Before the Fire: Gates

Gate on Northeast Side of Notre-Dame de Paris

Detail of a gate on the north side of the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, France

In honor of the devastating loss of so much of  the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, I am going to try to use photos from my last trips to Paris to respond to challenges this week. Like this one, some of them may be repeats.

Join Terri’s Sunday Stills: Gates

Winter Fog

December Fog

December Fog, Colmar, France

December fog, Colmar, France.

Join Jennifer’s Weekly Weather Challenge: Fog

Furlough: Dry Run for Retirement?

I woke up this morning and wasn’t sure what day it was. After Day 4 of the 2013 furlough, I seem to have settled in to being at home and not caring if I go back to work. So far I have done a bit of gardening, lots of laundry, had a manicure, and saw my podiatrist. Not exciting but soothing. Reality does set in when I remember I might not be paid for my days of leisure. I should be stressed—I’m not. I’ve decided to view the furlough as my dry run for retirement.

Looking back over my 30+ years working for the federal government, I don’t recall ever voluntarily taking more than one day off at a time to just stay home. When I take vacation, I am going to visit family or friends, exploring new places or attending specific events or classes. If I added up the money I’ve spent on airfare, mileage, hotels, and other travel costs over the last 35 years, I would be a wealthy woman. Not that I regret a single dollar spent. Well, I do regret paying for the night at a Days Inn where the bed was harder than the floor.

Even when my time off was involuntary, I didn’t spend the entire time at home. To be honest, I have no memory of the 21 day furlough in 1995/96. That furlough included Christmas and New Years. I think I was visiting my sister and her family in California. I remember being stressed about being paid because I was living in a high cost city and didn’t have a savings cushion but not much else.

In my 30+ years with the feds, I have been RIFed twice. RIF is lovely way of saying I was made redundant. Not surprisingly, both RIFs occurred during Republican administrations while I was working in programs or positions that assisted low-income or economically disadvantaged areas.  

In the spring of 2002, I lost my job with a federal bank regulatory agency, which no longer exists, when it cut 20 percent of the staff. Luckily for me, I was a couple of years shy of 50 and was eligible for severance pay. With the severance pay, unemployment benefits and an intermittent job as an usher,  I survived for a year while looking for work. It wasn’t voluntary but it wasn’t bad.

After I was separated, I loaded up my car and drove from Seattle to Maine and back. I stopped along the way to visit family and friends and accomplished my goal of seeing all five Great Lakes. I decided to go ahead with a scheduled tour to Carnevale in Venice and frittered away many pleasant hours planning my costumes. The traveling and planning kept me sane during my job search. I learned to be frugal, or at least to spend more prudently. When I finally found another federal job (believe me I looked in the public and private sectors for a year with no results) I took a 60 percent pay cut just to get back into the federal system.  

So, here I sit, pondering life as a federal employee during and after the furlough. The last four days have solidified my plan to retire next August. In fact, the furlough has strengthened my resolve to retire and recharge.

How Much is That Beanie Baby in the Window

On Saturday I’m trekking off to a taping of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, one of the “to do’s” on my bucket list. The episode is being filmed in Richmond, Virginia. Tickets are always in demand, and I have tried to get tickets several times through the Roadshow’s lottery system. I don’t have any hidden treasures that will set me up for retirement, but I am still looking forward to the experience.

Do you think you have a hidden treasure or a collection of something that will help fund your retirement? Do you plan to sell your grandmother’s beautiful china to fund a trip around the world? Or did you buy a series of limited edition figurines (no more made after a certain date) as a hedge against inflation. Well, you might want to reconsider your travel plans, unless you have had the foresight and capital to invest in art or decorative arts that traditionally retain or appreciate in value. Most of us don’t. That collection of cute little stuffed animals or Christmas collector’s plates won’t do it.

The arts and decorative arts markets are cyclic. Values go up and down depending on taste and trends. Art Deco was hot for a long time. Now Mid-century Modern is on fire. Sell your atomic design glassware while you can. Frenzy collecting of fad items, like those little stuffed animals, turns into a pyramid scheme. Only the people who sell at the height of the frenzy make any money. The rest are left holding the bag, or bags full perhaps.

The hardest realization for many people who own treasured family heirlooms is that the value is more sentimental than monetary. One of my sisters owns an antique store. People often bring in items to sell that “belonged to my grandmother and I know it is worth a lot.” The seller is then insulted by my sister’s minimal offer or by her lack of interest in buying the goods. The seller assumes she must be trying to cheat them or she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. But to succeed, a business must make money. She won’t even look at a set of china, unless it is something very special, because she knows she can’t sell it.

Each ticket holder at the Roadshow can bring two items for appraisal. I’m taking an oil painting I purchased 35 years ago at an estate sale in Minneapolis. The painting, dated 1886, shows a scene of a late-18th-century courting couple. Yes, I admit I harbor a fantasy the painting is an early (shall we say student) work of a now famous artist, (I can’t read the signature) and it would sell for a fortune at auction. I had my hair colored for my potential fifteen minutes of fame. I’ll be sure to post if dreams do indeed come true. Most likely, the painting be returned to my living room wall and continue to give me pleasure for many years to come.   🙂

Check out this article from MONEY – Forget Tuition: How Retirees Can Attend College for Free. It was written in 2009 but the information is still relevant. College level courses aren’t cheap, but there are ways to save money.

Ballpark E$timator is an interactive retirement savings estimator. Based on your personal earnings projections and benefit assumptions, it can give you an estimate of what you need to save to retire. For those of us with immediate retirement goals, it may be a little late to use it. But it could make us face reality.

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