Monday, September 30, 2013

The Process is Working!

We thought that the balance in our checking account was higher than we expected.  We don't do online banking so I had to stop at the credit union today to check.  Yes, there was a sizable deposit from Social Security a few days ago!  Amazing.  It took two weeks from my online application to have the funds deposited.

Now I am thinking about what I am going to do with my windfall.  I would like to give it all away!

Today's mail also brought a notice that my pension application did not appear to have any problems.  We will see how that all turns out as well.

I wrote our children and their significant others about my plans for November's travel and visits.  Susan wrote right back and asked if I could adjust my plans slightly and help her with the kids when Jeff will be gone and she has a chemistry lab to supervise until 11 pm.  I am delighted to do so!  That is a benefit of retiring and another affirmation of my decision.

Tomorrow I might have five new students in class.  I picked up their files and made calls today.  That is always a challenge, incorporating the new ones with the established students.  Only one of the new students has a score above 6th grade level and she has only one such score--an 8th grade score in reading.  We won't meet the December deadline to get them GEDs.  However, four of my present students have a shot at it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The P Word

Pension--Somehow  words like Social Security and Pensions make me feel very old.  I have avoided even thinking about them over the years.  Now they are a part of my life.  Yesterday's South Bend Tribune had an article about Indiana Pension Funds and I read it with interest.  Greg had told me that things were changing and it might be a good time to get out!

The Teacher's Retirement Fund (TRF) application looked daunting.  The choices included language I did not understand.  A colleague had told me that an important factor in the selections was whether or not one's survivor needed the money.  Jim will not need my funds if he survives me so it seemed best to take as much as I can now. 

I pulled out a packed file labeled "pension" from the basement and threw out all the dated forms.   I was motivated now to do more than to put papers away without a second look and much more began to make sense--the pension, the annuity, the life insurance.  

I copied the relevant pages with six choices each and sent them to my brother-in-law telling him how he has helped many old ladies (his mother, his aunt, Jim's mom) with their finances and now it was my turn.  He laughed and protested that I was a peer!  But he was very helpful and I was able to make my decisions.

I decided to fill out the forms online because that went so well with the Social Security application. (I think!)   It was completed in maybe twenty minutes.   I made copies of our birth certificates and my driver's license and mailed them in separately to Indianapolis.

Now I will wait.  I should be contacted if more information is needed. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

An Important Appointment

Greg, my supervisor,  and I had discussed my retirement last summer but he had encouraged me to postpone any decision saying that at that point no one knew what would really happen with the new GED exam.  I did so and in fact, even went to one professional conference this summer with information about the new GED--now known as the TASC.

This time I requested an appointment and said in my email that I had reached a decision.  We met at 10 am on Monday morning.  My request was to retire on December 31. but if a two-week unpaid leave request for the end of November is too complicated, I may retire earlier.  Greg said he would check on that.  The meeting was pleasant and helpful as was my meeting with Gayle, his assistant,  who has "retired" but is still working on her own schedule.  She is however also ready to really retire.  She gave me good advice regarding applying for a pension.

There certainly is the option of volunteering and subbing in the program and possibly some consulting work.   Greg says I will not have seen the last of them.

After meeting with Greg, I walked with a friend, went to ballet class, and bought groceries.  I returned home a few hours later,  picked up the phone and listened to a voice mail message.  It was from Norman Herrema, my student teacher from 1971, telling me that he appreciated my mentoring him so much and that I had been an inspiration to him over the years in his own career.  He left his number and I returned his call.  He had retired a few years ago.  I had not heard from him in 40 plus years and then to hear from him with that kind of praise on the day I committed to retirement was amazing.   It was ironic but also a great blessing to me.

Several have said "Congratulations" when I told them of my retirement.  I guess that is appropriate.  Others have mentioned their envy!

Laura's comment:  "It's another chapter in your life."  Jeff's comment:  "It's another sign that you're growing up"--the phrase we always used with him!

I have had great peace with my decision and actually feel happy and excited about possibilities for my new freedom.

Social Security and Me

Two friends had both told me of their struggles with getting Social Security.  Both were unable to file online.  One thought she had done so but it was not successful.  She was glad in the long run because she ended up getting half of her husband's which was more.  The other friend got half of her ex-husband's benefits.

I took some pride in filing on my own behalf.  I did check to see what it would be on Jim's account, but it was less than what I will get on my own.  I have worked many years and paid FICA taxes even when I was self-employed and had to pay the full amount.

Filing online was pretty straight forward.  It took me about 15-20 minutes on Saturday afternoon with some questions about just exactly when I started work for the school corporation here.  I was amused by the six or so lines available for former names.  I did say that I had worked in another country but that no pension was due to me from that--because of my year as an "assistant music mistress" in St. Andrews, Scotland.

I decided to hand in my W2 copy at the office on Tuesday instead of mailing it in.  The parking lot was full at our local office.  The room was packed.  The aroma brought back memories of working at the Hope Rescue Mission--the smell of bodies and stale wine.  I asked if I could just hand my envelope to someone and was pointed to a slot by the door.  I left quickly and gratefully.

The very next day I received a phone call from Karen in Philadelphia to confirm my information and to ask a few questions.  She was very helpful and guided me to choose retroactive payment for six months instead of $58 dollars a month more for the years ahead.  She said I should get a check for about $9000 as a direct deposit soon.  Amazing if it all works out!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's the right time!

My blogs from the past three years are indicative of the process I have gone through to get to this point. The decision:  Retirement on December 31, 2013!  I am happy and excited and relieved.

Why do I think this is the right time?  For many reasons from my perspective and from our program's perspective.

1.  Jim has several lectures and other events scheduled this year and I want to be free to travel with him.  I have only four personal days and those would be used up quickly.

2.  I want to be free to participate in our grandchildren's special activities:  confirmation, recitals, ball games, graduations.

3.  A new Test Assessing Secondary Completion is coming in January 2014.  Much professional development is being scheduled.  I am not threatened by its predicted complexity, but I am not eager to work towards this new goal.

4.  Our department has hired several new, competent, and enthusiastic younger teachers.  The classes will be in good hands.

5.  I have very few students this year for unknown reasons.

6.  I can get Social Security and the Teachers Retirement Fund pensions.  In fact, I am past the dates they are available.  I will be paid almost as much as when I was working.

What are my concerns?

I have worked almost all my life.  I have considered myself a teacher along with being a mother, wife, organist, etc.  I like to tell people that I too work and have a life outside my home.  This is a matter of pride with me.

I will miss the feedback I get from students.  Just this week one wrote in an email "Your a wonderful person."  I know--she needs work on contractions!   Another left saying, "I actually like this class."  I don't get that kind of praise from my children or grandchildren.  Jim--he is very affirming and for that I am grateful!

I will also miss the easy opportunity to know I am doing something worthwhile with my life.  We hear sermons about service and pray that we can find ways to serve.  This is given to me daily.  I will need to find other ways to give to others.

Later I will write about the actual steps I have taken towards retirement in the last week.  All is falling into place!