This past weekend I was traveling back home from a business trip, and I connected in Houston before making my way to San Antonio.

Since Covid started, I made it a point to carry Germ-X hand sanitizer in my computer bag. Unfortunately, my Germ-X bottle is larger than the allotted size, but because of the pandemic, TSA has made exceptions to this regulation, and I am allowed to travel with it.

However, to ensure I am not carrying any illegal liquid substance, TSA will run the bottle through a liquid scanner, essentially meaning that my progress through security is delayed by a few minutes. 

The Retirement Discussion

While waiting for one TSA agent to process my 8-ounce Germ-X hand sanitizer through the liquid scanner, I overheard two agents having a casual conversation:

MALE: “How long have you been working here?”

FEMALE: “I’ve been here for over a year.”

MALE: “Are you a TSO (Transportation Security Officer)?”

FEMALE: [Smiling] “Yes.”

MALE: “Wow! So you can retire at 59 and a half!”

At this point, the agent helping me pulled the Germ-X out of the processing machine and determined that my contents were not hazardous to any passengers on my upcoming flight to San Antonio.

I collected my belongings and started to make my way to the American Express Centurion Lounge so I could have a quick breakfast.

Thinking About the Retirement Comment

During the walk to the lounge, I thought about the retirement comment. After all, these TSA agents were likely in their early 30s. It would be nearly 35 more years before they could call it quits and receive full benefits from the government.  This is way too soon to be contemplating retirement.

I mentioned this conversation to my wife, and she said: “Most people are focused on what they are going to do this weekend, and probably have little idea about retirement.” Why would these two agents already be talking about retirement?

I did a quick search and learned the following about TSA Transportation Security Officers: “TSOs are the face of the agency, the people at the front lines, and the most important role at TSA. For many people, working as a TSO has led to a long, fulfilling career with the federal government.”

This description makes the job sound appealing. However, here are a few items that make the job description somewhat ambiguous:

  • Face of the agency: In most cases, being the face of anything means you are doing the toughest jobs.
  • For many people: The word many lacks clarity? Does many mean 10%, 50%, or 80%? By the way, TSA began in 2001, so if someone started in their early 30s with the agency, they have yet to reach retirement age.

The part that resonated with me the most is where the long, fulfilling careeris mentioned. A fulfilling career is an important goal in life. If someone is thinking of retirement so soon, it may be time to look for a new career.

 My guess is both TSA agents in this conversation will eventually leave the agency and work for other organizations.

My Point

The definition of retirement is evolving. There was a time when retirement meant that someone would turn in their keys and badge to the company, walk out the door, and never again think about reporting to anyone.

In my case, I want to make sure I appreciate and value the important stuff as I make my journey towards retirement.

For me, it means God must be part of my life every step of the way. When faith and family are first on my list, retirement will take care of itself.