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I chose a six-month furlough because I wanted to be a Park Ranger. I was willing to take a position where I would be a government furloughed employee for half the year.
It is a testament to how badly I wanted to become a Park Ranger.
It has been seven months since I quit my job as an Assistant Librarian where I had a two-month furlough and leapt to this permanent seasonal cycle. As a spry midlife gal, this is not the anticipated career path I had in mind.
HIKING A DIFFERENT PATH
A path to rangerhood has meant adjusting my ideal image of success. For example, my version of a Park Ranger is full-time, year round employment at a National Park.
However, my reality is a six-month Park Ranger position at a federal interpretation center. The reality is very different from my grand expectations. Yet, I still feel very happy at work and I feel fulfilled about what I am doing, ten out of ten.
Once I started my position, I immediately began thinking about benefits. Along with wanting to be a Park Ranger, I wanted to know my retirement options. I had a desire that I didn’t even want to admit, let alone say – out loud. I wanted to retire before the standard 65.
Of the dental, medical, and retirement benefits, I was only interested in retirement. With this tiny nugget of hope, I wanted to see how this position could play into this retirement dream.
After some research, I found out that if I stayed at this position for another 16 years, I could retire at 51 and still receive a government-sponsored annuity. My 16 years of service is reduced, from the typical 20, because of my military experience.
The salty sailor is winning this early retirement challenge! Eighteen years later, my youthful decision continues to pay impressive results!
NAVIGATING THE UNKNOWN
With my big goal figured out, I had to develop a cushion for the rest of the “government furloughed employee” part, specifically, my everyday expenses.
Up until this point, I had no idea how my furlough would shake out. So I decided to plan for the worst-case scenario and save – a lot.
I dumped my government issued money into my Adulting Adventures account which is a high-interest savings account for my yearly expenses commonly called a sinking fund. I have been tracking my expenses for eight years via a budget. This is a good guide to my annual expenses, from insurance to gifts to possible accidents like insurance deductibles or cell phone replacement. Since there was so much uncertainty, I decided to save for everything.
I also ensured that I had a well-insulated emergency fund with a years worth of expenses. But even though I had all this money carefully squirreled away, I wanted to be a scrappy kind of gal and not touch any of it.
Much of my doom and gloom scenario wasn’t necessary.
My supervisors were able to find part-time employment with a different federal office and my furlough was reduced to four months.
As my supervisor joked, “it’s not ideal but it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”
Indeed, it is better than six months unemployed and much better than a stick in the eye.