Looking for a six-figure retirement? Spending your career as a federal agent may be your best hope.
USA Today and the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press used the Freedom of Information Act to look at data from the Civil Service Retirement System database. Their efforts revealed that 1.2 percent of all federal retirees collect a six-figure pension, with almost 2,000 federal retirees getting a pension that pays $125,000 or more every year. Six of those lucky few get a pension that is more than $200,000 a year.
By comparison, the newspapers found that just 0.1 percent of military retirees collect six-figures. The state of New York pays 0.2 percent of its retirees a pension of $100,000 or more, and the state of New Jersey pays 0.4 percent of retirees that much in benefits.
Retired law enforcement is the most common profession receiving $100,000-plus pensions, says USA Today. On the books were 326 Drug Enforcement Administration agents, 168 FBI agents and 237 IRS investigators.
"These people are highly trained, highly skilled and often put their lives on the line in law enforcement," according to Julie Tagen, legislative director of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, who spoke with USA Today. "It's a very, very small portion of retirees at that [$100,000] level."
Almost 25 percent of the federal retirees receiving a six-figure pension could not be identified by profession, according to the USA Today analysis. Other professions where more than 1,000 federal retirees receive six-figures per occupation include criminal investigator, program manager, program administrator and air traffic controller. Fewer than 1,000 retirees in each of the following fields – attorney, physician, engineer, management analysis, electronics engineer and physical scientist – receive a six-figure retirement.
Included in the top pension earners were 714 retired workers for the U.S. Postal Service, 444 retirees from the Social Security Administration, and a retired Smithsonian zoologist, who has a $162,000 annual lifetime pension. The six retirees with pensions exceeding $200,000 include a doctor, a dentist and a credit union regulator, plus three retirees whose occupations weren't listed. Most of these retirees in this top one-percent do not get Social Security benefits due to laws or policies in place at the time they were hired.
The records reviewed cover 1.9 million federal civilian pensions. Members of Congress and the non-civilian military personnel were not included in the analysis.