Today is Thursday – so why am I not at work?
Because I don’t want to be.
How’s that for attitude?
I have been struggling at my full-time job for quite awhile, due my ulcerative colitis and slowly advancing age (hey, I’m not 20 anymore). The work load keeps piling up, and requests for assistance have been ignored – I even asked for a raise awhile back (haven’t had one in 11 years!), just to get boss’s attention. That, too, was ignored.
Finally, push came to shove. My boss’s secretary went out for knee replacement surgery at the same time that my house was under renovation. My boss was unhappy that I needed to be home to supervise the contractors, even though I had sufficient unused vacation time which had been scheduled months in advance. When I scheduled my contractors, I had no idea that my co-worker would be going out on medical leave.
When I returned to the office after my wonderful stay-cation, no one had done any of my work and the secretary’s desk was piled up. (Did I mention my previous requests for assistance?).
I am not a secretary. I am a paralegal. My firm bills my time based on my paralegal abilities – I can’t bill for secretarial work. I don’t know how to do some of the more complicated computer programs that the secretaries use, and I don’t intend to learn at this late stage in my life. I don’t want to be a secretary – been there, done that, hated it. I refuse. [Stamping little foot.]
Anyway, the second week back (co-worker had now been gone 4 weeks), a day came when my boss tossed a humungous pile of her work on my desk with the instruction it had to all go out by the end of the day. I tried to explain that I would do what I could, but that I would be leaving shortly for real estate closings and would be out of the office for the rest of the day. His response? “I don’t care – just get it done.” Say what? I can’t be in two places at the same time!
At which point, I went online and applied for early Social Security.
After refinancing my house last month, I reviewed the SSA calculations of what I could expect if I retired at 63 and figured if I took a part-time job (or started freelance writing) that I could manage to keep my bills and taxes paid, even with the reduced early retirement benefits. I have no 401K or pension, so Social Security is what I’m forced to rely on. I knew the Social Security benefits would be reduced by however much income I had, but I figured if I was very careful, I could still make it work. I even calculated the cost of getting insurance through my husband’s employer instead of COBRA. Yes! It would be tight, but do-able.
During down time at my afternoon closings that day, I went around to the various title companies and to other paralegals and attorneys and relayed the fact that I was retiring and needed to find a job for just 3-4 days a week to supplement Social Security. At least one attorney’s eyes lit up, so I knew finding another position would not be difficult.
After work, I went with one of my daughters to look at a house for sale, and her realtor is someone I’ve worked with for the last 16 years or so. I relayed my situation to the realtor, who indicated that the president of her company was looking for an assistant, and she would speak to him. Cool! The idea of doing real estate from the beginning instead of from the closing phase appealed to me.
Meanwhile, back at the office: I received a call from Social Security a few days later telling me that they would be unable to pay me anything for this year as my income for 2015 was above the threshold (the threshold being $15,000 or so, and I make a bit above that).
For some silly reason, I thought Social Security would take into account the fact that my income would drop on the day I retired! Isn’t that what retirement is all about?
So now my retirement calculations were pretty well shot.
After dumping that humungous pile of work on me, the boss had immediately gone out of town. Somehow, my intentions must have gotten back to him, because suddenly I received an email from him stating that he knew he had not been treating me right, that he remembered I had asked for a raise and hadn’t responded, and that we could talk when he returned.
Sounds great, right? But throwing more money at me would likely only result in an even bigger workload or longer hours, and I was already suffering chest pains and UC symptoms from the current situation.
However, there was that “no Social Security benefits to be paid” situation, and I need my health insurance (which is paid for by my employer – and I won’t qualify for Medicare for more than a year).
My boss returned the following week, and we sat down to chat. I started out playing the “how much do I want?” game, but finally just suggested he forego the raise and let me drop down to 4 days a week, keeping my current full-time salary and health insurance benefits (5-day pay, 4-day week? Not too shabby). He agreed to give some of the work load to others in the office, especially to some of the secretaries who would be more capable of handling it. In return, I agreed that when making medical appointments, I would schedule them for my off-work day. My off days could be flexible week-by-week, which is a pretty good deal.
The agreement was made, and I withdrew my application for Social Security. The boss’s secretary returned from her medical leave.
This is the 2nd 4-day week, and I must say that I’m finding the additional non-work day necessary. This morning I slept in by about an hour but then had to get up due to leg cramping and the need to use the facilities. Then, about 11:00 I felt so tired that I went back to bed for a nap. An hour-and-a-half later, I’m up, but still exhausted. (Hey, I’m not 20 anymore – did I already say that?).
We’ll see how this goes. I suspect that every week, I’ll have to fight for that day off, and I suspect that it’s never really going to be enough. If I can just slide through until I’m 66 (two-and-a-half years away), then I can retire with full Social Security benefits (still minimal, but at least not reduced). If I can sock enough cash away between now and then, maybe – just maybe – I’ll be able to do it.
Meanwhile, my goal is just to make it to my 66th birthday and to still be healthy enough to be able to enjoy retirement. We’ll see how it goes.
Image by Cordelia’s Mom