Mile Post 370

Mile Post 370
Mile Post 370

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What I Learned From Being Downsized After 25 years of Service to MyFormer Employer

If you've just been laid off or downsized after a long career, I offer this as an encouragement to you.  Colonel Harlan Sanders had just gotten successful with his restaurant (on US 25 in Kentucky) about the time that I-75 was opened, siphoning off the vast majority of vehicle traffic that might stop at his restaurant to eat.  He sold the real estate part of the restaurant and took his winning recipe on the road and shopped it around, eventually starting Kentucky Fried Chicken, franchising it to a restaurateur in Utah, when he was 65.

  So, you understand that the end of your career at your current company is coming.  If you want to hear my story, here's what I learned through my experience:

  • If you want to "re-apply"for your "old (reclassified) job," go for it!  But consider this:  "Do you really want to work for these guys again (or any more)?"  What could be better than going through the process, being chosen as the "best candidate?" Turning down the position?  Telling the people who will choose, "No, I don't think so.  Not for the money you're currently paying me?"  Nope.  Probably the severance that has been offered and knowing that you've left something that aggravates you on a daily basis.
  • We should work to live and should never live to work.  Most of the time, we're just too damn busy making a living or raising a family to really separate the two. Take a month off and decompress.  Visit places that you've wanted to see.  Play golf, plan a weekend alone with your wife or take a motorcycle journey.  You'll feel amazing and I guarantee that except for the close acquaintances you've made at at your soon to be former employer, you'll be SO GLAD THAT YOU'RE GONE.
  • You will go through the "Five Stages of Grief," just as if you experienced the death of a family member or that of  a close friend.  This is the end of your career at where you worked, but you can and should go on.  Get up every morning and do your normal "before work" routine.  Keep yourself in the habit that was "normal," until you find your new "normal."
  • Find yourself a support group.  Change (when you're forced to change, without any input) is difficult.  Consider you a close acquaintance, who can be available, if you just need someone to speak with and listen to you.
  • Look at the bright side:  You were paid to do something that few others could do (after all, you got the job!).  Be thankful (difficult at first, easier as time goes by).
  • Consider that if you didn't have to work to what would you do each and every day?  Can you actually find a vocation that can incorporate that goal?
  • After choosing what you would like to do (something that you enjoy), decide do you need to work?  If so, can it be part time or does it need to be full time?  Do you need money, benefits or both?  Or do you just need to work to have a reason to get up in the morning?
  • Do you want to live in your current home or downsize your home to something smaller? 
  • Where do you want to live?  If you and your wife could choose anywhere on the planet to live, where would that be?
    With that being said, I'm doing something that is completely different.  But, let me tell you what I did to position myself for the future:  When I was forced out, I took my Retirement and 401k and rolled them into an IRA account.  I wouldn't take ANY MONEY THAT WAS OFFERED (I was offered 13 weeks severance pay, where as everyone else was offered 1 paycheck for every year of service.  I had 25.42 years of service, so I should have gotten 25 full and 1 partial paycheck.).  So I bit the bullet, took the penalty for early withdrawal (sounds like a rule that a woman made up!) and cashed out most of my retirement, but left my 401k alone.  Taking this kept me from getting almost any Unemployment (maybe $125 per month, IF I'd just taken any "payoff" from them to keep my mouth shut and promise not to file suit, but $0.00 for taking the amount of money that I took out of my IRA - with takes withheld, penalties for early withdrawal, etc.  All of that money was counted as income.).  It also kept our daughter from getting any financial aid for her first year of college.  (At the time, we weren't thinking how our finances could affect the kids college needs.  Hindsight is 20/20).

    Then I paid EVERYTHING OFF - the house, my loans to the local Credit Union, old bills to the Doctor's practice (and strangely enough, they've recently found more from back in 2013 and 2014).  Last year, I paid the Feds an additional $8000 in income taxes for the right to take my own money to do this.  The state got some more tax money as well.  In the long run, that was all right, as I got about 2/3rds of that back in tax returns this year. 

    However, this has left me debt free.  It's amazing to see just how little it takes to live if you don't owe anything to anyone.  The world can now kiss my ass, as I just owe what it takes to live.  I'm taking a 72t monthly distribution of what I have left of my retirement and 401k.  It's not much, but it pays the monthly bills (water, electricity, gas, cell phones (Susan's and mine), land line and internet and maybe gas for both of the cars and I still come out ahead with an annual return of about 6% on my balance.

    Here are some of the things I've done since leaving my former career:
  1. For the first year after I left, besides "desperately" looking for a job, I helped my Dad rebuild the house where he grew up in and that he currently rents out.  It was and is great spending time with him.  He's 86 and won't be here long (nothing really wrong with him, but when you're old, death comes swiftly.). 
  2. I've driven a school bus as a substitute, with no benefits and at $12.60/hour. 
  3. In the summer of 2016, I worked at the truck shop of a local utility for $20/hour (plenty of overtime) for about 2 months, as the Storekeeper/Inventory Control Manager/Buyer, until I figured out that they weren't serious about giving me the tools to keep the inventory secure and I found out that my manager was another "privileged jerk," who thinks that he's better and smarter than anyone that works for him, just like my former manager did.  Having made the decision never to work for someone who made fun of others again, I chose to quit BEFORE my 90 day probation period was up.
  4. I went back to drive the bus as a Contract Driver for most of this year (basically for insurance for the family -which cost me 2/3rds of my 60 hours x $13.60 per 2 weeks paycheck.***SIDEBAR*** We did without the year before and seriously, we didn't miss it - and when you consider the 30% discount that we generally got for paying cash, the cost of insurance - before taxes, the cost of deductibles, the cost of co-pays and the cost of name brand drugs, the costs of no insurance wasn't significantly higher than when we had it, but we had no significant events either - e.g. kidney stones, broken ankles, Emergency Room visits, et. al.). 
  5. I got on at the local logistics delivery company in November as a seasonal employee, working as a Package Handler in the evening.  I made it through the seasonal employment, well enough to be kept on for permanent employment, but I had a "second trial period and the seasonal work did not count towards my seniority date or retirement. 

    Since I enjoy driving, my goal is to drive either a delivery van (or maybe even go all the way to a tractor trailer driver, requiring a Class A CDL, with Haz-Mat and a Doubles Endorsements).  

       So, now I'm currently working part time for a ridiculously low pay rate - with overtime after 5 hours - since November 16, 2016).  I've lost 35 lbs. since the beginning of summer, from a 42" waist to a 38" waist (now, I can pull my old pants down over my ass like any ghetto thug....).  Although the pay is incredibly low (currently $10.20/hour) but, it's the way in, to achieve my goal as a delivery driver (you have to start from inside as a package handler - full time delivery drivers make GOOD MONEY).  I've passed the "classroom" training for being a driver/service provider and am in the queue for my  "in truck" training.  I'm taking a longer path as a Temporary Driver filling in as necessary, where you return to package handling when you're not driving.  The only question I have is whether my 56 year old back, knees and ankles can withstand getting on and off of a step van 300+ times per day.  If my body is too old to handle the full time driving position, I can still return to a part time position.  You can't return to part-time Package Handler, once you're a Full-Time Driver.

        I found that it's been great to do Blue Collar work again (getting back to my roots at least 18 years prior to today).  For the most part, my upper back is better than it's been in many, many years of Office Work, sitting at a desk.  I am a member of the Teamsters Union.  My seniority date is January 16, 2017.  I'm currently working about 5 hours/day in the evening and I was driving the bus about 6 hours per day and sleeping between each of the 3 hour shifts and about 4 to 5 hours each night (this is not the same as sleeping for 7 to 8 continuous hours, despite the amount of time being the same and quite often I would "bounce" rather than sleep between shifts.).  I quit that job in early May (primarily due to a chronic lack of sleep, but I'd gotten bumped to a part time Substitute when I took the class, losing my insurance and forcing me to purchase insurance through COBRA.  At that point, I had no reason to continue as an employee.).

       I see the trucks I designed and spec'ed from my old job vehicles EVERY DAY, as the company, which decals those vehicles is directly across from where I work.  I'm still proud of the job I did with my teams (Lenny P., Jery H., Marty B., Brian and the guys on the floor of the shop that made vehicle plans into reality, "Super Todd," Rusty, and "Haz-Matt" at my old company - these guys gave me the input to aggregate their needs concerns and innovations into a complete vehicle specification that fulfilled their driver technician's needs.)  But on day one of Severance, I made the decision that "these were no longer my trucks."  They were just my design, based on everyone's needs.

I miss my close acquaintances at my old job, but won't ever miss working at there or in my old department there.  The company unwittingly did me a HUGE favor:  They allowed me to become debt free and leave a job (that changed from its original mandate) that I hated!  And for that I will give thanks!

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