Ready for some irony? Think about this: As our noble elected representatives in Washington are busy discussing whether and how to change Social Security, they are often suggesting that benefits will simply have to be reduced somehow. (The retirement age may be raised, for example.) Meanwhile, these tireless politicians are so busy that they're not finding the time to re-evaluate their own retirement packages. (Want even more irony? Guess who's paying for these hefty pensions. That's right, you and me, to the tune of more than $20 million annually.)
Permit me to share some data offered by Hearst Newspapers columnist Stewart M. Powell in a recent article. Citing the pension amounts of various public servants, he noted that "Members of the House and Senate, who earn $162,100 a year, haven't taken a hard look at their own pension program since 1983."
- Former presidents of the United States: $180,100 per year in pensions.
- Retired Supreme Court justices: $208,100 for the chief justice and $199,200 for associate justices.
- Former members of Congress: Anywhere from $14,165 to $114,102, depending on length of service.
Powell adds: "Barely 20% of the American workforce has pensions comparable to congressional pensions, according to the independent Employee Benefit Research Institute. Almost no one in the private sector has the kind of cost-of-living escalators that keep Capitol Hill pensions moving upward."
To be fair, not every congressperson is in line to get a hefty payout. Those with relatively few years of service, for example, will get modest pensions. And it's also worth noting that a few congresspeople have spoken out against the hefty pensions, and some have even refused to take a pension.
Politicians are not the only ones to envy here. Look at many CEOs. According to Claudia Deutsch in The New York Times, Carly Fiorina "left Hewlett-Packard
So what's the takeaway here for people like you and me? Well, we could just sit back and let our blood pressure rise. Or we could do something about it. No, I'm not talking about writing to your congressperson. I'm talking about becoming your congressperson. If we go out and get these jobs, we can set ourselves up for cushy retirements. (Remember, many lawmakers go on to even more lucrative jobs after leaving the public realm, while keeping their pensions.) Alternatively, we could choose to zip to the top of our respective corporations.
Instead of puttering in your garden this weekend, sit down and draft a campaign platform. Drum up support among your neighbors. (If you can manage to be born to wealthy parents, that might help your prospects of getting elected, too. Best wishes.)
OK, so maybe this all seems like more work than it's worth. Maybe you really want to prune those bushes and plant those zucchinis. If so, here's another option: Take some time to plan and save for your retirement.
We can help, with our Rule Your Retirement newsletter. It's issued monthly and contains lots of valuable tips as well as inspiration and motivation. (You've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying it for free.)
Robert Brokamp is the newsletter's lead writer. Check out his unique and accessible style in these articles:
- I Eat My Children's Scraps
- 6 Retirement Resolutions
- 7 Social Security Myths
- Stocks for the Really Long Term
- Annuities: Who Needs 'Em?
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.