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Saturday, August 6, 2011

I met an old friend


I met an old dear friend that I had retired with, way back in December of 2002. He was a couple of years younger than me, but he had more tenure, and worked a lot of overtime. He retired with a better pension and a hefty converted ROTH IRA. It was the younger age that got the best of him because he really needed to work. At age 55, he had a lot of things he wanted to do because he just couldn't sit around the house. He was a typical workaholic, but it paid off for him. I had been dreaming and making plans to retire five years before the company made us an offer. We would be stupid to refuse. Some refused and were eventually laid off without the same severance package. They said that they had to pay off their mortgage or their children's college tuition but we had one that wanted the company's 40 year award and another who didn't want to share his pension with his ex-wife. I believe wives have caught onto that trick by now; I believe they receive their share upfront in the divorce proceedings. We had guys who took a lesser paying job assignment and refused over time to keep their child-support payments low. After my retirement I heard of an old supervisor who had to return to work shortly after he retired. Our company mailed a letter to the retiree’s first spouse informing her of her legal obligations. The story that was told was that she took him for ½ of his retirement and a portion of his future pension. She had a good divorce lawyer but some spouses didn’t. I remember hearing a story where the wife was in a bind for money, didn’t want to pay a lawyer, so she settled for about $25,000 but no calculated future earnings.

I was in Sam's Wholesale the other day for just a few minutes before I ran across my friend. I'm sure the other customers complained because two old geezers were tying up to shopping lanes with their empty baskets, reminiscing, laughing and joking. When I finally asked him what he was doing these days; I couldn't help seeing how anxious he was to tell me about his small construction business. He just got a contract to renovate an office building, one house and two apartments with his eight-man crew. He said that he pays them pretty good, but he laughed when I asked him if he takes taxes out of their check. He invited me to drop by, but I bet he thought I was going to be a no show. I'm retired, what else do I have to do? I waited a few minutes while he was telling his employee what to do, and then I had to walk sideways because he was laying down some tile and only left a narrow pathway. He gave me the grand tour and talked like he had the situation well in hand. My friend is a jack of all trades, but he's a master of all of them. Have you ever met someone who succeeds at everything they do? When we were workmates, he never aspired to be a supervisor, but when things got hectic; he was the go- to person. I'm sure he felt stressed at times, but he never showed it. He had a reputation for being "Cool Hand Luke." After I retired, I asked a couple of supervisors why my friend never got promoted. They both said that the first time his name came up; he was turned down for lack of social skills. He didn't attend company functions, and he didn't always toe the line. They reminded me that in the latter years, applicants had to put in for a supervisor's job. He never did.

My old friend reminds me of some classmates who made it through school effortlessly but I had to study all night just to come up with a C. When our company was making the transition to computerize everything; he was right there keeping up, while we were hunting and pecking, backspacing and starting all over. The man was an aura of self -confidence. He told me that a couple of years after he retired, he sold his home and downsized to a smaller one, so he could afford to start his business. He had his pension and savings, but he was so confident he was going to succeed. He didn't use his savings or even think about getting a business loan. That's confidence; I can't imagine telling my wife that we were going to sell our home, so I could have enough money to start a business. I think that he should have borrowed the money to start his business and if it didn't work out he could've cut his losses and paid off the loan with his savings. It worked out for him, and even though he is 62 years old, he's thinking about building another home. He once told me something that I will never forget. Our severance package included about $5000 for continuing education or retraining. I was 57 at the time of my retirement, so I said “I’m too old to go back to school" and he replied “how old will you be in four years?" It took me awhile to realize he was saying that age should not be impairment. That's easy for him to say.

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