that their employers have made flexible transition arrangements.

Savings Difficulty

About 42 percent baby boomers said that their retirement savings are not enough or too low. The median amount they think they need is about $500,000. But when the 4 percent rule is used as a reality check, the annual income would be just $20,000 per year which is not enough to cover the expenses even when the social security income is added to it.

Lack of Financial Counseling and SS Knowledge

It is believed that financial counseling might help in increasing the savings but only 12 percent baby boomers admit that their employers provide any finance related counseling. About 19 percent of baby boomers accepted that they know a great deal about social security and 34 percent expected social security to be the primary source of income post retirement.

Minimal Backup

Only 25 percent of baby boomers have a backup plan in place if they are unable to work until they plan. About 26 percent said that they have only less than $5,000 to take care of a financial setback such as a medical emergency, unemployment, etc. Lack of a backup plan means that more than 28 percent have taken a loan, opted for early distribution or made a hardship withdrawal from IRA or their retirement benefits savings.

Asian Americans Have Better Retirement Benefits Savings than the General U.S. Population

A new study has revealed that Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders have better retirement benefits savings than the general U.S. population. They plan to retire one year earlier than the general U.S. population. They also don’t want to be a burden on the loved ones post retirement and they wish for a comfortable retirement too. The study also explored the reasons on why their savings were better than the rest.

retirement savingsThe Study on Retirement Benefits of Asian Americans

The study was conducted by Prudential Retirement and specified that the Asian Americans have similar financial challenges like the general U.S. population. They also have to deal with the problem of saving enough for retirement while managing household budgets. The study found out that Asian Americans also feel better off financially when compared to the general U.S. population. They plan to retire at the age of 64.6 which is one year earlier than the general U.S. population.

The Reasons

Sri Reddy who serves as the Head of Full Service Investments at Prudential Retirement in Hartford, Connecticut states that there are three reasons why Asian Americans are better prepared for retirement.  The first factor is that most Asian Americans live on East or West Coasts where the incomes are higher as compared to the national average which ensures that their savings are higher. The second reason is that they are the first generation of immigrants who obtain visas for jobs that need higher education. This means that they work for larger employers who usually offer a defined contribution retirement plans.

The third reason is that when they come into a new country as an immigrant they don’t have a safety net so they start saving as soon as possible. The survey showed that most of the respondents had a year’s worth of funds saved for a rainy day.

Key Findings

The survey also highlighted that 49 percent of Asian Americans want to maintain their current lifestyles in retirement. It also pointed out that 38 percent try hard to not become a burden on their loved ones and make it their number one priority. Reddy says that plan advisors and sponsors can help the Asian Americans to make better financial decisions so that their retirement benefits savings goals can be achieved. He added that Asian Americans need to know that debt can be good at times too.

How the retirement gap can be closed by help from small businesses

The retirement gap has been inhabiting our country for quite some time now. There are some solutions in this regard and the multiple employer plans might help us in this regard.

post-RetirementClosing the retirement gap possible?

In this regard, there is always space for putting some background information in: It’s not news for anybody that the experts have always considered the US retirement gap to be higher than what it should be. The money that Americans have to additionally spend to secure their retirements and their post-retiring life is a lot, to say the least. The Employee benefit Research Institute has estimated that this gap is around 4 trillion dollars of American citizen money.

We all are pretty much aware that this gap isn’t going to close itself and unless we can provide a lot more access to the retirement plans it’s going to stay this way. Companies and individuals that don’t have workspace retirement plans can go on and fund IRAs for all their employees. According to a study, if a retirement plan is available to people that earn around 30 to 50 thousand dollars a year, 70 percent of the employees opt for it. Only 5 percent will still fund an IRA even if it isn’t imposed on them by their workspace.

It’s worth mentioning that there are many small and large companies that do offer proper retirement plans but there is still a shortage of them. In order to close the retirement gap once and for all, collective effort of all the small and large workspaces is required. If companies provide their employees the insight that they require then they are more than likely to spend the small amount of money in the urge of securing their future. Here’s hoping that this can happen in the coming years.

New York Worker’s New Minimum Wage and Paid Family Leave Policy

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Reaffirming the commitment to better serve the interest of workers based in New York, including Governor Cuomo’s late father calls for economic justice, he signed a bill calling for a gradual increase in minimum wage, including up to 12-week of paid family leave.

The signing it into law is a growing momentum striking the balance for the workers’ competitive demands   as well as the home. It will also transform the benefits landscape by increasing the federally-mandated minimum wage and make the workers as beneficiaries of the country’s strongest, longest, and most comprehensive paid family leave policy

The passing of the landmark legislation serves as both an extensive and relatively equalitarian model which definitely advocates hope for the workers. Such kind of hope will also influence other states and federal lawmakers to legislate work-related measures best suited for the changing economy.

 

Minimum Wage

The setting of the increase is based on the area of the trade or business where the worker is regularly employed. For example, at the end of 2016, the minimum wage ranging from US$9.00 per hour to US$9.70 per hour will be afforded to workers assigned in all counties of north Westchester County. For the rest of other areas in New York, the minimum wage is pegged at US$15.00 per hour which is remain unimplementable until and unless the new study be undertaken by the state supporting the rationale for the increase, including the need to prepare for a new indexed schedule. The minimum wage for tipped food service employees such as waiters would be based on the higher of the current tipped minimum or 2/3 of the state minimum wage. In addition, a tip credit equal to the difference between tipped and regular minimum wage will be given to tipped workers. In short, the law gradually raises the minimum wage over the next coming years will put the individual’s economic perspective in place, and more productivity growth to set in.

 

12-Week Paid Family Leave

Under the new paid family leave policy, any full-time and part-time worker is eligible to avail of the 12-week leave provided the worker has worked for at least six (6) months.

The 12-week paid family policy is the statewide mandatory leave which is on phased-in basis over the next coming years starting at the end of 2018. The worker is entitled to take time off from work for reasons such as to provide physical and psychological care necessary for the serious health condition of the family member, to set aside quality time with the child of the employee during the 1st 12 months reckoned from the child’s birth,   place the child for adoption or foster care with the worker for the period of the 1st 12 months, and any qualifying exigency as contained in the federal family and medical leave act.

With the passage of the said law, the workers affected   will be provided for the best benefits they truly deserve.

 

How to make your retirement savings last

retirement savingsThe government has always been very keen on encouraging the citizens of the country to save for retirement. The president has recently introduced another way to make Americans believe that saving for their post-retirement lives is an absolute must. The new myRA accounts allow employees to save up to around 15 thousand dollars in an investment plan that doesn’t even have any substantial fee and guarantees the payee, the principal too. There might be retirement crisis awaiting us in the longer run but this could prove to be a step in the right direction.

Manage your retirement savings properly:

As soon as 2020, the number of elderly officials that earn a meager income will increase rapidly as the retiree population reaches a gigantic figure of around 56 million. This means that there are going to be more poor people as the employees who reach 65 won’t have any place to go.

This is all because we don’t have a fulfilling plan available at our disposal. We need a plan that encompasses all our needs. As proposed by the New York Times, a guaranteed retirement account could be the way to go. According to this plan, all the officers will be able to make regular additions to this account which will then continue to add up until they reach their retirement age. It subsequently can pay out a great deal of money until the person or any of their beneficiaries dies.

The current system does have some good retirement savings plans but unfortunately none is good enough to match and cover the needs of each and every single employee. In this regard, if this proposed plan is given attention, and subsequently implemented, then it can go a long way in making sure that people save their retirement funds a lot more effectively.

Microsoft is suing the federal government

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Microsoft has been known for its lawsuits over the years but their latest decision to sue the federal government is nothing that anybody could have predicted. The company based in Redstone believes that the federal law enforcing agents and their agencies prevent technological firms from declaring to their customers that their personal details (that Microsoft holds) is actually being monitored.

MICROSOFT TO SUE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT:

Microsoft believes that forcing companies to keep the access requests concealed is a straight denial of the constitution of the country which clearly states that the individuals of the country have every right to know whether the government is searching or taking control of their property.
Brad Smith who is the chief legal officer along with being the president said in a blog post this past week:

“This morning we filed a new lawsuit in federal court against the United States government to stand up for what we believe are our customers’ constitutional and fundamental rights – rights that help protect privacy and promote free expression. This is not a decision we made lightly, and hence we wanted to share information on this step and why we are taking it”
He further mentioned:

“The urgency for action is clear and growing. Over the past 18 months, the U.S. government has required that we maintain secrecy regarding 2,576 legal demands, effectively silencing Microsoft from speaking to customers about warrants or other legal process seeking their data. Notably and even surprisingly, 1,752 of these secrecy orders, or 68 percent of the total, contained no fixed end date at all. This means that we effectively are prohibited forever from telling our customers that the government has obtained their data.”
The case has already been brought to judiciary and public attention and it’s believed that the tech giant definitely have a lot that can be debated upon.

Americans happy with life, angry with the federal government

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A poll recently done by the Associated Press-GfK has got some not so great findings for the federal government. Specifically, their reports indicate that American citizens are very happy with their friends, family and other relations, the only troubling aspect of their lives is their perception of the federal government.

AMERICANS ANGRY AT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT:

This is something backed by an official survey. Around 8 out of 10 Americans say that they are angry or discontent with the American government, and approximately the same number insists that they are happy with the lives that they are leading. Half of the GOP voters are angry; compare this with around 25 percent of the Democrats. Something maybe worth mentioning, most of these republicans support Donald Trump.

This anger is driven more by a dislike for the political system and less by political associations. The people believe that the system isn’t functioning as it should and they are very upset with both the parties equally. Some voters don’t even believe that the career politicians and the Washington insiders give their interests the top priority treatment.

Many interviews of angry voters were also shared after the surveys were made public, and the people expressed their frustrations just like they expressed their love for everything other than the government. The polls show that the Republicans that are absolutely distraught with what they are seeing don’t necessarily disapprove of Trump. There is a total of 58 percent discontented Republicans, but only 36 percent of them don’t really have praise for Trump.

While these stats and surveys don’t have any proactive repercussions, it’s believed that the federal government might take this to heart and do something good for the American people.

OPM might use social media to perform background checks

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The Office of Personnel Management or OPM has been preparing a pilot program that will help in automatic tracking of the pro-bono social media postings of people that are security clearance applicants.

OPM SET TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO PERFORM BACKGROUND CHECKS:

Market research is going to be carried out to locate the companies that can be assigned the project of carrying out automatic social media tracking. Apart from this, companies that excel in web crawling and other techniques will also be made part of the background checking and investigating process. This Request for information that got posted on April 8th indicated this. All the interested companies were to get back by April 15th.

OPM is not going to peek into details that are considered “private” or “confidential” of course; their aim is to gather information that’s “publicly available and electronic”. This will comprise of all the social network postings, blog posts, any online court records and all the videos and photos that can be crawled out.

OPM is interested in companies that have completely automated services in this regard. As they put it, “With no human intervention”, and with the ability to crawl in to the parts of the WWW, the contents of which can’t be found out by standard search engines. In addition to this, the companies should also be able to report a “Robust identity matching algorithm” that can’t be tricked by sophisticated tech-geeks and similar names.

While the project is still in the getting-ready phase, it’s expected to clear out a lot of problems and ambiguities that arise during the background checking phase. With the use of state-of-the-art technological techniques, it’s expected that the final decision of security clearance will become more credible and seamless to find. Here’s hoping that this project ends up being a success.

Are you a TSP user? Here is everything you need to know

The Thrift Savings Plan, more commonly known as TSP is one of the most used and probably the greatest investment programs available to the federal employees and retirees. In this article, we intend to cover all the details regarding it that employees should ideally be aware of.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TSP:

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is available to all of the FERS members along with the members of the Military Retirement system (MRS) and CSRS or the Civil Service Retirement system.

Just like any other private sector 401(k) or an IRA, you can make the choice between a Roth or a traditional tax treatment regarding your TSP account. If you choose the traditional option you will have to pay your taxes on the contributions and earnings only when you withdraw at retirement.
Most of the federal officers can become recipients of automatic contributions of around 1 percent and 5 percent of base pay of agency-matching contributions. Once we reach 2018, military personnel will also have this luxury.
If you are a member of the FERS, then after three years you will be able to vest in automatic contributions.

The cost of doing TSP business is really low. During 2015, per every grand invested, the cost would come out to be a meager .029 percent. Yes, a mere 29 cents. It’s safe to say that there isn’t a cheaper investment program out there.

The Thrift Savings Plan has enticed many federal officers to start investing over the years and it’s expected to constantly draw attention from employees who intend to make their retirement lives a lot easier and financially securer. We tried really hard to find any substantial downsides but failed. If you can think of any, let’s know in the comments!

Federal government and the 7 trillion pension problem

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We have talked long and hard about the fact that the US government hasn’t got enough money to give to retirees. Moody which is a credit rating agency has said that the federal government and the local, state governments are approximately 7 trillion dollars short when it comes to funding regarding pension payments.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT 7 TRILLION SHY:

A release from Moody this past week read, “The unfunded liabilities of the various federal employee pensions systems, covering civilian and military employee benefits, amount to about $3.5 trillion, or 20% of US GDP. Additionally, Moody’s estimates that unfunded state and local government pension plan liabilities are of the same magnitude, bringing the total shortfall to 40% of GDP.”
The report also expressed that this public pension problem is only one small piece of the puzzle and that the retirement problem is on a whole another level. They said that the biggest challenge is the inability of the government to fund the Medicare and Social Security programs. The funding gap in social security is estimated to be close to 13 trillion (which is 75 percent of the GDP) while the Medicare program’s deficit is around 3 trillion dollars.
This is definitely startling news and many critics including Tony James, who is the president of Blackstone has referred to this shortfall as the main reason behind the crisis that’s affecting America.
Will these factors lead to people not considering retirement at all? Will they fear not getting their hands on their pension and will that make them continue working? Only time will tell. We can’t deny how a big a problem this is for the federal government and it goes without saying that the sooner they get rid of it, the better it will be for them, the federal employees and the soon-to-be retirees.

Know the actual value of a FERS and TSP annuity

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When we say that the majority of the federal officers will not have a million dollars (or more) in their TSP Accounts when they retire, we back our statement with facts. Researchers have revealed that only .5 percent of all the officers have over a million dollars in their TSP accounts.

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KNOW MORE ABOUT YOUR TSP AND FERS ANNUITY:

When we talk about retirement income though, there is a huge possibility for the federal officers to generate the income that would absolutely have a requirement of possessing an investment portfolio of at-least, if not more than a million dollars. Let’s take an example. An employee that is a member of the FERS has around 30 years of service under his belt. His high three salary is 90 grand on average. If this person undergoes retirement at 62, then he would be receiving an annuity of around 29,700 dollars every year.
Now, the question here is this: How much will this person have to invest if he intends to generate 29 thousand and 700 in investment income? If we assume that the withdrawal of the account has a value of 4 percent, then the investment portfolio would have a value of around 742, 500 dollars.
Now if we consider that the person has collected around $400 thousand dollars in their TSP after spending 30 years in service. If he takes a 4 percent withdrawal every year during retirement, this would present him with a surplus 16 thousand dollars.
Now, between the FERS and the TSP annuity, the person would receive 45,700 every year, and if you are wondering, it would take around $1,142,500 dollars to generate that type of investment income.
All of this needs to be kept in mind along with the realization that the following deductions will no longer be there once you retire:
1. Medicare Tax
2. FERS Retirement
3. TSP
4. Social security taxes

OPM has had a break from the massive influx of applications

The Office of Personnel Management or OPM has been dealing with a huge, never-ending wave of incoming applications in the past few months, bu during the month of March, that changed considerably.

OPM RECEIVES A BREAK FROM MASSIVE APPLICATIONS INFLUX:

During the first two months of the year, the organization reported record figures of applicants pushing their application forms on the OPM desks. When you consider the figure of 5,741 (Applications in March), you might think that it is a lot, however, it’s considerably smaller when you take into account the numbers from the past 2 months. Before March, the figures were very high for both January and February.

Apart from the influx decrease, OPM also managed to decrease their backlog substantially as around 9,200 applications were processed in March. The remaining applications now stand at 19,211 after seeing a 15 percent reduction from 22,962. It’s appreciable and of course worth mentioning that the number of processed applications also increased compared to that of the past 2 months.

When we take into account the numbers from the past few years, we observe a trend that’s quite similar; the backlog’s ebb and flow depicts a consistent pattern. That being said, the backlog after March 2015 was slightly heavier at 20,954.

This increase in the processing power is largely a result of the increased vigor that has been instilled into the employees of the organization; especially after the past few hiccups faced by the data breach and its repercussions. The influx of applications is expected to rise soon and we might see similar trends to last year. Here it’s hoped that the backlog keeps getting decreased quickly so that the applications of the waiting employees get processed before their expected time frames. We are certainly counting on OPM to do that.

How to be prepared while nearing retirement

Once you are nearing retirement, you need to make the adequate preparations or you won’t end up…well, financially sound, to say the least. Today, we share 3 approaches that you can utilize and make your future secure once you make the transition from military.

The financial actions are not easy things to talk about but if you are nearing the time when you want to hang up your boots, you will need to perform three tasks. Here are those 3 tasks:

1. Budgeting:
Military people normally manage their budgets quite well. When you make the transition from military life to the civilian kind, you need to have at-least 6 or 12 months’ salary in your account to be able to make both ends meet. Yes, you might be able to find a great job soon but still the expenses that were covered before like child care, food and healthcare will have to be paid for now and you don’t want to be having your hands in your head at the time.
2. Save and invest
Military people are also generally good savers. Now is the time that you need to use your saving and your investing skills with aplomb. Try to save as much as you can, make contributions to your retirement savings plans or find other ways of investing. Just be aware that the money you have right now, can either be spent, or saved and doubled.
3. Protect:
Upon transitioning you also need to make a life insurance replacement. Within the first 8 months of leaving the military, you can convert your SGLI to a Veterans Group Life Insurance and there is no need for a medical exam either. You will most probably be able to get a great deal.
So, if you are nearing the transition, start planning ahead already!

90% of Federal Agencies susceptible to data theft

New research has revealed that around 90 percent of the federal agencies that are considered leaders in the field of IT security claim that they feel vulnerable to threats to their data.

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FEDERAL AGENCIES CLAIM BEING VULNERABLE TO CYBER THREATS:

Apart from this, the research has brought forward some other thought-provoking facts too. A staggering 61 percent of the federal agencies have undergone a data breach in the past. 1 out of every 5 says that they had a breach within the period of the last 12 months. The 2016 Vormetric Data Threat Report’s edition of the US Federal Government revealed these threats. The company that supervised the preparation of this report is Vormetric and 451 Research.
There are many barriers to getting the perfect security infrastructure. Skill shortage is one and 44 percent of the agencies believe that it’s the lack of skills that halt their defense capabilities. Budgets come in at 43 percent and there are other factors too.

These threats produce alarming signs for the government and of course for the federal employees. All of these agencies contain sensitive data about different Federal Employees from all over the country and they should not be feeling vulnerable. If they are themselves claiming that they are insecure then it entices potential hackers to come in and enjoy the party. The recent OPM breach was a disaster and we certainly hope that there isn’t another episode of that in the recent future.

While there are many reasons the company can feel unsecure, they shouldn’t just sit around and do nothing about it. We do believe that the federal agencies will be contemplating actions or an action strategy and it’s then need of the hour that they come up with it sooner rather than later. Let’s hope that the next Vormetric report shows better results.

Private sector studied by the TSP board for insight in cybersecurity

The office of Enterprise Risk Management of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has been in operation for around 3 years now and they have been really busy since their inception. Currently, they have decided to study the private sector in a bid to collect insight in cyber security.

PRIVATE SECTOR TO BE STUDIED BY THE TSP BOARD:

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The office has been doing a great job, as indicated by Jay Ahuja who is the FRTIB’s chief risk officer. He admits though that there is still a long way to go and that their job is far from being finished just yet. Ahuja said on March 29th that they have been working on risk assessment and management for quite some time now and have been setting up infrastructure for it too but still there is room for improvement just like there was at the start.
In their bid to fight cyber terror, the office of enterprise risk management has decided to study the private sector to be astutely able to know how to tackle cyber security and risk management related issues. Ahuja says that there is a strict timeline being followed by the organization and that he expects them to wrap things up by the mid of May so that the board can go ahead and contemplate how to move forward. FRTIB has had a hard time tackling cybersecurity as well. Around 123 thousand participants’ information was compromised through one of the board’s contractors in 2012. Since then they have been receiving heavy criticism about the security issues that they are having.

While the study is still yet to take place, it’s expected that it’s going to not only help in creating awareness but will also provide the organization with some valuable insight on how to tackle cyber threats and ensure cybersecurity.