Do We Really Need New Laws To Get More Postal Employees To Retire?

Dead Tree Edition asks the question “Do We Really Need New Laws To Get More Postal Employees To Retire?“. The short answer is no, but before we get to the reasons for that, let’s think about the question itself. It assumes that getting more postal workers to retire is an urgent goal.

It isn’t.

The USPS needs to reduce its expenses to keep them in line with declining volumes and revenue. It would be nice if you could simply get rid of 20% of your staff and magically reduce your costs by 20%, but it doesn’t work that way. The USPS does not have 100,000 employees sitting in those mythical “standby rooms” day after day. What it does have is a network and workforce whose capacity greatly exceeds its current volume. There are certainly people who don’t have enough work, and expensive sorting equipment that sits idle. But simply eliminating people without redesigning your processes won’t save any money.

Consider the letter carrier craft. While the volume of mail letter carriers deliver has dropped sharply in the last few years, their actual workload has not. It takes about the same amount of time to deliver a thousand pieces of mail as it does to deliver 800- you still have to walk or drive the very same route in either case. As a result, letter carrier overtime has been climbing as carriers retire and aren’t replaced. The only option that would significantly reduce letter carrier workload is a fundamental change in the delivery process: five day delivery. Until (unless?) that happens, the fact is that delivery, which represents almost half of the USPS’s workforce, is actually understaffed.

There are similar issues in the mail processing and retail operations. Given a mainly full time workforce it’s difficult to fine tune staffing to fluctuations in volumes. Simply getting rid of an employee doesn’t save money unless the employee had no work at all. If he or she had 80% of a full workload, you still have to find someone to perform that work.

That’s why the USPS is consolidating processing plants and delivery units. As those processes continue and effect more offices, there will be the need to excess employees- but it isn’t going to happen all at once across the country- that’s why the PMG has said that early outs and incentives would be targeted, rather than blanketed.

Reducing labor costs is a two step process- first you figure out how to eliminate unnecessary labor- things like reducing delivery days, closing or consolidating plants and post offices, etc. Only when you’ve come up with a plan that actually reduces the amount of work you need to do, or eliminates inefficiencies in that work, do you get to step two- actually capturing those savings by reducing overtime and staffing. Worrying about getting people to retire before you’ve figured out how to get rid of their workload puts the cart before the horse.

As the USPS makes progress in redesigning its processes, there will of course, be a need to reduce staffing beyond natural attrition in various locations and operations. Dead Tree quotes Darrell Issa’s notoriously flexible attrition numbers- the USPS has either 100,000 or 200,000 excess employees, and has an attrition rate of one percent. I’m not sure where Darrell learned math, but just last month we reported that the USPS had reduced its career workforce by “22,334 employees over the last twelve months, from 595,316 down to 572,982, a reduction of 3.8%.” In other words, even without incentives, actual attrition is almost four times what Issa thinks it is. In less than five years the USPS would lose the 100,000 employees Issa thinks are excess simply by doing nothing.

The Dead Tree article also suggests that the USPS makes it difficult for employees to decide if they should take an early retirement offer. I’d certainly agree that the two months from the announcement of the latest VERA to the deadline isn’t a lot of time to decide your future but anyone eligible for the offer should already have been thinking about their retirement plans. The article asks “wouldn’t it make sense to provide retirement counseling without first making them commit to retiring?”. The answer to that is, of course yes. Which is why the USPS does provide “retirement counseling without first making them commit to retiring”. You can argue that the telephone counseling offered isn’t as thorough as it might be, but employees don’t have to “commit” to retire before they receive it.

In the first place, employees can always request an estimate of their pension at any time, without committing to anything. After reviewing the estimate, an employee who is pretty sure he or she is going to retire calls an 800 number to request a full retirement package and counseling session. Only after receiving a personalized book with details of the individual’s retirement options, and completing the telephone session, does the employee decide whether or not to sign the papers and retire.

(I retired just over a year ago, and I can attest that the retirement estimates I received beforehand were accurate. The “estimated” annuity payments I received for the first couple of months were a bit stingy, but by the fourth month I was getting the correct amount. The telephone counseling session was somewhat “scripted”, but that’s exactly as it should be- the person at the other end of the phone line didn’t know me from Adam- she was strictly going by the records she had in front of her. She was meticulous in guiding me through all of the steps I needed to complete. When it comes to a momentous decision like retirement, I’d prefer someone reading from a script to someone making it up as they go along. She answered all my questions- what more could you want?)

There is certainly room for improvement in OPM’s processing of annuity applications- but that’s a government-wide problem, not a postal one. It isn’t uncertainty about the exact amount of their annuities that holds people back- it’s uncertainty about how they’ll get by on their annuities. A clerk or carrier who gets to the minimum length of service and retirement age under Civil Service would get about half his current salary, not counting overtime. A FERS employee would get much less. Add to that the fact that many employees’ Thrift Savings Accounts were badly affected by the recession and the market crash, and it’s easy to see why people might not rush to take an early, deeply discounted (2% per year) retirement. A lot of folks who take early retirements do so on the assumption that they’ll supplement their annuity with a part time or full time job. Until the job market improves, that will be a risky bet.

We don’t need new laws to get postal workers to retire- we need laws that would allow the USPS to streamline its operations, while at the same time leveraging the unique assets it has- a universal delivery network, a physical presence in just about every town in America, etc. And we need Congress to relieve the USPS of politically inspired burdens like the trust fund payments. Cutting $5.5 billion a year in bogus charges wouldn’t solve the USPS’s problems, but it would buy it time to implement the fundamental long term changes it needs, while normal attrition and targeted VERAs gradually reduce staffing.

Dead Tree Edition: Do We Really Need New Laws To Get More Postal Employees To Retire?.

  • Have your cake and eat it too

    On one hand you say the Postal Service must streamline their operations by closing post offices and go to five day delivery. But then you say the Postal Service must leverage its unique assets—universal delivery network and a physical presence in just about every town in America.

    You can’t have both. As soon as you shut down offices and go to 5 day, you’ll do away with our unique assets.

  • brian

    I didn’t actually say anything about closing post offices, but we could close several thousand post offices and still have a unique network of physical locations across the country. I live in a relatively rural part of Massachusetts, and there are 18 full service post offices within ten miles of my house according to usps.com. I’m not suggesting you close half of them, but even if you did, the USPS would still have more nearby locations than any other entity I’m aware of. I also didn’t suggest cutting Saturday delivery- I said that it was the “only option that would significantly reduce letter carrier workload”. Can you think of another one? And even with five day delivery, we would still be the only service, public or private, that visits every address in the US five days a week.

  • jdk

    How does cutting a day of delivery reduce the workload? Its the same amount of mail with one day less and sometimes 2 days less to deliver it in. sounds like the same workload to me with heavier mondays.

  • brian

    You’re confusing workload with volume. The most important variable component of a carrier’s street time is possible deliveries, not volume. If a carrier is delivering 20% fewer pieces of mail than he was a few years ago, his street workload hasn’t dropped by 20% if he still has the same number of possible deliveries. The only practical way to cut possible deliveries is to cut a delivery day, effectively eliminating 16% of them.
    Look at it this way- say you were delivering 1,000 pieces of mail a day in 2006, and now you’re delivering 800 pieces a day on the same route. That’s 4800 pieces a week- if you cut a delivery day your average daily delivery volume would be 960 a day- still less than you had in 2006. That’s the idea- and obviously there are issues like Mondays, and Tuesdays after holidays. But those issues will be consistent week after week, so it isn’t exactly rocket science to figure out how to adjust staffing to deal with them.

  • Glenn

    I’m not so sure 5 day delivery would save as much as assumed. The volume of mail still has to be delivered, probably by using more overtime 2-3 days a week to catch the mail up. Every monday would be like the day after a holiday and would take until thursday to catch up. All the USPS really has to sell is service, and that is being diminished when you start delaying mail. As far as closing offices, I have customers on my route who live 40 miles from the office now. I spend a lot of time redelivering mail that requires a signature, (usually on saturday when they are home), adding to my route time. This will become more widespread the more offices are closed down and much of that business will be lost completely if all offices are closed on saturday.

  • Poor Richard

    Here’s my solution, one that, if you are a republican econometric quant means you listen closely. Flat rate class mail. Standard mail and first class go to a flat rate- returning to the first rate class that was in place during my first year of employment, twenty nine cents. Standard mail also gets raised to twenty nine cents. Since flat tax is the solution so many republicans espouse on the income tax issue, who is to denounce the principle on a regulatory fee setting benchmark? If it hastens the downward spirial of revenue, that seems to be the republicans operative policy at ANY rate.

  • Logicsays

    @Brian. Your math would be accurate if not for one reason that you may not be aware of. City routes have been readjusted every 6 months for the last several years in a process called JARAP. My office has lost six routes over that time frame and another Jarap is underway. The overall volume may be down 20%, but not on the individual routes as they have been readjusted on a regular basis. Already with 6 day delivery still the law, overtime is way up on heavy days because carriers have more deliveries on the individual routes. Since the PO does not want to make new routes and hire new employees, eliminating a day of delivery would be a service nightmare that would delay mail (read the PRC’s report) cause a decline in service (no one wants their mail delivered after 6PM) and further the overall decline in volume as more and more disgruntled customers seek alternative’s the the PO. The carrier craft is already optimized during this economic cycle and delivering 6 days a week is truly not the problem. The processing plants are a more likely place to capture cost savings along with all the contracted out truck runs that are driving around almost empty during certain times of the day.

  • Have your cake and eat it too

    Brian: Yes, he did mention closing post offices “closing or consolidating plants and post offices, etc.”

  • Geo

    What everyone seems to be missing is when volume drops routes are consolidated, carrier load is increased to keep pace with falling volumes. Carriers on Rural Routes have taken on Business Districts and collect Pitney Bowes Mailings, give Certificate of Mailing certificates and pickup parcels from all over their routes. Maybe if City Routes did the same, the model would improve and the need for across-the-counter services would diminish and adding those stamp sales to Walmarts, Costcos, and other retail chains. If internal customer support would be as efficient as across-the-counter support and OIC’s and Postmasters support the Rural Craft Parcel-Pickup and Post-Office-On-Wheels program that was once the main-stay of Rural Delivery then further costs could be cut.

  • Have your cake and eat it too

    Before you try to reduce workload, reduce the fat in upper management. There are still many districts that should be consolidated. The original list of 10 shrunk to 7 overnight. How did California dodge the hatchet?

    And do we really need two agencies (OIG & Inspection Service)? Even the USPS IG questioned it.

  • John B

    Lets say for a minute I agree with you about moving to 5 day delivery, which I do not, I believe that if your only business is service, you will not increase your business by reducing service. But back to the 5 day theory. Using your example of 960 pieces per day with 5 day delivery versus the current 800 pieces per day, that amounts to a 20% increase in daily volume. Since the JARAP process has adjusted your route based on your current 800 piece volume it stands to reason that if you increase that volume 20% you would have to add 1 route for every 5 routes currently in service. (5 routes x 1/5 (20%)=1 new route) additionally there are approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 new addresses added each year. So while the simple idea that moving to 5 day delivery is a big money saver for USPS in reality you cut 16% of service to save about 2.5% of cost. This does not take into account that th U.S. is still in the midst of the second worst economic period in our history. 5 day delivery is very misleading in what it would actually accomplish, besides the savings not adding up, the potential for lost business through other entities stepping up and delivering on Saturdays is much too large of a gamble to make especially in the current economy.

  • cb

    i got news for you geo, city routes do everything rural routes do(i’m not sure what you mean by business districts)plus we can’t case our dps! you guys can get done and go home. we get done early it’s back out on the street to help someone who got hurt or is late and by the way, most of us WALK our routes,10-12 miles everyday.The post office can save its money by eliminating the entire area level of management and dividing the country into about 20-25 districts who report directly to headquarters. Also, hire competent management whose sole job is not to spy and harass carriers who actually work all day instead of playing solitaire and letting the phone ring.

  • John

    A few comments to the naysayers. First of all, y’all never really say where the money will come from if we keep 6 days. And please don’t give me that ‘let’s grow the business crap’. Not even in your wildest imagination can you propose a legitimate way to grow the Postal business without illegally competing with other private businesses. Second, If you are a fair thinking carrier and you are not purposely trying to sabotage the system when we go to 5 day, then you can easily and sensibly manage your route throughout the week to evenly distribute the mail. Thirdly, noone gives a rat’s rump if there is no mail Saturday. Quit overdramatizing fake scenarios about how deprived people will be when we go to 5 day delivery, I’m sick of the Union speak!

  • Logicsays

    @Geo. What are you talking about? City routes have had business districts since the dawn of postal time! My route is over 1/3 businesses and on most days I bring back more collected mail and parcels than I left with in the morning. The programs that you mention were all created to get rural carriers to start doing what city carriers have already been doing. Not to mention the fact that many city routes are park and loop with up to 12 miles walking over the course of a 6 1/2 to seven hour day on the street! How many park and loop rural routes are there? The rural carriers traditionally dismount from their vehicles as little as possible. After my business deliveries I have over 8 miles of walking that takes me a solid 4 hrs to deliver on an average day, up and down some pretty huge front yards. I actually enjoy the workout. Then I have to make 3 mail and package pickups from various companies on my route that have websites and ship out a lot of parcels and also a UPS store that sells a lot of postal product. The collection time has increased as now we scan every mail piece with a bar code as “accepted”. Do my route for a week and then you would think a little differently I am sure. Mark Twain said “Every job looks easy to the man who has never done it”!

  • Logicsays

    @John. The only “managing of the mail” A carrier gets to do is sort it, load it, deliver it and pick it up and dispatch it. If it is on the workroom floor in the morning then it is out the door in the morning. Delaying mail is a federal crime. Would you want to have an important original document or critical medical prescription delayed a few days because a carrier was told to “leave it” to get done by 6pm on a Friday? This is where logic/ critical thinking and not rhetoric must be introduced into the debate. Getting the mail delivered, ALL the mail delivered is the ONLY mission the Post Office has. Six days a week.

  • Glenn

    Nobody would have “given a rat’s rump” if the Federal Government had shut down until THEIR check failed to arrive or THEIR trip to a National Park was cancelled, either. My point is….we don’t really know what we have until its gone. I don;t pretend to have all the answers, I don’t overdramatize and I’m not a mouthpiece for any union. I just know what I know….people depend on the PO more than they realize.

  • brian

    Logicsays- I’m not advocating 5 day delivery. The article was about the perception that the USPS’s problem is that its employees have nothing to do but won’t retire. My point was that a 20% drop in mail volume doesn’t equate to a 20% drop in a letter carrier’s workload, since the carrier’s street workload is dependent on the number of deliveries, length of route, etc. Because of that, the only significant thing you can do to reduce the workload is to cut a delivery day.

    I’m not saying that’s what we should do- but if we don’t, then the powers that be (Congress) need to understand that we’ll need MORE letter carriers, not fewer.

  • glad i retired

    The HRSSC’s policy, “Please DON’T call” is posted on the USPS VERA website and is in the VER offer the employee receives. This is contrary to OPM’s instructions on the retirement application form and in their CSRS and FERS Handbook for Personnel and Payroll Offices, Chapter 40. The NALC filed a Step 4 grievance on this issue in 2009. The type of retirement Brian took last year was not a VER or FERS.

    HRSSC does not provide an estimate of the FERS Annuity Supplement, except to Postal Inspectors who are eligible at age 50. Why are they an exception? The website, FedRetire.us, can calculate it accurately, but not HRSSC. Why? The FERS annuity supplement is about $35 per month for each year of federal civilian service. With 25 years of service, that is about $875 per month. Would that be important to you in your decision to retire?

    Under the new APWU contract the USPS could save a ton of money by replacing 20% of the career workforce with non-career PSEs. It could do that by offering Voluntary Early Retirement with a $25,000 incentive.

  • trout

    Here we go again..blaming management and everything else but not reading between the lines in front of us…some say it’s managements fault…some say they bring back more mail than they take out (really and you don’t see a problem there?)
    how much are you taking out? 5 day? 6 day? more work less work…more overtime? What aboout the T6 carriers wouldn’t they be available to pick up the slack for the additional volume? In my office we have 9…..do the math…..some say rural carriers get to go home early because they get to case DPS and city carriers can’t go home because they are sent back on the street if they return early? Why? Sounds like the evaluated route works out pretty well as well as rurals being more efficient with the same amount of mail…..It’s their fault (whomever “they” are……recessions come and go…..people adjust….we have politicians boldly stating….I didn’t write ny daughter this week, I e mailed her…they also accused the APWU od paying their members to vote for the contract…they are the real problemnot management…mangaement upper lower and side ways can only go by the rules givent o us by congress…if congress changes the rules we can operate more efficiently

  • ZmaninIND

    John? So you don’t agree that their are many businesses (small and large) that depend on Saturday mail? Getting invoices, checks, and shipping their products out to their customers. Eliminating Saturday service would almost certainly put a dent in the large businesses and the small ones would probably be done with. Plus their are many Americans that rely on medicine delivery. So now we should delay that so we lose the revenue from the med delivery because those customers look for other means to get what they need? Plus Netflix, Blockbuster, many daily magazines and sale ads are delivered on Sat. The revenue we lose from all of that would most definitely spiral the Post Office down the perverbial tube! 5 day is not the way!!

  • brian

    glad- no, I didn’t retire under a VER, but the calculations are exactly the same either way, just as they are for FERS. I won’t dispute your comments about the shortcomings of HRSSC’s retirement process, but I doubt that it presents a serious obstacle to an employee who wants to retire, which is what the Dead Tree article suggested..

  • Poon

    Brian, you over simplify you point with this statement “The most important variable component of a carrier’s street time is possible deliveries, not volume.” Every Monday my route goes up from 8 hours to 9 solely to expanded street time with the volume of FSS and DPS mail. On Tuesdays after a holiday the number jumps to 12 hrs on Tuesday and 9 hours each day the remainder of the week to catch up!

  • brian

    I didn’t say it was the only variable- just that it is more important in determining street time, all other things being equal. If you have 5 pieces of mail for each of your deliveries today, and only 4 pieces tomorrow, is your street time going to decrease by 20%? I don’t think so- am I wrong? If, on the other hand, you stop delivering after doing 80% of your route, you probably would decrease your street time by 20%. That’s all I was saying.

  • John

    @Zmanin……….There you go again, overdramatizing the importance of one day of delivery. People and businesses, believe it or not, have the ability to adjust, and I’m sure most would definately prefer to adjust to 1 day of delivery than to take on the costs that will be applied if we keep 6 days.

    @Logicsays…….Who said anything about curtailing first class mail. It’s very simple to rotate bulk mail through the week until Thursday and Friday get here,then you should be able to manage it. (Even a caveman can do it!) Now, if you’re so worried about curtailing bulk mail for a day then I think you take your junk mail way too serious. Once again, overdramatizing.

  • Poon

    Brian, once again you miss my(and others) point. ” If, on the other hand, you stop delivering after doing 80% of your route, you probably would decrease your street time by 20%. That’s all I was saying “. Not so. I have already stated that after a three day layoff of delivering the mail, my street time goes UP every day of the week that follows. If you go to five day delivery, you will have to add thousands of routes across the nation!

  • Jack Cass

    I agree with this article’s premise, which is that a widespread early out eliminating a large number of postal employees is unnecessary. It seems that some of the finer details (which were generally options, not required suggestions) is causing quite a disagreement here.
    At first I had thought that five day delivery was actually a good idea, mainly from speaking to visiting Canadians discussing their delivery and how it affects them. Giving it more thought, I feel that there are just too many reasons to keep Saturday delivery
    Ultimately, thembiggest problem with themUSPS’ finances really is the overload of higher paid management, when you take an objective look at it. Unfortunately, management never does anything that affects management negatively, so the PostalmServicemwill probably never be back in the black.

  • Ralf

    Close the Billion dollar Postal Inspectors academy. Close all the High rent Area Offices and private parking,expense accounts, credit cards, and staff. Close the Postal Management College,OMG I can’t believe they have a fools-school. Most couldn’t compose a paragraph before or after.
    Cut Overhead, not service. We have tons of DEAD WEIGHT

  • Reagen

    5 days, early retirement letter carriers,back in the black, simple, just do it.

  • Logicsays

    The way the routes are adjusted now with all the JARAP’s there is no real way 5 day delivery would save money. My route averages over 4000 pieces of mail a day 6 days a week. compress that to 5 days and you are looking at several days a week of V time and unhappy customers. Not a recipe for success. @trout: No I don’t see anything wrong with bringing back a truck full of collected mail everyday. Why do you? Isn’t that what pays for your salary? And just how are the displaced T-6’s going to take up the slack when their are no extra vehicles to deliver with? My office has two spare trucks allocated to it. How is buying more trucks to deliver mail less days a week logical? Seriously. You sound like those geniuses Issa and Ross.

  • brian

    Poon- So you’re saying that if you stop delivering your route after you’ve done 80% of the deliveries, it would take you the same amount of time it takes you to do all of them? That doesn’t make any sense.

  • Logicsays

    @John: There is a business on my route, a newspaper called the tribune that is actually a vehicle for advertising. It relies on the PO to deliver it. It is in walk sequence and it is addressed to EVERY ADDRESS on every route. The requested delivery day is Saturday. The reason? The advertisers that use the tribune want their customers( also our customers) to be home and read it and use the coupons inside to do patronage at their restaurants and other various businesses over the weekend. If it gets there on Friday it looses it’s timeliness and value as a vehicle for advertising and it will eventually go out of business or find another way to get delivered on Saturday. They are very worried about 6 day delivery. What you call junk mail is actually the jobs and lively hood of a lot of other people. It is not a dramatization to them. If you worked at the tribune how secure would you feel about your future without the PO delivering on Saturday’s? I am sure that there are a lot of Tribunes out there. Saturday delivery is more intertwined into the fabric of our economy than allot of people realize.

  • John

    @logicsays………like I said, people and businesses will adapt and adjust. If you’re saying the Tribune cannot survive because their customers get their mail on Friday instead of Saturday that’s just absurd. Wouldn’t it be better to study your coupons Friday and get a jump on it? Ask those mailers if they would rather pay their fair share for postage or lose Saturday delivery, and don’t be fooled, they are not paying their fair share. Not by a longshot.

  • Austin

    Put all routes on evaluated time and watch the city carriers bust their butts to get back to the office and go home. Currently, they don’t hustle because when they get back they will have to go out and help the “lazy”ones. They are some very good city carriers, but put them all on evaluated time like the rural carriers and it will all change. This will stop some of he OT that isn’t necessary.

    Also, in my area the Inspectors just moved into another building and bought new high dollar exercise equipment. What, are they too good to go to Golds Gym. I pay for my gym membership, why can’t they ?

  • Louisiana Strong

    You are right, tons of dead weight (management)! Especially in Louisiana!

  • t. vraniak

    What is the real issue pushing the movement in the Postal System? First, Congress owes the USPS somewhere between $50-$70 BILLION DOLLARS. Yet, it has been exploited that the employee pay and benefits are what are dragging the USPS down??? Second, SOX compliance was Congress Mandated/with concurrence by Executive Postal Management. It is NOT REQUIRED since we are not under the SEC and are not a publicly traded.(At least not yet!) Another cost burden placed on us by Congress that is not right. Third, Congress has mandated that the USPS pay for the cost of the OIG since it’s inception. Why should we fund something mandated by Congress. Recently changed to be billed to the USPS at the end of the year to not be so obvious. Lastly, the figures show that without the Congress mandated employee benefits charge (already overfunded), we are MAKING MONEY. As I read through some of the other replies, I realize that we are picking within ourselves and not looking at the big picture as a team. Divide and conquer. This has been accomplished through the publishing of half truths and overall bad journalism. Every employee should be questioning “What or who is really pushing the changes within the USPS”? What is to be gained and by whom??

  • postman2012

    potter increased his staff in dc 50 percent before he left .he also gave himself a 100,000 dollars raise each of thhe 3 yrs before he left to raise his retiirement by 50 percent and left with 5.5 million bounse for running a company that was losing money. lets reduce one surervisor per station and have one manger/postmaster for every 3 postoffices i find no need to have one in every station.as to the carriier craft remove mailm boxes from porches and place on post next to steps at bottom of porch save big money on slips and falls. from the 80 s to present management never adjusted my route as volume went up never,always 2 hrs overtime work day off. now they say volume went down and they run like chickens to adjust routes.m route is so screwed up im still working 2-4 hrs over time and walking twice as far.

  • Old Enough To Remember RPOs and HyPOs

    Your article was very well-written. I retired with a little more than 39 years of service on June 1st, 2007. My experience with retirement was fine. As you said, the counselor’s presentation seemed to be scripted, but every question I had was answered thoroughly. The paperwork went without a hitch and my first annuity payment was direct deposited right on time, on July 1st. It was estimated, but the balance due came seven days later and has been as regular as clockwork ever since. Maybe I was just lucky, but I think it helped that I gave Personnel three and a half months notice. I have known others who retired on their way out the door; they have had to pay a high price for their “gotcha” in terms of very long delays of the onset of payments. It’s also important to go into retirement with your eyes open and to have your finances in order before it happens. There were no surprises for us. We have had to adjust our spending habits, but we are comfortable and don’t have to worry about wolves at the door. Retirement has been good.

    As regards the Voluntary Early Retirements, I concur. I always advised coworkers against them because of the heavy penalties they would incur for taking the “early outs”. Even in better economic times, those who did it found that their lives were suddenly and drastically changed for the worse. One friend had dreamt of the day when she could stay home and enjoy her farm and horses. A year after she retired in the VER of the early ’90s, the farm and horses had been sold and she was living in a small trailer park on about $9000 a year. When the P.O. first introduced FERS, a smiling Management offered the CSRS employees a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to switch to it. “Take it now or the chance to do so is gone forever.” A year later, another opportunity was offered … and another … and another. Many, if not most, of the wonderful opportunities Headquarters offers are anything but. Early retirement is one of those that isn’t. The chances of any offer to sweeten the pot for retirees are slim to none – not when attrition is removing Baby Boomers at the current rate. Even then, say the P.O. were to offer a cash buyout … one has to ask how much they will need to take the sting out of the big cuts that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

    As a craft employee, I had plenty of beefs with management and mismanagement. I have to admit, though, that these four years have given me a better perspective. There were far worse places I could have worked. In spite of all that may have been wrong with the Post Office, never in all my working life did I have to worry about my next paycheck. A friend who did the same kind of work in the private sector made more money, but acquisitions and mergers meant that he never worked longer than five years for any one company. I am glad I am out now, but I am also grateful for the real benefits (thanks to the Union) that the Postal Service provided for so many years.