Benefits

goldenhandcuffsLast week, I received my 2017 Personal Statement of Benefits from the US Postal Service. It seems that, whenever I start to seriously consider quitting my job, they somehow sense that, and mail these yearly reminders out to all of their employees. Damn them.

The benefits statement sums up, in numbers as well as with pretty charts and graphs, exactly what our jobs are worth, beyond the basic annual “cash compensation.” They factor in the full dollar values of our health insurance, life insurance, pension and other retirement contributions, Social Security, Medicare, and paid time off (holidays, vacation, and sick days). In the end, they make the job look pretty darn good – at least on paper – and infinitely harder to walk away from.

They also include our earliest eligibility dates for retirement. Mine is in 2027 – 10 years away. Wait. I can retire in 10 years, with a pension and health insurance?! How could I possibly be that old? Do I think I could make it that long? Right now, I don’t believe that I could.

But then again, I never thought I’d make it this far either.

I’ve been working at the post office for a little over 10 years already. I just kept telling myself, “One more year. One more year.” And here I am. This year is a little different, however. If I stay “one more year,” my house will be paid off next summer. My husband will be old enough to qualify for Medicare(!). My savings account will be that much bigger. And if I wait until next year, I’ll be able to leave my job debt-free and in a much better position to enjoy my hard-earned freedom without any big financial obligations hanging over my head.

But then again, I’ll be another year older, physically and mentally. Ugh.

I don’t know. I’m on the fence and swing back and forth at least a hundred times a day. Another year could make a huge difference in my finances. I also get a lot of paid time off, and if I use it wisely, I could minimize my 6-day workweeks for the next year and slowly ease myself into early retirement.

And what if I decide to stay even beyond that? I wonder what it would feel like to go to work every day because I want to, not because I need the money. Could the knowledge that most of my income is disposable lead to an entirely different sense of freedom: control and security, with benefits?

But then again, golden handcuffs are still handcuffs. Ouch.

I keep reminding myself of how lucky I am to be in such a predicament. It’s good to have the luxury of choice, although constantly reevaluating my options is exhausting. Either way, I know I’ll be just fine. The timeline is getting shorter. So I think, for now, my new mantra will be “One more month.”

We can do this!

~PEACE~

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Looking for a Sign

Here I am in 2017, still working at the post office. Every day, I keep reminding myself of all the reasons that I continue to work there:

  • My coworkers
  • A nice bi-weekly paycheck, direct-deposited into my bank account
  • Health insurance
  • A pension (if I can stay there until I turn 60)
  • Paid vacation days, holidays, and sick days
  • A fairly consistent 35-hour-a-week schedule that allows me to escape the office by noon most days
  • Not being chained to a desk
  • Sundays off

But every day, I’m also bombarded with the reasons that I hate working there:

  • Getting up at 4:30 a.m. (despite my inner body clock’s protests)
  • Working 6 days a week (including every Saturday)
  • The 25-mile/25-minute commute each way (in what seems like daily snowstorms lately)
  • Recurring bouts of fatigue, sickness, and depression
  • Office politics
  • Management
  • Mind-numbing repetition and drudgery
  • My dry, cracked, filthy hands (and Oh My God the paper cuts!)

But the biggest deal-breaker for me? Complete surrender of my personal freedom and the inability to make my own schedule.

For the longest time, I think I’ve been waiting for some kind of sign to tell me that it’s time to finally move on. I wasn’t sure what form that sign would take, or if I’d even recognize it when it came. But last week, as I was stuffing mail into PO boxes, it finally hit me, like a lightning bolt out of the sky:

I dream about quitting my job EVERY DAY.

In fact, I spend hours thinking about:

  • When will I quit?
  • How will I quit?
  • What do I need to do to prepare to quit?
  • How much more money should I have saved?
  • How soon can I pay off my mortgage?

The list goes on and on, and the thoughts swirl around and around. I’ve read dozens, maybe even hundreds, of books about it. I’ve made spreadsheets. I’ve agonized and obsessed. For years. And not just at the post office, but at pretty much every job I’ve ever had.

And I finally realized, that’s my sign.

I need to be free. Free to wake up when my body wants to. Free to eat breakfast sitting down. Free to schedule my days as I see fit. Free to go to my nephew’s wedding on a Saturday without a signed permission slip from the postmaster. Free to pursue rewarding work that matters to me.

Ah, Peter. I don’t think I’d like another job either.

My schedule has been determined by someone else since I started first grade — 40 years ago. I’ve worked for someone else for 30 years. Enough! Financial security has always been my #1 priority, but self-employment has always been my #1 dream. And lately it seems like my deepest longings for freedom and autonomy have begun to overpower my insecure needs for a regular paycheck and the promise of a pension.

I’ve built a solid financial foundation over the years by keeping my expenses and debt low and adding to my savings whenever possible, so I know I’m in a good position to take the leap soon without too much risk. I always knew this time would come, and I wanted to be ready for it. I don’t have every detail figured out yet, and I probably never will, but I’m getting closer.

The goal I’m working toward this year is FREEDOM.  And now that I’ve put it out there, I’m counting on you all to help me out, and hold me accountable.

“Leap, and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs

~PEACE~

 

So Many Books, So Little Time!

Winter in New Hampshire is a great time for curling up next to the woodstove with a good book, but I’ve been downloading books on my Kindle faster than I can read them! Here is my current reading TO DO list, in no particular order:

I would love to hear from you if you’ve read any of the above, or have additional recommendations to share. Thanks!

In Praise of Physical Work

People are always astonished when I tell them that I graduated from Dartmouth College, and I work as a clerk at the post office. I honestly don’t understand what one has to do with the other. I like my job. It’s what I do. It’s not who I am. It’s not how I define myself. It’s just a job.

After spending the first 15 years of my working life bouncing from one ill-fitting office job to another — banking, publishing, marketing, the IRS, Fidelity Investments — I realized that I was burnt out from sitting in pointless meetings and at a computer all day. The thought of spending one more minute imprisoned in a tiny cubicle or tethered to a headset made me want to stick a pencil in my eye. I just didn’t belong in that kind of environment. I didn’t want to climb the corporate career ladder. I wanted a “job.”

So I took the postal exam. They offered me a job. I never looked back.

Now, I’m not trying to imply that I’m a GENIUS, but…

Albert Einstein got it. He was working as a clerk in the Swiss patent office — a civil service job clearly “beneath” him, right? — when he discovered his theory of relativity, among others:  http://www.escapefromcorporate.com/career-advice-from-einstein-genius/

The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper got it too, when he decided to work at the Cheesecake Factory with Penny in order to clear out his mind long enough to solve a difficult physics problem he was wrestling with.

After I started doing a more “physical” job, on my feet all day, moving and lifting, amazing things started to happen. I lost about 15 pounds and 2 pants sizes. My blood pressure went down. My chronic lower back pain went away. I discovered my biceps! I developed confidence in my physical strength and abilities for the first time in my life. I felt TOUGH!

I’ve also found, like Einstein and Sheldon, that performing a repetitive physical task like sorting mail, frees up my brain to focus on my own creative pursuits and purposes. I’ve had some of my greatest epiphanies while sorting packages and stuffing mail into PO boxes.

I punch the time clock in the morning, do my job, punch out, walk out the door, and don’t think about my job again until I punch in again the following morning. My mind is still fresh for my own creative endeavors (like this blog!) when I get home. I have no work-related projects or responsibilities to take home with me. I have zero stress. The rest of the day is mine.

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up with the physical demands of this job, but for now, it is exactly what I need. I basically get paid to work out, and I get to wear jeans to work, every day!

And, because I’m now a card-carrying union member, my paycheck and benefits package aren’t too shabby either.