One of the interesting things about being a federal employee is that there are two separate retirement systems. Employees who have been with the government for a number of years are still on the older system, but we new employees are on the new system. Okay, so it doesn’t sound that interesting, but what it means is that when I am looking for information on retirement for a federal employee, I have to be careful that the information I’m reading is in regards to the retirement system that I am on.
One interesting difference between the two systems is how sick leave is handled upon retirement. Under the old system, sick leave and vacation leave that is unused upon retirement gets paid out (in annuity form). Under the new system, only vacation leave applies. Sick leave just disappears into the void.
You can imagine what that leads to. We have a number of people in the office who are nearing retirement and who just happen to be sick at least one day a week. Personally, while I understand the frustration about not being able to benefit from those days, it does feel quite dishonest to take so many days off. I’m not against the occasional mental health day, but one a week seems to be a bit much.
There is a bill currently in Congress that would fix this disparity so that sick leave would be treated the same as vacation leave, but for now, this is how it stands.
Personally, I try to only take sick days when I’m actually sick, mostly because I treat it like an emergency fund. If I get sick and have to be out of work, the more days I can get paid for, the better. That said, I also refuse to be one of those people who stumbles into the office when sick just because I want to save my days. If I am not feeling well, I stay home and try to not spread my germs. I realize that not everyone has that opportunity, especially those who have to save sick days for maternity leave or to take care of sick children, but it’s an option for me right now, so I’m taking it.
I feel like it would be incredibly dishonest of me to just take days off and call in sick just because I don’t feel like going to work. That’s what vacation days are for. Plus with my luck, I would end up getting caught. I am much too much of a chicken to call in sick and then spend the day at the mall. What if I run into someone from the office who followed the rules and is currently taking a vacation day? What if that person is in my supervisory chain? I could end up in more than a little bit of trouble, and really, it’s just not worth it for the joy of a day off.
What do you think? Do you try to burn your sick days or do you save them for a rainy day (or rather, a day when you’re actually sick)?
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.