I am a Civil Servant

One of my most controversial rants. As a Civil Servant, I take some good-natured ribbing from friends. I also deal with outright hatred from those who don’t know me. Having worked in the Private Sector for 20 years, I see both sides. The “Foxitis” hatred is a bit over the top, folks. There is no Deep State, just a bunch of folks trying to do things with little guidance.

I keep hearing from various media outlets and bloggers about how much money is wasted on the Government. Inevitably out of these discussions comes statements about the typical Civil Servant. I now feel that I have the right to comment on this (having worked in both the Private (for 25 years) and now the Public Sector (more than 11 years)).

Let’s go over a few of the more interesting points that some folks seem to have an opinion about:

  • Your taxes pay me, but I also pay taxes. One media outlet implied that a Civil Servant doesn’t pay taxes. I can assure you that I pay taxes just like everyone. No free ride here.
  • Everybody can easily figure out how much I make from the information readily available. This is disconcerting since people could guess when I worked for Nortel, but they couldn’t be sure they knew how much I made. Some newspapers publish folks’ pay provincially, which would be mortifying.
  • Someone does drive me to work in the morning (these days). However, they work for OC Transpo. I don’t get limousine rides to work every day. Someone asked me that question when they heard I worked in the government). Never mention parking to a Civil Servant, though (that is a mess at all levels of government).
  • Are all Civil Servants lazy? Let’s not go there on this one. I have seen good and evil in both the Public and Private sectors, and leave it at that. Some might argue I am a Lazy Sod, so maybe you shouldn’t ask me?

From what I can tell, many misconceptions folks have about Civil Servants (or Public Servants) seem to come from the perks that Members of Parliament get.

The primary issue I keep hearing is that I have a “gold-plated free pension.” This exciting topic again comes from the MP side of things. Yes, I have a charming pension (that many people do not have, so I realize having a pension is a huge benefit). The pension was negotiated with an elected government and is in no way “free” to me. I pay money into the Pension Plan and will likely have to pay more soon to keep this privilege. I did have this same privilege when I was at Nortel (until it all fell apart).

Yes, the taxpayer pays for part of my pension, but they are the folks bankrolling my employer (i.e. the Federal Government), so again, I am paying into that too. It is also one of the most significant debts the Government has to pay.

Unlike Members of Parliament, Civil Servants take 35 years to get a “full” pension. Members of Parliament get a FULL Pension after six years (oh, and I don’t think they put much money in on their side either).

A Civil Servant’s “full” pension can be calculated as (assuming they work for 35 years in the Civil Service).

70% of an average of your five best years’ salary, which is then discounted by how much CPP you will get paid. Once you are CPP eligible)  {simple, isn’t it ?}

Big Deal You Are Still Better Off Than Most Canadians!

What’s the point of all of this? I am ready to discuss whatever issues you like on the Civil Service and its Pension system.

As a supplement, a very well-written article that helps clarify things is Michael James’ The Consequences of Keeping Bad Employees. It talks about the biggest issue in the Public Service (IMHO).


Bird in the Hand or Tax Refund Later?

So if I offered you “free” tax return preparation, and with that, I would give you an instant Tax Rebate, once I am finished (no waiting for the mean old CRA to pay out), would you take it?

Let’s just say, I am finding more and more people who seem to think this is a great idea, and it really sickens me.

If you want a fast rebate, submit your tax forms early, and it will show up pretty darn quick. If you wait until “Tax Day” (April 30, 2012) and you are owed money, you have just loaned the government your refund for that much longer (and it is going to take a long(er) time to get your refund as well). Is that an excuse to use an “Instant Refund” service? No!

Suck it up and grow a patient bone in your body, will ya?

First, you really shouldn’t be waiting for that big a refund (unless you have discovered some important deduction that you have forgotten). Make sure that you declare all your credits to your payroll office and get as much back on your taxes during the year, then your refund shouldn’t be that big. Ideally, I would say if you are getting more than $500 back, you need to go back to your payroll office, so you get paid more during the year (and you are loaning the government more than you should during the year).

Second, if you are using an “Instant Rebate” for a $500 rebate, you are in pretty dire straights, and you have bigger problems than needing your rebate. Wait a couple of weeks, get your WHOLE rebate and then pay down some debt with it.

Finally, why are you loaning money to the government and then giving that money to some stranger for simply giving you a percentage of your actual refund? You will give $45 for your first $300 in rebate and then $5 off every hundred above that (with H&R Block at least). So you are giving someone 15% pay back for $300 for a 2 month period, so that pays out to about a 90% pay out (if you amortize this over the year and such), wow, I should open my own Instant Tax Rebate firm, that is some nice coin.

Why aren’t people patient for their tax refunds any more?




Prices Going Up

I was going over this web site’s 3 and 5 year plan and my current balance sheet for this business and have realized that the only way that I can keep writing and keep up the high quality of posts on this site, I will have to raise the price of accessing this site by 100%.

I apologize to my regular readers for this, but it is the cost of doing business and with the current economic situation it is the only way I can keep up this professional well written web site, so as of tomorrow, the cost of reading my post will increase 100%.

OK, let’s get out our calculators and figure out how much this price increase is going to be:

  • Currently the cost of accessing and enjoying for my readers is Zero, Bupkis, Gratis and without cost (a great deal at the price).
  • 100% increase of nothing is still nothing (zero times zero is zero)
  • Thus the cost tomorrow to enjoy this site will still be Zilch, Nada, nothing and the Null Set.

Yes, sometimes you need to read the entire post to figure out what exactly is being said (in this case, silliness and pulling of your figurative legs). There are actual costs of running this site, but they are offset by my advertisers and such, so no worries, I won’t be charging for access to this site (I do not have enough hubris or chutzpah to do that any how).

The moral of this post? Always read things completely before forming an opinion (and don’t take much of what I say too seriously either).



Financial Resolutions and Lifespans

Let’s stay on my vendetta on New Year’s Financial Resolutions and their ability to make us miserable, cause guilt, angst and indigestion.

How long do your financial resolutions last is a very good question? I can think of a few resolutions that I hear folks say (that have a money angle to them) and how long I have typically seen these last:

  • Going to join the gym and get back in shape. This is a good resolution, however, folks usually end up going to the gym until about March (3 months), but forget to cancel their membership (or worse they buy a 1 year membership and then forget to cancel it next year at this time). Always remember to clean up after failed resolutions!
  • I am going to bring my lunch to work and save money, I have seen this one last about 2 weeks, until someone’s birthday or work just gets annoying enough that someone decides they deserve a lunch out with their friends.
    • A sub resolution is to not buy coffee at work, that lasts about a week, unless the person has bought their own coffee maker.
  • The Latte Lemma where you won’t buy a Starbuck’s Mocha Almond Vanilla Swirl, light, with sweetener and a massive ginger cookie, I have seen this last as long as 7 weeks, but not much longer. I am not sure if Starbucks and Tim Horton’s put some kind of addictive agents in their coffee (no wait that’s caffeine), but folks who like their Java aren’t likely to quit it (especially not to save money).
  • I will pay my bills on time, um, the folks I know who have to make this resolution usually can’t keep this one up for more than 4 months. It’s funny the folks who pay their bills on time normally don’t make this resolution, I suppose it’s  the same reason people who are in shape don’t make resolutions about getting back in shape?!?
  • I will write down every thing I pay for to keep track of my spending, this is another one that is really hard to keep up, but I have seen folks keep it up for 3 months, but no more than that. Folks who do this, are a specific type of person (i.e. the type who think accounting is exciting), those who strive to achieve this goal, are doomed to fail.

As you can see resolutions are much like vows of chastity for teenagers, great ideas, but not likely to work out in the end, but good luck anyhow (remember my post yesterday on My Resolutions for 2012).


Bloggers for Charity

The Blunt Bean Counter has asked some of us blogging folk to support charities by auctioning off the opportunity to write guest posts on our blogs. I have no idea how this will work out, but I’m happy to give it a shot for a good cause. The first announcement about this blogger charity effort came out yesterday.

I won’t repeat all the information in The Blunt Bean Counter’s announcement, but suffice it to say it is not often that I will offer to let folks do Guest Posts here (I get offers every day folks, so no this is not me asking for unsolicited content, if it is NOT in this context). If you want my point of view on Guest Posts, read Guest Posts: Please Stop the Madness)

I will blatantly steal the “rules” from Michael James description:

  • Click Here to submit your “bid” via e-mail to my secret lair.
  • The auction will close on 2011 Dec. 16. I will publish periodic updates of the highest bid and will notify the winner after the auction closes.
  • The winning bidder must send me (by email) a scanned copy of a donation receipt, dated between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31 to confirm that the donation has been made. Please block out any personal information; I only want to check the amount and that it seems to be a legitimate charity receipt. You may choose your favourite charity.
  • The “blogger for a day” post will appear on 2012 Jan. 17. I must approve the post contents. I will be very liberal with a genuine attempt to contribute an interesting article and will be very harsh with an obvious marketing piece. At the bottom of the post, the guest blogger can provide their name, name of their company and a brief description of their company and its products. Alternatively, the guest blogger can remain anonymous.

This is your one chance to guest post on this site!


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