Letting chance chart your course by not taking advantage of a pre-­‐retirement seminar; Being sucker-­‐punched by a little-­‐known rule that leaves you without health insurance; Failing to consider the effect of withdrawing your retirement contributions at separation before reaching retirement eligibility; and many other pitfalls – you’ll want to read this one.

The warning sign in front of the federal workforce could not be clearer: Change Ahead. As the Government Accountability Office put it in a recent report: “Today’s federal workforce consists of a large number of employees who are eligible for retirement . . . by 2017, about 31 percent of the government’s permanent career employees [on board as of September 2012] will be able to head out the door.

It’s been a long-accepted maxim regarding federal employment: the pay isn’t that great, but the benefits help make up for it. The federal government largely has held the line on benefits at a time when private sector employers have been cutting back. Outside the federal workforce, the traditional defined benefit retirement annuity, a guaranteed payment for life based on service time and salary level, is largely gone. It has been largely replaced, if it has been replaced at all, with defined contribution plans such as 401(k) savings plans that largely shift the responsibility for funding retirement from the employer to the employee.

In recent years the federal workforce has been in the news like never before, and usually not in ways that federal employees would prefer. What you need is a way to set the record straight, and with reference to authoritative, neutral sources—in other words, talking points.

There’s a saying in the military, although in more explicit terms, that “trouble rolls downhill.” Federal employees are finding out just how much that applies on the civilian side of the government. Scandals involving the government have spilled over into impacts on federal workers—often far below the level that caused the problem. Congress has advanced proposals to allow the firing of career senior executives without the normal due process rights and to cut off performance awards for executives even in parts of the agency having nothing to do with recent controversies at the VA.