Geraldine Phillips

I retired in 2002 as a licensed practice nurse for a group home of mental health patients.  The job was hard: half the staff my first year took buyouts from the state government, giving the rest of us twice the amount of work we had before.  I had five injuries in one year from all the fights between patients I had to break up.  But it was still the best job of my life.  I liked the autonomy I had and the work was important.  I helped reintroduce patients with mental illnesses to their communities through field trips and guided independent living. 

Since retiring, I have lived off Social Security and the pension I earned, which means I make about a third of what I was making before I retired in 2002.  It’s a modest but comfortable lifestyle.

While I sometimes wish my pension paid more, I’m very happy that it was not a 401(k).  When I retired, I received $20,000 in worker’s compensation, which I invested in a mutual fund.  It’s what you’re supposed to do.

Then the stock market tanked and $20,000 quickly became $10,000. I pulled it all out and put it in a checking account because I didn’t want to lose anything more.  And this was a year before Lehman Brother’s crashed!

I figured that what I invested in my mutual fund could earn me a bit more money per year as it grew.  If I had had my entire retirement invested in a 401(k) then my retirement would have been cut in half!  I’m glad I had a pension. My retirement may be modest—no mansions in Florida for me.  But it’s secure and that’s what counts.