Hope for the future of Young Dreamers
A couple weeks ago a former co-worker tracked me down with questions about equipment changes that I'd supervised in 1999. (If I'm their "corporate memory" then they've fallen on hard times indeed.) Like many at that place, he's plugged away for 30 years and will probably only retire when he reaches full SS eligibility. Surprisingly I was able to dredge up (exorcise?) the memories and help avoid disruption of what was subsequently deemed an amazingly prescient decision. (Not that anyone felt obligated to pay my consulting fees.)
At the end of the e-mail volley I was contacted by the guy who has my old job. I don't know how job assignments work in the "real" world, but the Navy's Hawaii training commands are assigned a manpower priority that's lower than whale droppings. So although I left my desk in Feb 2002, it's only been occupied for 21 of the past 33 months. (Undoubtedly that's the Navy's testament to my superior management skills and a department running on autopilot.) He's stalled out his career, too, and he's wondering how I survived what he thinks his next five years will be.
Interestingly this was our second meeting. He and I overlapped briefly seven years ago at this command (I was arriving as he was leaving) and we clashed at every collision. We each decided that the other was a colossal PITA (no doubt the rest of the command heartily agreed) and we both heaved huge sighs of relief when he transferred a couple months later. Yet both of us must have mellowed considerably over the next seven years because we had a good laugh about our differences and we're becoming friends.
His first question, "Can I do this job for five years?", turned out to be mostly a matter of negotiating the Navy's assignment "policies" (whatever they are) and keeping his boss happy. He can handle that, but he'd been having so much fun in my old job that he was wondering when the boom was going to come crashing down on his head. (It probably never will.)
His next question, "What's next?" turned out to be even simpler. Since our last "meeting" he's gained a marriage, a 3-year-old girl, and a second child on the way. He's always wanted to stay in Hawaii but now it's even more imperative, and he knows that his wife is itching to get back to her teaching career when the kids are old enough. He also enjoys surfing...
It turned out that his real question was "Whaddya DO all day?!" When I took him through my routine ("First I check the surf forecast") he immediately grokked. Like me, he can't believe that he'll be allowed to retire to become a stay-at-home parent, a surf bum, a housekeeper, a financial manager, and all those other "ER euphemisms".
When I told him that at least 85% of military retirees go back to work he was properly horrified. I don't think he's going to have any trouble making the transition. We're having the family over to dinner in a few weeks to finish the process of corrupting what little remains of his work ethic. We'll also attempt to determine whether "military" or "surfer" is the more critical aspect of ER readiness.
After years of wondering where all the other Hawaii ERs are hiding, one pops up where I'd least expect to find him. So we ERs should stay on our best marketing behavior and keep our senses alert. You never know who's watching you as a role model!
The book written on E-R.org, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
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