Posted on Wednesday, 5th August 2015 by Dennis DampPrint This Post
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I was asked by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to be a guest speaker at their Washington DC headquarters on July 29th 2015. I discussed ways for employees to enhance their careers through the development and implementation of realistic and obtainable individual Development Plans (IDPs). In the afternoon I presented a similar program at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to help launch their new Career Development Toolkit program for their Leadership and Employee Development (LED) team.
I haven’t visited Washington DC for over a decade and things haven’t changed much since my last visit. The food was excellent, major construction projects everywhere, and the traffic as always a challenge. The people attending the sessions were attentive and interested and I met many new people and hopefully forged new friendships.
One thing that has changed is how one navigates around the DC beltway and traffic in general. My taxi driver and booking agent’s author escort service used an app called WAZE that allows drivers in the area to share real-time traffic and road information that routes you around traffic jams and accidents in the area. You don’t have to watch the screen on your iphone, it gives you audio warnings and announces the route, turn by turn, around the traffic. You can find out more about this app on their web site at https://www.waze.com. My driver suggested that if you use WAZE it tends to deplete your phone’s battery resources rather quickly so use a car charger to keep your phone charged.
The connection between career development and retirement is significant and can be life changing. The primary benefit of a career development plan is that viable and well thought out Individual Development Plans (IDPs) often lead to recognition, promotions, and Quality Within Grade (QWI) awards. Your annuity (retirement checks) are based on your high-3 average pay including locality pay and annual premiums for standby duty and availability if applicable. A well thought out plan offers many benefits including the potential for a substantial increase in your federal retirement annuity!
Many IDPs also include a stint at regional or Washington DC headquarter offices especially towards the end of your active career. Regional offices and headquarters are typically in higher paying major metropolitan areas. These are high cost areas and the locality pay may be significantly higher than where you are currently working. For example, if you worked in a location under the Locality Rest of US (RUS) schedule a GS-14 step 4 makes $108,497 a year compared to $128,445 if you work in the San Francisco area. Your high three would increase dramatically. The cost of living would be higher however Uncle Sam does pay generous relocation allowances and your stay would only be for a few years to boost your high three annuity calculation.
Other ways to increase your pension is to buy back your military time if you served in the armed forces of the United States. When you pay your military credit you are able to add your military time (years and months of service) to your pension (annuity) calculation that will increase your retirement check. If you are under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and eligible to collect social security (you paid into Social Security for at least 40 quarters) your annuity will be decreased at age 62 by the number of years that you served if you don’t buy back your military time. Many CSRS employees retire in their 50s and often work in the private sector where they will accumulate enough social security quarters to qualify. Also, if you don’t buy back your military time shortly after entering federal service you have to pay a significant interest penalty.
A realistic and actionable career development plan has many benefits including those that you may not realize at the time such as a dramatically increased retirement annuity down the road. During my career, using the techniques I describe in Take Charge of Your Federal Career I earned two Quality Within Grades and numerous promotions. All resulting in a substantially higher retirement pension. All federal employees should consider initiating a career development plan and be aware and educated about their federal retirement benefits. They go hand in hand and you can lose substantial retirement funds if you aren’t prepared and don’t understand your options.
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