Public Servants Opt for Security over Money

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When citizens think about wealthy public servants, the people who come to mind represent a small minority of government employees who get rich from their public service. The average government employee earns a good living; however, this person forgoes the big bucks in favor of the security of public sector employment.

Most often, wealthy public servants have already acquired their wealth before public service.

For example, an influential businessman might be convinced by his friends to run for the state legislature. An election win boosts his ego, gives him some political power and allows him to influence his state’s laws. This businessman doesn’t need public service to make his money. Rather, he likely gives up a good bit of his time to fulfill his official duties. This is time he could be spending on his business.

Some elected officials and high-level appointees make good money writing books, giving speeches and serving on corporate boards after their public service is done. But again, these people had wealth and connections before their time in government.

Those who make a career in public administration opt for security over money. Most public servants make a nice living, but they do not become ridiculously wealthy through their government jobs alone. When people are offered a government job, there are many pros and cons to consider.

When public servants choose wise investments and exercise financial discipline, many have the potential to become millionaires. But don’t think of them as private jet and Caribbean beach house millionaires. Think of them as the millionaires you’d never know are millionaires. They’re the people who drive 12-year-old cars, bring their lunches to work and pay extra on their mortgage payments.

Can all public servants achieve millionaire status? No. But by the middle of a public service career, government employees’ salaries reach a level where they don’t need to buy ramen noodles ever again.

Middle managers and executives in government earn nowhere near what their private sector counterparts make. Public servants make the conscious choice to earn less in salary because the other benefits of public employment are worth it.

The biggest benefit is security. Even when a government agency is abolished, elected officials and agency leaders do all they can to make sure the rank-and-file staff have jobs during and after whatever transition is necessary. The same cannot be said in the private sector. Even if corporate leaders want to do the same, they rarely have the means to do so. Reductions in force and furloughs are rare in the public sector.

Another facet to the security of government employment is the slate of retirement benefits. Government employees and their agencies diligently contribute to retirement systems. In return, these retirement systems provide regular annuity payments to employees once they retire. Government workers should still save on their own, but retirement systems take away a lot of the stress and pressure associated with saving for retirement.

In addition to the low probability a government employee will be cast out of a job with no place to go and the good retirement benefits, government employment security extends to the benefits employers offer. Admittedly, the gap between public and private employers’ health insurance offerings has narrowed in recent years. Still, government organizations pick up a substantial portion of health insurance premiums. Many employers foot the entire bill for the employee and half for additional family members.

Security is a big reason people stick with public service for their entire careers. Mountains of cash may not be in their future, but public servants make a good living that is unlikely to be dashed away at a moment’s notice.