Color of Money: Trump's budget could cause epic battles. My advice to federal workers: Save now because another shutdown is likely in the fall

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- I play tug of war with my 11-pound terrier mix, and it's a battle in which the chew toy always loses.

I pull. Simba tugs. And the squeaky stuffed animal gets torn apart.

This, I'm afraid, has become the life of federal employees and contractors during budget negotiations.

President Trump unveiled his 2020 budget proposal this week, and it's chock-full of clash-worthy requests. He wants slashes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

But the biggest skirmish will probably be over the border wall -- again. Trump has asked for $8.6 billion to build a barrier along the U.S. border with Mexico. Funding for a wall, which he originally promised Mexico would pay for, caused the longest federal shutdown in history -- 35 days.

And, let's remember that the shutdown, which began Dec. 22 and ended Jan. 25, affected only part of the federal government. It impacted about 800,000 workers, including active-duty military members. Although federal workers were eventually paid retroactively, many contractors and other businesses relying on spending by the government or federal workers will not get back lost pay or revenues.

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Some workers had to go to food banks. Others tapped their retirement accounts or took out loans to make ends meet.

There will surely be more shutdown showdowns. Are you prepared for another budget tug of war? If not, here's some advice to help make it through.

-- Stash some cash. After things get better, it's so easy to forget how bad things were.

Building an emergency fund loses its urgency when people begin to get paid again.


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