Much thought will be required
It’s something that I have to face, and plan on, like every one else, I’m getting older. I’ll turn 61 this year, just one year away from when I could take an early retirement and collect a partial Social Security benefit if I choose to do that. However, I know that I couldn’t live on that alone, so I’ve done a little checking on the subject. The first thing that I learned is although I thought that I’d have to wait until I reached 67 years old to collect full benefits from Social Security, it’s actually age 66 and two months for me. Ten months may not seem like that long now, but one never knows what the future holds.
I’m fortunate, I’m in relatively good health for some one my age, and I can still get around fairly well, but who knows how long that will last?
As you may know, I hate driving truck for a living, but after the economic collapse a decade ago, I found myself out of work and no one willing to hire some one my age in the line of work that I used to do. So, I looked at what was available, and made a career change even though I didn’t really want to.
I’d love to have more time off from work so that I could travel more than I could ever hope to when working full-time, just one week of vacation per year doesn’t go very far, or allow me to go very far. I’d love to see and photograph Yellowstone Park again, as well as the Canadian Rockies, maybe the most scenic area on Earth. But, since they are over a thousand miles away, getting there and back in a week leaves no time for anything but driving back and forth. Two weeks isn’t close to being enough time either.
So, what I am thinking about doing is taking the early retirement, sort of, and to also continue working for the majority of each year until I reach full retirement age.
From the little that I have looked into the matter so far, it looks like if I worked most of a year, and collected Social Security for the entire year, that I could end up earning about the same as I do now by working a full year. That seems too good to be true, and probably is. However, I may find that by signing up for Social Security early, I may be able to take an entire month or two off from work, with Social Security benefits picking up the slack in my income.
The rules for Social Security are a bit complicated to say the least. If you take early retirement but continue to work, there is a limit as to how much you can earn and still collect the full benefit. If you earn more than the limit, your benefits are cut in the short-term until you reach full retirement age, then, those benefits that were cut are added back into your full retirement benefits, actually increasing them in the long run if you live long enough.
Nowhere on the web site for Social Security does it mention any income tax implications, and I’m sure there must be some. Another thing that I would have to consider is paying the health insurance premiums for the months that I don’t work. There’s a lot to think about, that’s for sure. However, if I read the government website correctly, and I did the calculations correctly, I could work for ten months a year, take two full months off, and not lose very much in terms of income now, and my income would increase when I reach age 66 and two months and qualify for full benefits.
As complicated as all the rules and regulations are for Social Security, I will probably have to consult an expert on the matter. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of “experts” to choose from, unfortunately, they are not all trustworthy. I learned that while dealing with my mother’s financial matters when she developed Alzheimer’s and I had to take over managing her financial affairs.
I can’t tell you how much that I would love being able to get away from work and spend an extended amount of time outdoors shooting photos of the things that I see. I could easily stick to Michigan and work on both more species of birds for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on, as well as photographing the scenic parts of Michigan, such as the Pictured Rocks and Porcupine Mountains in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
If it were to work out so that I could take two months a year off for the next 4 years, I could spend one month escaping winter, traveling to places like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, which I’ve always wanted to see, and where it’s too warm in the summer for me. Then, I could take another month off in the warmer months here to visit the parts of Michigan that are too far away to reach in just a weekend or even a week.
Of course, that would mean that I’d also have to cut down on my expenses as far as camera gear that I would like to purchase in the future as well. That doesn’t seem too hard to do, as most of the equipment that I had on my wish list were things that would be nice to have, but weren’t things that I absolutely had to have. Most of the expensive things on the wish list revolved around the new Canon 5DS R camera body that I would love to have for photographing landscapes since it has such a high-resolution sensor.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the craze to have the latest and greatest gear available, and in part, the 7D Mk II that I purchased fed into that. It may be the best sports and wildlife camera on the market today, and it has features that no other Canon camera had at the time when it was released, until the 5DS R was introduced. Canon has just announced a major upgrade of their top of the line 1DX that incorporate some of those features, as well as introducing an all new 80D crop sensor body that has scaled down versions of those features. I can’t help but think that they will soon upgrade the 5D Mk III very soon as well, that would include the features that I would love to have, but with a more modest full-size sensor somewhere between the current version and the high-resolution 5DS R version, at a lower price than the 5DS R.
There are many advantages to a camera with a full-size sensor, lower noise being just one of them. In reality, I don’t need a camera with a full-size sensor at all, but it would make more sense for me to go with less than the very best anyway. I seldom print any of the photos that I shoot, the major reason to switch to the high-resolution camera. Then, there’s the fact that the 5D Mk III has been a workhorse of a camera for many professionals over the past few years, something that I have to take into account if I were to decide to go to a full-size sensor camera. I know, all this camera talk has many of you scratching your heads.
There are other things to consider, like, what do I do with all the photos that I would shoot in a month? Would it be better to stock up on memory cards or purchase a notebook computer to take with me? A quick check of prices tell me that a notebook would actually be cheaper than memory cards, as hard to believe as that is. That would work out much better anyway, I could review my photos to delete the bad ones, and to make sure that I had gotten the shots that I wanted of an area before moving on.
As a matter of fact, I did make it out for a walk once this week, even though it was quite cold that day. When I got home, I couldn’t transfer any of the very few photos that I had shot from the memory card to the computer. I have to think that it was because the card was still very cold that the computer couldn’t read it, because it worked fine yesterday, when it was warmer and a rare sunny day.
It was so warm that many of the pine cones were fully open.
Back to memory cards, I’d hate to spend an entire day or two shooting photos only to find out that they were all lost, so having a notebook computer rather than relying on just memory cards would be good insurance.
I’ve been working on this post and my dreams of extended vacations for a few days now.
I had even begun to plan when I would take time off from work, and where I would go. I’d sign up for Social Security at the beginning of the year that I turn 63. That year, I’d go to the Grand Canyon in February, making it my first place to visit. I based that on the fact that it would likely be one of the more strenuous trips, so I’d like to do that one while I’m still in good shape. That same year, I’d spend a month in Michigan’s upper peninsula photographing the scenery there, much better than a did a few years ago.
It does all seem too good to be true, so I have been trying to contain my excitement about all this, there has to be a fly in the ointment somewhere. However, I found an online Social Security calculator on the AARP website, and it confirmed my calculations, not only would the idea that I have in mind work, it would also mean a hefty increase in my full Social Security benefits once I do reach full retirement age.
There may still be a fly in the ointment though, they just changed the laws as far as Social Security, and no one seems to want to put out any information as to what those changes are, or what they would mean to me. As much as I was looking forward to taking an extended vacation or two a year, I have to believe that the changes in the law will put a chill on my plans.
It would be just my luck to have this all planned out, only to learn that the laws had changed, destroying this dream that I’m dreaming right now.
Even if I found that I couldn’t travel to the out-of-state places that I’m thinking of, having an entire month off at a time for a vacation would still be wonderful. A chance to escape the daily rat-race and really relax. The past few vacations that I took were good, but I tried to pack too much into too short of time. When I went up to the UP a few years ago, I wore myself to a frazzle, I was so worn out by Thursday morning that I couldn’t remember how to make simple exposure adjustments to my camera.
That’s what happens when I push myself too hard and don’t take time to eat right or allow myself any downtime. I was on the go from before dawn until after sunset everyday, and my body and mind finally said enough already, you need to take a break. I passed up places that would have produced some good photos, and didn’t spend any time looking for wildlife, because I simply didn’t have the time. Also, because of how much that I tried to see, I was forced to shoot photos of many of the places at the wrong time of day when the light was all wrong for the best photos.
I don’t want that to happen if I visit some of the places around the United States that I have in mind, or even the more distant parts of Michigan. I’d like to be able to take the scenic route, stopping along the way to see some of the lesser known places, and to also spend some time shooting photos of the wildlife that I see. I’d like to be able to plan to be in each place at the right time for a change, to get the best photos possible.
But, I’ve prattled on long enough about a dream that may or may not become a reality, time to get back to reality. Last weekend was the coldest of this winter season, so I stayed inside catching up on my housework and cleaning my lenses. It’s amazing how much crud a camera lens can attract in such a short time. One day during the week I did venture out after work, that was the day that it was still so cold that I couldn’t get any of the photos that I shot from the memory card to the computer.
On Friday, warmer air arrived, packing a wallop…
…as the warm air was driven here by wind gusts over 70 MPH (112 KH). We did set a record high temperature for the date, but I was working, which was just as well as I don’t want to be hit by falling trees or branches. Saturday was also very nice, and I did make it out for a walk after work, but by then, most of the birds were taking their afternoon siesta. Sunday dawned cloudy and even a bit gloomy…
…so I went for an extended walk around home once again, rather than going to Muskegon. That was probably the wrong choice, for later on that day, we had pretty good light for just about any type of photography.
It felt great to be out in nice weather for a change, not that this winter has been anything like the past two. We’ve only had 30 inches (76 cm) of snow for the season, last winter season, we had that much by the end of November. I’m glad that I spent as much time outside as I did, for if the current weather forecast for next weekend is correct, I’ll be back to hibernating again. The idea of being out in sub-freezing temperatures with the wind blowing snow in my face doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to. besides, I’d like to get a really good photo for a change.
The ones that I shot this weekend so far are okay, but nothing special, as you will see. But then, I am getting more picky about which photos that I post. When I crop a bird photo these days, I limit myself, and go no smaller than this most of the time.
In the past, this was the lower limit which I would crop to.
That’s mostly because I view all my photos full screen on my 27 inch iMac, rather than on the tiny screen of my old notebook computer. The tighter crop does look good here, but not so good when viewed when presented on the bigger screen. Still, I may have to consider doing some tighter crops for my blogging photos, since they are presented here in such a small size format. I’ll have to think about it, as I can easily have two versions of the same photo using Lightroom. One for if I want to print an image, and a second version for here.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the photos from this weekend so far. I’ll start with a photo that I didn’t have to crop at all.
It was still a bit breezy yesterday, which had the remaining milkweed seeds dancing in the sunlight.
But, those are a fall type of image, I was looking for signs of spring, and found a few.
But, I couldn’t catch one of these guys singing.
It dawned on me that shooting photos of the mosses that grow on the ground this time of year, before the other vegetation cover and hide them would be a good idea…
…but, I wasn’t about to lay down in half-frozen mud to do these mosses justice.
I recently posted a couple of photos of the goldfinches eating sycamore seeds, well, here’s one of the seed pods still intact.
Then, I thought that I should show how the stem that the seed pods hang from unravel over time, to look like strings are holding the pods on the tree.
I found more signs of spring.
And, a couple of birds willing to pose for me.
In a recent post, I showed the cone from a white pine tree starting to open…
Here’s how much progress the same cone has made so far, after a few very cold days, then a few warm days.
While checking the cones, I noticed what looks like new growth starting on the tips of some of the branches on the white pines, but I don’t know if it’s a flower bud, or new needle growth, but I took it as another sign of spring.
I still wasn’t ready to lay in the mud for this one, but I had to shoot it anyway.
With all the wind earlier this week, there were plenty of branches down to allow me to see some of the lichens that had been growing on the branches too high for me to see.
Sometimes, even I get lucky and shoot images that need no editing what so ever, as these next two show. I didn’t even have to crop them.
I didn’t have many chances to stay in practice shooting flying birds, here’s one of the few times that I did.
I love the patterns and symmetry of pine cones, can you tell?
All in all, not bad photos, but still, I want more. It’s been almost two months since I shot one that I would rate as excellent, one that I’m very proud of, other than mallards that is.
So, today I’m going to take the short trip to Muskegon to see what I can find. It’s been over a month since I was there, and I need a change of scenery from what I see around home here.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!