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Technically, I chose a 6-month furlough because the position I applied for and accepted was a Park Ranger with only half a year of guaranteed employment.

A testament to how badly I wanted to become a Park Ranger.

It was 7 months since I quit my job as an Assistant Librarian where I had a 2-month furlough. Then I made a bold leap to permanent seasonal. As a spry midlife gal, this is not the anticipated career path I had in mind.

Hiking a Different Path

A path to rangerhood meant adjusting my ideal image of success. For example, my version of a Park Ranger job is full-time, year round employment at a National Park.

However, my reality is a 6-month Park Ranger position at a federal interpretation center. The reality is very different from my grand expectations. Yet, I still feel happy and fulfilled about what I am doing.

10 out of 10 on the happiness scale.

Mapping Possibilities

Initially when I started my position, I began thinking about benefits.

“Most jobs have a simple compensation structure. You work. You get paid. If you’re lucky, they’ll toss something into your 401(k).”

Budgets are Sexy

I had a desire that I didn’t even want to admit, let alone say out loud: early retirement.

Of the dental, medical, and retirement benefits, I was only interested in retirement. With a tiny nugget of hope, I wanted to see how this position could play into my 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 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. This fancy sounding account is a high-interest savings for yearly expenses commonly referred to as a sinking fund. I have been tracking my expenses for eight years via a budget. This guided an estimate to my annual expenses, from insurance to gifts to possible accidents like deductibles or a cell phone replacement. I decided to save, since there was so much uncertainty,

Plus, I had a well-insulated emergency fund with a years’ worth of expenses. I wanted to be a scrappy kind of gal and not touch any of it during furlough.

Drinking Success

Much of my doom and gloom scenario wasn’t necessary.

My supervisors were able to find part-time employment with a different federal office which whittled my furlough down to 2 weeks.

As my supervisor joked, “it’s not ideal but it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.”

Indeed, it is better than 6 months unemployed.

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