Career(s)

My husband and I have had a long disagreement about my retiring from teaching. It started maybe six years ago, when I found out that if I worked in the public school system for ten years, I was entitled to a retirement. Age 51 is not a great time to begin strategizing a career that had always felt part-time. Age 51 is a great age to begin dreaming of dusting off those accumulated rejected manuscripts, whip them into shape, and indie publish them.

I liked teaching because it gave me spending money, got me out of the house, made me think about more than just the current novel-in-progress. Writing, if nobody’s told you, is lonely work. Of course being the old lady in a room full of texting young people who do not want to learn to write is not so great either. Hence my life’s dilemma.

I did a short little teaching stint this summer at the college I work for. Six weeks, May into June. I took Fall and Winter 2011 off to get those novels on the internet, and since I only managed to publish two of them, am taking Fall and Winter 2012 off as well. I am adjunct faculty with senority at the top tier of our pay scale (which, believe me, is not saying a whole lot).

Our differences of opinion on this matter of me retiring, if I wanted to put in the time required to receive a pension, has two main prongs. The “how much will I get” prong and the “how long will I need to work” prong. Michigan Public Schools has a great website that let’s you see all this and calculate answers. We did this once six years ago, and have been disagreeing on it ever since. I think I’ll get $100 a month. He thinks it’s much more than that. I think I’ll have to work 3 or 4 more years, he thinks it’s much less than that.

It is long past due for us to go over the paperwork again, revisit the site, see who is closer to the truth. On the one hand, I am right. On the other, he is. I will qualify in as few as two or three semesters, depending on how my classes are distributed, but, after taxes, I’m not going to receive much more than that $100 I predicted.

Al is a numbes whiz. He quickly said “If you live 25 years, that’s $80,000.” I have no idea if this calculation is true or not. He also is worried about insurance. I could “buy” for both of us at a super-reasonable rate if something ever happened with the UAW. I point out that teacher’s pensions and benefits are being chopped just as quickly, but it all really boils down to one thing: will I do this? Al votes yes, but leaves the final decision up to me.

Reader, I think I have to do it. But not until Fall 2013.

2 Comments on “Career(s)

  1. Yep. Same dilemma here. This is a thought-provoking post for me! One of the many reasons I want/need to go back to teaching is that I need to boost my retirement and have a vehicle for health insurance because Ken will be 65 four years before me. Ugh. So much to consider. I have always known that I wouldn’t be able to “retire” on state retirement [withdrew my money when I “left” teaching 9 years ago and invested elsewhere] but I need to have the bucks to build my retirement elsewhere. One of the benefits of subbing, if that’s all I can find, is that those dollars go into soc. security, of which I have little. Many thoughts simmering here, too….

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  2. Sharon, Thanks for sharing your situation. It is such a comfort. One of the things I believed and wanted when I was a borderline poverty single mom plunging into college on a Pell Grant was that I needed to have a real career. I needed to depend on ME, not a man. Then I married a man who made a good income, & I sort of forgot that goal. I loved part time teaching/part time writing. Neither of us knew I was entitled to anything until my current employer (a community college) joined the state school employees’ union and I realized that I had paid into the program by the state for working at my sons’ school as a math tutor, paid in to the program by my own college as an English tutor, paid with my years in a high school at-risk program, paid for adult education. All that counted. And nobody told me until I was way past caring. My husband pushed me gently toward finishing out my time for 10 years. I will maybe teach 5 or 6 more classes over the next few years, maybe less. It’s complicated because I was always part time (which was many years really full time without benefits). What turned me around–I have been so against this return to teaching. Dreading it so much–was remembering my goal all those years ago when I was a secretary on a shoe-string budget single mom and I made that promise to myself. To do something to better my life and my sons’ lives. And that’s why I’m finishing. It was a promise to myself. And my kids. Plus, I know I can do it and writing is lonely! It will do me good to get out. Well, after winter, lol.

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