I have read and listened to the “experts”, who are all under 35, and are making at least six figure salaries, who tell retirees, like myself, to wait and take their social security benefits until they are 66 or even 70. Personal experience, reality, and a minor mathematical calculation proved they are wrong in most cases. And with congress poised to take a meat axe to the federal budget and a result of mandatory spending cuts, I advise my fellow baby-boomers to take your social security ASAP.
I was laid off from my last “regular” job at age 62. I collected unemployment benefits, and looked for work. I quickly realized “age discrimination” was more prevalent than I had ever imagined. Laws don’t work for those who do not have the financial means to insure they are enforced.
When my unemployment benefits expired, I virtually had no recourse. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I called the Social Security Administration. A very friendly and informed woman typed in my information into the computer, told me what my actual amount of benefits would be, and encouraged me to follow through with my claim. She even made an appointment for me at my local Reno office.
The amount of money I would receive every month for the rest of my life was 800 dollars less each month than the figure I took home from my last full time job. Thanks to choices I made in my life, I had little retirement from any other source, so, with the need to survive, and a deep desire to keep my home, I filed my claim.
I began to receive my direct deposits almost immediately. My wife was still employed, and between the two of us we budgeted, shopped sales, and eliminated any and all unnecessary expenses. We survived.
I never ceased searching for employment, at least part time. One day when I went to Job Connect, a Nevada government agency who helps the unemployed, I discovered a website of which I was unaware. Through it, I found and ad for the “United States Census Bureau”, which was beginning to hire for the 2010 Decennial Census. I had never considered that possibility. I always thought of Census workers as white haired older people. Then I realized I was one of them, with the exception that I had no hair.
Thanks to the banking industry and two unnecessary wars, our economy had hit rock bottom. When I went to take the universal test given to all temporary Census employees, I was surprised at the numbers of men and women who were there. And the age group appeared to be from an age of 20 to 70, and maybe even 80.
The hiring of Census employees was based on test results only. There was no age discrimination.
The entire story of my experience with the 2010 Decennial Census is a story for another time. I was hired to work in a project beginning In March of 2009. I was rehired for a second field operation in September of the same year. When the Reno office was opened in October of that year, I was asked to join the team. Knowing I would be making more than the amount allowed because I had taken my benefits early, I called the Social Security Administration once again. We mutually agreed to stop my benefits for the following year. Any amount underpaid me would be returned after the administration’s evaluation.
I was terminated from the Census in September of 2010. While the remainder of our office personnel were awaiting our notices, we had hours each day with virtually nothing to do. Some of us decided to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of securing our social security benefits at age 62, or waiting until we received our maximum at age 66 or even 70. Our calculations proved that if we lived to age 80, we would have received only 100 dollars more than if we took the early retirement benefit.
What I learned from personal necessity, I passed on to close friends and family. Those who had other retirement benefits experienced virtually no loss of income with their retirement added to their social security benefits. They are all satisfied with their lifestyle, not being forced to work for un-appreciative companies, finally having time to enjoy whatever lives they have remaining.
If work is your God, by all means do not take early retirement. However, if you are like me and most of my friends, leave the corporate world as soon as possible. You are unappreciated and receive inadequate payment for your efforts and expertise.
Two years ago, when my panic and insecurity left me, I told my closest friends what I had decided. I would never work a 40 to 50 hour week again in my life, even if I was paid 100 dollars an hour.
Life is not about working, it’s about living. Freedom of choice, putting off until tomorrow what you don’t have to do today is true freedom. What we presently see going on in and out of Washington should drive you to contact the department of social security, and request them to release your benefits immediately. For if our politicians suddenly decide to push through spending cuts aimed at Social Security savings, then we must turn a deaf ear to all voices that try to persuade us otherwise.
I work, thanks to the Guardian Express. I write. I also have accomplished my dream of writing my first novel, and am half way through my second.
I don’t know now how I found the time to work a full time job.
Columnist-The Guardian Express