Congress Retirement Benefits

In this day of plunging stock markets, and many of us watching our
saving plummet, and politicians of both parities having a lot to
answer for, Anyone have detail (or where to get it) on what the retirement package is for a congressman (salaries, benefits, any other perks, etc.)? You know the ones they voted for themselves over the years!!!

I think many of us would like to know just what cushy retirement
packages we the tax payers are giving them.

Welcome to the board, level41. This is definitely a political question, but it may have a GQ answer, so for now I’ll move it there.

Members of Congress who serve for more than five years receive a vested pension, which is based on their years of service and their average salary during their three highest-paid years. (They can also participate in a 401(k)-like program called the Thrift Savings Plan, with matching contributions up to 5%, but those aren’t doing any better than anyone else’s 401(k)s.) These days, few private employers offer defined-benefit pensions like those available to federal government employees. So that’s certainly a perk.

Congressional pensions are better than most federal pensions because they get 1.7& of the high-three salary for every year of service vs. 1% for most federal employees. They can also retire earlier, after 25 years of service regardless of age, while most federal employees can’t draw their pensions until they reach a minimum age (which varies by year of birth). Members of Congress pretty much get the same the same pension that federal law enforcement officers (such as FBI Special Agents) and air traffic controllers get.

Unlike retired FBI Special Agents and air traffic controllers, though, former Members have access to Congress that many of them have found to be quite lucrative.

Just to add another federal pension to the mix, federal judges have perhaps the best pension scheme of all, though there are explanations for why.

As a federal judge, once you reach the age of 65 with 15 years of service, or the age of 70 with 10 years of service, or somewhere in between you are eligible for retirement (they call this the rule of 90, where you are eligible for retirement when your age plus years of service equal or exceed 90).

The federal judicial pension is 100% of your pre-retirement salary. In addition, as a federal judge, you can “assume senior status”, or semi-retire, and if you work at least 25% of the workload of a judge in active service, you can get 100% of your salary plus the same raise every year that active judges get.

The main reason for this is because appointment as a federal judge is “on good behavior”, i.e. for life unless impeached. Historically, federal judges would stay on the bench for as long as they could, and there was no effective method to remove or replace them when they slowed down or became entirely ineffective due to age or ill health. Under the current scheme, it is financially easy for judges to retire and leave their seats to younger and more vigorous judges who can handle a full caseload. In addition, senior status judges assume a substantial portion of the judicial workload, easing the burden on the system at relatively little additional cost.

Another reason for the judicial pension is that the salaries of federal judges are quite low compared to what senior lawyers may make in private practice. The salary of a district judge is $169,300, a circuit judge is $179,500, a Supreme Court justice $208,100, and the Chief Justice $217,400. Although these are healthy salaries, the compensation of even junior associates at the top law firms can exceed these levels.