Thursday, January 24, 2013

Retirement Plan

This is something I've been holding off writing about for a while now because it was in the works and until some plans were made, I didn't want to freak out my colleagues/friends at work.  They are aware now of what's going on, so I can come clean...

I'm retiring.

There, I said it.

At 41 years old, I'm retiring.

My employer has been AMAZING through all this.  I truly believe we came to St. Louis because it was the place for us to be as we went through this crazy cancer journey.  A huge part of that "right place-ness" was for me to be working with the people I do and at a place that has taken care of me since Day One of my diagnosis four years ago, which happened to be only about three weeks after I started working for them.  Last July/August, I decided to cut down my hours to about 18/week and they were very supportive.  Technically I was on what's called "Intermittent FMLA", which means I had 12 weeks of job-protected leave,which I could use here and there to total 12 weeks, which lasted from March until Oct.  My FMLA time ran out in Oct, but I wasn't ready to come back full time.  I was headed into the clinical trial and didn't know what that would look like for me or what I would soon need.  My employer offered me an extension of job-protected time of 12 calendar weeks, which I took, though any time I took off was now unpaid since I had used up my vacation and sick time.  In the meantime, Jason and I started looking at our long-term plan.

Last year after my diagnosis I met a couple of other metsters (women with metastatic breast cancer) at a conference who said they had stopped working and were off on disability and were incredibly happy with this decision.  I had no idea what they were talking about, but called one of them later to ask questions.  I'm so thankful I did!  (Thanks, Jen!)  I had no idea that metastatic breast cancer pretty much automatically qualifies you for long term disability (LTD).  I called my HR department and found out that my employer offers LTD with a much shorter application time (6 months) than Social Security (2 years!).  Financially it's a no-brainer.  I can take care of myself full time without the stress of work while trying to arrange doctor appointments, tired days, etc. and still get a % of my salary every month. We did the math and figured out that we could live on it.  I might not get my daily Starbucks fix, but that would be OK.

Psychologically, I wasn't comfortable with this at all at first.  I wasn't ready to not be working at 41.  However, after talking with my boss and team about it, and giving it a week to grow as an idea in my head, I was really ok with this idea.  In fact, I'm excited!  Let's be honest... we are all replaceable at our jobs.  I love what I do and the people I work with, but I will keep busy, and those people aren't going out of my life, even if they tried!!

I don't have a date yet for my retirement, but I'm expecting it will be in a handful of weeks, maybe around early- to mid-March.  I'm waiting to hear some eligibility determination info from the LTD company, and then we will make plans within my team at work.  The good news is that if I make a huge health leap and feel like going back part-time or full-time, LTD allows me that option if my employer and I want to give it a try.

When I retire, I'll be asking for some assistance keeping my feet to the fire to be using my time to take the BEST care of myself every day.  But that's another entry for another day.

Now it's time for this near-retiree to be going to bed!  Good night!

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