Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time to Retire

So, I promised you an update on the status of my life.  All is well in WayneLand (“The Laziest Place on Earth!”).  I was planning to teach for two more years.  However, the State of Pennsylvania has been cutting funding for public schools each year for the past 3 years, forcing school districts all over the state to cut back on their own budgets.  It finally caught up to me.

In April, the Superintendent of the school district called me to her office.  She told me that the proposed budget, which would be voted on by the school board the last week of May, included cutting my position to half-time…with half pay, half benefits, and so on.  She was telling me early so that I could determine if I felt the need to make changes in my employment.  While the news wasn’t a good thing, it was nice of her to give me an early heads-up on this problem.  She didn’t have to do that.

So, I started running the numbers.  While the state would pick up about half my loss in pay under the unemployment system, they would also deduct half the money I make on my part-time computer programming business, thus cutting their “contribution” to about a quarter of my loss in pay.

Fortunately, I turned 66 this summer.  I was eligible for “full” social security payment.   I also was eligible for a partial pension based on my 10 years of teaching service in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania is pretty helpful to its “senior citizens”, a demographic of which I am now a member.  There is no state income tax charged for Social Security payments, pension payments, or any withdrawals from IRA’s or 401K’s.  In addition, I wouldn’t have to pay unemployment tax, FICA tax, or local income tax if I was retired.  I also only have to pay federal income tax on half my Social Security income, as long as my other income remains under a certain amount.  And, not working means no daily commuting costs, no clothes and shoes replacement, no union dues, no pension payments, and so forth. 

In fact, when I looked at all the tax savings, commuting gas, and work costs for a year, it represented over 25% of my full-time gross income.  (It costs a LOT to work!) My Social Security and pension payments added up to a little over 75% of my full-time gross income.   Yes, that’s right…by retiring and staying home, I would have more “take-home” pay at the end of the month than if I went to work.  And that didn’t even account for the fact that I’d only be working half-time.  Hey, I’m a math teacher…I figured it out.  Sayonara, teaching career.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’ll miss my coworkers.  I really loved them (some of them, REALLY…lol).  And many of my students, too.  But the truth is, I’m better off financially retiring this year, rather than two years from now. 

So, the big change in my life:  I AM NOW RETIRED.  Yes, I have updated my profile.  Oh, there’s a new picture, too.  The old one was getting more than a little outdated.  I’m a lot cuter now…lol.

I used my last couple of teaching paychecks to pay off my car and my credit card, so I entered retirement debt-free.  This way, I’ll be responsible for what I spend in retirement and not pay for previous financial commitments.  I feel this was a good idea.

But some other good things happened in the meantime.  I’ve mentioned before that I play in a rock band named Bloated Roadkill (www.bloated-roadkill.com).  Well we started working on our second album (“Decomposing”) in April and finished recording it the second week of August.  It took up a lot of time and kept me busy over the summer, especially since I wrote five of the original songs on the album.    It will be officially released on September 21st, 2013.  We are also playing a scholarship benefit concert that day, so that concert has become our Album Release Party.   You can listen to our music on our website (listed above) or on Facebook, at the “Bloated Roadkill” page.  The new album and the individual songs will be on iTunes, Amazon, and other music and streaming sites by October, if you like what you hear.

But a few other things fell into place, too.  I mentioned before that a couple of years ago, I was an extra in an indie movie (“Mount Joy”) filmed in my hometown area.  Well, one of the women I met when I worked on that movie called me in January and asked if I’d help out by being an extra in a pilot for a family-oriented sitcom being filmed (well, actually, recorded, not filmed) in Lancaster.  I spent a Saturday afternoon playing a member of a church congregation, sitting in the pews and taking communion (over and over and over…lol) for the show.

A month later they showed us the result in a preview at a local theater.  I thought it was funny and wished them luck on their production.  Well, the Catholic TV cable network liked it too and gave them a season starting this September.  They started shooting in June for the upcoming season.

In late July, the director-producer of this show, called “Ordinary”, contacted me and asked if I’d like to play a small part in the show.  So, next month I start shooting an episode of “Ordinary”.  I think my part (I haven’t seen a script yet) is something like the president of the Parsonage Council for the Catholic church in the show.  I don’t think it’s been determined yet if this is a one-time part or a recurring part.  It probably depends on how well I play the part.

In the meantime, a young man from Philadelphia who I met on the “Mount Joy” movie set called me and asked if I wanted to play a part in a horror movie being shot in the Philadelphia area.  Of course, I said, “Yes”.  There have been some delays in the starting of this movie shoot, but next weekend I should be in some woods north of Philadelphia playing the father of a young man who goes camping with some friends for the weekend.  Oh, and I have an especially gruesome death scene (guess I won’t be in the sequel…lol).  That movie’s called “Campout Nightmare”.

There is some talk of some other small, independent movies being shot in the area that may need someone like me (I assume the phrase “like me” means “old fat guy with ponytail”).  None of these pay anything, but the work is fun, I meet new people, stay in touch with young people, and, if all goes well, will have my own IMDB page by the end of the year…lol.

And, this past week, I finally attended a meeting of the Eastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association-International (NSAI).  I’ve been a member of NSAI for about 4 years, but had yet to make it to a meeting.  They always meet during the week and I just couldn’t attend when I had to get up the next morning to go to school and teach.

But now, I don’t have to go teach every morning, so I attended my first meeting.  There are some really good songwriters in our group and I’ll be learning a lot from them.  I hope to start attending these meetings on a more regular basis.  Maybe I’ll have an opportunity to have some of my songs played by another singer (more talented than me) or used in a commercial, TV show, or movie.  You just never know.

So, my retirement has already started forming its own place in my life.  And my RV?  Well, that’s probably still about 2 years away.  I’ll do some substitute teaching this school year and next and save that money towards my RV.  If things go well, I’ll still have my RV in a little less than 2 years from now.

Wish me well!

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