Nine Thoughts on Retirement

Today is a milestone for me—my last day on the job. I am retiring after 21 years of service at Wells Fargo and 49 years of working. I received a paycheck today and two weeks from today will be my last paycheck. That will feel weird.

My first jobs were neighborhood labor jobs of shoveling snow, cleaning out garages, pulling weeds and lawn service. Dad’s view was that if you wanted something there was a way to earn it. I became a little capitalist at the age of 13. My first job working for a company was at the Witterstaetter wholesale greenhouses in Delhi Ohio. I was paid a farm labor rate of $ 1.00 per hour. I hauled dirt, planted cuttings, and delivered flowers in a 1965 Ford Econovan.

Dad had us pay our way to college and during those years, I sold shoes, loaded newspaper bundles, worked for American Airlines as a campus sales representative, and worked at Monsanto Chemical Company for four summers.

After college I was a campus minister for Campus Crusade for Christ for a year and then was hired by IBM as a computer salesman. Later I sold mainframe computers for Digital Equipment.

I attended seminary for two years at Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary and then pastored three churches over a period of 16 years.

In 1987 I had a major life-changing event, as a result of a trampoline accident, and experienced a C-4/C-5 spinal injury. Thankfully, although I am considered an incomplete quadriplegic, the Lord enabled me to regain the use of my limbs.

In 1994 I became a bi-vocational pastor and began my career with Norwest (now Wells Fargo).

I am retiring from that job after 21 years.

1. What I will miss

I will miss the availability of technology. I’ve always had the nicest laptops and the best software. Once I needed a server and was able to procure one for Cold Fusion development.

I will miss the daily interaction with co-workers and being with them at the office. I will miss the coffee breaks and the lunches.

In my earlier days of work, I was known for my creative shenanigans. Well before Dwight Schrute discovered his stapler in lime Jell-O, my mischievous team visited the cube of a vacationing coworker. He arrived back at work to find his entire cube full of discarded printouts with all of his desk accessories securely taped to his desk. Another time for a company morale day, we turned the office into an 18 hole indoor putt-putt course. Perhaps one reason for my career endurance is that they kept me on because I was a fun guy!

2. What I won’t miss

For anyone who works in Information Technology, this is well understood to “go with the territory”—being on call and long hours.

I’ve been on-call for 21 years. I cannot count the times I’ve been paged and awakened from my bed and called into work. In my earlier years, I would drive to the office. Later I was able to log in via a 2400 baud modem. For the last decade I’ve been able to VPN in with a laptop that I carry home from work.

During the BCP (Business Continuity Planning) phase of my career, we would be called upon to work very long hours. More than once, I would fly to Tempe to our BCP site, check into a hotel take a sleeping pill to sleep during the day and then, upon being awakened by the alarm, go to the data center to work from midnight to the following evening. This takes a toll on the brain and body.

I won’t miss long conference calls, project statuses and corporate finger-pointing.

While I’ve had some great travel experiences to New York City, Washington DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Diego; I will not miss corporate travel. Oh … when I was in Los Angeles, my co-worker turned in front of a bus. It was a very close call, and I was on the bus side of the car!

3. How much work has changed

I met my wife at IBM. We were both new hires. She was fresh out of Florida State University and I was a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati. We worked in a “bullpen” of open desk and two desks shared a telephone. There was word-processing but it was a room full of typists using IBM magnetic tape Selectric typewriters. My earliest programming experience was with keying code onto a 80 column punch card, submitting a job and waiting hours for the computer to return the result. We went from dumb terminals (always on) to personal computers. The earliest days of Windows were a disaster—Windows 95 seemed to freeze up and require a reboot once a day. I worked in desktop engineering for the last 9 years of my career, and in my view Windows XP was the first stable Windows release.

4. It was a mission field and not an easy one

I wasn’t excited about breaking my neck, but I regarded that trial as from the sovereign hand of a loving God and my extended hospital stay as a mission field. Likewise I have regarded the work-a-day world as a mission field.

In this mission field one must be competent, a good worker, even tempered and cognizant that there will be opportunities to share the gospel. Tragedies seem to open the most doors. One example is when the daughter of a co-worker attempted suicide. A gospel door was opened.

In the last two years I’ve found that our internal Toastmaster’s club has been an opportunity to share the Lord Jesus Christ. I received a mild rebuke from our chapter President but I used the fact that it is a club that meets during the lunch hour, and Toastmaster charter information itself, as my defense as to the appropriateness of that venue for religious speech.

5. The Chinese proverb and finances

Whenever “retirement” is considered, finances are part of the equation. My brother-in-law retired at the age of 52 because he was a multi-millionaire. I’m not—but we have saved and invested and prepared for this day. Twenty years ago we planted four six-foot willows across the back of our property. The Plymouth city engineer recommend it to us to address issues with water pooling in a low area of our yard. Those willows did not “pay back” immediately, but today on a hot day they may each drink up several hundred gallons of water a day. The Chinese proverb says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.” It is applicable in many arenas of life, and when it comes to financial planning it is especially applicable. The best time to start saving for retirement is in one’s earliest years of work. We personally did not get earnest about it until about 25 years ago. I wish I had started earlier. John Piper’s Should I Invest for Retirement is a helpful and recommended read!

6. It’s “Rewirement,” not Retirement

I am indebted to John Piper’s Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ .

[T]here’s far more to the golden years than accumulating comforts. It’s for readers who long to finish better than they started, persevere for the right reasons (and without fear), experience true security, value what lies beyond their cravings, and live dangerously for the One who gave his life in his prime. With this brief book, Piper is sure to spur fellow baby boomers in their resolve to invest themselves in the sacrifices of love-and to grow old with godly zeal.

Retirement is a modern idea that even folk several generations ago could not imagine. My paternal Grandfather, Charles Peet, died at 55 and my maternal Grandfather, Basil Hayward, died at 58. I am just a month away from 66 and still here! My Mother, on the other hand, is 95 and still with us.

Do I have a bucket list? I have some things I would like to do. I promised my wife that we would finally go to Hawaii and we are beginning to plan that trip. I would like to visit the Canadian Maritime provinces and Yellowstone. But my ultimate desire is to use my time where I don’t have to earn a living to serve the Lord.

Rewirement means I can do other things—other than having to earn a living!

7. Three big ideas

  • Big Idea # 1: I intend to join a Plymouth MN chapter of Toastmasters. This is a once a week club I believe will enable me to mix with unsaved professionals and make gospel connections.
  • Big Idea # 2: I am planning on taking a college class, perhaps Spanish, at the Hennepin County Community College. HCCC is about 5 miles from my house and I can take any available class for $20 a credit hour. I hope to hang around campus a bit every day and see if there are any gospel opportunities.
  • Big Idea # 3: I am offering myself to a local non-profit to work in their office 20 hours a week. This idea is still in the planning phase.

8. Decrepitude and Death await

James Baillie’s The Life and Age of Man ‘s Life, from the Cradle to the Grave (1848) appears in What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement, Second Edition: Planning a Prosperous, Healthy, and Happy Future (What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement: Planning Now for the)

What a nasty thought … if one lives long enough he will be decrepit! And a yet nastier thought—death awaits!

I am resolved to begin this retirement journey—what my wife calls “adventures with Jimmy” with the optimism and confidence of the Apostle Paul: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

An anecdote about decrepitude: My 95 year old Mother used to be a bookkeeper and sharp with numbers. In the last several years she often lets the decimal slip. She told her friends at her retirement home that she pays 14 cents for each meal. This created quite a stir and fomented resentment at her special privilege. But she really pays $ 14 for each main meal and her aged mind has a difficult time comprehending this. She also concerned a sibling when she communicated that she was going to give another sibling $ 1000. She really meant $ 100—so that decimal slip can go either direction.

We can either live with an “under the sun” mentality about the perils of old age or we can have a heavenly outlook. I hope to have the later!

9. Glory awaits

I’m not one for visions and this particular vision may have actually been morphine inspired from intensive care. But I dreamed of swimming up to a shore and Jesus was on the bank. I was still fairly immobile then, so perhaps my paralysis influenced this thought. I crawled onto the shore and clung to the feet of Jesus and thanked Him for purchasing me on the cross! This is my ultimate bucket list (I guess really more of a post-kick-the-bucket item!)—to see Him face to face.

Rewirement here I come.

Jim Bio


Jim is a business systems consultant in desktop engineering at Wells Fargo Bank where he has worked for 20 years.  He formerly served as a pastor for 16 years, and is now a member of Fourth Baptist Church where he serves in the ABF (Adult Bible Fellowship) ministry. He is also a member of Toastmasters International and The Mayflower Society.

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There are 17 Comments

Barry L.'s picture

When you plan for Hawaii, look into the cruise. I normally don't like cruises, but its the best way if you are island hopping.

pvawter's picture

Thanks for this, Jim. I appreciate your desire to serve the Lord even more as you move into this phase of your life. May Jesus Christ be praised!

Aaron Blumer's picture

It's hard to imagine how those early computers managed to do enough processing to be worth the trouble... but this is from a guy who's earliest memory of a computer was one that hooked to a TV, had color output, a cassette reader for data storage, 16bit processor and 256k of RAM. TI-99/4A

It was high tech at the time... though we had to admit that our cousins were having more fun with their Commodore 64.

Anyway, congrats on retirement, Jim. We'll have to update your bio!

Decrepitude and death

I want to add too, that it's very hard to think biblically and Christianly about death--our own death, that is. We are deeply hard wired to love life. And living in a very peaceful and healthy society (relative to all of human history thus far) makes it even harder to see life as something that is supposed to be 'spent.' It's supposed to end, but as a trade. Given for something.

At the same time, because of the Fall, we never really know "life" as originally designed, and there is a longing deep in all of us to know it in an entirely different way. (And those in Christ will know it!)

I've been challenged lately by the fiction of N.D. Wilson in this regard. I'm not sure why death is such an important theme to him....but amid all the weird quirkiness of his stories (100 Cupboards trilogy, Ashtown series) there is a subtle but constant challenge to look at life and death in a very unmodern way.

Anyway, your references to decrepitude, death, and glory reminded me of that.

Jim's picture

The oldest and youngest close family members are: Cleone (you don't see many with this name) ... my Mother who is 95 years and 2 months ... AND my granddaughter Amelia who turned 2 yesterday. 

I have pictures of both Cleone and Amelia on our refrigerator. 

My sister has a photo of my Mom from 1922 ... when Mom was 2. 

I have a hard time comprehending that that 2 year old Cleone is the same person as the 95 year old Cleone. (below: Mom at just shy of 2, at 4, in 1946 when she was 26 (that trailer was my first home), another from 1946, and Mom at 95)

 

Jim's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

It's hard to imagine how those early computers managed to do enough processing to be worth the trouble

Answered:

  • The applications were batch processing
  • The applications were limited: BICARSA (Billing, Inventory Control, Accounts Receivable, and Sales Analysis)
  • Transactional data (like the day's sales) was on cards 
  • Summary data was stored on disk after batch processing

Note card reader above the disk storage area. The woman in this photo has a 2.5 Meg removable drive (we made commission even selling those platters)

This system had a price tag of about $ 100,000

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Jim wrote:

"My first job working for a company was at the Witterstaetter wholesale greenhouses in Delhi Ohio (link is external). I was paid a farm labor rate of $ 1.00 per hour. I hauled dirt, planted cuttings, and delivered flowers in a 1965 Ford Econovan."

-----------------------

My first "real" job (part time) was at age 16 in 1979 at the Lyndale Garden Center in Richfield, MN.  Like you, I did lots of hauling & planting; and I did some stocking, watering, and carryout too.  $3.25 was my starting hourly wage---which in 1979 (for a 16 year old) wasn't bad at all.........

Ron Bean's picture

Jim is my twin brother from another mother. We're nearly the same age and our lives and personalities are eerily similar except that I stayed in ministry much longer and am going to work till I die! We're going to have to get together and share practcal joke stories someday.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

G. N. Barkman's picture

Jim,

Although I've never met you, I feel like I know you because of your posts on SI.  I thank God for you, and often pray for you, that the Lord will give you strength and ability to continue the good work you do on this site.  I trust you will have a wonderful retirement!

 

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

There does seem to be a pattern here...    My first jobs were at a nearby strawberry farm picking berries (.25 /quart), laying mulch, picking rocks... $2/hr. (Also remember doing some work detasseling corn for a couple bucks and hour. Why the corn had to be de-tassled is still a mystery to me, but this was less fun than it sounds... imagine 6AM, nearly running pace down tall rows of corn.... soaking wet within the first 30 seconds, and usually about 60 degrees out... multiply for hours... eventually getting warmer but not much dryer. Fortunately we usually quit about noon.... and corn is surprisingly brutal stuff when you are running through it for a while!)

Character-building experinece--priceless.

Donn R Arms's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Why the corn had to be de-tassled is still a mystery to me.

It is how seed corn is cross pollinated. Every teenager who grew up in Iowa has had the joy. I remember it being pretty good money. We sat on a frame that was pulled through the rows by a tractor and we had to reach DOWN to pull off the tassels.

Donn R Arms

Aaron Blumer's picture

Sounds like a much better approach!

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

The first point struck me from another perspective. I fell ill this spring and have been physically unable to work over an extended period of time for the first time in my life. My wife taught for eight years before our first child came along, but she went home to home school at that point (a decision neither of us has ever regretted). However, to help stabilize our finances, she took an entry level, part-time job at a call center processing orders for Super Shuttle, re-entering the work force for the first time in 14 years.She has found it invigorating and is looking for ways to keep the job part time even after I return to work and school resumes in the fall (still home-schooling the two youngest). 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

  • On Monday I attended my first Toastmaster's meeting outside of Wells Fargo. It was at the Tennant Company in Golden Valley MN. I intend to visit another club tomorrow and then decide which club to join:

    • The Tennant CO club is very convenient. About 5 m from my house. Handicapped parking right by the front door. 
    • Everyone was friendly and welcoming.
    • A professional club with "suits" (managers) and engineers
    • My objective is to use this as an avenue for gospel connections
  • Today I enrolled at North Hennepin Community College:
    • I don't know what I want to take but a class that meets ideally on M-W-F
    • Possibly .net programming (something that interests me). 
    • Enrollment fee was $ 20. I had to request transcripts from Univ of Cincinnati, Metro State University of Denver, and Grand Rapids Seminary. That was about $ 26 total.
    • I met:
      • Fran (guy). Lawn person driving John Deere tractor. He is 72  I asked me if I would be willing to sell my 2002 Chevy S-10 (as I got out of my truck in the handicapped parking area)
      • Namibia: enrollment young woman. A Jordanian Kurdish person
      • Darien: Nervous young black man with dreadlocks. At the same table as me likewise enrolling. 
    • Objective here: Gospel connections / lite intellectual stimulation (because the 66 year old brain is not the 18 year old brain!)
    • Classes start August 24th

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