It’s been a couple of weeks since I updated life in the Make Smarter Decisions household! And for good reason. We’ve been busy enjoying some family time and getting some beach days in before our first year of snowbirding is over. I’ll write more about that soon, but we are super happy about our decision to spend more time in Florida this winter!
If you’re a new reader, you can check out our snowbird housing plan here. That plan has changed a little since we scaled up our lake house renovation. But you’ll learn how we’re using a foreclosure and an estate sale property to spend the best parts of the year in two different states.
Hanging out in the sunshine state has really improved our fitness levels! We are following the Younger Next Year and Thinner This Year exercise and nutrition “rules” and we’re loving it. We are both down close to 10 pounds and we feel SO much better. This isn’t any crazy health plan – no cleanses and nothing special to buy. Just sound rules you can follow the rest of your life. We’re up to 350 members in our Younger Next Year FB group now and I’ll write more about this soon too. (The list of draft posts is growing!!)
I am also purposefully practicing disconnecting to make connections with people I see every day in Florida. I haven’t gone out and joined any groups because we won’t be here long, but I am glad that I know a few of my neighbors and that I can carry on conversations and remember details about their lives.
I’ve also been really busy with our new website – Women Who Money! Amy from Life Zemplified and I are working hard to build a site that provides financial information and is inspiring to women – no matter where they are on their money journey. If you haven’t checked it out, please do! We’d love feedback and we are happy to host guest writers! We are also looking for inspiring women’s money stories for interviews. Leave me a comment or send an email if you are interested in finding out more. (Maybe you’ve thought of starting a blog or you’d like to try writing an article? This is a great way to give it a try! You don’t have to be a great writer – you just have to want to do it!)
And this is all in addition to a couple of very part-time jobs I’m still doing. Back when I wrote the post Finding the Cure for One More Year Syndrome last spring, I explained that I can’t “officially” retire from education and collect my pension until I turn 55. And that’s still 4 years away. I also still need to earn 31 months of service credit to meet a major pension milestone – 30 years of service.
If I don’t meet that milestone, I have a few options. I can take a reduced pension at 55 and just go on with life. My pension would be about $29,000/year. Or I can wait until I’m 56 to collect and keep earning service credit. If I’m not at 30 years though, there is still a big penalty. I could keep waiting to collect until I made the 30-year milestone and each year I haven’t collected reduces the penalty. At 62, I could collect my full pension (with no penalty) even if I don’t reach the 30-year milestone.
My full pension is about $43,000/year (based on my three consecutive highest years of earning as an administrator before I left to teach at the college level six years ago.)
That’s a $14,000 difference. Since my longevity calculator shows that I could live into my 90’s (Dad’s 87, Mom’s close to 80) – that $14,000/year could be close to $500,000 by the time I’m 90!
I’ve had people suggest that I could just quit earning service credit and earn money other ways. That could definitely work, but I’m not willing to gamble losing up to half a million dollars at this point. I’d rather keep working at it slowly on a part-time schedule to see if I can do it- even if I have to wait to collect my pension for a few years.
So how do I earn 31 months of service credit if we are snowbirding and I’m not working full-time? Good question!
I teach online and earn retirement system credit. This is a location-independent job and it only takes 3-4 hours per week. It also gives me about 3 months of service credit each year. I expect to earn 15 more months of credit from teaching online before I turn 55.
This brings the months of service credit I need down to 16.
So what options do I have to earn the credit?
- Keep teaching online past 55 at 3 months/year. I’d estimate hitting 30 years of service at age 60. This would prevent me from collecting my pension for 5 years, but I’d collect my full pension earlier than age 62 and we’d have a lot of freedom!
- Work with student teachers from state universities to earn credit. (I did that this year because we were at home during the lake house renovation. I really enjoy it, but the pay is TERRIBLE and I only earn a day of service for each student I work with. This option prevents us from traveling and is not a good return for my time.)
- Take a full-time teaching job for a year (K-12 public school or university) and do some subbing for a few months in one other year. This would guarantee I could collect my pension at 55, but it would also be a tremendous amount of work to create lesson plans for just one year. I have no interest in being a new teacher again 😊
- When we are in New York (fall, spring) work as a per diem sub on occasion or take temporary full-time teaching jobs filling in for maternity leaves or short-term assignments.
Which options best fit our current lifestyle?
I pulled our “end goals” (the ones we use to make decisions) and reviewed them:
- Maximize My Health/Wellness – Extremely Important (EI)
- Create a Flexible, Location Independent Lifestyle – Very Important (VI)
- Commit to Grow/StrengthenRelationships – Important (I)
- Continue Personal Growth – Important (I)
- Increase Wealth – Somewhat Important (I)
When we looked at our options and these goals…
#1 works! The online teaching meets everything except my desire to collect that pension sooner!
#2 doesn’t work at all! I basically volunteered and although I want to help our next generation of teachers, state universities have to get a clue about what they are asking supervisors to do for a few hundred dollars.
#3 is not a smart decision because I simply don’t want to be in New York for a full year ever again!
#4 – An interesting option! We plan to be in New York for at least four months during the school year, so working a few days a week or for a few weeks at a time is a good option to earn credit for a few years. And I’d still have summers off!
Now back to the title of this post. We decided to give option #4 a try this year!
I’ve accepted a teaching job (filling in for a maternity leave) from mid-April through the end of June! I’ll be teaching chemistry, physics, and general science in a very small, rural school district about 90 minutes from our house. They advertised for a certified substitute for 5 months and couldn’t find anyone! I haven’t taught in a small school and I haven’t taught science at this level for 17 years! It should be a lot of fun and it will definitely be a challenge (but a good one!)
We’ll be staying in the small town during the week and we’ll head home on the weekends. They even have some jobs for my husband to do, so we’ll both be involved in the small school community. The salary I negotiated is plenty to cover my teaching and our housing. And I’ll earn another 2+ months of service credit toward retirement.
If this works out, it may really change how we think about earning those last months of service credit. My certifications are HIGHLY sought out by districts all across the state. We may look at “traveling teaching” (or administration) as an option during the spring and fall. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that because school districts don’t pay substitutes very much! This may need to change in the near future because of teacher shortages that are already happening all over the state (and country!)
I could easily find work in different states, but that wouldn’t help me earn New York state credit – and that’s the goal in earning my full state pension.
I doubt that I will work enough to reach 30 years of service by age 55 because I don’t want to substitute every day we are in New York. But short blocks of time for a couple of years might be the answer. I can earn service credit, extra cash, and it will still allow us to travel and spend most of the year doing what we want to do.
So what do you think of our plan? Would you just stop working now and take the $29,000/year at 55 and try to go write a book or start a business that could generate cash to replace the $14,000/year? Maybe we should just be happy with what we have and not worry about that money? I’d love to know what I might not be considering! It’s hard to think about giving up that kind of cash for the rest of my life.