SSA workers here give $820,000

Federal workers

December 30, 1992|By Ellen J. Silberman | Ellen J. Silberman,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- Baltimore-area employees of the Socia Security Administration this year gave a record $820,000 to charities nationwide through the Combined Federal Campaign of Central Maryland, according to Phil Gambino, a spokesman for the SSA.

Nationwide, SSA employees are expected to donate about $4 million to the charity drive, he says.

In Baltimore, this year's giving topped last year's record of $750,000. It also far exceeded the agency's expectations. Despite last year's record, the continuing recession helped persuade the agency to set the 1992 campaign goal at $650,000.

"Once again, Social Security employees showed their generosity," says Mr. Gambino.

The combined federal campaign gives money to more than 1,500 charitable organizations nationwide and allows each employee to designate a charity. The favorite choices of Baltimore-area SSA employees were Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen; the House of Ruth, a shelter for battered women; the United Negro College Fund; and the American Cancer Society.

Fifty-six percent of the contributions from Baltimore-area SSA employees will go to non-profit organizations in central Maryland. Other top beneficiaries include Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland and the Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore.

The open season for the Thrift Savings Plan ends Jan. 31. Thameans federal workers have just over a month to sign up for TSP or to make changes in their retirement savings schedules.

Civil servants who already have signed up for TSP will have their money set aside with the first paychecks of the new year. But workers who miss the January deadline will have to wait until the summer to start saving.

The tax-deferred TSP is open to all federal employees hired before July 1, 1992. Workers hired after July 1 won't be eligible to sign up until the next open season, which begins May 15, 1993.

Employees hired after 1983, who generally participate in the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS), and those hired before 1984, who generally are covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), can participate in the TSP. But the rules for the two groups are different.

The Social Security Administration sends 1 percent of the paycheck of an FERS participant to the TSP, whether or not the employee contributes any. In addition, each FERS employee may put away up to 10 percent of his basic paycheck -- $8,728 in 1992 under IRS allowance. The SSA will match the first 3 percent dollar for dollar and the next 2 percent at 50 cents on the dollar.

Employees covered under the CSRS may put away up to 5 percent of their paychecks -- up to the same amount allowed by the IRS. But the SSA won't make any contributions to those funds.

The Thrift Savings Plan offers three investment funds: The Government Sector Investment Fund, which invests in short-term, risk-free Treasury bonds; the Common Stock Index Investment Fund, which invests in the stock market; and the Fixed Income Index Investment Fund, which invests in the bond market.

The government fund is safer than the other two, but the interest rate tends to be lower. In 1991, the government fund earned 8.15 percent interest, the stock fund earned 30.77 percent and the bond fund 15.75 percent. However, in 1990, the government fund earned 8.97 percent, the stock fund lost 3.18 percent, and ** the bond fund earned 8.96 percent.

Employees can start withdrawing their money when they move to the private sector or retire. As with most pension savings plans, the money socked away in TSP won't be taxed until it's withdrawn.

Federal workers looking forward to a New Year's Eve repeat oPresident Bush's executive order granting Christmas Eve leave are likely to be disappointed, says an Office of Personnel Management source.

The workers got off four hours early on Christmas Eve and didn't have to work the next day.

The source points to the $1 million-plus price tag of last week's leave as the reason a repeat was unlikely. History offers more evidence.

Under the Bush and Reagan administrations, federal employees got half-day Christmas Eve leaves in 1987 and 1990. They also got off the day after Christmas in 1986, when the holiday fell on Thursday.

But, in the past 12 years, federal workers have never gotten New Year's Eve leave.

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