Does “retired” mean “tired again”? I hope not but, so far, I’m not sure. Forty-five years of work is like having a tiger by the tail. You need help to let go. There are PCs to return, waivers to sign, decisions to make, pension and insurance arrangements to be made … and years of lost sleep to recover.
My retirement (and the “to do” list above) began on December 1, 2015. Most of the list has to be completed by January 31, 2016. By the end of March, I’ll have a good idea what the term “living on a fixed income” means. (Funny … except for almost-annual bonuses, my income seemed rather “fixed” during the past 7 to 10 years.)
It’s January 1, 2016 … a new year. As I expected, I’ve been sleeping a lot. I’ve been retired for one month. I’ve returned the PCs, applied for Medicare Part B (didn’t need it before retiring), and reset to my original company for health insurance. HPE … or maybe HP, Inc. … changed it to United Health Care (UHC) when I retired. I changed it back to Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC) a few days ago. I’ve converted my pensions into single life annuities and arranged for the withdrawals from my 401K as required by law. (After reaching 70½ years old, those who are no longer employed are required to withdraw a portion of their respective 401Ks and pay the previously deferred taxes.) Unless I’ve missed something, the only thing I need to do is sign and return the “Waiver and General Release Agreement” in order to receive the retirement incentive bonus that HPE promised. I’ll take care of that tomorrow or Monday. Then, I wait … for my new Medicare and HPHC insurance cards; for my retirement incentive payment; for the beginning of my annuity and 401K payments. I hate waiting. Sigh!
Today is January 7, 2016. I’m still waiting. Everything related to my health insurance is on hold until my new Medicare card arrives. HPHC needs a copy of my new Medicare showing that I have both Parts A and B. Meanwhile, I’m insured by UHC, but that card hasn’t arrived either. I suspect that the end-of-the-year holidays caused a slow-down in all of the bureaucracies I’m with whom I’m dealing. I feel like Sisyphus … pushing a rock uphill forever.
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, I was worried that it might take months to correct my health insurance mess. Today, January 8, 2016, I received a letter telling me that I have both Medicare Parts A and B. I don’t have a new card yet, but the letter said that they will be sending it.
Yesterday (Monday, January 11, 2016), I received my new Medicare card. This afternoon, I faxed the HPHC Insurance Company Medicare Enhance form and a copy of the Medicare card to HP Benefits Center.
Barring some unforeseen complication, I’ve done everything that I needed to do. My first annuity checks will arrive next month. The first of my 401K distributions will arrive in March. My new insurance card will arrive when it arrives.
So why did I write this article (other than to count my marbles and find the missing ones)? Why should you, the reader, care about my struggle with the bureaucracies?
If you haven’t completely retired yet, you’ll probably have to deal with Social Security. Medicare, and Medicare Supplement Insurance someday. If you’ve already ahead of me in the retirement process, you probably know someone who will benefit from my bad example. The point of this article is to remind you:
- When you retire, you almost certainly deal with one or more bureaucracies:
- Employer separation requirements
- The Social Security Administration
- Pensions, 401Ks, and savings projections
- Health Insurance
- Bureaucracies move slowly.
- The slowness of several bureaucracies can be additive.
- Some employees of bureaucracies may have incorrect or incomplete information or may not express the information clearly.
- You and each of the bureaucracy employees you may work with may unknowingly use jargon.
After you reach full retirement age, you can collect full Social Security regardless of your earnings. If you work beyond your full retirement age, don’t pass up this entitlement.
At the time of this writing, 65 is the age of Medicare eligibility. If you retire at or after 65, contact Medicare 2 or 3 months ahead of your retirement to make sure you have both Parts A and B. Without Part B, you need full medical coverage for everything except basic hospital costs. With Part B, you can get the (usually) less expensive Medicare Supplement insurance for regular medical needs.
When you talk to another face-to-face, there are a lot of non-verbal cues that aid mutual communication. On the phone, mail, or web, those cues are gone. When communicating with corporate or governmental benefits agents, be as sure as you can that both of you are using the common meaning of terms and phrases. Most of us use jargon or slang without knowing we’re doing so. Ask lots of questions and clarify, clarify, clarify.
Expect some glitches. You’ll probably encounter one or two. Keep the faith and your sense of humor. You’ll get through it. I did. Now, I have to figure out what I want to be (and do) when I grow up.