Tag Archives: retirement

The Cop, The Pastor, And The Working Man.

By: Chris Warren.

Last weekend at a family gathering, I had a very nice talk with an uncle I haven’t seen in a while. After serving in the US Army he began his career as a Chicago police officer and ultimately became a police chaplain. He retired many years ago but never really stopped working. Well into his 70s, he spends most of his days as civilian hospital chaplain. The reasons he gave as to why were surprising, and we comparative youngsters would benefit from (here comes the pun) the arresting wisdom of the way he’s lived his life.

To hear uncle Rex explain it, he does not while his days playing golf or gardening or collecting things. He has no hobbies and most of his leisure time is spent with his wife (my aunt) and their grandchildren. My uncle put on his uniform and reported for duty every day without fail, and the odd hours cops often work never left much time for diversions. When he retired from the police force, the idea of doing things that didn’t need to be done, or doing something solely for enjoyment, was an anomaly to him. He liked working and did not know anything else; why not just keep at it?

He was always very religious and involved with the church, so moving into ministry was not a big jump for him. Uncle Rex is the guy who always leads the family in prayers at celebrations, baptisms, holidays, weddings, funerals. He is the guy who always calls or visits when someone is sick. He is more than anyone else the unofficial family pastor.

Uncle Rex has ministered to police officers, fire fighters, crime victims, accident victims, the terminally ill, medical staff, junkies, drunks, criminals, the rich, the homeless, hookers, anyone and everyone who crossed his path seeking solace in God. Most of these people just had something devastating happen to them or someone they love. He gravitated towards the church not only because of his faith, but also because a sense of duty that strong cannot be contained behind a patrolman’s  badge.working cop badge

I’m glad my uncle found fulfillment in his retirement, although technically it’s not “retirement” if it means still going to a job every day. Very few people would deliberately choose the same path. He’s one of the lucky ones who doesn’t need the money. Everyone else I know still working past retirement age does it because they have to. Due to the bad economy, bad personal decisions, bad luck, whatever, the trend is going to escalate. I have friends & family who are at a point in their careers where it’s mathematically impossible for them to retire on time unless they win the lottery or score a six-figure raise.

Retiring for real is an option fewer and fewer people have anymore. It can be seen in our everyday routines: Next time you’re out, notice how a disproportionate number of fast food and retail employees look like they should be at home entertaining grandchildren. Unfortunately, there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel for those still trapped working into their sixties and beyond. To again bring up the absolute truth of arithmetic, anyone who has not built up a meaningful nest egg by age 55-60 will either never truly retire or retire to a poor standard of living.

To uncle Rex, working is an identity, a statement, and a belief all rolled into one. In his world a job is greater than the sum of its parts and isn’t only about money. If all that mattered was the number of zeroes on a paycheck, uncle Rex would have never become a cop, or a chaplain. This man of faith, duty, and honor has already put in his time and has nothing left to prove, yet he is still out there working for what he knows in his heart is good and right. The way the world is going, he may have to start tending to the spiritual needs of hopeless senior citizens for whom working is a practical necessity that defers their well deserved rest from a lifetime of a job well done.

Hitting The Bottom Of The Public Trough.

By: Chris Warren

As a young person I was taught to deal fairly and see things from the other guy’s perspective. Even when fairness was hard to define, I always knew in my heart what felt right. As I got older and developed a better understanding of how complex the world really is, it became apparent that sometimes true fairness cannot be attained. The best and perhaps only outcome is a degree of unfairness to be shared between the involved parties.

Recently, the city of Detroit, Michigan exited bankruptcy after what was arguably one of the largest and most famous financial collapses of modern times. Though the legal formalities are over, the bigger task will be making the second chance succeed and assuring those on the losing end of the deal –which is pretty much everyone– that their give backs will not be for nothing.

In Detroit’s case the losers are collectively out seven billion dollars. The biggest chunk of this loss is laid at the feet of public worker retirees, who are taking a cut to their monthly pension payouts as well as a cut in future raises. There’s no joy in seeing old people struggle, but keep in mind one of the key reasons Detroit is a financial shipwreck is because for decades the public sector unions pushed for and received lavish perks for city workers far better than what the average private taxpayer gets; these benefits continued into retirement. Public employees are not innocent bystanders.

In spite of years of court proceedings and thousands of pages of applicable law, the basic mechanics of the Detroit bankruptcy litigation were quite simple: Giving the retirees the deal they want means sticking the bill on someone else. And with liberal politics rotting Detroit’s population to less than half of what it was a generation ago, there aren’t too many “someone elses” left. A federal bailout makes the definition of a fair deal even more obscure because the cost would be passed along to people very far removed from the problem. How much should Joe Taxpayer in Seattle, Washington be expected to give up from his paycheck so Detroit can keep a promise to a retired city worker? And why should Joe care?

This untenable scenario is not unique to Detroit. Many other cities and some entire states are at a point where there is simply not enough money to pay for all the deferred promises. The public employee unions, famous for thinking they are better than everyone else, sincerely believe that the unworkable deals should be upheld no matter who it hurts. The attitude of entitlement has finally arrived at its ultimate conclusion, so let’s not misdirect too much pity toward current employees, retirees, and their slimy union. None of them are worrying about how Joe is going to pay for his Golden Years.

Applying my admittedly oversimplified vision of fairness to Detroit, I conclude that the shorted city employees do have a point, but I have a forced and limited sympathy for them. No private sector worker gets special protections and a guaranteed retirement, so the public workers (through the proxy of their union) must have quite a chip on their shoulder to think the taxpayers should remain in perpetual servitude to them. It’s not that the retirees are undeserving. It’s that they are no more deserving than all the rest of us.

Updated 3/27/15