Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Send Off

At no time in my life have I ever felt so close to so many people as I did at 5:45 a.m. this morning. This is when I left work for the final time. When I reached the door I was greeted by an Honor guard, consisting of officers, civilian staff, many of my supervisors, and even folks who took the time to show up to send me off on their off day. The entire sidewalk was flanked with my coworkers as they saluted me on my way to my car. Once there I was escorted by patrol vehicles running lights and sirens for one last tour of the perimeter. I feel so honored and humbled by these people who are my friends.

Over my last four working days there has been a party in my honor everyday and folks who have retired or moved on have either stopped by the prison or called me on the phone to wish me well. This show of love and appreciation has left me in awe of the folks that walk the toughest beat in America! I am still more then a bit shell shocked by all of this but I had to post something or I would burst the rest of the buttons off my shirt.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Crunching the numbers

With retirement only two days away I decided it was time to see if I could afford not to go to work. The last three years I have been living on half my net pay and saving the rest, good practice I thought for retiring at half pay. In the mail yesterday I got a sample work-up of the money I will be receiving after retirement. Now my numbers are off the mark. The work-up explained that these numbers would be 15-20% then I will actually get once the final average salary is figured out. This process takes them 6-8 months, why? I have no idea. But I will get a check for the owed amount at that. Ok I can live with that. Here's where my simple minded figures went awry, my way of thinking is 50% is half of the pay you were getting. Well duh it's not it is more like 72-75%. The cause: no state taxes, no health insurance premiums, no union dues, federal taxes at a lower rate, and no F.I.C.A. Very pleasantly amused by this turn. Plus the intangibles, the cost of going to work like gas prices are ever going to go down, the raffle ticket, football pools, lunches ordered out, uniform upkeep, plus what it does to my vehicles.

We have a deferred compensation plan at that I enrolled in 12 years ago. I was going to be wealthy when I retired. That projection has been slightly down-graded to we will most likely not need food stamps. Silly me, I thought that the deferred money was there to make up for the time between retirement and when I am old enough to collect social security. Four years, but who's counting? So who sold my name to some God forsaken clearing house for get rich quick mailings? They all want to manage my finances for me, how nice. Never realized how many helpful folks are out there.

Since these very kind folks see fit to fill my mailbox with fine offers, I feel it would not be fair of me to just throw the crap in the garbage. So I pack every scrap of their mailings into the postage paid envelope they send and mail it back to them with large hand written scrawling declaring my desire not to participate in these fine programs. It is only fair and my mail carrier needs the work, with E-mail, text messages, and the worldwide web eating up so much of the post office business these days. For some reason I am receiving less and less of these types of mailings.

I informed my children that the cash cow has been butchered and eaten and now in their thirties it is time to totally fend for themselves. I also explained the retirement plan to the bride. We have what is called a Pop-up feature, for a monthly premium, based on our ages she will continue to get the same check every month if I go first. If she goes first they stop taking the premium and my check pops up. This costs around $300.00 a month and it is a good deal in the long run. I looked and comparable life insurance and it is much costlier. She wanted to know why I get $300.00 more a month if she croaks and I explained this way. Hair transplants and a new convertible, I will need to replace her.

So why am I not wealthy beyond my wildest dreams? The stock market is the game I played for a while, but being a simple man I could not stand it. I used Y2K as my excuse to get out. Herein lies the rub, I buy 10 shares of xyz stock at $25.00 a share, three days later my $25.00 stock is worth $10.00. Who the hell got my $15.00. I know I know, the stock market should be treated like a kid riding a pogo stick up a hill. The kid will have his ups and downs but he keeps climbing the hill. Well guess what I managed to average around 5-6% with fixed investments while the average market player makes 7-8% and has to watch his money go up and down. Just not for me. I see guys come to work and hear horror stories about loses and it eats at them.

Right now if I continued working it would be for $3.41 an hour. I think not. Shit I could hand out carts at Walmart two days a week if I really needed to make that up. Besides I don't want to have much left when I go, I don't want my sons fighting over it. If fact when I go this is what I want people to say about me.

"Gee that bastard owed me a lot of money!"

Friday, April 04, 2008

Get out alive.

My very, very, short term goal is just that, to get out alive. April 1,2008 we lost another officer at the prison.

"Tim Healy," husband, father, correction officer.

Tim called in sick for the midnight shift, said he must have the flu. He also said he had a doctors appointment for 9:00 am. He never made it, Tim died of a stroke at 4:00am. He was 51 years young.

So yesterday my friend Ken and I made a long drive to Shinglehouse Pa. to go to yet another wake for one of our own. Tim made that same long drive to get to work everyday, because he loved his country home and Shinglehouse is a good place to raise his children. He would come to work, do a double shift, stay over in a room close to the jail, do a second double shift , then make the 65 mile drive home to his family for four days. He talked about retiring in 5 years, and he would show pictures of his kids and family at a drop of a hat.

Tim had a very troubled first marriage that took a toll on his sanity and health. He lived through a very dark period and got out of it. He would dwell on his lose of identity as a devote Catholic as he worried about his fate and excommunication. For a fee the church was going to make it all better for Tim. That was ten years ago.........

After major depression and more drugs then any ten men should have to take, Tim functioned, but not as well as the very sharp college grad I knew in 1988. Well as luck would have it he got a second shot at true happiness. He met a lady, fell in love and he and his young son were once again in a happy family.

Tim never got over the church, nor the drugs he had to take. Between the two, in my opinion it killed him.

The three people that have died at my jail in the last three months were all 51 years old.