‘I felt forced to retire before I was ready’

Mar 27, 2020
Mary says she felt forced into an early retirement because she couldn't get enough work to sustain herself. Source: Getty Images

On February 21, I retired from my job of 17 years. The sad thing about this is that I felt forced into making the decision by the company I worked for.

Next month I will be 63. I am not yet eligible for the US government’s Medicare scheme, having to wait until I’m 65. I’d hoped to remain in my job until then, but the last month I actually lost money by going to work. I had net zero on my January cheques. I did not work enough hours to cover the government’s required deductions from my pay.

By the time taxes, social security, health insurance and my election of contributions to my retirement plan was taken out thee was nothing left. In fact, they even sent me a bill to pay to uncover a portion of my health insurance or I’d lose it all together.

I spoke with human resources about this situation and asked for more hours. I was told there were no additional hours available until this month. I was advised that I should get a second job or use my vacation pay to roll my hours up. However, whatever vacation hours I had I used when I took a leave of absence after my knee surgery. And anyway, who wants to use their hours and not get a vacation?!

Since my husband passed away I am the only person in my household to be bringing in an income. I was expected to live on 13 hours a week!

Big corporations here in the United States have found they can cut everyone’s hours, making them work part-time, to save themselves big bucks. If you work fewer than 20 hours a week you don’t work enough hours to get health insurance. By scheduling shorter hours they also don’t have to schedule another person to cover lunches, saving a minimum of 30 minutes in the day because the person coming on is taking over your role. There’s less time to pay an employee for a break because they’ll only get one break in a four or five hour shift. It’s all about the dollar, who cares if you have an employee trying to make enough money to pay their bills.

I’m not talking about wanting $15 an hour to flip burgers. I wasn’t even making that per hour! I just want enough hours to get a pay cheque.

I was working with young college kids who weren’t making enough money to buy groceries. One of my younger colleagues was trying to figure out how she’d survive one week on just eight hours of work. She’d been an employee for five years! She wondered if she should ride it out of ask her parents for help. If she were to resign, she wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment benefits.

While I can get social security, I won’t be eligible for the full amount until I’m 66.5 years old.

It’s quite sad that companies no longer care about their employees and are focused on the amount of profit they are making. My former employer is certainly not a company that needs to be concerned about bankruptcy of losing money. Management didn’t care about the number of years’ service an employee has nor did they care about the quality of work. The only thing they were ever worried about was ensuring they got their benefits at the end of each week.

Now I’m semi-retired and working in a deli roughly five blocks from my home. I’ve taken a $2 pay cut and only work a 24-hour week. I am purchasing my own health insurance, which I discovered was cheaper than the one my former employer provided me, thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act. I’m bringing as much as if I worked 32 hours at my former job.

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