T.Lee’s Life Story – Chapter 9, Contracting Again

At the end of Chapter 8, I quit Westinghouse to return to the contracting world.  Chapter 9 discusses my contract jobs after leaving Westinghouse.

April, 2014

My last chapter explained why I left Westinghouse to return to the world of contracting. My first contract job took me from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Omaha, Nebraska, where I encountered the windiest city I have ever lived in. It was even windier than Chicago, which is called “The Windy City”.

Omaha is a small city. All the streets and avenues are laid out in a grid pattern, making it very easy to get around.  There were three things (that) I didn’t like about Omaha. The first thing was that my wife and son had a difficult time finding good jobs there. The hiring companies in Omaha seemed to want only people who were born and raised in Omaha. They didn’t seem to like to hire people from outside the state. Right or wrong, that was our perception based on the types of interview questions they asked. The second thing I didn’t like was that the winters were too cold for my taste, especially with the wind-chill factor. The third thing I didn’t like was that the constant wind made it bothersome for my wife and me to play tennis every day since the wind tended to blow the tennis ball around the court, making us work harder to hit it and control where it went.

There is a nuclear plant just outside of Omaha, Nebraska, and that is where I took a one-to-two-year contract job as a procedure writer.  The contract was for one-and-a-half to two years. However, after working at the nuclear plant for the first year, I found the working conditions to be unacceptable. The building I worked in was too hot in the summer time and too cold in the winter time. In addition, the utility personnel were too busy to provide enough leadership to keep the project moving in a forward direction. These frustrating conditions caused me to reconsider if I wanted to stay in Omaha for a second year.

It turned out that I would have an additional incentive to leave Omaha after only one year. I was renting a house in Omaha, and a few months before my one-year contract was to expire, my landlord died. Her heirs wanted hard cold cash, so they sold the house I was renting. The new homeowner wanted to move in, so my family and I had to move out. While I could have moved somewhere else in Omaha to finish out the contract, that would have meant that I would have to move again in another six months to a year. Moving is somewhat expensive, and I did not want to have to move twice in such a short time, so due to the frustrations listed in the previous paragraph, I decided to leave Omaha and move back to Florida where I hoped to stay for the remainder of my life.

May, 2015

To facilitate my desire to remain in Florida, I decided to look for some work-at-home contracts. Luckily, I found one, so I took a contract job as a procedure writer for a nuclear power plant located in the New England area of the USA. All my work could be done remotely from my new residence in Florida. This would be a first-time experience for me. (Pre-pandemic, being able to work from home was a rare opportunity. In 2022, it has become the norm.)

So my next assignment was a short-term, work-from-home contract for a nuclear plant in Niantic, Connecticut (city, state). Having the freedom to work from home meant that I could live anywhere I chose, so I decided to move to Fort Myers, Florida, to set up my new residence. I flew to Connecticut and spent two weeks at the nuclear plant learning what I was to do. Then I returned to Florida and began working on the project from the comfort of my home. After about four months, I completed this project. During this time my wife had been dabbling in the stock market and my son had been looking for long-term work, occasionally taking short-term contracts in the interim.

I enjoyed working from home. I could get up at my leisure, eat breakfast, and start work — no shaving, no dressing up in nice business clothes, no driving to work. I could speak to my wife and son and love my dog at any time during the day that I desired. I could stop and eat lunch at my leisure, and at the end of the day, I could simply turn off my computer and be done. I would already be home; there was no need to drive home in rush-hour traffic!

August, 2015

Once I finished this contract in early August of 2015, at the age of 62, I had a decision to make. Should I seek new work or take some time off? My wife had done fairly well trading stocks, so I felt financially comfortable enough to not work for a while. I told my headhunter that I would not seek new work right away but would take a few months off instead. I told him I might be interested in short-term, work-from-home assignments in the future. In the meantime, I would stay at home, unemployed indefinitely, and get a taste of what retirement would be like. I can’t retire until I am at least 66, so I have at least four more years before I can retire. This quasi-retirement (or semi-retirement) could potentially be the beginning of the final chapter of my life, Chapter 10.

The later we retire, the larger the fixed monthly payment we get. If I retire at 65, I will get a smaller monthly payment than if I retire at 70. After 70, the monthly payments stop getting larger with age, so there is no advantage in delaying my retirement beyond 70. I decided to retire at 66 years old so I can get some of my money back from the government (and enjoy life a little bit more) before I die. Otherwise, the government will get it all and I will get none, and that would be what we would call a crying shame.