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Updated on July 21, 2013

Being Furloughed Is An Opportunity?

As a federal employee working for the United States Air Force, I view the Furlough of 2013 as an opportunity - at least for the older workers such as myself. How? Let me use this analogy. In the agrarian culture the father eventually hands the farm or ranch over to a son (or son-in-law) while he himself develops a particular aspect of the operation, or expands an aspect of the operation that he has put off. He may even leave the operation all together to pursue politics or some other vocation. The point is that he is older, wiser, and ready to pursue a second vocation that he feels rounds out his life and serves society. Our urban society makes this transition difficult. Working for a government makes it almost impossible. You truly wear the "Golden Handcuffs" working for a government. The stability, benefits, and retirement plans are enviable to be sure. However, the freedom for creativity and making transitions in our jobs is practically non existent. The penalty for retiring early is often times too steep and that vocation that you feel rounds you out later in life does not necessarily pay enough to make a go of it to leave your government position. Enter the Furlough of 2013 - suddenly we have one weekday available for pursuits that could bring us closer, either directly or indirectly, to that second vocation.

This Furlough Is Different

I went through the 1995 furlough. The entire federal government shut down with no plans. The Furlough of 2013 has a plan and that makes all the difference. It follows the Budget Control Act of 2011 that the House and Senate passed, and the President signed. This act originally created the Super Committee that was supposed to come up with a kinder, gentler budget reduction plan. If the committee failed to formulate a plan and any other plan that was attempted by congress and failed, sequestration kicked in. So, we are following a back-up plan. I do not foresee the House, Senate, or President agreeing on another plan -as of my writing this on 16 March. I believe the furlough is here to stay.

Working Towards My Retirement Landscape

My retirement landscape includes owning my own mail order business tying flies for fishing, perhaps later making fly rods, and attending trade shows and conventions with my wares. I want to continue to fly fish, preferably for warm water species. I would like to continue to write as I do in my job now. I would like to live in a pedestrian friendly community - being able to walk to places where I need to conduct business. It would be nice to be within walking distance of social activities and church as well. I want to work in the community I live in. I want to avoid a cold climate. My wife's retire landscape includes access to theater and music outlets to include being involved in plays. She wants to live in a large city with an international airport. She wants a climate with four distinct seasons. I believe we can find a location that accommodates our desires. What can we do now to work towards that landscape? How does the Furlough of 2013 get us there?

How the 2013 Furlough Fits In

With regards to attaining our retirement landscape, I am successful in that I have an online fly store and live in a terrific location for fly fishing warm water fish species. I am able to write to an audience, both at work and online. My wife teaches music at a college and directs and acts in musicals at the community theater.

We fail in the landscape in that our community is practically devoid of bike paths and sidewalks, at least where our house is. We have to drive everywhere. My job, at an Air Force bombing range, is nearly fifty miles away from where I live. Many of the people in my community have no idea that the range exists. I have no connection between my work and my community. My commute time is about two hours and makes for a 50 to 55 hour work week. It shortens time available at the fly tying table. At one time I was involved with Boy Scouts, various church functions outside of normal services, and the high school Band Boosters club. I realized that while volunteering hours was good for the community, it was detracting from the retirement goal. I have cut back to only being a Band Booster. A climate with four seasons is not possible in Florida, so that goal is put on the back burner until we can move.

The 2013 Furlough fits in by allowing me to work a different job two weekdays (my boss agree to one furlough day and one vacation day taken per week) within the community I live in. I could possibly reduce my work hours with a shorter commute for more time to develop the fly store. So, my immediate goal is to secure another job locally.

The Financial Pain

There is financial pain no matter how you look at the Furlough of 2013. Please understand, there is no self pity on my part. Most Americans have suffered financial hardship in the last four years; I have no problem with federal employees paying their "fair share". I believe it could be a good, humbling experience for my family, but in all honesty, we are not used to sacrificing. Reducing our lifestyle will not be pleasant or easy, but I think there could be some maturing on all of our parts.


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