I worked for an oil company for about 18 years. Four years ago everyone over 50 with 10 years of service was offered an early retirement package. At that time the wife and I worked two blocks apart in New Orleans. We drove 57 miles each way to and from work. I had about 7 more years to pay on the mortgage. I decided that if I retired the wife would still have to drive those 114 miles every day and would also have to pay $70/month for parking. The mortgage payment would kill us. I knew, however, the company would offer another package in a few years. I refinanced the mortgage. I got a 10 year mortgage at 7% (I had been paying 10%). I added an extra $500 to $1000 on every payment. The wife's job was eliminated (her duties were added to those of another nurse manager) and she was terminated (the other nurse manager quit within 5 weeks). Last March the next retirement package was offered us. The company would add 3 years to our length of service and 3 years to our age to calculate retirement payments (100% if you retire at 62 and 4% less for each year before 62. i.e. if you retire at 59 you get 88% of what you would get at 62). We were allowed to continue on the group health care until 65, and they would pay us 50% of what we would get from Social Security until age 62. I took it and retired 6/30/99 (I had to train my replacement).I have a fair amount in a 401K and an IRA but I don't want to tap them just yet. I paid off the mortgage from my savings and don't have the cost of commuting. I plan to build a new kitchen, ect. If I can hold back my wife's spending (she still wants to send the kids & grandkids expensive presents for Christmas & birthdays, plane tickets to visit, ect.) I could live off the retirement without tapping the 401K or IRA. She also wants to travel. So far since we retired we drove to Indiana and then New Jersey in August/Sept, Florida for 10 days in October and Indiana-Ohio for almost 2 weeks over Thanksgiving. She wants to go to Dallas for Christmas and Las Vegas then California in January. I can't afford to buy a new car yet, so the answer is NO!I wish you luck.C.J.V.
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