TBT Recollections of a High School Counselor "Those Golden Years"

sunset-over-the-ocean-utah-imagesThere I was, sitting in my lounge chair outside my motorhome somewhere along the golden California coast, basking in the warm sun, wearing my very comfy big, baggy, Richard Nixon style shorts, my favorite old Hawaiian shirt and a cheap pair of slaps. I sat there leisurely reading the latest Dean Koontz novel on my tablet and sipping a cold brew, extremely relaxed. Suddenly the cries of several OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgulls on the beach caused me to look up just as a large white sailboat cut across the water. It seemed to glow as it made its way directly in front of the late afternoon sun. What a sight to behold! “Yeah”, I said aloud, “This is definitely the life, isn’t it?” My wife, seated beside me, looked out across the water, smiled and replied “Yes, Life is good.”

Everyone dreams of one day saying so long to the old 8 to 5 or in my case 8 to 3, and entering the golden age of retirement.  Believe it or not I have some students who tell me they’re going to be retired by 45 or 55 years of age. Funny they haven’t even begun their careers yet and are already looking forward to early retirement. I don’t remember ever thinking that way when I was in high school. I often thought about my future but retirement was a non issue. These kids want to retire early, but if the current trend of delaying retirement continues they’re in for a very rude awakening. Many people today are working well into their 70’s and 80’s! Some do so willingly, while others are forced to continue working because they have no pensions and can’t survive on social security alone, they haven’t saved enough money or because of the bad hand that life has dealt them. As we all know sometimes life’s circumstances can take their toll.

The big question for those of us who have pensions or enough money socked away to carry us through our golden years is when to retire? When is the right time to say goodbye to the working world and begin a more sedentary, laid back life? When indeed? I’m not sure that there is a certified right time when all the conditions we have laid out for our retirement align. Our lives are in a constant state of change so who knows? Nothing is certain. I think the key thing is to begin retirement while you’re still young and healthy enough to enjoy it.

For the past several weeks I’ve been contemplating retirement, a move  that will mean the end of my career. I’ve had retirement on my mind ever since my school district announced last month that they may be offering a “golden handshake” this June  What could be better than beginning my ‘golden years’ with a ‘golden handshake.’ So what is this ‘golden handshake’? Well it’s the districts way of thinning the ranks of higher paid, veteran teachers who have the years and are of age to benefit from the retirement incentive they are offering. And their offer is very attractive, 85% of our highest earning year as a bonus to supplement our regular retirement. We have the option of receiving the money monthly over a 5 – 15 year period or take a smaller set amount monthly for life. Sounds pretty good to me!

So how does this affect me? Well my original plan had been to retire the day after my 63rd birthday which is in a year and six months. But if I take the incentive and retire this June instead, the monthly incentive check would make up the difference of what I would get if I continue working for another year. Sounds like a no brainer right? Who wants to work another year if they don’t have to? I sure don’t. Believe me, I’m in the process of checking and double checking all my figures and I’ve contacted the State Teachers Retirement System to see what my exact monthly retirement check will be. I have a meeting with a rep on 4/2. So until I hear from STRS I’m kinda in a holding pattern. If the monthly amount is right, that check coupled with my incentive check and social security would seem to make retirement doable. So for now there’s nothing I can do until I hear from STRS but wait.

Of course with my luck, after all the anticipation, the numbers will probably work out and I’ll be all set to go, but then there won’t be enough teachers taking the incentive to make it worthwhile for the district and they may pull the offer. It’s happened before. If so it’s business as usual and I’ll have one more year of work. But that’s okay, if it’s meant to be, then retirement will happen. All I can do is hope for the best and and keep on dreaming about those golden years.

Just Saying…

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