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Copyright © 2003-2010, 2013 by David E. Ross

Free at last, free at last. God Almighty, I'm free at last.

Modified from an old spiritual

My Career

Why Retire?

Keeping Busy

How Can I Pay for It?

My Career

When I told my father that I planned to become a computer programmer, he was not thrilled. He said that computers were a passing fad and that I would have no future in that career. Pop suggested that I become a school teacher: "It's a well-respected profession that pays well." He just could not see the real future of either teaching or computers.

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Attending UCLA in the early 1960s was quite different from today.

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In high school, I was good in physics, mathematics, and history. I really enjoyed all three subjects. When I enrolled at UCLA in the fall of 1959, I had to choose a major. In my last year of high school, history was not offered, I got a B in physics, and I got an A in mathematics. Thus, I chose mathematics as my major. I had no idea how I would use a mathematics degree for a career until the 1961-1962 school year, when two friends in the Sproul Hall dormitory introduced me to the UCLA Computer Club. I was immediately hooked! That summer, after a two-month job as a computer operator for the UCLA Health Sciences Computer Center, I began a computer software career that lasted almost 41 years.

Regarding my employment at Unisys, SAIC, and Omnikron:

Living well is the best revenge

George Herbert [1651]

I am indeed living well.

Why Retire?

No, I did not leave Northrop Grumman because of the work. (I hardly knew what working for Northrop Grumman would be like. When I retired, most of the prior TRW employee policies and practices were still in effect.) Except possibly when I worked at UCLA, TRW was the most positive employment experience I had. My coworkers were friendly. My managers were technically competent as well as being good leaders. The company as a whole treated me as a valued professional. TRW recognized that a salaried employee was not paid by the hour. As a professional, I was never threatened with the loss of pay for not putting in a full day of work. (I have heard (2007) that Northrop Grumman does not treat its employees as well as they were under TRW.)

No, it was neither the work nor the work environment that caused me to retire. The primary cause was the commute from Hell. It was not unusual for my 42 mile trip home in the evening to take 2 or 2.5 hours (an average speed of 20 miles per hour or less). While driving to and from work, the commute drove my blood pressure out of control despite the combined effects of two medications. Yes, going to and from a very enjoyable job was killing me. Also, after chasing bits and bytes for almost 41 years, I was tired of having to do things that others told me to do. And I had finally accumulated sufficient retirement funds that I could afford to retire.

Keeping Busy

A Retiree's Thought

My wife said, "Whatcha doin today?"

I said, "Nothing."

She said, "You did that yesterday."

I said, "I wasn't finished."

Contributed by my brother

Enjoying too much not reporting to any manager, I quickly abandoned any thought of seeking even part-time employment. However, I seem to be as busy retired as I was when working.

The first thing on my agenda was a trip to Canada to visit our daughter Heather in Saskatoon. We spent over three weeks traveling by train, up the Pacific coast of the U.S. and then across Canada. We planned a trip and had an adventure.

Until Evelyn retired early in 2006, I cooked dinner many nights and even helped with grocery shopping. I emptied waste baskets and sometimes did my own laundry. Even with Evelyn now retired, I continue cooking and helping around the house.

Some days I spend 2-3 hours in the garden; some days I don't garden at all. I read magazines and books, but not as much as I had planned. I spend too much time at my PC.

In 2003, I volunteered for four hours per week with OPEN, helping the unemployed use computers to prepare résumés and search for jobs. But the work I was doing was then assigned to paid Ventura County staff who would otherwise be laid-off. I also did some work setting up the used-book store at the Oak Park Library.

I spent about 3-5 hours a week attending to the affairs of the Community Foundation for Oak Park, for which I was President until I finally retired in February 2008 after 17 years in that unpaid position. I retired from the Foundation's Board of Trustees in 2010.

I'm a docent twice a week at Gardens of the World.

In July 2005, I was sworn as a member of the 2005-2006 Ventura County Grand Jury. A year later, I was reappointed to the 2006-2007 Ventura County Grand Jury. While they paid me, the per-diem stipend — initially $20 per day and then increased to $25, less than minimum wage when I was involved 4-5 hours a day — almost qualified this as volunteer service. California law prohibits a grand juror from serving more than two consecutive years, so I was discharged in July 2007. I could apply for service in a later year, but this involved a very serious commitment of time and effort that I don't want to make again.

Evelyn and I go out to dinner and even an occasional movie during the week, leaving the weekend crowds to others. I would also like to take Evelyn to lunch, but our busy schedules generally make that impossible.

For a while, I took my mother to lunch or breakfast about once a month. This ended when Mom's dementia became more pronounced.

I played bridge when I was a student (1960s) and when I worked at SDC (1970s). I decided to refresh my knowledge of this very mental card game and started taking lessons in 2007. I began playing duplicate bridge regularly in 2008.

In 2009, we joined the Ventura County Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). I was soon made Membership Secretary.

Also in 2009, I was appointed to the Big8 Usenet Management Board, which controls the creation and deletion of newsgroups on the Internet.

Being with my grandson Luc (5) of course occupies some of our time. We also have occasional visits from my granddaughter Sydney (4), who lives in Canada; and sometimes we travel to visit her, our daughter, and our daughter's wife.

How Can I Pay for It?

Originally, I described here how I invested for retirement. That included "Investments", "Social Security", "Unisys Pension", "Leave Some for the Children", and "But How Much Money Do I Need?". I have moved all that content to Financing My Retirement.

30 June 2003
Last updated 8 September 2013

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