Welcome to my mid-life crisis. I have weeks like this one when I question whether I want to continue doing what I do for a living, especially for the entity I do it for – the State of California. Given the 5% pay cut I’m facing next fiscal year in addition to the 9.4% pay cut/unpaid furloughs I’m already experiencing, I’m tempted to continue working for the State of California just until my pension vests, in about a year, just to piss off the top dogs in State bureaucracy and make the actuaries at CalPERS work harder to figure out how much I and my fellow Baby Boomers are going to cost.
See, I’m part of the big pension funding problem the State is going to have to deal with in about 20 years or less. Worse, I’m on the end of the Baby Boom generation. Even worse, my pension, should I stay long enough to vest, will be higher than your average state worker pension because my salary is higher than the average state worker and my pension is, I’m told, calculated under the older, more remunerative Tier 1 formula. My understanding is that if I put in 20 years and retire no earlier than 50 (as if!) I get lifetime health care benefits, too. The pension won’t amount to much, but because it’s a pension, I would be entitled to it and the health care benefits until I freakin’ die.
That should be enough to make the State’s big financial dogs tremble – paying pension and health care benefits to a whole bunch of healthy, elderly and, in my case, hypochondriac Baby Boomers until they decide to shove off the planet. Hell, you can’t get Baby Boomers off the stage, much less off the planet, to wit: Bill Clinton. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the State hire mercenaries from Blackwater to start taking out retired California state workers. It would be cheaper than paying health care benefits and pensions until they freakin’ die. And I'm sure Blackwater wouldn't get caught.
Call mine a "spite pension."
Mind you, there are days when I don’t like practicing law. Even in an advisory capacity, I often feel like I’m at war, constantly having to defend my legal opinions and proposed decisions to other lawyers and my superiors. I constantly allow the perfect to get in the way of the good, as do most lawyers, because you feel there’s little if any room for error in the advice you give. Someone’s going to be making plans based on that advice, so it better be correct. The quest for perfection is tiring at my age. Even a stripper is allowed a little imperfection in her work, a little cellulite without getting booed off the stage. Lawyers, not so much. Added to that is the flaming hatred most Californians have for state civil service employees. I don't remember things being so rabid when my parents worked for the State. It wears on your spirit to be hated just for having the job you have, regardless of whether you do it well.
With the State laying off employees and looking to cut salaries for employees of general fund agencies, which I am (Don’t get it twisted – state employees of the University of California, the California State University system, some special fund agencies, and agencies headed by constitutionally-elected officials have not faced unpaid furloughs), and given my ennui about law practice these days, it’s easy for me to consider laying the foundation for my immediate exit from state service (Any literary agents out there?) so I don't experience any loss of income in the short run. There's no loyalty between the State and its employees these days, and for folks like me, it's like playing financial chicken to see how long you can hold out without getting laid off. But assuming I can avoid being laid off until I vest, I will probably stay with the State for no other reason than to have a source of income, no matter how small, until I freakin’ die. Or at least the claim to one. Oh, and just to piss the State of California off.
In the meantime, I’m gonna try to get really healthy, take dietary supplements, and get in shape so I can live long to enjoy that pension when I’m old. Until I freakin’ die. Just to piss the State off.