What does an unplanned career change mean for you?

   The COVID-19 pandemic has unsettled the country’s employment picture and will continue to do so for a while.
   If you’ve been offered an early retirement, how should you respond?
   Look at your situation holistically.
   For example, what does retirement really mean to you? Would you like to fully retire, or would you prefer to work part-time?
   If you would rather not work anymore, do you need to adjust your planned retirement lifestyle?
   How about your income?
   If you take early retirement, will you need to start tapping into your 401(k) and IRA early?
   Should you adjust your investment mix?
   What other sources of income will you have available?
   And don’t forget about health insurance.
   If you lose your employer’s coverage, can you get COBRA or negotiate an extended severance package?


"Everything changed, but God’s promises are forever" by: Betsy Monico

This week’s column includes snippets of Back to School 2019 and somewhat twists them into Back to School 2020.
Back to school – 2019: With school and fall sports in full swing, our time at home is minimal.
   This is the first time in fifteen years that I began the year full-time. I forgot how the first few weeks were.
   It is absolutely hilarious when you try to get a slew of elementary kids on the same page. Loading buses proves to be the real test. We have a new system, thank the LORD. We tag backpacks and added a symbol.
   If you ask a four or five year old what bus they ride, they respond with a shoulder shrug. If you then ask who their teacher is, you get some form of I don’t know.
   Inquiring nicely what your name is causes the most confusion.
   By 3:00 – they know nothing!
   I penned my thoughts about everyone, and I mean everyone, involved in a school district Friday when I got home.


"Reel Reviews: ‘The High Note’ provides laughs and family drama" by: Jessica Shepard

   I wanted to catch “The High Note” in theaters, but sadly, COVID-19 got in the way.
   Once it hit Redbox rentals last week I snatched it up and brought it home for the whole family to enjoy.
   Needless to say, my mom and I enjoyed it much more than Mike might have - even with its cliché storyline and “surprise” twist near the end that I totally saw coming.
   The High Note is a comedy-drama film directed by Nisha Ganatra and written by Flora Greeson.
   The film stars Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Zoë Chao, Bill Pullman, Eddie Izzard, and Ice Cube.
   It’s rated PG-13 for some strong language, and suggestive references and has a total run time of 113 minutes.
   Maggie Sherwoode (Johnson) is the longtime personal assistant to legendary R&B singer Grace Davis (Ross) who still has a successful touring career despite not releasing new material for a decade.


"Comparing a freshly mowed lawn with paper hot off presses" by: Mike Reddell

   I’m grateful to have a nice big yard to mow.
   After all, when you finish mowing, you have visible proof of your work.
   Life doesn’t provide a lot of those kind of visible accomplishments.
   Such was the case this weekend, after I finished the yard.
   Such was not the case Tuesday morning when my new-mowed lawn – a long-ago lyric from the Mamas and Papas – showed the blades of grass rapidly shooting up.
   That will give me another reason to praise mowing – just shy of a week from stepping off the mower.
   I always think the same kind of thoughts about working on a newspaper. 
   When you pulled a paper from the press in my daily newspaper days, it was instant proof of how you’d spent your day.
   I still enjoy looking at the paper right off the press – MaLinda and I pick up the Sentinel just as the press run finishes at the Houston printer.   


"Back to school doesn’t mean breathing easier" by: Jessica Shepard

   Going back to school this year seems to evoke a range of sentiments and plans for the long haul of the year.
   I’ve got to admit that I don’t really have much of a dog in this hunt aside from friends who work as teachers and friends who have kids enrolled in school.
   Most have taken the whole “mask” thing in stride and have been working to get accustomed to the face coverings or shields.
   A few are opting to go full home school or digital-distance learning and I fully support them either way.
   Regardless, I’m proud of them for making the most of the situation and am hopeful that things will turn out alright.
   The only thing that bothers me is that there are still people touting the use of masks for health and safety reasons as a “conspiracy theory” or a way to “infringe upon personal liberties.”
   I knew some folks back in college who felt the same way about seatbelts and helmets – and refused to wear either!


"Thinking this shall pass, looking to future when we look back at ‘Weird Summer 2020’" by: John Sample

   I don’t know about you but I spent a week in the mountains of New Mexico and came back home only to find my various investment accounts continuing to rise in value. 
   Maybe this actually Christmas in the summer. Of course not, but there are some real intriguing things happening. 
   It was reported last week that the number of TSA checks going through the airports was back to levels not seen since March. 
   That doesn’t mean we are back to norma, but we are starting to get there. This was not lost this week on the airline stocks and Boeing. 
   Moreover, money was going into large old-line capital stocks like Caterpillar. 
   You see this when investors see the economy moving forward over the next year. More importantly, this is moving the various indexes and averages. 
   Of recent vintage, the only thing moving the markets were the FANG stocks.
   All this good news does brings me concern over the markets however. 


When facing illness take control of finances

   If you’re fortunate, you will never face a serious, chronic illness.
   A disease such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or cancer brings physical and emotional concerns – but also financial ones.
   How can you prepare for them?
   You can start by consulting with a financial professional to determine if your investment portfolio is positioned to help with the types of costs you’re likely to incur.
   You’ll also want to think about insurance.
   You might be able to add a chronic illness rider that lets you tap into life insurance benefits while you’re alive.
   And you may want to work with a legal professional to establish a financial power of attorney to handle your finances should you become incapacitated.
   Finally, consider taxes.
   If you itemize, you may be able to deduct some medical expenses, as well as home improvements, such as a wheelchair ramp, related to your condition.


"I’ve missed school, ready for unity with my people" by: Betsy Monico

   I shared a meaningful conversation yesterday with a fellow volleyball mom in the “powder room.” 
   Females like to talk there, but let me clarify – it was in an old gym restroom. 
   Thankfully, the South gym restroom at Fairfield High is still open and operating, but it could use a makeover. 
   The South gym reminds me of high school two-a-days. We met daily there, with no air conditioning, from 8-10 and 2-4. I can still feel the heat if I close my eyes, taste the sweat, and hear our coaches. 
   Coach Housewright and Coach Mellontree ran the show that year. My “bumping” partner was Teresa. She now works in another school library. 
   We often swap out books and ideas; however, I will never forget how we first joined together on the volleyball court. 
   She was a year older than I was. I looked up to her and the other upperclassmen.


"Reel Reviews: ‘You Should have Left’ house mimics haunted Overlook Hotel vibes" by: Jessica Shepard

   Continuing with the “summer of horrors/thrillers that never seem to end” theme, I came upon “You Should Have Left” as a Redbox rental last week and scooped it up after reviewing the trailer on YouTube.
   Needless to say, the trailer teemed with unsettling visuals of a drowned woman, unexplained shadows on walls, and a house that’s seemingly “bigger” on the inside.
   Now, the film is a psychological horror film written and directed by David Koepp, based on the 2017 book of the same name by Daniel Kehlmann.
   It has a total run time of 93 minutes and is rated R for some violence, disturbing images, sexual content, and language.
   The movie stars Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, and Avery Essex.
   Theo Conroy (Bacon) is an older man plagued by nightmares, who is married to Susanna (Seyfried), a young actress, with whom he has a young daughter named Ella (Essex).


"Covering today’s Blackcats, a statue honoring Olympian" by: Mike Reddell

   I went to the new Memorial Stadium Monday morning to photograph the Bay City Blackcats’ initial day of two-a-days practice. 
   It was my first look at the new stadium. 
   I was impressed by it all – the players, the color of the artificial turf field, the towering stands and the soaring press box. 
   For the players, this was more about football than the imposing setting, said new Head Coach Robert Jones. 
   After all the Blackcats have been out of school since March amid this pandemic with the rest of us. 
   While BCISD did hold a summer sports athletic camp that brought all the district’s athletes together, the start of two-a-days had to be a touch of normal. 
   Other touches of normal included the oppressive heat and humidity – at least that was my take on the conditions. 
   Oh, and the coaches occasional shouts of reprimand. How I remember those long-ago sounds of summer. 


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