North Carolina Department of Correction - Correction News - January 1999

Dana Bridges builds futures

The message is strong and the messenger is a dynamo pixie with gushing enthusiasm. Eyes roll, but the messenger has their attention.

"Why don't you spend more time with your money?" Dana Bridges of Staff Development and Training asks the 25 Correction employees gathered for her two-day Preparing For Tomorrow seminar. "You have to have dreams now, so when you retire you have somewhere to go."

Word is getting around in state government that the Department of Correction has the best retirement training program. As many as 15,000 employees are on the waiting list to take the class which is offered once a month.

"Don't listen to Charlie and Sam at work even though you think they're smart. They don't know you personally, and everyone is different," Bridges lectures. "It's never too late to start saving. Over time, what you save could be worth thousands."

Experts in retirement planning come to talk about estate planning, social security, Medicare, long term care, health insurance, retirement income, and savings plans. It's a lot of information all at one time, but those in the class say they should have taken the seminar a long time ago.

Bridges is wide-eyed, animated and enthusiastic. Her comical segments mixed with doses of real experiences keep the class listening earnestly. There's nothing like a reformed workaholic to preach on the virtues of taking care of oneself, mentally and physically. Bridges knows from firsthand experience when she felt a great weight on her shoulders while working on OPUS computer conversions.

"I was wigged. I was doing the whole conversion of a million records, building a house and living with in-laws," Bridges said.

Dan Stieneke, then head of Staff Training, recognized the stress Bridges was under and recommended she chill out. She did and it changed her life.

"I had become the Pillsbury Dough-girl," Bridges said. "There's more to life than the Department of Correction." Bridges learned to put fun into her life, to do things she wanted to do no matter how crazy it seemed, such as candlelight dinners with her husband at five o'clock.

"I'm going to take each day by the tail. I create the fun, the spontaneity and the energy. Some people are so mean and grouchy, they've been eating worms for so long they haven't seen the sun. You can make your own happiness and the right attitude can carry you through work. The job won't last forever."

When she’s been away from the office, she’ll return with a huge smile and ask loudly at the front door, "Did you miss me?" Bridges said the office staff hated it at first, but now everyone is doing it.

Leading a stern lecture on diet and exercise, Bridges advised the group, "Suck in your belly-button so it touches your backbone. It makes you feel soooo much better."

The fortunate few who were able to attend this unique class said it got them pumped. Some had taken Bridge’s advice and walked the night before and were thrilled with how great they felt. One said there are few classes like this one that teach employees to think for themselves. Charlene Manshack of Data Processing, said it was the best workshop she had ever attended. Marilyn Brna, from Correction Enterprises, said, "I’m not afraid to fly anymore." Some had tears in their eyes talking about how helpful the class was to them.

Paige Dosser is Bridge’s counterpart who teaches a Preparing Makes Sense class geared for the younger crowd just starting to make a savings plan. Together, the two of them pack a powerful punch for employees and are earning the department a good reputation. For information, Division of Community Correction employees should contact their correctional training instructor, and Division of Prisons employees should contact their field training coordinator. All others can call the Office of Staff Development and Training at 715-0816. u

Tips to help prepare
for tomorrow

In retirement:
--Twenty days of sick leave count as one month of credible service.
Twenty-one days count for two months.
Sick leave and vacation days convert into retirement, but only up to 2,880 hours.
Unreduced benefits come with:

  • 30 or more years of service
  • 25 years of service at age 60
  • age 65 plus five years of service

--Reduced benefits/early retirement:

  • 20 years of service, age 60
  • 5 years of service, age 60

--You must have paid in at least five years of Social Security taxes and have a current connection to work. Based on age, education and work experience.
More than half the people who apply are turned down.

Social Security:
--If you were born in 1937 or before, you’re better off retiring at age 62. After that, age 65.
You must file for Social Security two months before retirement.
You will need your birth certificate, most recent W-2 form, earnings estimate and marital history. Also any credit received for military or railroad work.
It takes two to three weeks to process a retirement claim.
Pay out is based on average earnings for the highest 35 years of work based on calendar years, not number of months. If you haven’t worked 35 years, zero’s are averaged in for the number of years not worked.
If married at least 10 years, claimant can collect on a former spouse as long as claimant does not remarry.

--As long as you are an active employee, your employee insurance pays first.
Must be 65 or older.

Long-term Care Insurance
--This is supplemental insurance that very few people have. It’s not just nursing home care, but it addresses home care and adult day care centers.
Home care services can cost more than $100 a day.
Medicare pays less than seven percent of long-term care.
Can buy it any time, but as you age, the price goes up.
Worldwide portable. Relatives eligible.
Average term in a facility is three years.

Estate Planning
--You can do what you want in a will, but your spouse is entitled to a share.
Executor could get five percent of personal estate and five percent to pay the bills.
Appoint a guardian for children under 20 years of age.
The Federal Government will tax estates of $625,000 or more.

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