Toes14
Posted by Toes14
Sep 23, 2016

First Update in a long time

Haven't been on the site much over the past year, for one main reason.

I was laid off from Blue Cross Blue Shield at the end of 2015. It came as quite a shock to me. They'd been quietly eliminating positions state by state. Fifty jobs in Georgia one month, 35 jobs in Ohio the next month, 40 more jobs in Wisconsin the month after that. Missouri got hit just before Thanksgiving - I was one of 25 people let go for 'reorganization and cost savings'. (Thanks for nothing ObamaCare!)

For the first couple of weeks, I was in a weird mood - a combination of shock and "well, I needed a break anyway". I hadn't had a real vacation that year, and had been working 50 hours weeks for a few months prior, due to it being peak season. I'd been there a couple months shy of 15 years, and quite frankly, had fallen into a rut. My boss was very good to work with/for, my position was pretty specific, and I had a nice niche where they needed my skills. Until somebody above my boss decided that people in another underwriting department could do my job too. I was one of the highest ranked non-management underwriters, and likely one of the best paid too, so it's not shocking in hindsight that they selected me for the chopping block. I was also the only male left in the department. (Hmm?)

Luckily, I got a nice severance package - my official last day was 12/31/15, then my six month severance pay began. I actually didn't need to go into the office anymore save one day to get my personal items. I kept my medical, dental, and vision insurance for the six month period too, although I lost my life insurance and needed to get more. I basically lounged around the house, took it easy, and did what I wanted until the middle of January. In retrospect, that was much too long.

I received two months of outplacement counseling from Right Management Inc., who had an office only 15 minutes from my home. I experienced some culture shock getting my resume together and on my first job applications, as everything was internet based now. I'd only had one job interview 15 years prior when I was moving from Group Health Plan to Blue Cross, and I'd been at GHP for 12 years prior to that, so in effect, I'd had two interviews in the past 27 years! I didn't have a LinkedIn profile, or a professional email address to use. I was completely unprepared in terms of resume styles and formats, cover letter content and wording, phone interview strategy, etc. Luckily, Right Management was a pretty good resource for all of that. They got me up to speed on it all.

The only issue was networking. I totally get how & why it works in today's job market. Unfortunately, I suck at it. I'm still a big introvert most of the time, and don't make friends/acquaintances easily. I'm bad at small talk. Nearly all of my contacts in my business network on LinkedIn still worked for Blue Cross. Most of the ones from GHP were long gone, and I'm not good at keeping in touch long distance. Most of them weren't interested in keeping an eye out for positions for me. They'd give me a pep talk, say the right things, and then I wouldn't hear from them for 2-4 months.

Complicating the situation are several other items: 1) I'm limited to the St. Louis area. My wife & I own a Vet Clinic here, and she's not moving. Period. Divorce is preferable to moving, in her opinion. Plus, all of our families are here too, and we really don't want to consider it. 2) I really wanted to move away from Health/Medical underwriting and into Property & Casualty, Life, Auto, or Commercial Lines in order to escape some of the uncertainty and all of the government regulation related to Obamacare and the current system. 3) My skill set is an odd in-between combination that doesn't lend itself well to some other Analyst type positions, like Financial Analyst, Data Analyst, etc. I have neither the Accounting background, nor enough experience in SQL and database queries to qualify and be effective in positions like those.

So the Spring of 2016 came and went, with only a few phone interviews and one physical interview. (I'm not counting the ones for Benefits Consultant/Specialist positions that ended up being plain Sales positions. I walked out of the second one of those after it became apparent what it was. If nothing else, I know myself and my skills. I had no desire to try & sell anything to people, nor am I particularly good at it, so why waste everyone's time? St. Louis has a decent number of insurance companies located here, mostly property & casualty. But I simply wasn't getting any traction on the jobs I was applying for. I didn't know anyone at these companies, and most likely wasn't getting through the email filters, or was being rejected for not having specific P&C underwriting experience, despite having 20+ years of solid underwriting background. I also was frustrated at not getting any responses or feedback, even when I called companies back. Maybe 10% even bothered to send me an email rejection notice.

Depression set in. Then reality hit. My severance pay ended 7/1. The bills didn't. Luckily, my wife's clinic is doing well, and she was able to pay herself more to help cover expenses, but it's not a long term solution. I applied for government assistance (unemployment) for the first time in my life. How fucking humiliating! One thing I'd always prided myself on was the fact that nobody (except my parents/grandparents) ever gave me anything. I didn't need it. I paid for the last couple years of college by myself. I saved $20k for a house down payment in less than two years, by myself. Now that was gone. But I realized I wasn't 'by myself' anymore. I had a wife and two daughters who needed me. So I did it for my kids. Then I found out I wouldn't get unemployment for another 6 weeks - one week waiting period and 5 weeks because I'd been paid that much in accumulated vacation pay after my last day at Blue Cross. I'm 4-5 weeks into my unemployment pay now, and have another 3.5 months of it left before that runs out. My job prospects haven't improved much, and I'm still looking.

One of the casualties of my situation is that I can't go to the casinos anymore, despite being a low roller. I have plenty of time and could easily go, but dropping $20 or $30 would be a bigger impact now and I'd have trouble shrugging it off. Before, that was just a night's entertainment. I never got bothered unless I dropped over $100. But the urge is still there. Sometimes I think about rolling all of my loose change up and taking the $20-30 it would make and at least playing the nickel VP machines and having a couple free cups of coffee. Then I mentally smack myself, and go look at more job boards to see what I can find.

If anyone who reads this has any contacts in the insurance industry, or at other companies in the St. Louis area, I could use some help finding a new position. Here's a link to my profile page on LinkedIn:

Ron Tipton LinkedIn Profile

I'm looking for an underwriting or analyst position. I am most qualified for Pricing and Risk Analysis positions, but could also do well at Benefit Analyst, Business Analyst, and Cost Analyst positions, or other jobs related to pricing and risk management.

Thanks in advance for any help and contacts you can give me.

Comments

OnceDear
OnceDear Sep 29, 2016

Sorry to hear of your unemployment plight. I can empathise with being out of the whole networking thing. Sometimes we just get on with our job year in, year out without giving much thought to the slippery career ladder. Very often too, being great at your job can lock you into a [url=http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Velvet%20Rut&defid=2156432]'velvet rut'[/url] while not being nearly enough to get you a similar job.

So, you say you received 'a nice severance package . . . six month severance pay' and that was for a non-voluntary severance?

May I ask, just out of curiosity, is that typical compensation for a non-voluntary redundancy payoff in the US? Is that taxable, thus giving you just 6 months net salary? That doesn't seem so 'nice' Were there other significant benefits such as ongoing healthcare?

I compare that to what we get in the UK where voluntary redundancy is almost always offered as a first choice with MUCH better terms than compulsory redundancy. Typically here VR would get one months salary for each year of employment capped at 6-21 months with the first £30K being tax free. 12 months salary tax free when I took it.

odiousgambit
odiousgambit Sep 30, 2016

>everything was internet based now

God Almighty that is one change that has taken place that I absolutely learned to hate when job-hunting. I thought getting jobs via the newspaper Want Ads was bad enough, but the internet is even worse. Some outfits even insist you use Monster.com - my God what a monstrosity indeed! I have never been so spammed in my life, painful spam too, like being homeless and having to constantly watch programs that say 'follow this lead and you'll soon be in a mansion!' . They still send me crap. And don't get me started on the typical HR person.

Goodbye to all that! I was able to retire - that's working out pretty good for me. On the other hand, I had to move to somewhere cheaper and it gives pause to think where we'd be if me and my wife could have put in just a few more years with good jobs loading up 401ks [she beat me to it retiring]

You have my sympathies, sir.

Toes14
Toes14 Oct 01, 2016

OnceDear - The formula they used was 4 weeks pay + another 1.5 weeks for every year of service, rounded up. I'd been there nearly 15 years, so 4 + 22.5 = 26.5 weeks. Yes, I kept my medical, dental, and vision insurance for the six months, but lost my life insurance. It was just like getting a regular paycheck, with deductions, for the whole period. In fact, I actually got more money because they stopped by 401k contributions (and their matching contributions), due to US law.

From what I've found out since, the package was actually fairly standard to US Fortune 500 companies for non-management personnel. It's still pretty good compared to what I found out many smaller companies offert.

Toes14
Posted by Toes14
Aug 01, 2015

7/24 - 7/27 Trip Report, Day 1

Flew in Friday, arriving before 5:00 pm. Cabbed it to Bally's with my brother and our friend Dan. Check in line was moderately long, but they had maybe 8 desk clerks working and it moved pretty well. Only waited about 10 minutes. I'd reserved a standard room with King sized bed. The clerk asked me if I'd consider changing to a queen bed room with sofa, sitting area, and refrigerator for the same price. Since we had been thinking about hitting Walgreens to stock up on beer & water, I took that option. Got a room on the 9th floor, facing north. It was clean and the fixtures & furniture were decent, if a little dated. Everything was clean and in order, with nothing broken. Had a nice view of the monorail, High Roller and most of the Casinos on the East Side of the Strip.

We all got settled in our rooms, then were ravenous, as it was 8:00 pm to our stomachs. Hit Tequila Taqueria for dinner. We split some wings and I had steak fajitas, which were acceptible only because I was so hungry. The meat seemed to get stringier and tougher the more I ate. The rest of my group enjoyed their tacos and enchildas though.

Our friend Tim was staying at Planet Hollywood and game over to meet us. We took spots at the bar near the poker room and drank, slow played some Video Poker and socialized for a couple hours. I won $20 despite the terrible JOB pay tables there. (Mostly 6/5 or 7/5 machines. I think I saw an 8/5 pay table on a $5 machine in the high limit area.)

After that we meet Dan's brother & sister in law who were also in town, and took an SUV cab downtown to hit Fremont Street. The last time I was there was in January 3-4 years ago. What a difference the timing made! There was 10x the crowd, plus three bands alternating at different stages along the FSE. Tons of families with teens all the way down to 3 & 4 year olds!

We hung out, drank, socialized more, and got some people watching in. Ended up gambling in Binions where Tim had a Keno game he plays everytime he's in town. I found a JOB machine with a more acceptible pay table and won $10. We made it back to Bally's and I hit the bed around 1:00 am, 3:00 am to my body.

Comments

1BB
1BB Aug 02, 2015

How was Rush?

1BB
1BB Aug 02, 2015

how was rush?

tringlomane
tringlomane Aug 03, 2015

Nice start. Hope you had a good time!

Toes14
Posted by Toes14
Jul 22, 2015

Less than 2 days and counting

Until my Guys Vegas weekend. Fly in Friday, get settled, grab dinner, then probably hit Fremont Street and check out East Fremont (where I've never been). Drink, gamble, etc.

Saturday - Maybe a little sightseeing & shopping in the morning, hit the pool a while in the afternoon, try to find some $10 real Black Jack near Bally's in between there. Dinner, then Rush Concert @ MGM Grand Garden Arena. After that, gambling, drinking, and excessive carousing, possibly coupled with womanizing and/or a strip club visit.

Sunday - Combat the effects of Saturday night with my patented combination of massive amounts of sweetened black coffee, bacon, and fried potatoes. To be followed by more time at the pool tanning & swimming, then more craps, BJ, and VP. Dinner, possibly at Hoffbrauhaus, to satisfy my high school friend who in fluent in German (and 4, no 5 other languages). (As long as I can get some bratwurst or sauerbraten and a good beer, I'm fine w/ it.) After that, who knows?

Monday - Unsure. Have to checkout by 11:00 but flight not until around dinner time. That makes hanging at the pool difficult. Probably some more sightseeing & tourist stuff, more gambling, etc. Might try the poker room for a change.

Comments

1BB
1BB Jul 23, 2015

"You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill. I will choose a path that's clear. I will choose free will." - Rush

I saw Rush at the Nassau Coliseum in '79 and a couple of times since. Enjoy the show and your trip!

tringlomane
tringlomane Jul 23, 2015

Good luck!

1BB
1BB Jul 30, 2015

I left a comment telling you to enjoy the Rush concert and that I first saw them in the late 70s in New York. The post disappeared so enjoy the show.

1BB
1BB Jul 30, 2015

Enjoy!

Toes14
Posted by Toes14
Jan 30, 2015

RUSH Concert in July

I got a text from my buddy today saying he successfully got our tickets for the Rush Concert on 7/25, so I am definitely coming back to LV for a few days around that date.

I'm psyched! This will be my first real guys weekend in Vegas. The other times I've been were with a girlfriend or the wife, except for 3-4 years ago with my brother. But that was an early January trip, and it was pretty cold. It took some of the joy out of walking the strip and people watching. This will also be my first summer visit, so I'm interested in seeing how a dry 112 degree LV day compares to a humid 95 degree St. Louis day. Definitely going to work on my tan a little at the pool.

Not sure where we're staying yet. Since it's been a while, can anyone answer the following questions:

1. Will I be able to find any blackjack games paying 3:2 for a low minimum ($5-10) anywhere on/near central or south strip? Even if it's just in the mornings or early afternoon?

2. Is the Sigma Derby game still up & running at the MGM? Are there any other of those games located elsewhere convenient to the strip?

3. I'd like recommendations for a shooting range for beginners to to try out various guns.

4. Also looking for places to play some pinball & video games. I'd heard of the Pinball Hall of Fame/Museum, but read some bad reviews saying many broken machines, attendents not to be found, no air-conditioning, etc.

5. What about suggestions for a cool bar to have a drink at downtown, may East Fremont area?

Comments

Wizard
Wizard Feb 03, 2015

1. I'd try Hooters.
2. I think so.
3. I highly recommend [link=http://www.discountfirearmsusa.com/]Discount Firearms[/link].
4. I think the Pinball Hall of Fame is great. About 90% of the machines work just fine.
5. I like the 777 Brewhouse at the Main Street Station.

Toes14
Posted by Toes14
Jun 08, 2014

Nice Lunch at Fairmount Park

So I was a little slow at work early last week, and bored. I decided to head over to Fairmount Park at for a long lunch Tuesday, for their Horse Hookey promotion. It's always a fun cheap time. $1.50 admission, $1.00 sodas & hot dogs, $1.50 draft beer (including decent stuff, like Blue Moon, Killian's, Schlafly, etc.)

I studied the jockey & trainer standings and looked through the prior weeks results for patterns. Two jockeys were hot, having ridden 4 winners in a day. For the first race, one of them, RM Hernandez, usually dominates at Fairmount and was riding the favorite. I didn't know anything about the other, RR Singh. However, he was riding a horse of a well rated trainer who was in the money his last race, and was a 10:1 shot at the time, so I thought it was a value pick.

I bet a $2 Exacta Box on the two horses those jockeys were riding, plus the other favorite horse. Also put $2 place bets on those two horses and a $2 show bet on another long shot. The horse ridden by Singh went off at 15:1 and won, with Hernandez's horse in second. I won $8.60 and $2.80 on the place bets, and $119.40 on the exacta. If only I'd picked Singh's horse to win - it paid $38.40 for that!

Still, it was just after the first race and I was up $106 already. I had a cheap lunch and made picks for most of the other races. I went back to work after the 2nd race, and checked my results later. I hit just about half of my bets, but they were mostly the favorites, and I usually didn't win enough to cover all my bets for the race. Still, I ended up about $80 positive for the day. Not a bad lunch at all.

Comments

FinsRule
FinsRule Jun 08, 2014

I miss Fairmount... I've had a lot of fun there.

Not so much the food though!

It's tough to bet there, because the favorites hit so much and the horses are so bad. But a great place to hang out. Glad you had fun and won some money.

tringlomane
tringlomane Jun 20, 2014

Hernandez is dominating this year. My dad went to Fairmount back in May. Hernandez won all but one of his races I think that day. Big fish in a small pond.