Friday, July 29, 2011

All about Camp Hosting

Don’t you just love the Internet?  When I searched for “camp host jobs”, gave a little history about camp hosting.

For many years, work camping was dominated by volunteer host programs in the National Parks and National Forests. Hosts, often retired couples, would manage a campground for the summer camping season in exchange for a free site for their RV or travel trailer.
Today, while volunteer host jobs are still available, many public campgrounds are run by private companies under special concession contracts. Unlike the government, private for-profit companies cannot legally accept volunteer labor.  Most of these private companies now pay their work campers by the hour. Typically, camp hosts will work a certain number of hours (10-20) a week for their site, after which they are paid an hourly wage. The net result is that work campers will typically get their site plus $500-$800 a month in wages.

Camp host jobs vary greatly from campground to campground, but almost all require taking fees from campers, cleaning bathrooms, and light grounds maintenance (such as raking fire pits, blowing leaves, etc.) Hosts with maintenance skills are always in demand.
Several companies offer employment as camp hosts, including Aramark, Recreation Resource Management, and American Land and Leisure.  Aramark manages the seasonal employees at Lake Powell, which is one of the destinations we hope to work in the near future.  Recreation Resource Management manages a number of parks, but none in our home state.  For our first summer we plan to stay somewhat close to home, so we’ll first investigate American Land and Leisure.  Not only do they manage several mountain and lake campgrounds, their headquarters is about 40 minutes south of us. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vanity – thy name is Cheryl

With apologies to the Bard, just because I plan on retiring does not mean I plan to look old.  Unfortunately, the older I get, the more not looking old is costing me!  I’ve always been a believer in good skin care, and I wear sunscreen every day, so the “fine lines and wrinkles” have been somewhat kept at bay.  But – as I was looking at my reflection in my smart phone the other day I saw – horror of horrors – that sagging skin at the chin line.  Yikes!  Better find something to get rid of it (the sagging, not the smart phone).  Unfortunately, short of a facelift, which is not going to happen, my options are limited:
·         Chin exercises – most of which involve looking up and moving your mouth like a fish.  So if you catch me doing this, please be assured I have not completely lost my mind – just trying to prevent a double chin.

·         Double Chin Firming Serum.  Yes, they really do make this.  Does it work?  Reviews are mixed.  I am a devoted user of Mary Kay cosmetics, and they make a serum.  I’ll give it a try.
And then there are the grey hairs.  Why is it that grey hair makes men look distinguished, but makes women look old?  Totally unfair.  But again, remediation is possible with a little time, a little money, and a gifted hairdresser.
And while we’re not looking old, we can’t be feeling old, either.  Remediation for this is often a good thing – eating right, exercise, and of course, the “silver” variety of vitamin supplements.
So let’s add this up.  My approximate annual spend:  Cosmetics, $460.00; Hair color, $400.00;  Vitamin and herbal supplements, $780.00.  None of these expenses go away after retirement.  Yet another line item for the budget.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Part-Time Employment Revisited

So just how am I going to come up with $15,000 a year until I’m eligible for Social Security? 

In a perfect world, I’ll be able to work every year from January 1 – April 15.  Yes, tax season.  Too bad I’m not an accountant.  Paul is.  He is a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site coordinator.  He could work every day during tax season – doing taxes for low income people for free.  His free tax work leaves me free as well.
I have a couple of skills that I suspect will be in demand on a consulting basis.   The internet seems to confirm this; there are a number of consulting firms and temporary agencies advertising for technology jobs.  My current company has ongoing contracts with ten of these firms:  Apple One, Adecco, Aerotek, Employee Relations Associates, Kelly Services, Manpower, Inc., Randstad, Robert Half, Select Staffing, and Spherion.  All but Employee Relations Associates and Randstad have local offices and list local openings. 

Would I be able to eligible to consult with my current company after retirement?  Company policy dictates a 12 month break in service prior to hiring a former employee as a consultant, so that’s not a possibility the first year of retirement, but I could still get on with one of the eight firms still on the “short list” and take other assignments until I qualified to return.  Once I return, I can work as a consultant for a maximum of 18 months.  At four months an assignment (still designing the perfect world) that would be about 4 years.  OK, ability to do so aside – do I really want to consult with my current company after I become a retiree?
Enough of this serious stuff – what about winter seasonal employment – which in this part of the United States means ski resorts?  I’m already seeing ads in the local papers for seasonal work at local resorts.  It may not be as much money, but it would be fun!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Our Thirty-Year Anniversary

Today Paul and I have been married for 30 years.  That’s us in the wedding photo – uploaded through the magic of desktop scanning.  I did not have wrinkles; Paul did have hair. 

I believe that even in years past this would be considered a significant milestone.  Today, with nearly 50% of marriages ending in divorce, I believe it’s even more significant.  These days, my kids used to tell me, “There are support groups for kids whose parents are still together.” 
I also believe that the longevity of our marriage has contributed significantly to our ability to retire relatively early.  Neither of us married for money – we had so little money when we were first married that when Paul offered me a small engagement ring or a washer and dryer, I chose the washer and dryer.  We are, however, proud to say that what we have we have built together.

Paul credits me for his financial success – in a roundabout way.  He’s always told people, “The secret to my financial success is that my wife works.  And it’s the same wife.”  (He always gets groans from his divorced associates on that last line.)  While we laugh at this, we have contributed equally, throughout the years, to ensuring that we could live our dream of early retirement and the adventures we look forward to.
Happy Anniversary to the love of my life and my best friend. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

On the Waterfront

I have always known that I was named after a tugboat.  The Cheryl Ann was the hardworking tugboat docked at Berth 14 in San Pedro Harbor on the maritime adventure series “Waterfront,” which ran from 1954 to 1956 (the year I was born). The Cheryl Ann was operated by Captain John Herrick (Preston Foster) and crew members Carl Herrick (Douglas Dick), Tip Hubbard (Pinky Tomlin) and Willie Slocum (Willie Best). Other Tugs on the scene were the "Belinda" and the "Isabel."
John Herrick was the captain of the tug Cheryl Ann. His family consisted of wife May, police detective son Jim, and the crew of the tug, his son Carl, Tip and Willie. The stories revolved around the family and various criminals encountered around the harbor.
It’s pretty clear that my parents weren’t the only ones with the totally brilliant idea of naming their first-born daughter after this hardworking, adventurous, dare I say crime-solving tugboat.
Case #1:  There were five Cheryl’s in my combined sixth-grade class. 
Case #2:  In the 10 minutes it took me to research “Waterfront” I found multiple Cheryl’s out in cyberspace – all claiming the same namesake.  One has even established an online site for Cheryl’s only: .
It’s also pretty clear that several of these Cheryl Ann’s out there are now between the ages of, say 50 and 56, and thinking about retiring.  If your name is Cheryl Ann, after the legendary tugboat, I’d like to hear from you. 
I found photos of a model of the Cheryl Ann (sincere thanks go to Wes Whitlinger at which I have added to this page.  Seems a shame I waited so long to research the tugboat that is my namesake.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect – A Trial Leave of Absence?

As we discussed our finances for retirement, it appeared clear to me that with Paul’s income and our rental income, I would not be pressured to continue to have ongoing income.  Keep in mind that I do plan to have part time income, hopefully from working in resort areas – but I don’t ever want to be in the position of being a 70+ woman really truly needing additional income and not being able to find a job.  If I have to work, I might as well keep my current job.

Paul suggested that I think about asking my current employer for a 4 month leave of absence for a summer, so we could try working in a resort area or as a camp host and see if we even like the lifestyle.  As I think about this, I think it’s worth considering. 

A look in the company’s HR manual tells me that my manager could approve a personal leave of absence for 6 weeks to 6 months – however, she would be under no obligation to keep my position open.  During the leave of absence I could continue to pay for our current health coverage at the employee rate (as opposed to the much-higher retiree rate).   

Assuming the company would want me back after the leave of absence, my manager would know what my absence would mean to the department, and I would know if I needed to rethink my plans.  Possibly a win-win.   Worth considering…