In 2000 I retired, at age 58, much sooner than I would have predicted years before. I had not been in any rush to retire, but conditions changed:
—Phil was graduating, so we need not stay in Ramsey.
—The company I worked for was being acquired and about to change dramatically.
My career had been successful enough: I did some good research, published some good papers, taught at a university, served as an editor for a technical journal, received a few awards from my primary technical association, culminating with the honor of being named a Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Sciences in 1995. My areas of expertise included air pollution, industrial hygiene, contamination control, aerosol science and technology, mathematical modeling and statistics. None of it seemed as important as my family’s well-being, especially Tina’s well-being.
Moving to Lake Osiris, Walden, NY, would put us near my mother and sister, place us in a scenic location, with lower housing costs, especially property taxes and initial price. It was possible that I would build up a consulting business, which did not materialize, or that I might teach high school physics, chemistry or mathematics, for which positions I had qualified by taking the appropriate tests. Our son Phil discouraged me from that last choice, knowing I would be unhappy with the kids’ lack of discipline. “You’d hate them,” he warned.
Another option was to start looking for a full-time job in my science/engineering profession. It was very unlikely I would find one near Ramsey or near my mother and sister, but somewhere in the U.S. I probably would have. I would make more money than would be coming in during retirement, but that additional money would be taxed at near 50 percent, Federal and state. I found that offensive. I’d rather live less expensively than be a workhorse for those to whom we are “spreading the wealth.”
As a nation, we are creating disincentives for work. My example is just one. Recently, our head nurse had to cut back her hours working for us. The government railroad pension her husband was to get put an upper limit on what she could earn. Going above the limit would result in reductions of the payments to her and to their younger child. I agreed that working for us beyond that limit was illogical, and we would ration her hours carefully. My discussions with another nurse on how many hours she wanted made it clear that one consideration was a program or two of financial assistance that penalized working more than half-time. More talent lost.
Before starting this book, I was enjoying my retirement: managing Tina’s care, reading, walking Brandy, visiting my mother and sister, exercising, running errands, listening to the radio [music and political talk]. Putting myself back to work, as an author, has invigorated me, and these other activities have only lessened slightly.
Not only are we wasting the talents of those we have discouraged from working, they themselves are not living as fully as they might.