A Good Problem to Have: Part 1

I used to work at a non-profit that served disabled athletes, and every time we had more participants than expected or raised more money than expected, we’d encounter some sort of problem. We’d run out of T-shirts or the poster-sized check to be presented to the CEO during our ceremony would have the wrong dollar amount printed on it. My boss would always say at least it’s a good problem to have.

Seeing an increase in participants and money were good problems for that non-profit to have. The problems still had to be solved, though.

This past summer, I ran into a good problem . . . 

Pine cones on Route 66 Bike Ride

Some of you know I am striving for the opportunity to retire early. I’ve tried to work out how much money I’d need to retire early. I even worked on a chart (I meant to make lots of charts–oops), and have been tracking my retirement funds. The biggest factor that can contribute to my optional early retirement, though, is my pension.

I can receive a pension at any age if I have 30 years of service. I’ve only been with my current employer full time for 17.5 years. However, I found out some part-time work I did was under the same retirement system. I had 4 more years of service than I thought.

Then I found out I could save a year of sick leave time and put that towards my retirement. Now I had 22.5 years of service. This put me at 7.5 years out from retirement instead of the 12.5 years I’d have if only my full-time work for my current employer counted!

 Right before Covid hit my state big time, I attended an all-day meeting with my retirement organization. I double checked that the amount of service years I thought I had was correct. It was!

I found out during the meeting that it was possible that work I had done during grad school could count towards the total. I hadn’t been paying into the retirement system at that point, so I’d have to “purchase” that time or pay the amount I would have paid into the retirement system based on my salary–plus interest. I asked the clerical workers to look into that time because I’d consider purchasing it if they awarded it to me.

I received a letter on my birthday (happy birthday to me!) which stated I could purchase a year and a half of service–for about $4K. The paperwork showed the retirement system counted some work I did as an undergrad. I was making very little money then–from $4.50 to 7.50 an hour. Very little would have been taken out of my check for retirement, so even with 20+ years of interest, the cost was just $4K. 

I gathered up the funds, sent it in, and now I was down to 6 years until optional retirement. 

“Ok, so what’s the problem?” you might ask. “Where’s this good problem to have?” 

Bike path on Route 66

Remember I had originally asked if my time working under this retirement system during grad school would count? Well, I received another notice that I could purchase my grad school time. I made more money during grad school than during my undergrad, and it’s still about 20 years of interest, so this year and a quarter of service will cost $10K. The problem? I don’t have 10K. 

I scrounged up the 4K I paid for the first year and a half, and though I have some left over in my checking, car fund, and emergency fund, it doesn’t add up to 10K. And even if I had that 10K, that would be ALL the money–no more car fund, emergency fund, etc. 

Pine cones on Route 66 bike ride

There’s more good news, though. I can pay for that service worked in a few other ways. With that good news comes more problems though. We’ll talk about those next week. 

In the meantime, have you had to deal with any “good” problems lately? Feel free to comment below.

Peace Out (and In),





  • JMFL

    I work in Healthcare and all my career there’s been a shortage of medical staff compared to patient demand. So that means constant new referrals. Many people have commented, my peers included, that this is a good problem to have. I disagree with them. I think your blog would be something I’d call “good problems,” so I’m not comparing. This is really the only example of “good problems” I think of in regards to myself.

    • Julie

      I think I see your point about how having a medical staff shortage would not be a good problem. It might sound “good” to people who are trying to grow their practices, but yeah, those who are not being able to be served are suffering. It kind of sounds to me like the people saying that are in a mindset that values competition and sees scarcity as good for business. I don’t know.

      I know you weren’t trying to compare, but your example helps me see how my situation is different. Mine feels a bit like a math or science problem I need to solve. It’s kind of scary (will I be able to solve it?) and kind of exciting (what will the result be?)

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