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I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-28-2006, 03:14 PM   #1
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I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

I have crossed over. I have reached the Promised Land. I am a card carrying member of the FIRE club. It’s taken me more than 50 years to get here. Here’s how I did it.

To be honest, it was something of an accident. I certainly didn’t fall into the “Young Dreamer” category in my 20’s and 30’s. I worked mostly low wage jobs with no benefits. Ever so slowly a combination of fate and environmental factors pushed me in the direction to succeed. You see my first really decent job was working for a Local County Public Agency in the mid 70’s. Fresh out of JC, I applied and was quickly hired in a clerical position. It was doable work, unexciting, safe, and at the time difficult to imagine as a career. After a year I was lured away by a sales job working with a close friend in a small retail shop. It actually paid slightly better (gross salary), the “boss” made sure of that in his initial offer, but the reality was no medical, very little vacation; sick leave didn’t exist, etc. But when you’re young and stupid, a couple more bucks, combined with the extra party opportunities, well, I left the secure government job, and did retail in various forms until I was 28. At that age/time the reality of bringing new life into the world made me rethink the whole “no benefit” thing. Where could I get grand-fathered into a system that would take care of my upcoming new family member? Aha! Epiphany! I needed my old steady public service job back from many years before. Basically I sampled the various Counties in my area of the State, applied at all that were hiring and waited for the call. My original location was in the middle of a hiring freeze, so no go there. I ended up working for the bright enterprise that picked me first for the next 23 straight years. Oh if could tack on the tweener years back to that first job and have 30 straight, but alas, I lived, I learned. I even had some fun in those intervening years.

But again, you see it still wasn’t about ER or even FI for me at age 28, it was about paid Medical plans in an uncertain world. Fast Forward, many years pass, that marriage fell apart, and I eventually found my Lobster at age 38. Talk about waiting for Miss Right. She kissed a few frogs herself, giving us the advantage of both knowing a good thing when we found it. Move on to age 43. That’s when the “plan” came into being. I casually looked up the potential retirement allowance for folks in our positions, she also being a County worker, and found we could count on $15k/year each if we could hang around until we were both 50. We found we shared the ER mindset. Combing our incomes that seemed like an almost doable figure, and definitely so if we could save like the dickens for the next 7 years. Remember this was the late 90’s so my concept of returns was pretty inflated. I was tossing round rates of returns of 10-12 percent and thinking I was conservative, and predicting that we could each realize $100k in our 457 plans (Gov version of a 401k) by the end of the 7 year period what with all the fantastic compounding and appreciation, yada yada. Sorry to say that do to circumstances beyond our control, under the title “Stuff Happens” we didn’t achieve the rate of return, or even the rate of savings we were counting on, half of our nest egg going for survival expenses during a few dark years in the middle of the sequence. In the end though, the Retirement System in my little County went through a revision in the early 2000’s that enhanced the benefit significantly. It seems that fund had been so well managed (go figure) they actually were able to bump up the tables a bit with no risk to existing or future retirees. Hallelujah!

So as our plan neared completion we benefited from last but far from least, being good at what we did, garnering several merited promotions, and achieving higher than predicted salaries near the ends of our respective careers. DW’s career was cut a couple years short by medical problems, but she was close enough that we have bridged that gap, she is retired now and having a concrete medical plan that can’t be terminated is a very good thing. I stepped aside in March 2006 at age 50 ¾, and yes the three quarters counts in the calc. We end up with about $50k combined income with a modest COLA each year. It was 2% last 2 years. We also have a modest amount in a 457 plan. We recently decided to let this bit of pretax savings simmer a while until we need it for something especially fun. We are able to dip into at will, but see no need to tap it right away. We’re comfortable we can live pretty nicely on our newly determined “fixed income” (LOL), even save a bit for future major expenses, like those occasional 2 month trips to Europe we’ve often talked about. In a decade at 62 we can look forward to a small raise when we sign up for SS. Won’t be much, maybe 10-12k/yr each, but it’ll be a nice nudge to help us along, yet something we won’t need to survive.

That’s our story and we’re sticking around.


8) : :P
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-28-2006, 03:59 PM   #2
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Welcome JonnyM.
Thanks for sharing your story with the group. $50k/yr COLA pension is not what many here would call "modest." That is more than a fair number of folks here will ever live on in retirement and the boost at age 62 of ~$24k will put you in high cotton. Add to the mix paid medical and some 457 "play" money and you are above the average water level here for income in retirement. Nice job! Just goes to show that you don't have to make huge $$ in salary to be able to FIRE in your early 50's.

Glad you came aboard.
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-28-2006, 04:09 PM   #3
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Quote:
But when you’re young and stupid
Been there, seems like yester,(Nevermind). *I have heard all my life, "Not what you got, it's what you've got leftover". *I have followed this board a good while, registered several months ago, and I feel that many here lived not only for the time, but for the future. We all have friends or relatives(mine is the brother in law from hell) who spend it all now, borrow for tomorrow and then complain constantly about how tough life is. *Seems you have it headed in the right direction. *Enjoy.

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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-28-2006, 05:17 PM   #4
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

JohnnyM - Congratulations on your retirement. My DH also receives a COLA pension and medical/denal benefits, etc. He is enjoying every day of his "freedom" and doesn't miss the work environment one bit. Enjoy!
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-28-2006, 05:39 PM   #5
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

You're done!

So what are you going to do all day?
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-28-2006, 06:26 PM   #6
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Hey, Queen... When did you become a queen??

Congratulations. Your highness .
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As if you didn't know..If the above message contains medical content, it's NOT intended as advice, and may not be accurate, applicable or sufficient. Don't rely on it for any purpose. Consult your own doctor for all medical advice.
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-28-2006, 06:44 PM   #7
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Congrats! I hope to retire close to that age, will be content if I make 55, health care worries me.

Queen Martha, a most appropriate title. Does that make my daughter/your grandaughter a princess?
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-29-2006, 06:10 AM   #8
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Of course Laurence. [magic wand] Let all daughters here be princesses! [/magic wand]
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-29-2006, 06:28 AM   #9
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonnyM
In a decade at 62 we can look forward to a small raise when we sign up for SS.* Won’t be much, maybe 10-12k/yr each, but it’ll be a nice nudge to help us along, yet something we won’t need to survive.
* *
Check out SS's "Windfall Elimination Provision" it reduces your SS if you are receiving a Goverment pension.

I believe (rule of thumb) it reduces your earned SS benefit to about 40% of what you actually have earned.
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WEB and Health Care
Old 03-29-2006, 09:26 AM   #10
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WEB and Health Care

Two issues that were of concern and how they were addressed.

1. Social Security. I worked in a system that was fully integrated with Social Security. WEB doesn't apply to me. In fact I had the option of taking approx. half my estimated SS right now, added to my DBP check each month, with a reduction of double that amount when I hit 62. Basically I could have boosted my "take" a few hundred bucks from day one, in exchange for a reduction at 62 that would equal my full SS benefit. DW and I both chose not to participate. The Theory being that this type of payout, smoothes out the retiree salary over the long haul in exchange for more money up front. I don't like it, not enough cost-of-living adjustment in that scenerio.

We're betting that as we slowly fall behind the curve with our measily 2 percent average colas (3 percent is the lawful max) over the next decade, we can look forward to a "boost" when we apply for SS at age 62. And we are in the camp that SS won't just disappear or be crippled before then...

2. Health Care. Huge concern, in our case the rub is we're restricted to CA for normal Dr. Visit type benefits. It's not portable if we decide to move out-of-state. And in the case we'd be subject to med history, of which we are currently immune, i.e. coverage is mandatory for retirees, Cobra or no-Cobra. The upside is we currently each get a stipend that just about covers the premium. The stipend has been in place for about a decade and is funded by a separate pot of money. If times really get tough someday, it could in theory go away. It currently has enough funds to pay everybody currently and estimated to retire for the next 20 years if the fund just broke even, no growth or interest earned. If we had to selffund completely at current rates, it amounts to about 9k per year, for really excellent all-encompasing coverage, i.e. 15 bucks for 3 months meds, same for Dr. Visits, and all processess and procedures covered 100 percent.
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-29-2006, 04:22 PM   #11
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

I followed your countdown with pleasure for something like a year and a half, and can only now say:

!!WOO HOO!!!

--and an extra YEEHAH! for your wife
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-29-2006, 04:51 PM   #12
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Congratulations and have fun. I know you planned well. A coworker of mine has his last day tomorrow. He is 59 and is not really excited but simply does not want the BS any more.

Bruce
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story
Old 03-31-2006, 06:04 PM   #13
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Re: I'm joing the Team Wed, Here's my Story

Congrats! Make sure to keep us posted on the non-financial aspects of your new ER - like the transition to spending most of you time wiith DW, new activities, etc. Help us to avoid any pitfalls
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Haven't got completely around the concept as yet...
Old 04-01-2006, 04:29 PM   #14
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Haven't got completely around the concept as yet...

Way too soon to really "feel" it. Ending on a Wed, when my normal week ended on Thursday with 3 day weekends as the norm, it so far just isn't that different than before ER.

I have a reason to visit work on Tuesday, I'm continuing my rather bizarre job of being the Kevin Ubanks/Tonight Show role as the House-Band for the agencies quarterly all-staff meetings. They do it in the form of a Talk Show to hopefully make the disemination of information more palatible and fun for staff. It's worked pretty well for the past year, we had a good turnout in Jan, two shows about 150 people each. Anyway, the word will be out that I'm gone, and I expect to talk to some of the people that have just figured it out. My method of leaving last Wed. was slinking out the back door, I avoided the Party thing, and only said goodbye to my closest coworkers, my Boss had agreed to make it appear I'd be back Thursday.

I think I'll get some more closure when I talk to some of these folk and they ask me the usual questions, "Watcha going to do?" etc.

I think the other reality will occur May 1 when I get that first Pension Check, DW tells me that made it real for her, the validation that you are indeed being paid a salary to stay home and not work.

We have a 4 day trip planned for next week, but so far it strikes me more like a vacation week. Maybe when we get home Sunday and another Monday comes around with no alarm clock making me get up will make ER more of a reality.

I'm not complaining, so far so great, just doesn't feel completely REAL as yet.

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