NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Federal Pensions Pay Handsome Rewards

August 17, 2012

More than 21,000 retired federal workers receive lifetime government pensions of $100,000 or more per year, according to a USA Today/Gannett analysis.

  • Of these, nearly 2,000 have federal pensions that pay $125,000 or more annually, and 151 take home $150,000 or more.
  • Six federal retirees get more than $200,000 a year, including a doctor, a dentist and a credit union regulator, plus three retirees whose occupations weren't listed.
  • Some 1.2 percent of federal retirees collect six-figure pensions.
  • By comparison, 0.1 percent of military retirees collect as much.
  • Comparable private figures aren't available.

The six-figure pensions spread across a broad swath of the federal workforce: doctors, budget analysts, accountants, public relations specialists and human resource managers. Most do not get Social Security benefits.

  • Retired law enforcement is the most common profession receiving $100,000-plus pensions, including 326 Drug Enforcement Administration agents, 237 IRS investigators and 186 FBI agents.
  • The Postal Service has 714 retired workers getting six-figure retirements.
  • The Social Security Administration has 444.
  • A retired Smithsonian zoologist has a $162,000 annual lifetime pension.

Pensions are a growing federal budget burden, rising twice as fast as inflation over the last decade.

  • Pension payments cost $70 billion last year, plus $13 billion for retiree health care.
  • Taxpayers face a $2 trillion unfunded liability -- the amount needed to cover future benefits -- for these programs, according to the government's audited financial statement.

The average federal pension pays $32,824 annually. The average state and local government pension pays $24,373, Census data show. The average military pension is $22,492. ExxonMobil, which has one of the best remaining private pensions, pays an average of $18,250 per retiree, Labor Department filings show.

The federal government has two retirement systems: one for those hired before 1984 and another for those hired after. Under the older system, employees did not participate in Social Security. The older system covers 78 percent of current retirees and accounts for 96 percent of six-figure pensions. All federal retirees receive health benefits.

Source: Dennis Cauchon, "Some Federal Pensions Pay Handsome Rewards," USA Today, August 15, 2012.


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