Are you jealous of all the people who have tenured government jobs and a $100k pension? Well, you can try to do it but it’s a lot harder to get a $100k pension than you think. Nevertheless, it can still be done if you know where to look.
The first problem is that the state, counties, and cities are in trouble or are broke. Getting a government job with a pension is tough when all forms of government except for federal are cutting back their workforce.
The second problem is that government is trying to create a two tier retirement system where new employees are placed into less generous defined benefit, traditional pensions or are forced to use defined contribution 401(k) or 457 style retirement accounts.
Right now, the state of California hasn’t done any mass layoffs. In fact, they always have lots of job openings. So you should apply for a state of California job, right? Unfortunately, the problem is that the pay for these California public sector jobs are LOW. Their salaries are much lower than private sector jobs. The figure quoted around is that the average CalPERS pension is only $2,000 per month. The reason is because California state employee salaries are very low. They don’t get paid jack. However, that’s a lot better than being unemployed repeatedly during your working career from layoff after layoff.
One path to a big CalPERS pension is to work for law enforcement or work as a firefighter. The CHP gets paid well. Prison guards do too. County sheriff, city police, and city fire departments are all good bets. Years ago, Governor Davis made a deal to give the generous 3% at 50 pension to state law enforcement and firefighters. After that, the cities and counties had to match that too with their pensions. The competition for these positions is stiff so you’ll need to work hard. But if you get in, you’re pretty much set for life.
Another place to get a lot of money in salary is to look for cities and counties that have generous pension plans. Unfortunately, most of them are in the firing mood rather than the hiring mood. However, if you get into one of these places even as a lowly worker, you could transfer to a much higher position if you have the right college degree and experience. Most places automatically give transfers and promotions from within higher priority than outside hires. So it’s a great idea to get your foot in the door.
Finally, you can get rich without a CalPERS pension. There are other pensions as well such as the one run by the University of California called UCRP. This means you could try to get hired as staff at one of the UC campuses. Unfortunately, the UC system is in serious financial trouble as well and it is not too keen to hire. However, they are always hiring amid the firing so you never know. Get a list of all public colleges including UC, CSU, and community colleges in the area and look at those job listings frequently. Almost all of them have jobs that come with a pension.
Although times are tough, there are lots of places for you to apply. As the economy begins to recover from the Great Recession, there will be hiring here and there where you may be able to secure a government job with a CalPERS pension.