Day 1 – Phase 2

Retirement Arrives

I feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted and I could float away. Does that sound silly? Maybe so, but it’s true. Yesterday at 3:30 p.m. I was walked out of the building in which I had worked for seven years and ended my thirty-one years as an employee of the federal government. It was a good run, with both positives and negatives, just like any job or large organization.

The fact that I worked for six different agencies in four states and two countries says more about my tendency to get bored if work becomes repetitive than it does about the actual jobs I held. For the first twenty-one years I worked in community and economic development programs that provided assistance to low-income and economically distressed areas. I had the opportunity to travel throughout the western United States while working with cities, counties, states, and Indian tribes. The last ten years I worked for one of the best law enforcement agencies in the world.

So, what did I do on the first day of the next phase of my life? I went to a casino. Yes, it’s true. Two of my fellow retirees and I started a tradition. Every April 1 and October 1 we will get together. Hopefully, the group will grow as others in our former office retire. And, incredibly, I won. Because I generally lose, I think the $239.98 payout from a penny slot machine, while not a fortune, is an omen of great things to come.

And tomorrow, what then? Does it really matter? It can be anything I want, anything I am inspired to try or to learn. Maybe I will try life.

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.

Learn on a Dime

I know I won’t be able to do nothing after I retire, both for my pocketbook and for my sanity. But I’m tired of an office environment and want to do something creative and portable. For years I’ve taken classes looking for an avocation as much as a new vocation. But the course content hasn’t always justified the cost or the time required. So I decided to look for cheaper learning alternatives on writing, editing, web site design, photography, and teaching English as a second language.  (I am not endorsing the companies or courses mentioned below; the opinions offered are my own and experiences will be personal, be it good or bad.)

My quest for cheap learning started on Groupon, one of several “deal-of-the-day” websites that sell discounted goods, services, and just about anything you want. Groupon and similar sites play on the impulse buyer in most of us. I’ve discovered some of the deals reappear on a regular basis and aren’t all that limited. But Groupon is easy to use and you can search for deals in your local area. I purchased the four courses discussed below on Groupon. I was looking for self-paced educational courses that allow access for extended periods.

A Groupon search for “learn” will find local and online deals for music, dance, art and cooking lessons, photo tours, and courses on a variety of subjects. If you want to learn to tango, deals on sites like Groupon offer a short series of lessons to entice the buyer to take more. 

I had just finished my WordPress site and loved the experience of putting it together. EwB was offering an online class called How to Build a Website(normally $777 for $79). ( Even if the course was a bust, I decided I could learn at least $75 worth of something. I would have access to the course for 12 months. I jumped at the offer. I have completed several units. I am pleased with the content, even though the units on HTML and cascading style sheets left me shaking my head and will require more study. So far, I’ve gotten my money back. I don’t know if the course is worth $777—classroom courses on Read more ›

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