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Subject:  OT: I'm back (loooong) Date:  8/28/2007  11:55 PM
Author:  Rayvt Number:  201658 of 277929

Hi, y'all. After a several year hiatus from the Motley Fool, I'm back. Good timing, too---TMF evidently just recently opened the boards back up for free. Thanks to MoeBruin for shooting me an invite so I can post instead of just read. Who kindly asked what I've been up to, so here's a fill-in---if you happen to care or be curious about. If not, go ahead and click NEXT--I won't be insulted. ;)

Seems my last post was Jan 2003. My mother developed Alzheimer's and we moved her in with us. There is a book about Alzheimer's caregivers titled "The 25 Hour Day". It's all true. She passed away in late 2003---about 5 months after she moved in in January. There was not enough available time to properly devote enough attention to MI anymore.

2004 & 2005 were pretty hectic in our personal lives, and things were pretty busy at work. And my middle son finished his PhD from Berkeley and we *had* to attend his graduation. Then Madge (my wife) developed some mysterious health problems that even Mayo Clinic couldn't figure out. That took a huge amount of personal attention, of course. Reading & posting on TMF dropped off my priority list.

We were getting within 7-10 years of normal retirement age anyway, so we decided to start looking at potential places for retirement. If you remember the picture of my house in my "The House that MI Built" web page, you can probably see why we didn't want to stay in Chicago. IIRC, it was elann who said, "Nice house, but what's all that white stuff on the lawn and roof?"

We visited a number of prospective places and finally decided on Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. Bought a 1.5 acre lot for a good price, and figured we'd build our retirement house on it in 5-6 years.

I was clever enough in 2003/2004 to see that the market was probably exiting the bear phase, so I maxed out my 401K & IRA contributions. Which in general I think isn't the best thing to do, but I considered this to be a special case where it made sense.

One Friday in December 2005, it was a clear morning in Chicago. When I left work at my usual 3:30 quitting time there were a few snowflakes beginning to drift down. By the time I got home 45 minutes later there was 2" of snow on the ground. Saturday morning I went outside and there was 2' of snow in my driveway---with drifts up to 4'. Luckily we had a monster Sears snowthrower--7HP motor and tractor-treads instead of tires. But when I finally got done clearing the driveway, I said to myself, "Self, this is the last winter I want to shovel snow."

An aside. Many years ago when I was doing investment real-estate, one speaker said, "If you will spend the effort and do for 2 years what most people will not do, then you will be able to do for the rest of your life what most people will *never* be able to do." Well, starting in March 1997 I devoted an average of 3 hours a night--7 days a week--to stock market investing. That's 21 hours a week on top of my 40 hour (sometimes 50 hour) a week day job.

Well, anyway, in early 2006 I took a very VERY close look at our finances and said, "Madge, y'know we might be able to do this!" At work there were reorg's taking place, there had been a couple of bad quarters, and I smelt the scent of more layoffs coming. Now, I was a *very* senior technical person in our department, and had sole unique knowledge of many crucial aspects of our system (I was a Senior Staff Computer Programmer/Systems Engineer), so I was 99% sure that I would continue to be safe from any layoffs.

FWIW, for the last 15-20 years I started and quit at 7:00/3:30--one hour ahead of our "normal" work schedule. Not only does this give you a couple of quiet hours at the beginning of the day and an opportunity to beat rush-hour traffic---but your boss realizes that you are in the office and working before anybody else is. And it never hurts to be seen by the boss as an early starter.

So, anyway, in late April 2006 I caught my boss very early one day and said, "I know that even if you know about an upcoming layoff that you have to deny it, but if they do announce a layoff and you have to cut somebody from your department, they I would like to be a volunteer." (Many years ago when they did layoffs they would sometimes ask for volunteers. That ceased several years ago--they no longer ask for or accept volunteers. They just pick people and walk them down to HR and out the door. But with a reasonably generous severance package.) He said that he was unaware of any upcoming layoff, but that if it happened he'd keep me in mind.

A couple of weeks later he stopped in my office at 7:15. He *never* stopped in my office, so this was highly unusual. My heart jumped! Nobody else was in in the entire floor--just me and him. He said to me, "Your timing is impeccable. You might just get your desire. There is nothing going on---but you should call Sam (not his real name) in Division HR and talk to him. No hurry, whenever you get around to it. He's in his office right now but he's got a staff meeting at 8:00."

Sam wanted to verify what my boss had told him that I had told my boss. "We don't want to have any mis-communication and accept somebody who didn't actually volunteer. Even though, of course, we don't accept volunteers anymore." Two weeks later, Sam stopped by my office at 7:30AM and said, "No announcement or timing has been determined, and I'll deny telling you this, but you might find yourself with a lot of free time after the end of May."

My boss come in to chat with me a few times. He asked me once how old I was--"You aren't near retirement age." I told him I am 58. I've been there 29 years, and he's been there maybe 20 years. He said "Man, I wish I could afford to retire. I envy you. But how can you afford to??" I looked flat at him and said that I make more in my investments than my salary--and I had a pretty good salary--it's just that the investments don't pay the same steady amount once a week like the paycheck does.

Madge and I practice division of labor in our family. I earn the money and do the investments, and she take care of me and the dogs and the house. She was a bit nervous and wanted to be sure that we could afford to retire. She didn't want us (or me alone) to be in poverty because I quit my job because of her health. Can we afford to retire even if I don't get a severance/buyout package? Can we afford to retire before I can collect Social Security? Can we afford to retire early before earning my full pension? Yes and yes and yes.

So I showed her all my figures and balances. And she said, "Oh, okay. Ummmmm, waitaminute. Oh. OH. OH!!!!!" Then, "Why didn't we do this a couple of years ago??"

Alas, things at work drug on and on. We had sold out house in April, and were staying in an Extended Stay America hotel waiting for D-Day. Finally, they set the termination date for Friday, Sept 1. At our weekly group staff meeting on Wednesday, one of the girls in our group asked me "When are you leaving Chicago?" I said, "Friday." She said, "No, I mean when are you leaving Chicago, not leaving the company." I said, "Yes, Friday. I'm coming in Friday morning to turn in my badge and keys, and we're loading the dogs in the car and driving to Hot Springs that afternoon."

In my last few weeks at work, a number of co-workers came by to chat and ask how I could retire at age 58. I finally wrote my Magic Formula on my whiteboard. Not with a dry-erase marker, though. I accidentally used a Sharpie, so that the formula will stay on the board forever, and the next occupant of my office could ponder on it.

Funny thing about my departure. Normally you turn in your badge to your supervisor/group leader. But my supervisor had to take his wife to the doctor that Friday, so he said that Donna (not her real name) (Donna fills in for him when he is out of the office) would do the honors. But Donna normally worked from home on Fridays instead of coming in to the office. And Donna normally worked 9:00 to 5:30, vs. my 7:00 to 3:30. So we all decided that I'd come in at my usual time, put my badge and keys in an envelope and slip it under her keyboard, and then march myself out of the door. Why not just do it late Thursday when everybody was in? Because Thursday was August and Friday was September, and upon termination the benefits are computed according to the month of termination. So I insisted that there be a record of me entering the building in the month of September. (We have to swipe our keycard to enter and leave, and there's a computer somewhere that remembers the date & time of every entrance & exit.) If there is every any question, that computer will show that I definitely was at work on Sept 1.

We rented an apartment while our house was under construction. It was finished the end of May. We're now pretty much moved in and mostly settled, so now I have enough spare time to visit the TMF boards again.

Between cruises, that is. We went on 8 cruises last year.

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