Karl the Engineer

A retired engineer does the math…

Every time I tell Karl’s story, it bring me joy. My engineering colleagues always love it, too. You see, when some big company bureaucrats (BCBs) tried to stick it to Karl, he struck back and won.

Karl didn’t intend to consult. Nearing retirement, he alerted his company that it was time to find or develop a replacement. His expertise was soon going out the door, and he planned to do a lot of fishing. Of course, BCBs dragged their feet, and one day, Karl retired. As planned, he went fishing.

After about three months, however, Karl was getting bored. Not only was he fished out, but he had made all the household repairs he had put off for so many years. Winter was on the way, and he wasn’t sure what to do next.

About that time, BCBs realized they needed Karl’s help. So they called him, and offered him a part time contract. But there was one small catch. Since he received a pension, any contracting fees would reduce his pension by $1 for each $2 in fees. Well, as Karl put it, “You didn’t need to be an engineer to do the math.” He politely refused their offer.

But since he already had his PE (Professional Engineer) license, he decided to form a one man consulting firm. He incorporated, and then asked the BCBs if “consultants” subject to the same pension cuts. “Well, no” they replied. So he quickly said, “Fine, we can do business. And here are my rates.” The rates were about four times what they originally offered him as a contractor.

It turns out they needed Karl — badly. They swallowed hard, and brought Karl in as a consultant.  He enjoyed it so much, he started consulting for other local firms too. When I met Karl, he was actually starting to wind down. A professional colleague, he became a friend who graciously shared advice and even sent referrals our way.

After hearing the story, it finally explained his aging Cadillac. I’d always been curious, since Karl just didn’t seem like a Cadillac person. Well, he needed a new car anyway, so he took his first consulting proceeds and bought a Cadillac. He told me he did it for the BCBs — whenever he came to consult, they got to watch him drive up in that Cadillac!

Karl finally did retire, but he had greatly enhanced his retirement funds. He and his wife traveled around the country in a motor home , plus they made several trips to Europe.  All this, plus the Cadillac, courtesy of his unintended consulting business.

Do  you have a success story to share?  Please send it in…

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