Reg Jones Expert's View

It’s amazing how many bits of pure nonsense make their way like a brushfire through the federal employee population. And no matter how many times I drive a stake through their hearts in conversation or in print, they keep rising from the dead to mislead folks.

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One classic falsehood is designed to raise an employee’s hopes. And it’s been around for decades. What’s eerie about it is that long-time employees actually believe that the impossible once happened. Let me illustrate by quoting an e-mail that I received a few days ago:

I work for DoD where there is talk about another set of early-out offers due to budget/ sequestration cuts. They say the problem is funding these buyouts. I remember back in the late 1980’s they offered “years” instead of money. Is there any chance they might offer 3-years to either your age or length of service in order to encourage people hanging in there trying to max out their retirement benefit to leave early even without the $25K buyout.

Talk about memory playing tricks on someone. Adding years of age or service, either to make someone eligible to retire or to sweeten the annuity pot for someone who is already eligible, has never been used to encourage employees to retire. That’s because it isn’t possible under the law as written, past or present.

For retirement purposes, the only age you have is the one that measures the distance from the day you were born to the day you retire. And the only service used in an annuity computation is that from which retirement deductions have been taken.

So, if someone comes up to you and says, "I’ve just heard that our agency is going to help us retire by adding years to either our age or service," be sure to wise them up. It may puncture their balloon but it will keep them from nurturing false hopes.

There’s plenty more of these, which will be our theme for the next several weeks.