Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Three months ago or so, my wife and I made a decision. The Air Force was offering to waive certain service commitments as an incentive for members to take an early retirement.

In my case, "early" was relative. I'd be eligible for a full 20-year retirement in January, but I'd agreed to serve a minimum of 10 extra months in order to pass on some educational benefits to my family. That extra 10-month commitment was what they were offering to waive, if I were willing to retire in August. That's well over a year earlier than we'd planned, and six months short of a full 20 years, at a relatively minor reduction in my monthly pension.

To be honest, I'd grown disenchanted with being in the Air Force of late. The reasons aren't important; I'll go so far as to say it had nothing to do with anyone I worked with or any specific work or assignment I had done. Nonetheless, I felt it was time to "punch out," as we say. I'd accomplished pretty much everything I was going to be able to, and sticking around wasn't going to get me anywhere.

So I came home at lunch, and broached it with my wife. Susie is my rock, and the steadying influence on most of my impulsive tendencies. She knew how I felt about the Air Force, and after a surprisingly brief discussion, she agreed: I should apply for retirement.

Looking back, that was, perhaps, a bit rash. We'd planned to have almost two more years to prepare; now we had about six months. We'd just returned from an overseas assignment of eight years, and bought our first home. The kids were in new schools - American schools, having been in the English school system all their lives. We didn't have jobs. We didn't even have PROSPECTS for jobs.

We were in denial. We'd been doing rather well for ourselves, but the reality was that, after factoring in the loss of special pays, housing allowances, bonus pays, money for food and clothing, a retirement paycheck that is, after all, 50% of your base pay is, in fact, at LEAST a 75% reduction in income. And that doesn't factor in the free health and life insurance I'd now have to pay for.

A military retirement check sounds generous. But really, it's enough to pay the mortgage, gas and insurance for the cars, and the military health insurance (TRICARE) that we remain eligible for. That's pretty much it.

Not food. Not gas, lights, water. Not ballet lessons or driver's ed.

We realized that we really need to find work. And fast. Fortunately, last week was a turning point for us (more on that later).

This has all happened in the last 90 days. My retirement date is 90 days away. Between now and then, my wife and I have to make sure we find work that pays AT LEAST enough to keep us, not in the style to which we've become accustomed, but in the style that keeps us fed and healthy. It's a frightening prospect... or at least, it was.

Last week, we participated in a US Department of Labor-sponsored employment seminar. The facilitator was absolutely wonderful, and we came out of the three-day course with a renewed confidence in our prospects for both the immediate and long-term future. We found skills we didn't know we had, discovered that our interests and passions could potentially provide paying work, and made networking connections that are sure to prove invaluable.

But we're not there yet. And that's what I'm writing about here. This blog is my journey. I'll share tips I've learned. I'll admit my mistakes, so you can avoid them. I'll have a thing or two to say about other job search blogs and websites. And, I hope, I'll find work.

So, all you recruiters out there, here I am. But maybe I'll find you first.

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