Is There a $25K to $40K Buyout in Your Future?

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At one point or anoth­er, many fed­er­al work­ers have dreamed about what they would do if and when their agency offered them a buyout. For some oth­er­wise ded­i­cat­ed but I’ve-had-it civil ser­vants, a buyout is a decades long dream that seems more real­is­tic and desir­able with every birth­day and work anniver­sary.

What’s not to like? Makes per­fect sense, right? To you, def­i­nite­ly, but to Uncle Sam maybe not so much.

The prob­lem is that in the past buy­outs were almost always teamed with the option to take early retire­ment.  But not any­more.  Over the past 10 years a number have offered early-outs (VERAs) for vol­un­tary early outs but haven’t includ­ed buy­outs VSIPs (vol­un­tary sep­a­ra­tion inven­tive payments)in the deal.

Consider: A buyout, $25,000 (in most agen­cies) requires employ­ees to vol­un­teer to retire/leave during a cer­tain period of time. Makes lots of sense. Especially if you are the poten­tial recip­i­ent. Especially if offered around the time the poten­tial recip­i­ent (you) had planned or were eli­gi­ble for retire­ment.  Volunteering to leave during the period des­ig­nat­ed by their agency would qual­i­fy the lucky fed  for a 1990s era VERA (vol­un­tary early retire­ment author­i­ty) pay­ment which, after taxes and stan­dard deduc­tions, would be worth $18,000 to $19,000. That’s not enough to pur­chase what it would have in the Clinton era, when buy­outs were born and pros­pered, but it’s still a nice, unex­pect­ed chunk of change for some­body oth­er­wise ready to go. Or for some­one who had an even better non­fed­er­al posi­tion wait­ing. But what’s $25,000 or $40,000 to an outfit that prints money? Nothing, right?

So what are your odds?

The Agriculture Department and the U.S. Postal Service are offer­ing VERAs to select employ­ees. But so far no buy­outs are includ­ed. And the track record when early-outs are offered with­out a buyout is that few people choose to leave early. When it comes to buyout options, where are you and your agency? If you are look­ing for answers there are two options: A or B.

A is the short answer; B is more com­pli­cat­ed, less ful­fill­ing but likely more accu­rate.

The short answer, if you have a teeny atten­tion span or your hair is on fire, is “No! Forget about it.” They are going to offer you a $25,000 ($40,000 if you are an Army, Navy, Air Force or other Defense civil­ian) buyout just to leave? Think about that! They may be well aware that they no longer need your ser­vices or want them. But pay you to leave when it’s gonna happen, one way or the other, some­day — think about it.

You’ve been dream­ing of a buyout, in some cases for years. You may have even been among the many who have either bought into rumors of a pend­ing buyout, in your agency and occu­pa­tion­al or geo­graph­ic group. You may even be one of those people and it’s quite a big club, who start­ed rumors of a buyout hoping it would trig­ger the real thing.  Such people, some true believ­ers, exist. Ask any­body in Congress or the media who deals with fed­er­al employ­ment issues.

B, the more com­plex expla­na­tion, is that chances of a buyout are slim and none. So far. That could change. But buy­outs have been few and far between in recent years, and then very lim­it­ed when offered.

Talk of buy­outs is back for real and for good reason. USPS, which is prep­ping (or maybe not) for an influx of November bal­lots-by-mail, is offer­ing early retire­ment (but no buy­outs) for some nonunion and man­age­ment per­son­nel. Clerks, letter car­ri­ers, mail han­dlers and other craft employ­ees are not includ­ed. But they are look­ing at a much small­er group to offer VERAs. Some people think the under-new-man­age­ment Postal Service is stream­lin­ing to do the best under trying finan­cial pres­sures, many of which are caused by out­side polit­i­cal actions that make it appear inef­fi­cient as a quasi-gov­ern­ment cor­po­ra­tion.

But it’s actu­al­ly quite good at its job of pro­vid­ing low-cost, quick ser­vice to the public. Ask one of the big deliv­ery com­pa­nies who often depend on the USPS to do the heavy haul­ing and lift­ing to take letter-sized items from Key West to Nome, Alaska, for 50 cents! They would  laugh in your face.

Some cynics think the USPS is being setup to ensure that warn­ings of slow, delayed or crooked elec­tions — because of mas­sive mail-bal­lot­ing — will be self-ful­fill­ing. That we may know what we got for Christmas before we know who we’ve got going into, or back into, the White House. That’s why their buyout activ­i­ty, while inter­est­ing, doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly give any clues to feds in other agen­cies.

So what are your odds? Where is all this buyout talk coming from?

For what’s hap­pen­ing at the Agriculture Department, read reporter Nicole Ogrysko’s story. And don’t miss her update on buyouts, both the $25,000 and $40,000 vari­ety.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

In 1889, vis­i­tors to the Tolchester Beach resort on Maryland’s Eastern Shore flocked to see the big new attrac­tion: An embalmed whale cap­tured off the coast of Cape Cod. It was big enough for people to stand inside its mouth and even, accord­ing to a his­tor­i­cal adver­tise­ment, have lunch inside it.

Source: Maryland Historical Society

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