Tag Archives: retirement

WTFUND

What the Fund?!?!?  I’ve watched.  I’ve participated.  I’ve become an activist. I’ve contributed to the union.  I’ve supported the lobby for education. I’ve done what I was suposed to do.  I’ve done what I was asked. I’ve followed the law!  I’ve religiously prayed about the situation, and every set back has forced by faith to grow–because I know who the victor is in the end.  I’ve been ethical, logical, and rational.

I’ve voted for the underdog in every election in the hopes of positive change. I’ve gone so far as to BECOME the underdog in my own election AND WON–so that I could be the voice of the the residents, the voters, the children, the victims, and the dedicated employees.  I represent the educators and the students, the parents and the grandparents, the academics and the vocational scholars.  I represent the volunteers–as I should because I am one (too).  Winning was the easy part, but fighting the others in power was the challenge.
We were winning!  We had hope.  We are still here, but the fight is not over!

Now that my pension has been corrupted, misused, and taken away I must take a hard look as to how I plan for my future.  Our life savings that were supposed to be secure, invested, and available has been given away. Not stolen!  Given away without our consent…

Am I supposed to continue my fight?  For what???  There’s nothing left to fight for.  We are in ruins because of the leaders WE elected.  They were wrong!  But we were wrong for electing them.  NEVER AGAIN!  They thought they could do what THEY thought was acceptable. They mistook our silence for consent. Wrong!  They ignored us!  And now we ALL pay the price!

Am I supposed to write to my elected officials now?  I’ve written my congressman. I’ve tweeted my governor. I’ve “thunderclapped” and memed my way to become that labor activist. I’ve Facebooked and instagrammed. I’ve delegated and public spoke. I’ve abandoned what is grammatically and academically acceptable to try something innovative and inventive to no avail. And now what?  Frustration?  No!  Determination!!!

We didn’t get here because someone gave us something.  Advanced placement classes, SATs, college acceptance, all-nighters, study groups, student loans, college work-study, struggles to get home on holiday, cut funds, cafeteria food, GREs, and more student loans. Deferments, and forgiveness; job searches and rejections.  And finally a career in education with a promise of a comfortable retirement only thirty years away.  Perfect!  Let’s buy a house. Let’s start a family.  Let’s root our lives right here in New Jersey.  For what?!?  To have it all taken away???

And now the next big ideas develop.  “Hey let’s do a work action.”  “No wait, let’s all take the same day off!”  I’ve got an idea… Let’s shut the freak up.  Just kidding!  “How about we all take out pension loans (and pay application fees and interest). That will show them!”  I’m sick.  I already pay hundreds of dollars per pay for the last pension loan that I HAD to take out to get me through the summer. I’m already paying the increased rate!  In addition to all the other “garnishments” of my wages (dues, healthcare, taxes, support, PENSION contribution, loans, etc), I can’t escape my pension loan payments unless I quit. And if I quit, the IRS taxes me for unreported income. Brilliant idea.

This essay is written in anger. I did not do what we teach  (“wait a few days before we publish, children”).  I feel!  I’m disappointed. I’m angry. And tomorrow can’t get here fast enough. Happy June, my fellow educators!  It’s time to start that non-pension-contributing summer job that pays less than a livable wage, with no benefits, and a hefty tax liability. Doing so makes me stronger?  No! Doing so only makes me hope for September–when I came come back to my career and be abused some more.

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If only I had known…

If only I had known, I probably would not have bothered.

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If only I had known that running for township committee would require party leaders demanding that I see things their way (instead of asking me to consider the alternative), I would not have run for office.

If only I had known that another member of the fire company would be asked to run for a public office to represent the community, I would not have obligated myself.

If only I had known the outcome of my previous career endeavors would have resulted in me changing careers several times, I might have never embarked.

If only I had known that becoming the leader of my union would have resulted in management trying even harder to withhold our labor rights, I might have reconsidered.

things not seenIf only I had known that my marriage would end in divorce after nearly ten years, I might not have taken those vows.

If only I had known that I’d be leaving my home after twenty years of raising a family there, I might not have purchased it.

If only I had known that my pension wouldn’t be there for me when I retired, I might not have taken up a career in public service (or I would have at the very least invested differently).

If only I had known that the road that I travel now would not bring me to my destination unscathed, would I have chosen a different path?

I am not certain.  Had I not been elected to public office, I would not have recognized why our system is broken.  I wouldn’t have learned that just because we have only some similar beliefs, we still have vast differences.  I wouldn’t have learned that we must also look beyond our differences and engage in discussions about the many ways WE can meet our collective objectives.  I would not have learned that when they try to stifle me, I swell up with zest to overcome the barriers.   I would not have developed my voice!tied up  If it were not for the challenges that I’ve faced, there would have been no victory.

If I had known that they would pit someone LIKE me AGAINST me, I would have walked away because they created an unnecessary adversary.  I would not have realized that the goal was never to accomplish something, but instead to fuel the unrest that is destructive.  We were never on the same page.

My careers as a program coordinator, judicial assistant, probation officer, and family counselor all prompted my endeavors as an educator.  All of that experience fuelled my passion for advocacy.  My studies could have never prepared me for what was to come.  My entire life has been an internship that simple paid a little bit better than being a volunteer.

My stint as a union president was merely a foundation for a different kind of leadership—one where livelihoods were at stake.  The dues were small, but the rewards were great!  If managers had not suggested that I break the law, I’d have never realized how important it was to preserve the law, uphold the law, and defend the law.  Now I know how to change the law.

When I was young and naïve, I thought that all that was needed to have love was the opportunity.  If I wanted it bad enough (and if my heart was open to it), I could have what my heart desired.  Lost love and love lost?  I chose wisely, but next time I will be even wiser.  How my life will improve through such experience need not be said.

I purchased a home with the intention of sending my children to one the most diverse schools in the area, but by the time they were school-age the demographic had evolved and the ideas had changed.  Like-minds contributed to a population explosion and now there isn’t enough for everyone.  I won’t be the last to walk away, but I am certainly not the first.  As the trash litters the roadsides and the houses are either boarded up or burning down, I ask myself “what were you thinking?”

And now my life savings is being held hostage!  Any chance to have a fruitful life on the other side of retirement is in the hands of officials that we trusted to protect our interest and to preserve a promise that was made when we were hired.  Perhaps it was realized too late that the most efficient way to get the public service to function like the private sector was to treat them the same way (by robbing the public servants of their benefits).  But even my colleagues who’ve invested what was left of their budgets are dissatisfied with their returns.  Now I fight for my rights along side of people similar to me (and different from me) as we mumble, “if we had known…”

I’ve said all of that to say this:  Even if I had known then what I know now, things would not be much different.  Why?  Because my faith is the same!  As a matter of fact, a direct result of not knowing what the future holds makes my faith even stronger.  It’s not even a question of spiritual strength as much as it is the need to be patient, a need to hold on to those things that are important, and conversely the need to let go of those things that aren’t important anymore.  Being able to predict the future is actually counterproductive to being prepared for what is in store for us.  Although our walks are different, we are positioned to bring our knowledge, our experiences, and our passions to the table.  Absence of faith requires no work at all.  Absence of faith is absolute loss.  Faith without work is death.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1