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Construction workers and ER
Old 07-09-2017, 06:43 PM   #1
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Construction workers and ER

Those of you who worked construction your whole life, how big a role did the wear and tear on your body lead you to be a prudent spender/saver so you could RE? I ask because the contractor and subs working on my house, mostly in their mid-50s, seem like they can't keep this up much longer. Lotta grunting, muttering, cursing under their breath (mostly), smoking. Hard physical honorable labor taking its toll. I haven't talked to them about their plans, not my business, but anyone willing to share?
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Old 07-09-2017, 07:14 PM   #2
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One of my many Uncles had a roofing business, Im talking the hot tar days, and throwing a pack over shingles over his shoulder on the way up the ladder kind of guy. He was a grunting, muttering, cursing under his breath (mostly), smoking kind of individual from a very young age, hahha.. I remember seeing him beat red on the wicked hot days on our own roof. He worked till he was in his 70's, pacemaker stopped him from going on roofs. My cousin (his son) has the business. they do windows and siding now too. Makes a mint. Still lots of cash in some of those jobs.
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Old 07-09-2017, 07:45 PM   #3
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One of my many Uncles had a roofing business, Im talking the hot tar days, and throwing a pack over shingles over his shoulder on the way up the ladder kind of guy. He was a grunting, muttering, cursing under his breath (mostly), smoking kind of individual from a very young age, hahha.. I remember seeing him beat red on the wicked hot days on our own roof. He worked till he was in his 70's, pacemaker stopped him from going on roofs. My cousin (his son) has the business. they do windows and siding now too. Makes a mint. Still lots of cash in some of those jobs.
Spent a summer in college working for a shady contractor. Among other things, I spent one 95 degree day putting hot tar on a roof. That night we had a hail storm and I was back up on the same roof the next day doing it all over again. That summer definitely motivated me to finish my degree.
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Old 07-09-2017, 07:52 PM   #4
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I've never understood how those working in the construction trades ever retire. Their employers seldom have retirement programs or 401K's--unless they work out of a labor union, government agency or large company.

Most of those doing the really hard work are semi-skilled. They will find themselves undergoing surgery numerous times in their working life for bad backs, broken legs, etc. And they are often generally unhealthy--not having yearly physicals including chest x rays. They're more apt to be smokers, too.

I feel for their pain. I just hope they're smart enough to carry healthcare insurance and disability insurance--because the chances are they'll need it.
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Construction workers and ER
Old 07-09-2017, 08:17 PM   #5
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Construction workers and ER

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I've never understood how those working in the construction trades ever retire. Their employers seldom have retirement programs or 401K's--unless they work out of a labor union, government agency or large company.

Most of those doing the really hard work are semi-skilled. They will find themselves undergoing surgery numerous times in their working life for bad backs, broken legs, etc. And they are often generally unhealthy--not having yearly physicals including chest x rays. They're more apt to be smokers, too.

I feel for their pain. I just hope they're smart enough to carry healthcare insurance and disability insurance--because the chances are they'll need it.


In Chicagoland, many construction workers are in unions and receive pensions and employer health insurance. Many retire in their mid fifties.
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Old 07-10-2017, 02:18 AM   #6
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DB recently retired at 56 after a life-long career as an electrician. Early on he started in residential construction, then moved on to larger commercial work (like infrastructure/power plants etc.).

It took a toll on his body, especially in his hands and knees.

BIL is 57 and has worked as an elevator mechanic for the past 35 years. His knees are pretty much shot. He's looking at a partial knee replacement in one leg and likely a total knee in another. He can definitely afford to E.R. but has a bad case of OMY syndrome.

Both of them were smart about money, saving and investing throughout their working lives. Both also have generous pension plans.
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Old 07-10-2017, 06:56 AM   #7
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I had an in-house view of what goes on in truck driving world, which is blue collar. I did the long haul tractor trailer trucking thing for 6 years from age 53 to 59 after being laid off from BigCorp Programming (which was a good thing). Lots of drivers in their 60's, some in their 70's. Frequent injuries due to slips on ice, and having freight fall on them during unloading. There is a fear of using worker's comp to treat injuries, as opposed to using your health insurance, since the workers comp would be an expense to the trucking company. Supposedly some companies will retaliate against the workers comp user by giving him or her undesirable assignments, or termination. The good thing about workers comp, for the injured employee, is that there are no deductibles and copays (I think) and the coverage continues even after you leave employment at the company. My trucking company had a 401K but it had no company matching. I got the impression not many drivers were in the 401K. I had 40% of my income going to the 401K and HR called me up to tell me I had made a typo, and I had to reassure them the 40% was right. Occasionally some driver would retire and be featured in a blurb in the monthly newsletter, always over 60. Some drivers would drive for a few years to get seed money for some small business they wanted to start. The top end salary there was about $90,000 per year for the drivers out on the road for days at a time. There were also drivers who only made $50,000 per year for the "easier" routes.
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Old 07-10-2017, 07:04 AM   #8
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My cousin retired at 50. He was union laborer (with a relatively well funded pension plan) and has always had very low expenses. The wear and tear definitely was a factor.

My brother is 55 and still laying brick. Many years in his own [tiny] business and now working for a relatively large contractor doing commercial work. His health isn't great, but I don't know how realistic retirement will be until he hits Social Security age....

Brother in law is union carpenter and is still working at 60, but also drawing pension. I think part of the reason he is still working is that it is what he does. He has worked solely large commercial/industrial for years, which tends to be easier than slogging through the mud on residential sites....
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Old 07-10-2017, 09:54 AM   #9
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When I worked in a state/federal program to help people with disabilities go back to work we had many injured construction workers. Most were broke and so were their bodies. It was quite sad.
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Old 07-10-2017, 11:09 AM   #10
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I've been a union sheet metal worker for 41 years. The physical toll is definitely part of my reason to retire at 61. Oddly enough I believe the physical exertion is one of the things I'll miss most about working. I will have two pensions and a 401k. I guess I'm not really early to retire and I'm in good physical shape but I don't think I could work until 65 if I even wanted too.
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Old 07-10-2017, 11:31 AM   #11
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Comments should probably be divided into two categories: skilled and unskilled. Skilled construction workers (people in the "trades" such as electrician, plumber, finish carpenter, etc.) have options when heavy work is no longer feasible due to aging issues. Entrepreneurship is one option and popular around here. Unskilled construction workers who've been earning a living selling "grunts and toil" have it tougher. $200 for 2 - 3 hours doing a small job for a homeown isn't an option for them.

After serving in the CB's (Construction Battalion - part of the Navy) in WW II, my dad and his brother came home and became heavy equipment operators for a decade or so. They both chose to take a significant salary cut to take jobs as maintenance men (public union) for the City of Chicago. A wise move. Both were tough, athletic guys but guys who were already feeling the effects of having the sh*t shaken out of them for 10 - 12 hours a day during the construction season. They had to work until 65 due to joining the pension plan late in life but still enjoyed long, relatively bountiful retirements.
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Old 07-10-2017, 12:48 PM   #12
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I was not in the trades myself, but I have several friends that have retired from the building trades (painter, carpenter, electrician, laborer) and one who was a non-union generalist for a small defense contractor. All had working wives, and all LBYM and saved.

The physical labor definitely took a toll on their bodies, and all retired before 60 for this reason. The union guys have decent pensions and healthcare. Along with their savings and SS they are able live fairly comfortable retired lives.

The non-union guy had a 401k plan, where the company portion was invested in company stock. The stock went no where for many years, which meant he was buying at low prices. Then there was a sale of the company at a big premium. He grossed $1.5 million and retired. Yeah, he was lucky, but he put himself in the right place to get lucky.
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Old 07-10-2017, 01:52 PM   #13
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I am a union electrician in Chicagoland. I will ER at 60 in a few months. A solid pension and 401K will make life decent for my wife and I.
The last 5 years have been spent in a different job that has allowed me to take better care of my body. Ive been working full time since I was 16 always at labor intensive jobs. Still feel decent though I cant work 10-12 hr. days 6-7 days a week anymore.
My real saving grace is the fabulous woman I married 35 years ago. She made it possible for me to work and took care of our children while I worked.


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Old 07-10-2017, 09:04 PM   #14
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A few days ago I was just thinking about this same thing but from the other perspective. I was doing some wiring in an office building lunchroom. There were three overweight guys standing around the counter eating donuts. They were also complaining (mostly under their breath) about how long of days they have been putting in and whining about some other team not pulling their weight. I walked out of the room right behind them then up a short flight of stairs. I was carrying several tools and a 6' ladder and I still thought I would have to push these two up the stairs. they were huffing and puffing badly. I wondered to myself if these guys will ever make it to retirement or if they ever think of stepping out of the cubicle and getting a more active job.

Of course an hour later I saw the same three guys along with many others all standing outside a glass wall smoking cigarettes and drinking diet cokes (apparently that cancels out the aforementioned donuts). I don't think its just trades people who are unhealthy or should be planning an early exit because of health issues.
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Old 07-10-2017, 09:14 PM   #15
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I've never understood how those working in the construction trades ever retire. Their employers seldom have retirement programs or 401K's--unless they work out of a labor union, government agency or large company.

I think this is a pretty common misconception. It is nearly impossible to hire a skilled tradesman. If an employer doesn't offer a decent and competitive wage and benefits package no one will work there.
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Old 07-11-2017, 12:26 AM   #16
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I've never understood how those working in the construction trades ever retire. Their employers seldom have retirement programs or 401K's--unless they work out of a labor union, government agency or large company.
I know two self employed carpenters who have used "left overs" from home improvement jobs and tear downs to either build a small home, or totally redo a foreclosure. One was hired to tear out the perfectly good hardwood floors in a "rich guy"'s house and replace with ceramic tile. The reclaimed wood was enough to floor the carpenters' 1400 sq. ft. home. The other carpenter built a 1,000 sq. ft. "A" frame home from wood salvaged from a tear down barn. Both knew the importance of not having a house payment once retired.
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Old 07-11-2017, 06:19 AM   #17
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A few days ago I was just thinking about this same thing but from the other perspective. I was doing some wiring in an office building lunchroom. There were three overweight guys standing around the counter eating donuts. They were also complaining (mostly under their breath) about how long of days they have been putting in and whining about some other team not pulling their weight. I walked out of the room right behind them then up a short flight of stairs. I was carrying several tools and a 6' ladder and I still thought I would have to push these two up the stairs. they were huffing and puffing badly. I wondered to myself if these guys will ever make it to retirement or if they ever think of stepping out of the cubicle and getting a more active job.

Of course an hour later I saw the same three guys along with many others all standing outside a glass wall smoking cigarettes and drinking diet cokes (apparently that cancels out the aforementioned donuts). I don't think its just trades people who are unhealthy or should be planning an early exit because of health issues.

Yep, point well taken. You gotta take care of your health, whether you're swinging a hammer or jockeying a desk all day.
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Old 07-11-2017, 06:36 AM   #18
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My father, a master electrician specializing in high-voltage construction (think big city power stations), took SS at 62 although he would have preferred to work longer. By that time he had broken both wrists and several fingers, was all over osteoarthritis, had had a wire stuck through one eye, and had survived pneumonia brought on by working outside in New Jersey winters. And that's just what I knew about during my lifetime - he had worked construction at least 20 years when I was born. He retired into the inflation of the 1970s and his union pension wasn't COLA'd, so it was pretty much pocket change after a few years. He ended up going back to work (found an easy job, fortunately).

The interesting thing is that my grandfather tried to set him up in the insurance business, but Dad hated selling and schmoozing (I am like him in this and many other ways). He wanted to work with his hands.

He quit smoking when he was about 50 and had a mild heart attack. Just up and quit. He used to snark at people who complained about how hard it is to quit smoking. "They wanna die, that's their business" he'd say.
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Old 07-11-2017, 07:56 AM   #19
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I worked my entire career mostly outside as a technician. Spent lots of time driving and riding boats in the heat and cold and rain. I retired at 55 mainly because of burnout, buyouts, and wornouts. And my body aches and pains do affect what I can do in retirement. For one thing my body can't take the heat and high humidity as well as I could younger. But it was a good and challenging job with great benefits including retiree health insurance. So I'm enjoying retirement as best I can.
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Old 07-11-2017, 08:51 AM   #20
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I've never understood how those working in the construction trades ever retire. Their employers seldom have retirement programs or 401K's--unless they work out of a labor union, government agency or large company.
Some of them LBYM and do okay. Also, many people in trades and construction have connections that enable them to trade labour or to have someone do a job for them at a greatly reduced rate. They also have a DIY mindset and are often far more willing (and capable) of repairing or taking on a project that is beyond the scope of others rather than simply cutting a cheque to a contractor.

One of my cousins is a carpenter. He just bought a beat up fixer (almost a tear down) at a greatly reduced price. Due to his connections, the wiring, plumbing, HVAC, etc., are all being redone at a fraction of retail due to the people he knows. Without those connections, he wouldn't be able to afford a house. He will pay them back by helping them with their projects. Not having to spend the money is just as good as making more.
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