Twelve days ago I got my annual retirement report. Ever since I started my current job, they took 3% of my salary and put it in a New York State Retirement system. It was not an option, but there were dates to remember and understand, and even to look forward to. For example after 5 years I would be vested, meaning that even if I change my job I would be able to maintain my retirement account and eventually get a pension. Another important time to look forward to was the 10 year anniversary, after that they will not draw the 3% from my salary, but my retirement account will continue to grow. On page 6 there were as usual the nice numbers of the pension I will get after working for them for 25 or 30 years. Numbers keep piling up and this is good but reading the same information again this year, I picked up a different side of it. Up to 10 years of employment I can get all my contributions back with the accumulated interest. After I work for more then 10 years the money will be "lost" forever. I will have to wait to be at least 55 to start getting some of it back. I now have more then $30,000 there and by my tenth anniversary I will have about $45,000. It is a lot of money to "lose". This got us thinking and it turns out that there is some catch to it - if I want to get the money, I would have to pay federal tax on it, they will send 20% of it to the IRS and I only get 80%. After that when I do my taxes that year I might have to pay a 10% penalty on it! Anyhow doing the math, this could be a $33,000 check to get if I leave my job before January 27, 2012!
A couple of months ago I was listening to Rick Steves audio podcast and he was interviewing a couple of parents who took their three children and traveled around the world for 8 months. They survived to write a book about it, A Brilliant Teacher: Lessons Learned from One Family's Journey Around the World. Listeners called in, including a doctor from Arizona who took his 3 children around the world. I wanted to read the book but our local library only had One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children. I bought the first book from Amazon, but we all read the second book first, even Ioan started to read it. It is a good and funny book, much better than "A Brilliant Teacher." But this got us thinking and we talked on and off about it. For several years we have been considering the possibility of a sabbatical, but mostly the doctor offers for a 6 months or 1 year job in Australia and New Zealand. That would be an interesting experience, but what's the fun if I get to work all the time and Ileana and the kids stay in some rented apartment waiting for me.
Several months ago we were talking-joking at lunch about our future vacations. Ileana wants to go all over the world, but her older sister only wants to have her vacation in Romania with her grandparents. So we talked that maybe grandparents can come to China and we have a vacation together there in 2011. This would be acceptable for Maria, but not for Ileana. She started to cry: "Dad, you don't realize, this means we won't be able to go to Australia until 2012, I will be 15 years old then, I can't wait that long!" She was so serious, so broken hearted and powerful in her cry, I had to hold her tight and assure her that she will be OK. We spent some time on the internet looking at available flights to New Zealand and Australia and her tears dried up. She moved on to a different subject, but I was left with the doubt. What sort of horrible father lets his children wait to see Australia and New Zealand until their 15th birthday ?
And again a couple of weeks ago, I got this statement from the retirement program that I could get $33000 if I just leave my job in 2012. This would be the year when Maria would have to go to college, then she'll be gone for good and all these wonderful places in the world would have to be seen without her...
What if I leave my job in January 2012, say goodbye to everybody and we take off for 6 months? We'll be back in time for college start. Ileana and the children would have to hurry up the homeschool a bit and free up several months of vacation. Maria would apply for colleges before December 2011 anyhow, so we'll know where she'd go in August 2012. The London Olympics would be in August, we won't miss it. And I have to make the jump at some point from public employment to my own private practice, this could be as good a time as any other. Thoughts keep coming. Maybe we can postpone the unplanned undiscussed 2011 China trip and meet with the grandparents in China in March or April 2012. That would be awesome! Easter is on April 15, I don't want to spend Easter in China, what would be a more appropriate place for that? Jerusalem? Sounds good. April 15 in Israel. We'd have Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, India and China before Easter. Then Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Romania and I could be back for the annual picnic at my job before June 25th.
We need a theme. But we have a theme. There are some places in this world that Ileana and I know that would be hard to enjoy without the children. There are other places that we'd be happy to see without them. We can see Japan or London by ourselves, but we want to have the children with us when we get to The Great Wall or Taj Mahal. As simple as that.