Thursday, March 31, 2022

What I miss about working...

 —and what I love about being retired.

Now that I have been retired for almost a year, ten months to be exact—I retired on 31st May 2021—I can see more clearly what I miss most about working.

Human interaction. But at a professional level. I am an introvert. I was painfully shy as a child and into my teens. I still do not enjoy large social gatherings, except with family. I hate small talk, talking for absolutely no reason. Since I retired, my husband and I will go for days without seeing other human beings. Fine with me, as I said, I don't enjoy idle conversation, particularly with strangers. But I find I miss the work related discussions where the team worked through challenging problems to come up with innovative solutions. 

Daily challenges
. I loved my job and found the challenges stimulating and very satisfying, even when they were equally frustrating. I particularly loved coding. Coming up with automated ways to minimize manual intervention and then writing the code to implement these tools.

Management. Watching and guiding my team to grow their careers. That was probably the most difficult, and the most rewarding part of my job. Difficult because Amazon made it so. There was a very demanding set of requirements for anyone within Amazon to achieve promotion. And so rewarding managing to meet those requirements and see a talented engineer achieve their well deserved goal.

Independence. I am not sure if that word fully encompasses what I mean. I miss having places to go, such as the office or to conferences; things to do, deadlines to meet and meetings to attend. All of it seemed very mundane at the time—apart from the conferences which I loved—but now, looking back, it represented independence and a mission that I was on. Of course, my car was also a big part of my independence. (Mentioned here).

Of course I do also miss that regular paycheck.

What I love about being retired. I have blogged about this a few times as I became more familiar with the idea. As retirement was forced on me, it was difficult to adjust at first. But I think I am getting the hang of it. The best thing about being retired is time.

Time to spend on me. I never have to cut my workout short, if I get up a little later in the morning, I can still do a full hour on the treadmill, plus 30 minutes Yoga. I am probably a lot healthier now. When I was working, I often had to skip my workout or cut it short.

Time to write. I haven't done much blogging this month because I have been working on writing short stories, and on my book. I can, and sometimes do, write for hours each day.

Time to shop when the stores are quiet. I don't like shopping and when ever possible I do it online, but grocery shopping I prefer to do in person. The stores are almost empty mid week, during the morning. 

Time for my other hobbies, fishing, boating, embroidery and reading.

Of course I do love that I no longer have to tolerate being bullied by bad managers.

Saturday, March 12, 2022


When we bought the condo on the Lake Travis North Shore, the plan was to use it as a weekend getaway. We talked about eventually moving there when I retired. My retirement was very much a figment of my imagination at that time. I didn't plan to retire. I didn't want to retire, I enjoyed my job and it was very rewarding in every sense of the word, even if it did require me to put in a whole lot of hours, sixty hours a week was normal.

I couldn't retire because I was the sole earner in our home. When my mother in law, who was living with us, started to lose her eyesight, my husband quit his job to stay home and take care of her. He drove her wherever she needed to go, and that was a lot of driving. She had multiple doctors for a start; dentist, nails, hair, shopping and more. We had bought a large house when she moved in with us, in order to satisfy her need to have a full master suite on the ground floor, it was expensive to renovate and maintain. I covered all of this in a number of different posts, so just repeating myself briefly for some background.

The Universe knows best and in quick succession, my mother in law moved out (see here for details), COVID-19 struck and I was forced to retire (see here for those gory details).

Many people downsize when they retire. At that point any children are grown and out on their own and income is suddenly reduced. There is usually plenty of time to plan. Moving from a larger home to a smaller one means less furniture, less storage space and less room for everything. In our case, we had two fully furnished homes. The one we were selling had 5 bedrooms and a large bonus room; a huge kitchen with masses of cabinets and a large, walk in pantry; a three car garage with workbench and a big collection of tools. We had already sold my car as we had no need for two cars during the pandemic, I was working from home. The home we were moving to had three bedrooms and a two car garage. The kitchen wasn't tiny, but it was compact and with a very small pantry.

We identified the few things we wanted to bring with us. Our computers and printer, some of the kitchen equipment as a weekend kitchen is sparsely equipped. Clothes obviously, and a few pieces of furniture—a set of shelves and a couple of bedside tables and of course, my sewing machine and a couple of desks. That was it. What to do with the rest!? We invited my stepson and his wife to take anything they wanted. They didn't have much room and just selected a few pieces. Next we asked our cleaning lady and she took most of what was left of the kitchen equipment. 

While we were packing and gathering stuff to take to Goodwill, I contacted a friend who was a realtor in the area and she arranged to come out and look at the house that Saturday. I warned her that it was a total mess because we were in the process of packing. At 10.30 a.m. she came and walked through the house. She said she was meeting a couple of clients at 12.30 to show them some houses and they might be interested. I said go ahead but warn them it is a mess. At 1.30 she called me with an offer, 'as is' and including the furniture. She also said they would undertake dealing with any mess and disposal of what they didn't want. 

Before my last day at work, bearing in mind that I had been working from home from some time, I went into the office and cleaned out my desk. I left behind a small refrigerator, a lot of technical books and a coffee maker along with some old mobile phones and tablets which I used for testing. Even still, I had a box of pictures, mugs and assorted bits and pieces to find a place for in our new home.

We were downsized. It has taken me two years to get used to the reduced storage, particularly in the kitchen. Occasionally I look for some item that I left behind in the old house and have to decide if I want to replace it or not, where would I put it?

There were four reasons our downsizing was so disorganized

  1. We had no warning that Mildred was going to move out.
  2. My retirement was not planned.
  3. COVID was rampant.
  4. We already had two fully furnished homes.

I like my little condo, the area is quiet (most of the time), because most of the neighbors are weekenders. The summer gets a bit noisy at weekends. But all the rest of the time, we can sit in silence and gaze at the lake. That is, when we are not out on it fishing.

I miss my car, but I don't need it. I miss the extra storage space, but I am learning to live with what I have got. I occasionally miss work, mainly my team and the challenge the job presented. I do not miss the office politics, nor the bullying that resulted in my decision to retire. 

I will never miss back scratchers. We had one in the bedroom—in both houses, on our desks at home, on my desk at work and in the living room—in both houses. For some reason, we felt it necessary to bring all of them along with us.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Your federal return was accepted

When I first came to the US I was aware that Income Tax was a big issue. Of course we pay taxes in Ireland, but compared to the US we are pretty much spoon fed. Deductions are made from our income with little or no input from us, almost everything is taxed at source and tax time is just a matter of filling in a form in case we have extra deductions, or income the tax man is not aware of. This is optional, you do not have to do this unless you are requested to do so, by the IRS. Nothing like the huge task it is here. 

When I was living in Ireland, Americans were known for their very loud voices and constantly complaining about taxes, so I knew taxes were not simple here. My first year in the US tax system was complicated because I had lived and worked in Ireland for exactly half of the year and lived in the US for the second half but working was somewhat unconventional, despite the fact that I had a green card. Two months in summer camp for pocket money, then three months 'off the books', and finally, in December, I started working in the system. That year I did the dreaded and very unfamiliar tax return by hand. It was painful and stressful. Forms of any kind stress me. I got it done and I was not audited that year. That was tax year 1994.

During the following year I bought a state of the art, 486 computer. It came with some free software, including Intuit's Quicken. I used Quicken for my household accounts for the next twenty years, upgrading every couple of years.  Because I was using Quicken, it was a no brainer that I would also use Turbro Tax to do my taxes. 

I stopped using Quicken when Intuit sold it and the new owners made changes to the software that destroyed it, in my opinion.

I used Turbo Tax until 2015 when I switched to H&RBlock software. I made the switch because I had a somewhat complicated year in tax year 2014 with employee shares vesting and sold for the first time in my life and a change in employer after thirteen years. 

I was offered a free copy of H&RBlock and so did my taxes with both Turbo Tax and H&RBlock that year. I discovered that while it was not quite so easy with H&RBlock, the refund was slightly larger. I wrote about that here. Since then, the interface has improved drastically and I continue to use it.

I absolutely hate tax time. I start to get stressed about it around October time. I purchase the latest version of the tax software as soon as it is available, then constantly open and update it, until mid February. By then I have most of the tax forms required to complete a first run. Then I wait some more, for further updates to the software and for the last of the tax forms to come it. Finally I finish. Then I wait some more. I am always afraid to submit the completed form for fear there is something wrong with it. So I check and double check. Finally I electronically submit it and wait. When I get that message back "Your federal return was accepted" I can breath a sigh of relief.

At least I do live in Texas where there is no State tax. I lived in California for two tax years and that was so much more complicated. Having to do both Federal and State returns was double pain.

This year was also a little more complicated, as I retired at the end of May and switched to Medicare and stopped earning a salary. I am hopeful that next year will be a lot easier but I suspect it will also be the first year that we will not have a refund and will probably have to pay the tax man. Why is that?

When my mother in law moved in with us, I also did her taxes for her. an elderly widow, not exactly retired as she never actually worked, but definitely not earning anything other than social security. I wrote here about her taxes always resulting in her owing the IRS. Of course, if she had more tax deducted from her social security payments, that possibly would not be the case, but that was such a small amount in the first place. I fail to understand why you would pay into social security all your working life, retire and start drawing from that only to be taxed on it again. It doesn't make any sense to me.

And on a more personal note, I had twice the stress doing two sets of taxes, plus my MIL was never happy that she owed money and made me feel like it was my fault. I did feel bad about it. I just don't get how badly the US treats it's elderly. 

Take for instance, Medicare. That doesn't cover any dental or vision costs whatsoever. Which means the US don't believe old people need teeth, nor do they need to be able to see. The only way to get these benefits is to pay extra for supplemental insurance.

I guess I just proved I am turning into an American, obsessed with taxes. At least now I have a better understanding of why it is something to complain about, it is not the payment of the tax, it is the preparation of the returns that is the problem.