Retiring … it’s not for sissies

My mom used to say “growing old ain’t for sissies”.  I feel that way about retirement.

First off, there’s the money thing.

Aside from babysitting, I starting working, for a paycheck, when I was eighteen, and I’ve worked almost steadily since then  (5-months maternity leave taken in 1979,  1 year’s educational leave in 1981, and 11 months without work when the bottom fell out of real estate in 2008).

I remember when I got my first paycheck, expecting $XX, only to find out that about a quarter of that money had gone to something called FICA, and other taxes.  I knew that I’d get the taxes back, because I wasn’t earning that much, but my dad tried to explain to me that I would get the FICA back, when I was 65.  He called it “Social Security”, and as both he and mom were staunch members of the GOP (at least the responsible, reasonable GOP of the 50s and 60s), their explanation was a little confused; something to do with a the New Deal and FDR.  Ok, I got it, I was earning money which I’d never, ever see and giving it to the government to give to old people.

Well, guess what  ::snicker::?  I got mine this year.

The first jobs I had that I really loved were in the airline business.  Back in the late 60s, when you went to work for them, there were things called “closed shops” — if you wanted to work for that company, you had to join the union they had a contract with.  I had to join the Teamsters when I went to work for Pan Am (sob, I miss them) in Seattle, and when I moved back home in ’72, and went to work for Qantas, I had to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers (IAMAW).  Now given the aforementioned political climate in our household, the labor movement was not afforded any respect in my growing up years; and I thought all union members were thugs and goons.

No entity is perfect; no corporation, no goverment, no union.  That being said, the stated goals and efforts of most of the people in the Labor Movement are to ensure a better life for their members, which includes dignity in their retirement.  They collectively bargain with management so that their members have decent wages, hours and working conditions.  I learned a lot those early years at Qantas, such that when I left, I stayed working in the Labor Movement, for Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  The pensions that I earned from those Union jobs will also help me live in my retirement, and not be a burden to my family.  Nothing fancy, mind you, but I won’t be a bag lady either.  And you have no idea what a relief that is.

Then there is the “what do I do with myself NOW?” thing.

That’s the fun part.  All the things I wanted to do, and couldn’t because of work, or family obligations, I can try now, as long as I can afford them.  I can take classes; learn to be a master gardener, finally finish up those few credits to get my degree, learn to speak Spanish (or mandarin), and (at the risk of conjuring up stereotypical retirement images) spend time knitting and working with fiber.

I don’t think of retirement as “not working”, I think of it as working at things you love and want to do, and not worrying about a paycheck.

Unless, of course, that aforementioned GOP of today get’s their way, and they privatize social security and voucherize medicare — then I’ll be a bag lady for sure!

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