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  • Writer's pictureThomas Corrao


Retirement planning was something that I never gave much thought to when I was young. I probably should have really thought harder about it back in my twenties, but I was in the military and thought I would retire with a government pension and continued benefits after just twenty years of service to my country. Life would be grand and I would be following in the footsteps of my father who had followed a very similar path before retiring from the military.

Unfortunately, I was sold a dream that fell apart at the hands of politicians that spent more taxpayer money than they should have. Then they came up with a plan called the Gramm Rudman act which separated thousands of mid-level noncommissioned officers from the military in the interest of saving money. This was at a time when it was well publicized that the government machine was spending $900 on hammers and $1500 on toilet seats. Spending was not really being controlled and the measures they were taking were more in the interest of making it look as if they (the politicians) were trying to solve the nation’s deficit. It was all a political game played at the expense of people who meant nothing to the framers of the law but everything to the country.

Officially the plan was called the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. It was enacted by the

United States Congress as title XIII of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. The act was established to enforce the deficit reduction plan originally enacted by the Gramm–Rudman–Hollings Balanced Budget Act. In simpler terms they needed to force themselves to make cuts because they couldn’t control their own spending habits or the spending habits of those entrusted to make those decisions. They needed a way to make a negative into a positive in the public’s eye and in the process they didn’t care that they were screwing over the military members who had dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom.

It was a lot cheaper in their eyes to pay a basic recruit a minimum salary than to retain a Staff Sergeant earning a higher wage. I remember when the process began they had us attend a briefing where they threatened us with an involuntary separation called a RIF. They then talked us up and enticed us with cash to take a voluntary separation incentive. Basically a chunk of money to give up our careers. If we didn’t take the deal and they didn’t get enough “volunteers” there would be a RIF and we would be separated involuntarily without any further compensation for our service to our country. The whole thing sucked but I had three children and a wife to think about in 1992 when they requested my participation. I was 31 years old at the time and had to give up my dream of following in my father’s footsteps. It was a sad day in my life but I took the VSI and separated from the United States Air Force after 12 years and 8 months of service.

Okay, that was a little bit of a rant but I wanted to use my own situational story to tell you that you need to be prepared for change. You may think that you have it all figured out only to find that someone moved your cheese. As it turns out in my particular situation, life threw me a twist, one that required me to overcome and adapt. For a while I worked at some go nowhere jobs that really had no potential of providing a road to retirement. All they really did though was provide me with survival cash for me and my family, payday to payday living. I knew that I needed to find something and find it fast in order to hit the restart button on my life. Even though I was trying there just weren’t many jobs out there that would provide me with the opportunities I was looking for. It took me four years before I was able to finally start down the road to retirement.

Working in a jail was something that I had never even considered prior to finding my current position. One day though, I just happened to see a classified ad in the newspaper. The ad mentioned career path in it and that’s what sparked the idea of me doing the kind of work I do. The position was nothing like any of the jobs I’d done in my lifetime, but it had the benefits I was looking for and health insurance, something I hadn’t had since leaving the military. This was it, I would once again dedicate myself to something that I considered a worthwhile cause. Something I could serve both my family and my community and possibly make a difference.

It’s now been 24 years since I started this profession and I’ve grown and matured through the experiences I’ve attained working here. I’ve also learned that no matter whom your employer is you still need to look out for your own best interests. Retirement truly is a multistep process that evolves over a period of time. Being near the end of your working days and realizing that you haven’t planned well enough can be catastrophic. Everyone at some point needs to start building a financial cushion that will support the type of retirement lifestyle they imagine for themselves. Even small amounts of money put away at regular intervals will lead you towards a better retirement. In my own personal situation I purchased a house that I knew would appreciate during the time I owned it. I knew that when I sold it, a good portion of the sale would be my money that could be used in retirement for cushion. The other cushion for my retirement would be my state pension which would provide me with monthly income for the rest of my life. There are investments made through the years also so we should be okay to leave my position at 60 years of age. Currently there are nineteen months until my final working day so I’m working overtime like a madman to help build the cushion. The RV lifestyle should reduce the costs associated with everyday living and will help us stay active throughout our sixties.

Bottom line is, it will take money in order to have a comfortable and secure life once you’re done working. Start sooner rather than later when it comes to your retirement. Work your ass off and then enjoy your golden years.

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