I just began doing my taxes, and that is always a depressing time of year. I made 18% less in 2010 than I did in 2008, and 7% less than 2009. In all, it was the lowest pay since 2004. They take money out of my check for our retirement plan, and our plan is funded 31% by us, and 24% by earnings on investments, leaving 45% for our employer to fund.

Now the State is talking about reducing our retirement benefits. They want to exclude overtime and incentive pay from the calculations. They also want to reduce retirement benefits from 3.23% per year to only 1.6% per year. This means that I will see a net reduction of 62% of my retirement. On top of that, they will penalize you 5% per year for each year you retire before the age of 55. Instead of getting 71% of my pay upon retirement at age 50, I will get 20% of my pay. In other words, I will have paid in more than I will get back in benefits. 

So I have a choice to make:

1: I can retire this year before the changes take effect, and change careers. I would get 39% of my pay to go now with 15 years of service. I would maybe go get my master’s degree and be a Physician’s Assistant. I have some cash saved, and I could pull it off. Maybe I can even work part time while I am in school. I would even make more as a PA than as a FireMedic, and work fewer hours. The downside is that I will not be working for the two years it would take to complete the degree, and I am a little on the old side to be changing careers.

2: I can stay here for the next 8-13 years, but accept declining pay and hours, and reduction in my retirement pay. Under this new plan, I would have to work here for 13 more years to get the same retirement I can get by leaving now.

Seems like a no brainer. If this bill passes, I will have to take my education and skill set elsewhere. Maybe it is time to start getting my paperwork together so I can apply. I am not angry. Just remember that you get what you pay for. If a less educated, less experienced workforce is all that the taxpayer is willing to pay for, that is their choice to make. I just know that I also have other options, and I can choose to take my skillset where I can maximize my own earnings.

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