Grass is always greener, federal edition

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peseta
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Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by peseta » Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:36 am

Hello, I love this forum and was hoping a few folks could give me some help with a career issue that's been stuck in my head for awhile. The upshot: I have a secure job in the federal government that I really like, but I sometime look with envy at people leaving for the "greener grass" and am afraid that I am the sucker for staying.

More detail: I am in my early 40s, and work for a federal agency. I have an job that like very much, probably as much as I will ever like any job. I make pretty good money, but could probably double or triple my salary right away in the private sector. My skills are in very high demand in the marketplace. Even if I stay in the government, I am on track for a comfortable retirement (my family saves over 20% of or income). I have a young child and an excellent work-life balance, with a commute that is pretty good for a HCOL area (but folks in LCOL areas will think the commute is too much!). I get to see my wife and kid at dinner every night (except when I'm on infrequent business travel), I rarely work on the weekends, and I can telework once a week. I've turned down opportunities for managerial responsibility because they would entail extra work and stress with little or no increase in pay.

In my gut, I want to stay in government and make that my career until retirement. But, I wonder if I am doing that out of fear, or actually making the smart decision. There will probably be no better time for me to leave the government then the next few years -- if I wait too much longer, the market will start to think that I am a government guy who won't work hard.

Here's the pros and cons of staying I put down when thinking about this:

Pros:

1. I like my job. It's one where I actually can say I make a difference, and there's real tangible results from my work that I can see. I have a lot of autonomy, because I'm a senior person and am trusted. Although I'm not in management, I frequently get brought into important and/or interesting issues, without the ultimate responsibility. I doubt I'd like a private sector job nearly as much.
2. While the extra income is nice, we don't need it. My wife also works (at a non-fed job), and I don't plan on retiring until my kid(s) are in college, in my early 60s.
3. I have an excellent work-life balance, and it's unlikely I'll get that in the private sector. Even if there was a place that I could work at that would deliver on that front, there is really no way to know coming in the door, it's roulette (everyone promises, few deliver in my line of work).
4. There's an aspect of "golden handcuffs" with the federal pension system. I have 15+ years in government, and though that pension will be significant if I stick it out to retirement, it won't be worth much if I leave now, because inflation will eat it away.

Cons:

1. A few colleagues I respect have run for the golden hills in recent years. Their moves make me question whether I am a sucker for staying put.
2. The extra income would be nice. Plus, my government salary will not increase until I retire, except for cost-of-living, unless other changes are made to the federal pay scale or I become a senior executive (and, even that is only an extra 10-20k).
3. I have quite a few friends in high-powered jobs with either lots of power or lots of money (or both). Some of them I worked with in the past before they left for greener pastures. I don't envy their money or their typical lifestyle and work hours (e.g., nanny raises their kids and they don't see them during the work week), but I still sometimes compare myself to them and feel like I am a loser (this is not rational, I know).
4. I could cut down on my commute, as I live close to the area where a private sector job would likely be located (however, unless there isn't a significant increase in my work hours, that will get more than eaten up by the longer work day).
5. I get nervous about whether my FERS pension will be there when I retire. Objectively, I believe that it probably should, at least for the most part, because any changes to the system won't be as significant as some fear, and there will be some sort of grandfathering that I'll probably receive. Plus, we should also have a healthy TSP balance at retirement. But, I still worry, and a private sector job would help me put more in the bank.

Does anyone have any input? I think I am just suffering from "grass is always greener" syndrome, but want to make sure I'm not considering aspects of this question that I have missed. Sorry for the long screed, but I actually wrote this out to help myself think (without intent of posting it), and thought these wayward thoughts might be helpful to someone else in a similar situation.

Greatly appreciated,
peseta

P.S. I am very fortunate to be even posting a question like this, and am well aware that part of the solution to being more at peace is more gratitude, which I'm working on.

kpc77
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by kpc77 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:54 am

Sounds to me like you have an ideal situation if you enjoy the current work.

What you do with the extra time is important. If you’re investing the extra time that your current job allows in your family, it’s hard to put a price on that.

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tainted-meat
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by tainted-meat » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:00 am

Sounds like you have a good situation. Nothing wrong with looking around but I'll tell you that the private sector will most likely not have the work/life balance and security that you have right now.

chevca
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by chevca » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:01 am

OP, I think your pros and cons can pretty much be summed up like this...

Stay put in gov't -
Pro: Everything else

Con: Less money

Leave for private sector-
Pro: More money

Con: Everything else

Is there really anything other than more money that has you thinking of going to the private sector?

retiredjg
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by retiredjg » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:02 am

You are reporting a very high quality of life in your current situation. I don't think I'd risk that for money you don't need (your words, not mine).

The problem with the private sector is that you might lose it - more travel, more weekends, less job security, whatever.

The value of a federal pension, even a small one, is very high. Right now, I think the value of not having to worry about challenges and changes in the health care market is probably the benefit for which I'm most grateful. It's an benefit I didn't expect and it is near priceless at this point in time. Of course, that may all be straightened out by the time you get there.

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Taco Knight
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Taco Knight » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:17 am

You'll probably enjoy your work-life balance even more as your child grows older. They'll have activities that take up more significant chunks of time than playgrounds and birthday parties that you may wish to accompany them on. I think you're happy now and you'll continue to be happy so you shouldn't trade that for the unknown.

Silk McCue
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Silk McCue » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:23 am

I wouldn't draw any cards. You already hold the winning hand. The pot is yours.

ColoRetiredGirl
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by ColoRetiredGirl » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:28 am

5. There will be some sort of grandfathering that I'll probably receive.

Are you sure? I have heard and read some proposals that employees with 25 years and more will be grandfathered in the current system. You will contribute more each year to your own pension funds. I would recommend investing this further.

RadAudit
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by RadAudit » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:28 am

Stay where you are and enjoy it. It's a lot less stressful to enjoy the work you do than to wonder every day if you have enough to retire and / or calculate the odds of running out of money before you die.
FI is the best revenge. LBYM. Invest the rest. Stay the course. - PS: The Calvary isn't coming, kids. You are on your own.

Shallowpockets
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Shallowpockets » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:58 am

The grass is not always greener. It is just from where you are standing now. Where you stand now would look pretty green to others, and maybe to yourself were you on the other side.

DCChak
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by DCChak » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:16 pm

In many ways, I'm in the same boat as OP. Typed out a long response, but then lost it as I wasn't signed in. :oops:

A few quick hits:
1. Less concerned about losing Fed pension. Cuts have been discussed but not passed. High-5 and higher payments in possible. Likely grandfathering. Also won't lose existing years of experience when leaving, and can add to them again if return to USG. 15+ years, plus SS, still is a nice baseload for retirement. If there is a DC to DB shift, it could be advantageous to good savers, as you appear to be (20%).
2. Commute comment surprised me. I was assuming you were a USG lawyer like me, but that wouldn't fit with a shorter commute. Are you in a school district you want for your kids? Moving costs would further complicate the analysis.
3. What is your wife's earning potential? How does she feel about you staying at the USG, or leaving to work more? Increased income and salary that leads to frustration, resentment, divorce, and then alimony and child support is not at all unusual. On the other hand, if she is the type that likes having control of things in the house on her own, she may be happier with the additional income.
4. At 20 years out of law school, my window for jumping ship to the private side, without the management title valued by firms and clients, has largely closed. If you are in law, depending on your specialty, you may already be facing a similarly small window. Law firms are highly-risk averse, and also highly ego-driven. Hiring partners feel most at home with people who followed a similar path to their own.
5. Don't beat yourself up for Jonesing from time to time. It is rational, though not particularly useful. Just don't dwell on it for too long or too often.
6. One frustration I have had as a senior attorney is seeing younger, less experienced management barrell down tracks without seeing the oncoming trains readily apparent to me but not to them. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't. Sometimes I'm wrong too. Kinda like parenting teenagers, come to think of it.

beardsworth
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by beardsworth » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:43 pm

A job you enjoy, with stable continued employment prospects; work rules which offer a certain amount of protection of family life against unreasonable time demands from the employer; and a retirement plan essentially free of employer tampering at the expense of the employees; is not something to be thrown away, pay increase or no.

This forum regularly features threads from people in the corporate world who have been laid off, outsourced, required to work 60-hour weeks, hate their jobs, hate their boss, and hate the insanity of a large for-profit (rather than public) bureaucracy.

Government employment is, of course, not 100% free of those situations. But my point is that sometimes the grass which seems so green on the other side of a fence turns out, on close-up inspection (and after it's too late to climb back over the fence) to be just crabgrass and other invasive weeds.

There's a saying here that the enemy of a good investment plan is the restless search for a "perfect" investment plan. By the same token, the dream of a "perfect" job, when a person is already quite pleased with his current job and has no truly compelling reason to leave it, is the enemy of contentment.

That's the way it looks to me, but best wishes in whatever you decide.

bubbadog
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by bubbadog » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:52 pm

Silk McCue wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:23 am
I wouldn't draw any cards. You already hold the winning hand. The pot is yours.
I would guess he has at least 20 in blackjack terms.

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bottlecap
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by bottlecap » Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:02 pm

Honestly, if you have any question, you don't need to ask.

You have security, both in terms of job and retirement, with the federal government.

In the private sector, you have little to none, outside of what value you can produce - or that your employer thinks you can produce. Especially if you are going to get paid three times what the federal government pays.

If someone would triple your salary any you're still unsure, just stay put. No question.

I am all for the private sector and for people firing for any reason. We would all starve without it. But if you value job security, the federal government is the gold standard and it is the gift that keeps on giving. You're in. Don't lose it.

Good luck,

JT

Plutus
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Plutus » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:09 pm

"A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." - Albert Einstein, 1922

peseta
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by peseta » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:32 pm

Thanks so much to everyone who posted. This community is great. You've basically helped convince me of what I knew all along. I will try my best to stop looking at the grass over the fence.
DCChak wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:16 pm
2. Commute comment surprised me. I was assuming you were a USG lawyer like me, but that wouldn't fit with a shorter commute. Are you in a school district you want for your kids? Moving costs would further complicate the analysis.
3. What is your wife's earning potential? How does she feel about you staying at the USG, or leaving to work more? Increased income and salary that leads to frustration, resentment, divorce, and then alimony and child support is not at all unusual. On the other hand, if she is the type that likes having control of things in the house on her own, she may be happier with the additional income.
[. . .]
5. Don't beat yourself up for Jonesing from time to time. It is rational, though not particularly useful. Just don't dwell on it for too long or too often.
I'm very lucky that my wife is supportive of my career. Before we got married, I told her that I very well might be a government lifer, and she needed to be okay with that. Thankfully, she is (mostly) as Bogleheaded as I am. Her earning potential is probably relatively flat, but stable. We should be able to make things work regardless, as our mortgage will become a smaller part (inflation-adjusted) of our outflow as time goes on, and childcare will someday not be an issue once school begins (we're saving pretty well now today despite those expenses).

I commute downtown currently, but I actually live closer to the local tech corridor, so it would reduce my commute. But that would likely be swamped by the additional time in the office.

And, I agree about the Joneses. I'm convinced that there's something in the human condition that triggers those emotions, even our brains know better.

Again, thanks to everyone for the advice and encouragement.

peseta

P.S. Plutus, thanks for that quote! I should put it on my bathroom mirror to see it every morning.

HIinvestor
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by HIinvestor » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:35 pm

H was a lifetime federal employee (45 years). We had decades of lean years but he mostly had a nice work-life balance. He finally retired and gets a nice pension and RMDs from TSP plus the fed govt pays the bulk of our medical insurance premiums.

It was such a good model that S has opted to work for the Fed govt as well. He also likes his work/life balance and in his free time has started an online business that gives him more income than his salary. Perhaps you may wish to consider whether you may also wish to consider a “side gig” in addition to your full-time fed job.

Having a job one loves which pays enough that one can save and have good medical benefits is sadly rare. I’d look VERY carefully before jeopardizing it.

delamer
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by delamer » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:40 pm

I’d run the numbers for a private sector job that doubled your salary.

How much more would you pay in payroll and income taxes? How much more would you need to save to compensate for the loss of the pension?

With what is left of your salary increase, how would you spend the money? Would you save even more to retire early, buy a bigger house, buy a sports car, buy a second home, etc.?

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greg24
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by greg24 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:51 pm

peseta wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:36 am
I have an job that like very much, probably as much as I will ever like any job.
Keep it.

Dandy
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Dandy » Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:27 pm

I think if you love your job and have enough to lead a good financial life and life balance with the family you are in an enviable situation.

What helped me make decisions like this is that I realize that I am better off than 99.99% of the people who have ever lived on this earth. I rarely had a job I loved but usually found a way to get some job satisfaction. I can't imagine if I really loved my job and had enough income and good life balance I would trade that in for more income.

RetiredNewbie
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by RetiredNewbie » Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:29 pm

I retired from the Department of Defense after 37 years. I loved my job, and am very glad that I stayed and retired from it. For ten of those years I served as the President of my 10,000 member Union. I'm sure that many make it when they leave for the "greener grass". However, while I was running the Union, many of those that did called me a few years later, asking if I could use my "influence" to get them rehired. Also, during my term as President, the government changed the retirement system. We were under the old Civil Service Retirement System. Management tried to get me to write a gate handout encouraging all employees to switch to the Federal Employees Retirement System, because "they could be millionaires when they retired". After reviewing the paperwork they gave me, not only did I decline to persuade my membership to make the change, I advised them against it. Management was furious, but I would make the same decision again, because defined benefit retirement systems are priceless. And when the government tries to change your benefits, they never do it for YOUR benefit. You will face the same situation when (not if) they revise your retirement benefits, but in my experience I believe that you are safe in the one that you currently have, and won't be forced into whatever new system they develop.
Your attitude about risk changes significantly when the bear begins to maul you.

Atilla
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Atilla » Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:56 pm

Add another pro to the government job - apparently you don't wake up at night sweating & stressing about your job? At the end of the day you can truly leave it behind? The dudes making big bucks I guarantee are paying for it 24/7 with stress and distraction when they are at home. I fight it all the time.
The Village Idiot - here for your entertainment.

MtnTraveler
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by MtnTraveler » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:37 pm

So I could relate a lot to what you wrote and I've been having the conversation with myself a lot lately although the employer/pros/cons are different. At the end of the day you have to decide what are the things most important to you (work/life balance, job satisfaction, salary) and make your decision based on those things. One thing I will say is the grass is NEVER greener with any new job once you are in your career. What changes is the brown spots. You get sick of the brown spots in your current job/company and go to a new job/company where the brown spots are green and life seems great. Except soon you see brown spots that your old job/company didn't have and over time you'll start to wonder if it's greener elsewhere. Everyone thinks the other sides have it better (federal vs private sector vs military vs etc) but honestly it's just the pros and cons are different. Good luck with whatever you decide!

Helo80
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Helo80 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:37 pm

peseta wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:36 am
Does anyone have any input? I think I am just suffering from "grass is always greener" syndrome, but want to make sure I'm not considering aspects of this question that I have missed. Sorry for the long screed, but I actually wrote this out to help myself think (without intent of posting it), and thought these wayward thoughts might be helpful to someone else in a similar situation.


I think there are far more downsides than upsides to jumping ship. It seems to me that you're basically doing it for the extra money, and to maybe sort of Keep up with these mythical Jones'.

I'm just curious how many people you think say that they truly "love their job" at the end of the day?

If you want to open up Pandora's Box, be my guest...

golfCaddy
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by golfCaddy » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:41 pm

I get nervous about whether my FERS pension will be there when I retire.
Without getting too political, I think benefit cuts may be coming, depending on how the political winds blow. However, I don't think FERs can go bust, in the way a private pension or municipality pension might. It's supposed to be fully funded with Treasury bonds.

Helo80
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Helo80 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:45 pm

RetiredNewbie wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:29 pm
Management was furious, but I would make the same decision again, because defined benefit retirement systems are priceless. And when the government tries to change your benefits, they never do it for YOUR benefit. You will face the same situation when (not if) they revise your retirement benefits, but in my experience I believe that you are safe in the one that you currently have, and won't be forced into whatever new system they develop.

Unfortunately, people do not stay with one employer their whole career anymore. Plus, people are retiring in their 50s and 60's and then living another 30-40 years that most defined benefit plans were not expecting to happen b/c of life expectancy statistics at the time when said employees first started out.

That being said, Defined Benefit plans are not so great in that what are people to do if the plan is administered poorly (e.g. Detroit)? Or, what if the company goes out of business? State and Federal governments are the only ones that (it seems) can safely offer a "sure" Defined Benefit plan. GE is probably old enough that at one point in time, it had a company pension, but who knows how that one is doing considering GE has been struggling a lot lately.

In terms of DoD and the Federal Government, you're lucky to have CSRS and them as the USG is probably not going to go out of business or reduce your benefits. I am curious long-term how voters feel towards government DB plans when fewer and fewer private sector employers offer them and increasingly, millennial feel like they'll never be able to pay off their student loans, buy a home, or retire. (if this is too speculative, please delete mods).

kjvmartin
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by kjvmartin » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:02 pm

Former federal employee here.

You seem to be in a good place. I would stay.

JBTX
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by JBTX » Wed Mar 28, 2018 12:42 am

Sounds like you have a great situation. How many threads are there in here about “do I have enough to retire”? People wouldn’t be saying that if they really liked their jobs.

I would be skeptical you could double or triple your salary, unless it was a profession like law. Also in the private sector you really need to always be moving “up” or you get to your late 40s or 50s and kind end up in no man’s land. I would really love to have a job like yours at this point.

The value of a reasonably secure public pension can’t be overstated. If you end up with $50k per year inflation adjusted that is like having $1.2M in a 401k. Between pension and social security your base living needs are taken care of. Everything else is just gravy.

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3CT_Paddler
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by 3CT_Paddler » Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:53 am

While doubling or tripling your salary might sound like a no brainer, there are two parts of the equation that you need to add to the private side that you have not mentioned. First the pension is a significant benefit, that will likely not be there on the private side. That might represent 20% of your current annual salary. Second, because you both work, your additional income would be taxed at a fairly high rate. There are additional benefits on the federal side like number of holidays off. If you are talking about doubling your salary, then it is probably a minimal gain in take home income overall. Also consider the cost-benefit on a hours worked basis. If you are working 50-60 hour weeks on the private side, then you should adjust the gain in salary downward.

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Tamarind
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Tamarind » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:14 am

I think enjoying your work is more important once you have enough to meet your goals. Autonomy and a feeling of tangible contribution are very hard to find in any sector, and the federal pension can rarely be bested. If you want to raise family income, perhaps see what you could do to help your wife increase hers.

t885
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by t885 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:29 am

Silk McCue wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:23 am
I wouldn't draw any cards. You already hold the winning hand. The pot is yours.
The grass is always greener until it is time to mow it...
There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don't know, and those who don't know they don't know

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burt
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by burt » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:37 am

The grass is always greener until a drought hits and the grass dies.
Job stability is a big factor, especially with a family. (speaking from experience)

I would stay put.

burt

doss
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by doss » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:49 am

Why don't you just take the federal contracting route?

Here's why:

1.) You get to stay with your employer, same job duties, same boss, same people, etc.
2.) You get same govie-like schedules, 40hr work week (often illegal to work more than your govie counterparts), same holidays, etc
3.) Agencies like these always need contractors -- and the amount of contractors has been increasing each year
4.) More and more contractors are offering govie-like benefits, including higher matching to offset the lack of pension (some companies even offer a pension like Boeing (better than fed pension) , Ball Aerospace, etc
5.) Higher salary than govie counterparts

Note: If you have a security clearance it's a no brainer to go contractor route...those are your "golden handcuffs" with private sector pay.

If you're concerned about health benefits during retirement, the fed government just requires 5 years of fed civilian work before age 62.

JDTHOOSIER
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by JDTHOOSIER » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:52 am

Interesting thread. I was sort of in the OP's shoes, 17 years as a federal employee, surrounded by a great group of people who had become my friends. Work/life balance of course was fabulous. However, I had an IT technical job and wanted to stay technical as I enjoyed the work. I felt like I was becoming stagnant and falling behind the curve because the Fed govt tends to lag well behind private industry in IT and I was just not getting many challenging opportunities. I did not like routine, as it seems a lot of fellow govt workers do.

So I took the leap to the private sector, despite many misgivings.

In my case, I was fortunate. I ended up in a good situation that was an eye-opener in terms of putting a context of where I was with my technical skill set: in short I *was* a bit behind the curve. I got training, challenging assignments, more responsibilities and rapidly moved up the chain. The trade-off was job security and to some degree work/life balance. My first company ended up in a downsizing situation, and after 7 years there I moved on to my current position, where I've been for 12 years. I now make 75% more than what I did with the government. With the government I basically had very little chance of further promotions without going into management.

I'm constantly exposed to the latest and greatest in IT technology and thrive on the learning required to keep current. There's some pressure to keep up but it's a good pressure because I like learning.

In my case, I look back and am very thankful I moved on. I had a lot of doubts because I was leaving a relatively safe but dead-end job but the risk paid off. Sometimes to "grow" - you have to move on and take chances.

BTW, every single person on my old government team (about 10 of us) are now retired. I"m the only one still going! But as long as I'm still enjoying learning and having fun, I'll keep at it.

BJJ nerd
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by BJJ nerd » Sat Mar 31, 2018 10:53 am

JDTHOOSIER wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:52 am
Interesting thread. I was sort of in the OP's shoes, 17 years as a federal employee, surrounded by a great group of people who had become my friends. Work/life balance of course was fabulous. However, I had an IT technical job and wanted to stay technical as I enjoyed the work. I felt like I was becoming stagnant and falling behind the curve because the Fed govt tends to lag well behind private industry in IT and I was just not getting many challenging opportunities. I did not like routine, as it seems a lot of fellow govt workers do.

So I took the leap to the private sector, despite many misgivings.

In my case, I was fortunate. I ended up in a good situation that was an eye-opener in terms of putting a context of where I was with my technical skill set: in short I *was* a bit behind the curve. I got training, challenging assignments, more responsibilities and rapidly moved up the chain. The trade-off was job security and to some degree work/life balance. My first company ended up in a downsizing situation, and after 7 years there I moved on to my current position, where I've been for 12 years. I now make 75% more than what I did with the government. With the government I basically had very little chance of further promotions without going into management.

I'm constantly exposed to the latest and greatest in IT technology and thrive on the learning required to keep current. There's some pressure to keep up but it's a good pressure because I like learning.

In my case, I look back and am very thankful I moved on. I had a lot of doubts because I was leaving a relatively safe but dead-end job but the risk paid off. Sometimes to "grow" - you have to move on and take chances.

BTW, every single person on my old government team (about 10 of us) are now retired. I"m the only one still going! But as long as I'm still enjoying learning and having fun, I'll keep at it.
+1.

I would guess that one of the reasons you like your job is because you're good at it and have been doing it for a while. It's human nature to avoid change and stay comfortable. To learn and grow professionally (and personally) you need to put yourself outside of your comfort zone.

Why not try something new especially if you have a chance to double/triple your income? You might even like the more challenging/stimulating work environment!

Worst case scenario, you go back to government work / find a different job.

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dm200
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by dm200 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:29 am

Increasingly, in my opinion and experience/observation, two compensation matters have diverged a lot over recent decades between federal employees/retirees and private sector employment:

1. Federal employees continue to have a defined benefit pension with an annual cost of living bump.

2. Federal retirees continue to receive health insurance benefits into retirement - even after being eligible for Medicare.

I would take these two real benefits of federal employment into account in evaluating future compensation.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by dm200 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:34 am

doss wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:49 am
Why don't you just take the federal contracting route?
Here's why:
1.) You get to stay with your employer, same job duties, same boss, same people, etc.
2.) You get same govie-like schedules, 40hr work week (often illegal to work more than your govie counterparts), same holidays, etc
3.) Agencies like these always need contractors -- and the amount of contractors has been increasing each year
4.) More and more contractors are offering govie-like benefits, including higher matching to offset the lack of pension (some companies even offer a pension like Boeing (better than fed pension) , Ball Aerospace, etc
5.) Higher salary than govie counterparts
Note: If you have a security clearance it's a no brainer to go contractor route...those are your "golden handcuffs" with private sector pay.
If you're concerned about health benefits during retirement, the fed government just requires 5 years of fed civilian work before age 62.
I had several of these jobs at various times.

Job security can be a risk. Often contractors go before employees in reductions.

You may have the same "job" - but switch contractors (and seniority/benefits) over time.

In one such period, I had to work the regular job (40 hrs/week) AND evenings/weekends (with no added compensation) on company proposals for future contracts.

Regarding Boeing (employer in the 80's), I thought Boeing no longer had a pension plan. Is that correct? or, do they still offer a defined benefit pension?

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by mgullo » Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:20 pm

peseta wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:36 am

I have a young child and an excellent work-life balance... I get to see my wife and kid at dinner every night (except when I'm on infrequent business travel), I rarely work on the weekends, and I can telework once a week... I like my job. It's one where I actually can say I make a difference, and there's real tangible results from my work that I can see. I have a lot of autonomy, because I'm a senior person and am trusted.... I doubt I'd like a private sector job nearly as much...While the extra income is nice, we don't need it.... I have an excellent work-life balance, and it's unlikely I'll get that in the private sector... pension will be significant if I stick it out to retirement, it won't be worth much if I leave now, because inflation will eat it away.

I have quite a few friends in high-powered jobs with either lots of power or lots of money (or both)...I don't envy their money or their typical lifestyle and work hours (e.g., nanny raises their kids and they don't see them during the work week)...I could cut down on my commute (however, unless there isn't a significant increase in my work hours, that will get more than eaten up by the longer work day).
If I make enough to save appropriately for retirement on the side of a pension and I have a happy work-life balance.....I would think I won and wouldn't be looking to mess that up.

I would enjoy my time with my family and be happy that I have a job I enjoy and believe makes a difference in the world.

Good luck with your decision.
Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something. | -Thoreau

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Leemiller » Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:47 pm

I made the jump from a high paying (non-GS) job to the private sector for about a 40-60% pay increase, depending on how you look at vesting stock. I have zero regrets. At my agency, I had prestigious assignments but was not management. I’m also in my early 40s. You’re right, staying in the govt too long closes some doors.

My move to the private sector has meant more pay, a better title, similar hours, and more respect. I’ve also moved to management. If I ever wanted to go back to the govt, I could. I’ve already worked for two agencies and have tons of contacts. My govt job had issues, so my situation was different than yours. But I will say I wasn’t going to stay in a govt job in my 40s out of fear when I saw too many people get stuck, deparate to leave, in their 50s/60s. And so many people I talked to about leaving said I was “brave” and they were scared to do so, which is a shame.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by delamer » Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:52 pm

dm200 wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:29 am
Increasingly, in my opinion and experience/observation, two compensation matters have diverged a lot over recent decades between federal employees/retirees and private sector employment:

1. Federal employees continue to have a defined benefit pension with an annual cost of living bump.

2. Federal retirees continue to receive health insurance benefits into retirement - even after being eligible for Medicare.

I would take these two real benefits of federal employment into account in evaluating future compensation.

Completely agree.

Anecdotally, with two professionals in a married couple, having one partner take a federal job that is stable and has excellent benefits while the other partner takes private sector jobs which are less secure but higher salaried can be a good financial strategy.

Sort of the best of both worlds, assuming a solid relationship.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by student » Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:56 pm

delamer wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:52 pm
Anecdotally, with two professionals in a married couple, having one partner take a federal job that is stable and has excellent benefits while the other partner takes private sector jobs which are less secure but higher salaried can be a good financial strategy.

Sort of the best of both worlds, assuming a solid relationship.
Yes. I have a number of colleagues who took this approach with a tenured professor position and a high-paying job in industry.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by friar1610 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:26 pm

doss wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:49 am
Why don't you just take the federal contracting route?

Here's why:

1.) You get to stay with your employer, same job duties, same boss, same people, etc.
2.) You get same govie-like schedules, 40hr work week (often illegal to work more than your govie counterparts), same holidays, etc
3.) Agencies like these always need contractors -- and the amount of contractors has been increasing each year
4.) More and more contractors are offering govie-like benefits, including higher matching to offset the lack of pension (some companies even offer a pension like Boeing (better than fed pension) , Ball Aerospace, etc
5.) Higher salary than govie counterparts

Note: If you have a security clearance it's a no brainer to go contractor route...those are your "golden handcuffs" with private sector pay.

If you're concerned about health benefits during retirement, the fed government just requires 5 years of fed civilian work before age 62.
I worked for DoD contractors after retiring from the Navy and my experience was:
1. That can be true as long as the contract you're on is still in effect. If another company gets the contract you are either out of that job or you have to go to work for the new contractor (change companies and start at the bottom of the benefits ladder all over again). And, as a contractor, you are less likely to be fully accepted as one of th "In crowd".
2. My experience is that private employees get fewer holidays and less vacation than "guvvies". So if there is a government holiday that is not a company holiday, you will be under pressure from your company to find a way to work "off-site" that day so the company can still bill the government for your time. Or, if you absolutely can't do that, to work an hour a day extra until you've made up those 8 billable hours. And there is a lot of non-compensated time helping the company work on rebids, proposals, etc.
3. As a generality this is true. But, if the agency you are supporting gets its budget cut, contractors are among the first to go.
4. I absolutely didn't find this to be true. In fact, one of my employers eliminated its DB pension while I was there. Of course, there are benefits like ESPP that are not found in government and some may be persuaded that these are more valuable.
5. Absolutely.

And I agree wholeheartedly that a security clearance (the higher the better) is an extremely important thing to have.

I and most of my Navy friends made excellent salaries as contractors but had more fun in the Navy (Pentagon assignments excepted).
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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by dm200 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 1:32 pm

delamer wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:52 pm
dm200 wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:29 am
Increasingly, in my opinion and experience/observation, two compensation matters have diverged a lot over recent decades between federal employees/retirees and private sector employment:
1. Federal employees continue to have a defined benefit pension with an annual cost of living bump.
2. Federal retirees continue to receive health insurance benefits into retirement - even after being eligible for Medicare.
I would take these two real benefits of federal employment into account in evaluating future compensation.
Completely agree.
Anecdotally, with two professionals in a married couple, having one partner take a federal job that is stable and has excellent benefits while the other partner takes private sector jobs which are less secure but higher salaried can be a good financial strategy.
Sort of the best of both worlds, assuming a solid relationship.
Yes - when both spouses/partners can have these different types of employment - can be or become the best of both worlds.

Federal employee/retiree healthcare/insurance benefits can benefit the dependent/spouse as well.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by peseta » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:53 am

Thanks to everyone who gave advice. Of all the posts in this thread, this one hit the hardest:
chevca wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:01 am
OP, I think your pros and cons can pretty much be summed up like this...

Stay put in gov't -
Pro: Everything else
Con: Less money

Leave for private sector-
Pro: More money
Con: Everything else

Is there really anything other than more money that has you thinking of going to the private sector?
What is interesting is that I was excited to see posts suggesting I stay, and felt something in the pit of my stomach when someone would post suggesting I explore greener pastures. I think that tells me something.

This thread has confirmed my intuition to stay where I am for at least the medium term, even if I am less marketable further down the road (for someone who asked, I am indeed in law, so the salary-age curve does not drop quite so precipitously in my profession). I can always reevaluate if I have to down the road (when I don't have young children), especially if federal retirement is radically overhauled in a negative way.

One potential option is to leave at my minimum retirement age (57). I'll have 30 years of service then, so (assuming the rules don't change) I can retire with a full COLA-ed pension (about 31-32% of my high-3, adding sick leave). I could then take a private sector job. I probably won't be as marketable then, but I should hopefully be at least able to still do something different at that age. (If my agency has a buy-out before I turn 57, that would be another option.) But this is well down the road and not worth thinking about much now.

With much appreciation,
peseta

P.S. A few posts talked about my spouse's employment benefits. My wife's benefits at her job are not great, so she's already on mine. That is a factor here, although many places in the private sector I might consider also probably have decent health care benefits, too (though nothing like federal retirement benefits).
Last edited by peseta on Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by UpperNwGuy » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am

I retired from a senior federal position five years ago after 40 years of service. During the latter half of my career I did a lot of hiring. One of the things that intrigued me is that we always had applications from former federal employees who wanted to get back into government. They had left because the grass seemed greener on the outside. Usually it wasn't, so they wanted to return to federal service.

My advice to you would be to remain in government. If you retire at age 55 with 30 years of service, you can then work another 10-12 years in the private sector before retiring for good at age 65-67. And during that second career you'll have the safety net of your federal retirement income and federal health insurance. Trust me, this is the best solution for most people.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by peseta » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:10 am

UpperNwGuy wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am
I retired from a senior federal position five years ago after 40 years of service. During the latter half of my career I did a lot of hiring. One of the things that intrigued me is that we always had applications from former federal employees who wanted to get back into government. They had left because the grass seemed greener on the outside. Usually it wasn't, so they wanted to return to federal service.

My advice to you would be to remain in government. If you retire at age 55 with 30 years of service, you can then work another 10-12 years in the private sector before retiring for good at age 65-67. And during that second career you'll have the safety net of your federal retirement income and federal health insurance. Trust me, this is the best solution for most people.
Good points. I've actually seen folks who left my current office have this exact issue. At least two I know of wanted to return and couldn't get rehired. Frankly, I doubt my office would hire me now if I applied today (absent the experience I've gotten on the job, of course). We get hundreds of applications for every opening.

I also edited my post to add something along the lines of your second point, right as you were posting. Good to see that's not a crazy idea!

peseta

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Elysium » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:14 am

I will give you one simple reason to stay, if others havent't conviced you enough.

Age.

That's it, private sector is good, and you make a lot more money, but you never know if you will be able to continue to make that money in another year, and that is a constant. Once you hit 50, it beccomes even more harder in private sector as many can attest. This is where the federal job with its security and work/life balance comes into play.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Nestegg_User » Mon Apr 02, 2018 1:11 pm

delamer wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:52 pm
dm200 wrote:
Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:29 am
Increasingly, in my opinion and experience/observation, two compensation matters have diverged a lot over recent decades between federal employees/retirees and private sector employment:

1. Federal employees continue to have a defined benefit pension with an annual cost of living bump.

2. Federal retirees continue to receive health insurance benefits into retirement - even after being eligible for Medicare.

I would take these two real benefits of federal employment into account in evaluating future compensation.

Completely agree.

Anecdotally, with two professionals in a married couple, having one partner take a federal job that is stable and has excellent benefits while the other partner takes private sector jobs which are less secure but higher salaried can be a good financial strategy.

Sort of the best of both worlds, assuming a solid relationship.
yep

that’s what we had..although we also had a relocation
which can be tough depending on your position (the OP now says that he’s in law, so probably DC). {I had private sector trying to recruit me at other locations, but the serious bucks were with her salary (corner office type) even with my senior technical position in the gov (paid at least 30% lower) so we located where the bucks were}.

If you keep your skills up, private sector will still hire; but, they are looking at you as the hired gun to fix the recent issues, once that’s done you aren’t the former team member that came up through them and they will drop you. As long as you understand that and can make the coin until the music stops, then go for it.

Ideally though, it’s better to do it the other way... private sector until later thirties or early forties and then transition into gov; you don’t start at the lower scale (some agencies can get some level of pay matching, or at least bump up to higher steps) as you can demonstrate skills at the somewhat higher grades (12,13, sometimes 14) and you can still get a decent pension plus health insurance and decent job stability (depending on agencies).

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by DownToThis » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:40 pm

I would Say your better off getting advice from the people you mentioned who have left. The federal government is vast and has a lot of different niches. The people posting here might not have the same understanding of what your private sector options are. But since you already know people who have transitioned you should try to ask them their honest perspective on the fed vs private sector. And not just what they tell you at a dinner party or what you overhear, I would meet them for coffee and find out the good and the bad. How many of them have come back to the government and why?

Honestly I was in a similar position and in my role/specialty the people who stayed in the government couldn’t make it on the outside. I got out partly to prove to myself I could. But it took a lot of thought and talking to people who had been in my position. It’s not to say that’s the right decision for you (or anyone else who has posted) but it’s unique to my experience in the government. And I may go back in a few years, I may not, but at least I proved to myself I could succeed on the outside.

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Re: Grass is always greener, federal edition

Post by Leemiller » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:33 pm

UpperNwGuy wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:01 am
I retired from a senior federal position five years ago after 40 years of service. During the latter half of my career I did a lot of hiring. One of the things that intrigued me is that we always had applications from former federal employees who wanted to get back into government. They had left because the grass seemed greener on the outside. Usually it wasn't, so they wanted to return to federal service.

My advice to you would be to remain in government. If you retire at age 55 with 30 years of service, you can then work another 10-12 years in the private sector before retiring for good at age 65-67. And during that second career you'll have the safety net of your federal retirement income and federal health insurance. Trust me, this is the best solution for most people.
I know many govt attorneys who wanted to work in the private sector in their 50s-60s. To do this I’ve only seen it work when you are a high up enough manager, or in one case worked on a major regulatory overhaul (and were still management). Plus, at some point most firms have mandatory retirement ages. I don’t think it’s easier for in-house, given the people I’ve seen jump are senior management or have a very niche skill set. Consulting might work with M-Th travel.

Bottom line, I would not bank on an attorney job being a definite option at 55+ without significant previous private sector experience. To increase options, I have friends who’ve worked hard to get positions managing in the govt, but it’s not a sure bet.

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