Five retirement funds tailoring risk to age

FEDERAL WORKERS

August 05, 2005|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

THE FEDERAL government's retirement program launched five new investment funds this week that automatically will make more conservative choices for workers as they age.

The new features, called L or Lifecycle Funds, spread a worker's savings across the program's five existing accounts in ratios that are determined by the options' risk and the date the worker expects to retire.

For example, a young person planning to leave the work force after 2035 would choose the L 2040 plan. Someone hoping to retire between 2008 and 2014 would choose L 2010. The most conservative choice is L Income, for folks hoping to retire sooner than 2008.

Older workers would see more money placed in the G fund, which offers the least risk. Other funds carrying varying risk levels (F, C, S and I) would make up a greater portion of younger workers' investments. The mix is adjusted every quarter.

Federal workers can invest in multiple L funds, but literature on the Thrift Savings Plan's Web site, www.tsp.gov, does not recommend it. The site also has a disclaimer. Although L funds place a federal worker's 401(k) in the hands of a professional, returns are not guaranteed.

Transit perks spread

President Bush is expected to sign a highway bill next week that would expand existing public transit perks to workers in the legislative and judicial branches and allow agencies to offer free shuttle service to and from Metro stations and offices.

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who pushed for the provisions in conference committee, said that the Food and Drug Administration hopes to offer a shuttle service at its new research facility in Montgomery County, which is expected to employ more than 7,000 people.

Only workers employed at federal offices in Washington, four Northern Virginia counties, and Maryland's Prince George's, Montgomery and Frederick counties are eligible for the tax-free Metrochecks or vouchers.

The transit passes are equal to workers' personal commuting costs, but can't exceed $105 a month. At the Pentagon, employees using the program must relinquish their parking passes.

Outsourcing held up

The Department of Energy has stalled a plan to contract out maintenance jobs at its Washington and Maryland headquarters after a senior official ruling on an employee protest told the department to rethink its position.

DOE employees and Logistics Applications Inc. of Alexandria., Va., came out even in seven of the nine standards used to determine which offered Uncle Sam the "best value."

On price, however, Logistics won out because it offered to work longer hours. Overall, its bid cost $2.6 million more than did federal workers', but it also totaled less per hour.

The ruling from Richard Hopf, a senior procurement executive, says that the agency did not tell its employees that cost per hour was a factor. If it had, current employees could have put together a package that made them more competitive.

The issue now gets thrown back to the agency's contracting officer, who decided in Logistics' favor in the first place and who must now reconsider or re-run the competition.

"The status quo will be maintained until a decision is rendered," said Michael Waldron, a spokesman for the Department of Energy, who noted that Hopf threw out seven of the employees' nine complaints.

The contract is worth $26.8 million over five years. If energy officials switch their position, it could spark another round of appeals, this time from Logistics.

FBI's translation lag

The FBI still lags in translating all of the foreign intelligence it collects, according to a recent audit from the Department of Justice's inspector general.

Although the report said that progress had been made since July 2004, when an audit found that some al-Qaida-related audio tapes potentially had been deleted before being reviewed, it also found that "key deficiencies remain," including not reviewing high-priority material within 24 hours and continued difficulty meeting staffing requirements.

The review found that it takes the FBI 16 months on average to hire a contract linguist. The agency had achieved 56 percent of its hiring goals.

"The ... report illustrates that there are no backlogs in our highest priority cases," according to an FBI news release on the report.

The report can be found at www.usdoj.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a0533/final.pdf.

Send your comments to melissa.harris@baltsun.com or 410-715-2885.

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