Over the past year, employees have been bombarded with information about the expectation that the Postal Service would offer a $25,000 incentive to those eligible to retire. This message has been targeted at the more than 100,000 employees who have reached eligibility and it is assumed that an incentive will inspire them to pull the trigger and that they will exchange their postal badge for a ticket to leisure world. In building this expectation, has anyone talked to the 100,000 employees? The plan is that a financial incentive of modest amount will be sufficient for the employees to reorder their lives and that they will transit from being gainfully employed to retired.
As a retiree, I can share with those who are considering the offer that there is much more to leaving employment than the benefits achieved from $25,000. After taxes, Social Security, Medicare and other miscellaneous deductions, one can expect to net in the range of $20,000 additional income, spread over two years. That equals about $10,000 more in family income for a period of two years. That will not change your life or elevate you to a different tax bracket. You can pay a few nagging bills, like the MasterCard that got out of hand and maybe invest in a new car, but generally, $10,000 will not change your life. If you were disgruntled before receiving the incentive, you will be disgruntled after you spend it. Retirement is about changing a lifestyle from one that is structured around reporting to work and performing required tasks to one that is unstructured, unless you plan what you will do.
After 30 plus years engaged in a structured environment among friends and associates, if you plan to walk away, at the very least know what you are walking into. You cannot replace the inner satisfaction of performing a task that benefits others, and just knowing that you played a role in the transmission of messages from point A to point B brings subconscious rewards. The challenge of serving the public, petting the dog and the human interaction with other human beings who have a commonality of interest is a part of your working day that will not be automatically replaced with something that is rewarding, unless you plan. The benefits of employment go far beyond the value of a pay check that cannot be exchanged for two $10,000 payments. Putting it in perspective, you earn in excess of $10,000 per year today than you did 10 years ago and the added income did not change your life.
I was recently asked by a member on this website for my advice on the question to retire or not and my response was to not be influenced by incentives. The decision to work or retire transcends the income, extending to the question “retire to what?” When you retire, one does not cease to exist so the principle question is are you prepared to engage in other specific activities to fill your day? The decision to retire should include the desire to engage in specific tasks in lieu of postal employment. Do not believe that you will naturally transit to meaningful endeavors in place of your postal assignment unless you plan to watch Judge Judy and other means of visual entertainment as a substitute for structured employment. When life consists of watching television it has lost purpose. It would be a mistake for you to imagine that the two days off that is incorporated in your work week is an indicator of retirement. For most of us these are catch up days for activities deferred during the work week so retirement is not weekends multiplied. Retirement is not full time employment and you will find that in short order you will be caught up and what will you do for the balance of your life? Grandchildren are also often used as an excuse, but with time they mature and their circle of companions will soon exclude you and you will still be retired.
Over the past year, I have been engaged in writing a book about my life and experiences that has replaced those activities while employed. Now that it is at the publishing stage, I must shift gears and plan daily activities that will engage my mind and body beyond “existing.” I think I have a plan, do you?