Sunday, June 3, 2012

Retirement, day no. 31

The first month of retirement has been a little rocky. Thanks to a snafu by my employer, I discovered two weeks ago I was being left without health benefits for a month. This at a time when healthcare in my household is no small concern.

What happened is fairly simple to explain. After repeated efforts, my department office manager and I had confirmed that my employee benefits would continue until June 30. So I set up all the Medicare coverage to start July 1. Well, when I got my final paycheck, I learned we’d been misinformed. No benefits.

When I inquired, my employer, through its various administrative offices, claimed no responsibility and quickly started finger pointing. The Benefits person suggested without apology that there must have been some “confusion,” meaning mine. It didn’t matter that I had emails from them all confirming the June 30 date.

When my department head went to his supervisors, he was told that cutting off benefits for retirees was “policy” and had been for a long time. If I’d been informed correctly in the first place, I’d have arranged for all the parts of Medicare coverage to start a month earlier. By now, of course, it was too late for that.

The effect on me was predictable. I blew up. But typically for me, it was more of an implosion than an explosion. For much of two weeks I awful-ized and woke up in the middle of the night with health-related worst-case scenarios. And my wife had to hear me berating the intelligence, accountability, and competence of mid-level university administrators.

But there was more to it, and it took me a while to figure it out. The incident had kicked my anxieties about retirement into high gear, and I was up to my ears in what a psychologist would probably call dependency issues.

My department had given me a warm and affectionate party as a send-off, which did a lot to ease the transition. The administration of the institution had made me feel like trash left at the curb.
Still a farm boy in most ways, I’m resilient. And I learn again that dread is not the only option. (There’s always denial. Ha.) My former boss and his office manager eventually worked out an arrangement that I have been assured will keep me and my wife in healthcare benefits until the end of June. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works out and I can return to enjoying these so-called “golden years.”

Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons, Rocky terrain of Sunset Crater, Arizona

Coming up: Old West glossary, no. 33


  1. The level of incompetency of bureaucrats knows no bounds. My school district is the same way...sigh...

  2. I'm sorry to hear that your retirement got off to a rocky start. When I took early retirement in January 2000, I told my employer that I just wanted to leave quietly with no retirement dinner or fuss at all. My feeling was that I was starting a new chapter in my life and I wanted to forget the job, stress, and everything associated with it.

    It takes awhile to realize that you are finally free of the rat race but it will sink in soon. At least it did for me.

  3. that's a bit scary, man. I'm hoping for good luck for you both.

  4. What resonates with me is your self examination, discovering that you have resilience, and you need not let the anxieties dominate your thinking. You found courage, and that, in the end, counts most of all, no matter what the exterior world does to you.