- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Who says federal civil servants don't know how to handle money? Not the people who handle the feds' money, that's for sure.
In fact, since mid-June federal and postal investors have moved more than $14 million they had in outside tax-deferred retirement plans into the federal Thrift Savings Plan.
The TSP is Uncle Sam's in-house 401(k) program, worth more than $100 billion. It will provide the nest egg — over and above civil service and Social Security benefits — feds have in retirement.
Why are the feds moving outside money into the TSP? Two reasons: First, this is the first time they have been allowed to do it. Secondly, they can count. It's a smart move that could mean tens of thousands of extra dollars over a career of investing.
The C-fund (stock index) is the most popular investment choice in the TSP. It tracks the S&P; 500 index, similar to funds offered by dozens of mutual funds.
What makes the TSP unique — and a good deal — is that the amount it charges investors as a handling or administrative fee is less than half the amount charged by the lowest mutual fund family — Vanguard — in the industry. The TSP's reduced rate means more money in the investor's account and that, thanks to compounding, could and should mean thousands of extra dollars over time.
So how good a deal is it?
One newcomer to federal service (who must have had a very, very high-paying job in the private sector) recently moved just over $1 million from his outside account into the TSP.
You gotta figure an investor like that must know what he's doing.

Back pay bundle
What happens when you give more than 170,000 current and former federal workers a back pay settlement worth $100 million or more? Well, we may be about to find out.
The feds (some of whom are retired, or dead) all worked in special-rate-pay jobs between 1982 and 1988. They included engineers, scientists, medical professionals here and nationwide, plus about 30,000 Grade 2 through 7 clerical employees in the Washington area.
During the 1982-88 period, the government decided that since special-raters were paid 3 percent to 30 percent more than other feds, they shouldn't automatically get regular raises each January — which some got while others didn't.
The courts agreed with the National Treasury Employees Union that Uncle Sam was a cheapskate — and wrong too — and ordered refunds to employees.
Easier said than done. NTEU and the government have been arguing for years to see who gets what and when. The parties are due to make a status report Sept. 21 in U.S. District Court.
Until the formula is approved, nobody knows how much they will get in back pay they "lost" by being denied some or all of the raises. For most of the winners, the money will be a little more than the in-progress tax rebate, but not enough to buy a car.
Visit www.nteu.org/SPECBanner.html.


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