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Federal Employee Financial Planning: It’s A Damn Shame (EP60)

Are you taking advantage of all that is available to you as a federal employee? In this episode, Michael, Tommy, Ben, and John discuss the "Rich Men North of Richmond" parody of federal employees, dissecting its jokes. From the unique benefits like inflation-adjusted pensions and cost of living adjustments (COLA), they cover what sets federal employees apart. 

Listen in to learn valuable tips on maximizing your benefits and shedding any guilt associated with your career and benefits. You'll hear about the importance of planning for special circumstances and resisting societal pressures to feel ashamed of financial success.

Listen to the full episode here:

What you will learn:

  • The importance of remembering that you are special as a federal employee. (4:00)
  • The value in having a COLA. (10:20)
  • How to ensure you’re taking advantage of your benefits. (14:15)
  • The guilt that can be associated with having better benefits. (16:45)
  • Why we must respect each other. (22:00)
  • The unique part about federal employees and their health care. (27:00)
  • How to plan for your special circumstances. (32:00)

Ideas worth sharing:

  • “It’s pretty rare for folks these days to have pensions, let alone a cost of living adjustment increase that goes along with it.” - Mason & Associates
  • “The next time you hear any advice online or on the TV, you have to take a step back and think: Does this advice apply to you as a secret millionaire? Does this advice apply to you as a federal employee with a cost of living adjusted pension?” - Mason & Associates
  • “You’re a millionaire. Plan like a millionaire—plan for your special circumstances.” - Mason & Associates

Resources from this episode:


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Read the Transcript Below:

Congratulations for taking ownership of your financial plan by tuning into the Federal Employee Financial Planning Podcast, hosted by Mason & Associates, financial advisors with over three decades of experience serving you.

Welcome to the Federal Employee Financial Planning Podcast. I'm John Mason, President of Mason & Associates and certified financial planners all around the table today as we record another episode of the Federal Employee Financial Planning Podcast. For those of you who have been with us now for almost two years, thank you for tuning in.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. We're reaching download numbers and success across the country that we would have never imagined. It wouldn't be this way without you listening and supporting us. Also a big shout out to everybody who's watching us on YouTube. We're So we've rebranded that YouTube channel.

If you've already bookmarked it, no worries. It should take you right there. So, long form content and then the shorter form content as well on YouTube and this. Guys, this is really exciting because this is our first video podcast that we're recording in Riverside. So, hopefully, we'll have this on the YouTube channel.

How's everybody doing?

Michael Mason:It's good, John. It's good. What a great last two weeks we've had. This is, I guess, timing of when we record these is always good because they get released. So it's really the first two weeks of fall, beautiful weather. Good time.

Tommy Blackburn: Absolutely. I cannot believe that we've been at this, I think, for two years now. Man, it has flown by. I think we try not to date the episodes too much because we don't know when we're going to release them, but 50 episodes that we've released now. So kind of a milestone there, guys.

Ben Raikes: I was looking at an article yesterday that was talking about how, obviously, everyone has a podcast now, but I think we need to give some kudos to ourselves around the table. The average new podcast that starts up has an average of three episodes that they release before they shut it down. We have already released 50 available and we're still going strong, so it's a lot of fun.

John Mason: Well, it's amazing. And we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the motivation of all of us around the table and not to mention the guy to my left, Drew, who does all of the editing for us and makes sure that it goes live as well as some of the other outsourcing that we're doing to produce the podcast.

But it's been a tremendous run. Thank you to our audience. Thank you to our clients. Big shout out to all of those clients who are listening. Today's episode, we're going to have fun. And I think the title—and this is, I think, maybe the first time that we've used any sort of curse words. It's not going to be bad, but there'll be a few curse words in this episode.

I think we're going to call it 'It's A Damn Shame', is the title of this episode. So I want to set the tone for the audience. So there's this guy, I think his name is Oliver, and he recorded a song that was a big hit on YouTube. And he talks about inflation and he talks about how it's a shame that there's people in the streets with nothing to eat.

I don't remember—it's called "Rich Men North of Richmond" and it went pretty viral on YouTube. And I searched the other day on YouTube for 'federal employee' to see if our podcast would pop up or if we'd pop up in some way and there was a parody to this, and it was "Rich Men North of Richmond" and it was the Federal Employee Version, and we've all watched that.

So I think in this episode we're gonna talk about, It's a Damn Shame, and we're gonna call out some of the things that they talked about in this parody.

Tommy Blackburn: And I think it's all meant in good jest. And what we thought about as we listened to it is the message is what resonates. So maybe, you know, we wouldn't say it the same way at all as what the parody says, but the message is that for our federal employees that we're planning for here, that we're primarily directly speaking to in this podcast, you are special. You are different. You are not the average American. You are the secret of millionaire.

We also released a podcast episode earlier, I believe, about 'They're Not Talking to You.' All of these things come together for us, and it's just kind of comically tied together in this parody that was released.

Michael Mason:Yeah, I talked to a client last week, John, that just moved to North Carolina from Virginia. Retired CSRS, also retired military reserve. And he was talking about this new neighborhood that he's in. He says everyone is so active, they get together on the weekends. He says during the week it's kind of slow though.

And I said, "Well, why is it slow during the week?" He says, "Well, most people get up and go to work. And they have to go to work because they're not 65 yet and they don't have health insurance. You know, they can't get health insurance when they retire." And then his wife chimed in and she says, "We just don't say anything about that." You know, he's had health insurance since 50, age 55 and retirement CSRS.

John Mason: Oh, it's a completely different world and, you know, our goal on this podcast and when we meet with clients, we stay out of politics. Almost entirely. Like, sure there's stuff that goes on around the world that people have questions on and sure, there's people who are concerned if Republicans or Democrats or whoever is going to take Congress or the presidency or what have you. We try to stay apolitical.

So this is not a political message, 'It's A Damn Shame,' but it is calling out some things in this song that are a little humorous, about why you're so special, why nobody's talking to you, why you're the secret millionaire. So we're going to call out a few lines.

So one of the things is that he says early in the song is I can retire at age 57 with a cost of living adjusted pension that just keeps going higher. 'I can retire at 57 with a cost of living adjusted pension that just keeps going higher.' What is significant about that and why is that different than what we see when we work with clients who are non-federal employees?

Michael Mason:Yeah, I want to hit the unique part of that cost of living adjustment, COLA. And he says what we've laughed about forever. There were some years, you know, 2008, 2009, where the CPI was actually negative, and truly, if there was a cost of living adjustment, you would have got a pay cut that year. So the cost of living adjustment that keeps going higher, you know, I don't know if he really meant to make that point that you never get a decrease, you know, for the adjustment. But that was interesting.

John Mason: Well, we've joked for a long time that COLA is really COLI, right? I think Tommy may have been the first one to say that it's actually a COLI: cost of living increase instead of a cost of living adjustment.

Michael Mason:Right. And so, what's different? And these guys are going to chime in because Tommy and Ben both came from a world that didn't specialize with federal employees. So they understand, you know, the difficulty in planning for folks that don't have a COLA.

I'm just going to say this, and then I'll turn it over to them. When January 1 gets here of 2024, over the last three years, Social Security, CSRS, will have received about 18% in total COLAs over the last three years.

And let's say FERS is 15%, you know. A CSR is $100,000 retirement. That's $18,000 a year. That's $1,500 a month. Why do we do this podcast? Because everybody out there will, unfortunately, by the time they hear this, they will already have received their long-term care increase. And it's like $40 or $50 a month. And they're wondering, you know, in retirement, "Can I afford to keep doing this?" Well, your pay just went up over the last three years by $1,500 a month, and this increase is $40.

John Mason: Well, you know, you're making a good point that things for a lot of federal employees had actually gotten cheaper over the last two to three years comparatively, right? So if you have a big pension and let's just say it's $10,000 a month for easy math, and that goes up a percent and then your smaller bills like longterm care goes up a bigger percent. Well, the smaller adjustment on a bigger amount still outweighs you're still positive cashflow.

And I think sometimes we can get lost in these numbers like, "Well, I only got a 5-percent pay raise, but my grocery bill is up 20%."

Tommy Blackburn: Well, percentages can play tricks on our mind, right? It's where those percentages, yes, in absolute just by themselves, one's bigger than the other, but when we apply it to the base, the dollar amounts, all of a sudden you get to a different answer, which I think is, you know, part of what Mike has pointed out to some clients on the long-term care premiums.

It's like, "Well, if you put this into context, your pay's gone up 18 grand over the past three years and this premium's only going up maybe a thousand or so over that course of that year." Maybe to bring us back to about the whole pension and cost of living adjustment, how unique that is is I believe it's pretty rare for folks to have pensions nowadays, let alone a cost of living adjustment increase that goes along with it.

And, you know, I think about a lot of our private sector clients as we say this, 'cause we do have a lot of private sector clients we work with as well. Our Huntington Ingalls, Dominion, you know, just name Lockheed Martin, these different defense contractors. They're not getting inflation adjustment. So one, they're lucky enough—Sentara—they're lucky enough to have a pension which already puts you in the elite, but to then have it keep up where your dollar, as they go on in the song, it says, you know, "My dollar ain't S H," you know, the word, well your dollar is when it gets an automatic adjustment.

And one other thing I wanted to point out here, just.. It definitely puts you.. We've made the example before of $40,000 of income is the equivalent to a million dollars in a defined contribution 401k TSP plan. So that pension by itself is probably a million and we need to acknowledge, so you're already in the elite.

What's also unique here is we get a TSP with a 5% match-free money that goes into it. And that's what many private sector have by themselves. So you get the pension, you get the cost of living increase, and you also get the 401k/TSP. Very much elite, unique status here.

Ben Raikes: And I think the other piece here that we haven't even mentioned before is, let's say you retire at minimum retirement age with 30 years of service. You also get a first supplement. There is nothing in a non-government job that says, well, you know what? The retirement system before me had a little bit better deal. Therefore, I'm going to give you this little extra bonus income from the time you turned 57 until 62, the earliest you could turn on your social security.

And Tommy, I'll echo exactly what you said. It might get kind of made me laugh when you said, "Hey, Ben and Tommy have experience here. And there's not a lot of COLAs with non-government employees." And I'm thinking, "There's not a lot of pensions at all." I looked up the number before this podcast. It's around 15% of non-government employees have access to a pension, and they're going to have access to that pension that it's likely not cost of-living-adjusted and it's not going to be as rich as what our federal folks have.

John Mason: So we've talked about this retirement security, guys. I mean, the pension and then the fact that it's cost of living adjusted, it continues to set our clients and listeners of this podcast apart from the rest of the world. So we have on our YouTube channel, 'Avoid the Common Financial Planning Mistakes Made by Federal Employees', and we've shot two episodes. And Mike, this seminar you and Ken created probably back in 1995 and it's on its 15th or 16th iteration, at least, since then. But one of the things we talk about, I just want to hit this home real quick, is they are not talking to you and you're very special.

And the reason why Tommy brought this up earlier, the reason why we're calling this back again is the next time that you hear any sort of financial planning advice, the next time you hear anything like 'don't do this', or 'you should do that', or 'the world is ending', you have to take a step back for a second. You have to think, "Does this advice apply to me as a secret millionaire? Does this advice apply to me as a federal employee with a cost of living adjusted pension?" And the answer to that question is probably no.

So that's one big takeaway early on in this podcast is just remember to take that step back. And, Tommy, you mentioned earlier, your dollar ain't S-H-I-T, so Oliver, he says in his podcast, "Your dollar ain't shit," basically, what he's saying is inflation is eating it away. Well, that's not necessarily true for our clients. So, just understand how good this is, how different you are.

One of the other lines that he has is, "It's a damn shame. You don't know how hard it is not living in the real world." I think it's important for our clients to understand. It's not that their life's not hard. It's not that listeners of this podcast don't have a hard life. It's not that they haven't been through struggles, but when you hear 'not living in the real world', that's just another callback to why your financial plan is different than everybody else's.

And we're going to record another episode, 'The Three Little Pigs'. Tommy and I get a lot of motivation in our financial planning because we have toddlers, so Three Little Pigs as your financial plan made of sticks or bricks. That's gonna be a follow-up episode, so stay tuned for that. But, I think, this is just so big to think about how you're living in the world. And you are real, but your world is different than other people's and I don't think we're trying to make people feel appreciative, but just kind of like, take a step back and think, "Well, how can we maximize these benefits and what can we do?"

And let's not feel guilty about it because we chose federal employment. We chose to have this pension decisions. We made, arguably, sacrifices to do this. Maybe underpaid for many years, now have this very lucrative retirement. So we shouldn't feel guilty in our success. So although the parody says 'not living in the real world,' you're not living in everybody else's world is I think the message.

Michael Mason:Yeah, and it's important to note.. I mean, we've said this for a number of years, but I always caveat it with I had the choice to be a federal employee. You know, you got everyone in this room could have pursued federal employment and anybody that is truly complaining about what you have as a federal employee, that's a different story.

This guy is just having fun and we're using his song to drive home how good your benefits are. You want to talk about not living in the real world? I love it. When I talked to an 06—he's about to retire after 30 years with a $100,000 pension—and he works his first job as a federal employee and he's like, "Is there anything you can do to fix my taxes?" and it's like, yeah, 'cause you spent 30 years with the majority of your pay being tax-free or a good portion of it. So, the real world hurts sometimes.

John Mason: The real world hurts. And I think, you know, I have so many thoughts about this. And although we're very much technicians at Mason & Associates, like, do we have feelings? Are we humans? Like, yes, we absolutely are all those things too. And I think we're good people, personally. I think we're pretty nice and fun to get along with and fun to hang out with.

But not living in the real world. Like, part of retiring, and we've had at least two or three clients recently who have communicated guilt. Guilt around retirement, guilt around like their friends saying, "Well, I wish I could have retired at 57," or, "It must be nice to have a pension and a million dollars," or "I wonder what it's like to have healthcare at the same rate that you had it while you were working into, you know, forever and ever amen." Like, it's a real thing.

So I just want to like commiserate a little bit with our audience that like, when you have success, when you have attained successful status, when you're able to retire early and do all these things, like you may see that your friends aren't your friends anymore. Like, you may feel some guilt. You may feel like a little embarrassed by the success that you've had and maybe even to the tune of you book a coach flight where you could have had economy comfort or first class just out of pure like 'I want to live in everybody else's world,' but you don't have to.

Tommy Blackburn: Like self-punishment or something, not acknowledging what you've built. You know, I wrote down as we were thinking about this is it kind of brought me back to our federal employee retirees, typically the ones we work with, especially. They are, essentially, executives in my book. The type of retirement they get to have is the same type of retirement that pretty much executives or successful business owners in this country get to have. And that's not something we should be ashamed of.

It is sometimes hard, you know, when you look around and you see others not as fortunate or just not similarly situated. That guilt is real and how do you work through that? Although you hopefully can come back to, you made decisions to put you in this position and you're not flaunting it, but to me, the main message here is you're a millionaire. Plan like a millionaire. Plan for your special circumstance.

Michael Mason:You know, John, as you were explaining a minute ago, the comments, the snide comments that folks make. You know, 'I wish I could have done that', 'I wish this', and maybe they're being mean a little bit.

Just don't be.. They shouldn't be a player hater is what we talk about. But you should neither. And this, you say we're non-political, and this is going to be, well, most of us are. This is going to be close to political, but if you don't want somebody to be a player hater, then you shouldn't be a player hater.

So if somebody's not in the federal government, and they need to make four, five, six hundred thousand a year to have their own lifestyle, we shouldn't be, you know, running around talking about tax the guy that makes 400 grand.

Tommy Blackburn: He has to accumulate a lot more to get to the same place you are.

Michael Mason:Right, right. So don't be a player hater and nobody else should be a player hater.

John Mason: Well, you both are making really accurate points and I think, you know, when you look at many of our clients, dual federal employees; federal employees tend to marry federal employees. So now, we have 80 to a hundred thousand dollars a year of pensions.

So, a private sector has to have like $3 million more. And to get that $3 million, not only did they have to max out 401ks and IRAs, then they had to do it in taxable brokerage accounts at which times they get hit with net investment income tax and they start losing things like child tax credit. So all of a sudden maybe they're in a 50% or 60%—and you can fact check me, it's real. There are 50% and 60% marginal tax rates that exist in this country. And you'll probably say, "Well, Mason & Associates, you're crazy. I just looked and the highest marginal tax rate is 37%," but it's not because they're stealthy.

Tommy Blackburn: There are self-taxes out there. Yes. Some of you, many of our federal retirees, will see this in those IRMAA premiums—the privileges that you get when you pay, when you join Medicare—so that is an example of a stealth tax. The other is, as John said, things like tax credits begin to phase out because if you make enough money, I guess you don't have a child to take care of like everybody else, so sometimes the system, there's a lot more complexity and a lot more stealthy things that go on, so that they can tax you without calling it a tax. So we just have to recognize and peel it back a little bit further.

Ben Raikes: And even further, John and Tommy, on your points. John, not only do you have to make so much more, save so much more, max out your 401k's to get to the same point, all of the investment risk is born by you. Whereas for our federal folks, 80% of that risk is going to be born by the federal and government through your pension.

John Mason: I mean, you transferred that risk to arguably the greatest insurer that's ever existed, right?

Ben Raikes: Ran by the most poweful military in the entire world.

John Mason: The taxpayers of the United States.

Michael Mason:Which brings me to one more point before we move on.

John Mason: Oh no, not another political point.

Michael Mason:It's close. It's close. So I've said this to my dad, career federal employee. And I said, "Dad, why is it that you hate the guy that makes four or five, 600,000 so much? That guy pays your salary." And he's like, "What are you talking about?" I said, "Just understand, you were 35 years federal government and then retired for 35 years. And you pay your taxes, but your taxes, they're not 100%, so you can't afford yourself."

You know, if his taxes ended up being 15 percent of overall income, then the government gave him 100%, he gave back 15%. He kept 85%. So his tax dollars can't buy a bullet, an aircraft carrier or anything. That private sector guy is paying taxes to pay your salary and to defend the country. So, I'm just back to don't be a player hater. We ought to love every federal employee and retiree out of love those four to $1,000,000 income earners out there.

John Mason: And similar to that, and, you know, I've had some guilty pleasures recently. I've been watching the Dave Ramsey show. We're going to talk about that in a second. And then also, my son is four in two weeks. So, it's the Lion King. It's a circle of life. We need to respect ecosystem. We need to respect all creatures, and we're all connected in this great circle of life. And you remember the scene where Mufasa is telling Simba, "Yes, we eat the antelope, but when we die, our body becomes the grass and the antelope eat the grass. And we're all connected in the great circle of life."

Well, the world doesn't exist without the government. The United States doesn't exist without federal employees. And it also doesn't exist without people who are non-federal employees. So, respecting all creatures. And we don't want to be hyenas, right? Hyenas, they're bad. They do bad things. And then the pride lands on fire and we don't want that. So we need to respect all creatures. We need to understand that we're all in this in a very delicate balance.

So the Dave Ramsey show, and I'll get his quote slightly wrong, I'm sure. But he says, "We want to live like nobody else today so we can live like nobody else tomorrow." And, essentially, what he means by that is rice and beans, beans and rice. It's like his favorite saying, but it's like, forgo some enjoyment today, get your debt paid off, all of these good things, so that tomorrow you can live like nobody else and give like nobody else.

So this is where, at Mason & Associates, things are what they seem, right? We want to support, empower, educate, and motivate you to do things that maybe you wouldn't have otherwise done, whether you're a client or it's this podcast or a YouTube channel, support, educate, empower, and motivate.

So if you're listening to this and you're realizing like, "My world is different than everybody else's world. I lived like nobody else did for the last 35 years and now I can retire at 57 or 60 with a cost of living adjusted pension that just keeps going higher," you've earned the right to live like nobody else because you lived like nobody else.

And now the giving part, whether that's charitable giving, or giving to your family, or giving to your neighbor, or to your friends, or to yourself. You've earned that and I just.. Let's empower you. Let's empower you to do that.

Michael Mason:That's a great statement, John. So I'm gonna steal that from you when I'm talking to my buddies. Let me see if I've got it. Live today like nobody else so that you can live tomorrow like nobody else.

John Mason:Yeah.

Michael Mason:Tremendous. You know, I wrote some stats down. It seems, and you guys are going to be surprised by this, it seems like federal employees have been a little immune to the political things that happened.

I'll give you an example. CSRS was created in 1920. Social Security wasn't created until 1935. Social Security, other than cost of living increases, has only gotten more difficult or less beneficial over the years. And CSRS has only gotten more beneficial over the years. They never changed the retirement age, you know, to 55, or past age 55.

So now, as I'm looking at this, now let's talk about FERS people. Your FERS pension is solid, but your social security is on edge. And this is something that when the rest of us were told you can't retire until 68 with, or 67 with full benefits, well, this stuff might be creeping into a third of your world as a FERS person, so you've got to watch what everything's going on in Washington DC and vote accordingly.

You're protected a little bit because the people that make the rules are also people with FERS benefits. But the more that Social Security gets hurt, the more your FERS combines security.

Tommy Blackburn: Which is why it's probably nice that we all are living in that same circle of life, that ecosystem, so that when we're all vested in Social Security, we're all going to vote for what's in its best interest and not necessarily just in our own interest.

I think about, you know, with the Social Security Fairness Act stuff where it's like, well, for the government associations, I guess I'll just call it out. NARF, that says, you know, we want to give social security benefits to people who haven't paid into the system. It's like, well, maybe that helps one of your groups, but everybody that's a FERS employee, you're hurting their retirement by making this.

Michael Mason:You've weakened social security by the billions a year when you do that. Billions.

John Mason: Well, there's a reason we did that episode, social security in the news, and I'm confused and it's like, we already know we have a problem. We have a revenue problem. We have a distribution problem. We have an income and expense problem. So, we have to fix it. There's no doubt.

Tommy Blackburn: Yeah. Not to get political. I don't know that I say we have an income problem. I think we have an expense problem, but perhaps that just shows where my mind goes on these things.

John Mason: So there's one other line from "North of Richmond" that we wanted to talk about. And it's because, right now, we're about to enter the Federal Employee Health Benefit Open Season. And he says something along the lines, folks, of 'It's a damn shame, I've got healthcare, but I also get these alerts that my whole life is going to end if I don't do something during Federal Employee Health Benefit Open Enrollment.' So he calls that out in the song and it's just..

Michael Mason:He says ‘I only have three weeks to get it done’ or something like that.

John Mason: Yeah. I mean, it's just a funny line and it's like, you do have healthcare and the unique part, Ben, about federal employees in their healthcare is one, we have a lot of options, and it's the same cost when you retire is when you're working. It just switches from biweekly to monthly. And the tax treatment is different, right? It goes from pre-tax to post-tax. But the Federal Employee Health Benefits is arguably the best or at least the second best benefit that these folks have.

Ben Raikes: I mean, it's what Mike said earlier in talking to some of his buddies that there are people that continue to work until they're age 65 for the only reason that they have no idea what they are going to do with their healthcare if they retire before that age.

Age 65 is when you can sign up for Medicare Parts A and B for most people. And that's what most people want to start, can continue to work to. Think about non-federal folks who retire before the age of 65 who have health insurance through their employer. COBRA allows them to keep that insurance for 18 months.

The federal government allows you to keep the exact same insurance for the rest of your entire life at the same exact cost. COBRA will sometimes double or even triple the price.

Tommy Blackburn: You get to pay the real price on COBRA.

Ben Raikes: Exactly. You get to pay the real price. So, it's just, again, it's not..

Tommy Blackburn: And you get to make a choice when your Medicare age is 65. So, one, you got to get there. But in federal, you get to make a choice whether you even want to go on Medicare. In the example, what you said stuck out to me was, before 65, but like maybe we're 62 or where some point in time, we're going to try to stretch COBRA, we can retire at 57 and the federal social security isn't even an option yet. So we haven't even gotten to that age. I mean, this is incredible, the benefit system that we can take advantage of.

Michael Mason:We haven't talked about this for a while. John, you remember it. And the federal government wasn't affected by this either, and it was the Unaffordable Care Act, you know? So when the Unaffordable Care Act passed, you were single at the time and you had like $150 a month health insurance, great health insurance plan, and it went to like $500 for a single man who's not gonna, you know, barring a tragedy, is not gonna be in a hospital or even see a doctor.

John Mason: That was eight years ago. I remember because It was a day that's in my mind. It's there because not only did I lose my great health insurance, I promptly got to have my appendix taken out right when I got my new plan. Instead of having a thousand dollar out of pocket, I had a $6,500 out of pocket and then I got married 14 days later or seven days later and had to spend the honeymoon all tore up from the appendectomy. Yeah, I remember. It was expensive.

Michael Mason:Remember when I said something about the fox is in charge of the hen house? The people that make the rules, make sure that their benefits didn't change, right? And federal employees didn't change, but we got the Unaffordable Care Act.

John Mason: It's really, really difficult, folks. Like, federal employee health benefits, your best, if not your best, your second best benefit, it's up there. And support, empower, educate, motivate. Like, it's just not even in the cards for most people to retire at 57, 60, frankly before 65 because even if they can, even if they're financially able to do so, when we're doing those financial plans, guys, and we get to look somebody eyeball to eyeball and say, "Well, here's the plan. I think you could retire at 59."

Caveat, we have no idea what the healthcare system is going to look like five years from now. Caveat, the Affordable Care Act looks like this now, and it doesn't anymore. Caveat, it used to be if you made above $40,000, you had to pay full freight, but then the rules change. Caveat, maybe there's Medicare for all.

Tommy Blackburn: Maybe Social Security's gonna change next.

Ben Raikes: There are people that are going to think about going on to the Affordable Care Act, and in order to make those premiums cheaper for themselves, they are going to intentionally make themselves less rich.

Tommy Blackburn: They’re not going at least on paper, they're going to make their tax return look poor, right?

Ben Raikes: Exactly. And they're going to go through all these hoops and all the rigmarole to say, "Hey, actually, federal government, I'm poor, $750 a month, now I only pay $500 a month." I mean, It is a ridiculous system to think about just the true difference. We keep saying the word 'real world', and I think maybe we need to get away from real world.

We're all occupying the same space. We're all in this world together. It's really just perspective. And we have it because we work with federal employees and we have non-federal jobs ourselves and have non-federal employee clients as well. And so, we're able to kind of see both sides and I think shed some light on, "Hey, here's where the federal employee wins a bit and here's where the non-federal wins."

John Mason: The worlds are just different. They're both real, but they're different. And we don't occupy the same space and we don't have the same rules and we don't have similar security in many ways. And, you know, we talked about transferring retirement risk to the federal government by way of pension.

What a great world to be able to plan for a retirement plan for a date and reasonably expect it 99% that your healthcare is not going to change during that timeframe. And that's just not the case in private sector. It's a giant, what would Ken say, a mozzie ball. I don't even know what a mozzie ball is, but he'd say that.

It's a giant, you know, thing out there that's waiting to kick your backside. And so, we don't have any place to transfer that risk right now, so everybody who is private sector is planning for an early retirement or planning for a 65 hoping the rules don't change. The worlds are just different.

Michael Mason:Hey, what should somebody search for to see that video. Is it Remy? Richmond, R E M Y?

Tommy Blackburn: Rich Men North of Richmond Federal or Richmond Federal. You Google that, you'll find it.

John Mason: Yeah, Rich Men North of Richmond Federal Version.

Michael Mason:Well, let’s go around close this down with one final thought.

John Mason: Yeah, I think action items for today's podcast, at least for me, it goes back to, I don't know what you call it, but things are what they seem at Mason & Associates, and I feel like we're doing our best work.

Financial planning first, this content creation second. As long as we're operating under the 'things are what they seem', 'support, empower, educate, motivate', I hope our audience feels a new sense of empowerment and a new sense of motivation and maybe less guilt as they have lived in a different world.

They lived like nobody else so that they can live like nobody else tomorrow. Congratulations. Congratulations all of you for building a solid financial plan.

Michael Mason:Well, I'd like to thank everybody that listens to this podcast and tells other people to listen. We're getting kind of excited. Tommy and I did a case last week in Seattle, Washington, and then, John, you had the idea of a map with push pins on where we have clients.

So this client was established in Seattle purely from the podcast, and we changed their life over the phone. Really, in the intro phone call and it just moved on to the financial planning meeting. So I think we've got one in Ohio that's about to onboard, one in Pennsylvania, so that pushpin map is really kind of cool. So, thanks. Thanks for listening out there.

Ben Raikes: I think the title of this podcast will be 'It's A Damn Shame' and I have here written 'it's only a damn shame if you don't know how special you are'. Everything that we have talked about this, and again, we're all in the real world together, but we have a unique perspective on your benefits. So when it comes time to call someone, call a financial planner, see if you can retire, you need to know somebody that knows you because they're going to be able to help you the most.

Michael Mason:Yeah, it'd be a damn shame if they can't spell FERS. That's the wrong financial plan.

Tommy Blackburn: They didn't know they had a FERS annuity, right?

John Mason: Yeah, that would be a damn shame. It would be a damn shame for you to be retired federal employee, retired military, with all of this retirement security and all the risk transferred to other parties, to not enjoy the plan that you've built out of fear or out of working with a financial planner who doesn't specialize with you. It would be a damn shame to not know how good you have it so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Tommy Blackburn: Yeah. I guess my parting words here would be, the purpose of education is not knowledge, it's action. Which goes along with the seam and the Dave Ramseum's there. And I would say, it's a damn shame how much fun we get to have with our federal clients and our financial planning clients in general. And that's where, again, I think it puts it into perspective in that you shouldn't be ashamed.

We're not ashamed to work with you. It's a lot of fun. We love when we get to pick up a phone call, as Mike said, and make such an impact on somebody's life. So, I would say that's.. Jokingly, it's a damn shame is we're having a blast doing this.

John Mason: Well, folks, this has been another episode of the Federal Employee Financial Planning Podcast, brought to you by Mason & Associates.

Remember, we're financial planners first, and we do this second. If you would please do all the things for us, leave us five stars, send us emails. Check out the YouTube channel, like, subscribe, hit the bell notification, do all the things because we want to make sure that you're getting all of this content.

If you would like, we would love to hear from you. So by the time this airs, it'll be January or later in 2024, but we're building out our content creation. For 2024. We'd love to hear from you. What questions do you have? What concerns? What have you liked about the last two years of this Federal Employee Financial Planning Podcast?

Shoot us an email at That's Mason F P like ‘financial planning’ at Mason LLC dot net. Remember, things are what they seem, support, empower, educate, and motivate you to make changes in your financial plan. We'll see you next time.

The topics discussed on this podcast represent our best understanding of federal benefits and are for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as investment, financial planning, or other professional advice.

We encourage you to consult with the office of personnel management and one or more professional advisors before taking any action based on the information presented.