I started working at Kodak back in 1976 when I was 19-years-old. Back then, the company was THE place to work in Rochester with 60,000 local employees, yes, 60,000! Everyone in the Rochester metropolitan area either worked at Kodak or had a close relative who did. In the 70s, the company was still a Dow Jones, blue chip giant that had a virtual monopoly on the consumer and professional photography businesses. But in the early-80s, foreign competition began chipping away at the profits. The layoffs started in earnest in 1985 and would continue unrelentingly.
I had started out in the consumer camera production portion of the business and worked my way up to a white collar job, but when the layoffs began in 1985, I was knocked back down to an entry-level position. Possibly just a tiny bit bitter about having to start from scratch again, I also sensed the future of the consumer division was less-than-tenuous, so in 1988 I transferred to an entry-level spot in the copier production division. I slowly worked my way up the chain and even attended night school to earn a degree in production management. I was promoted to first-line supervision in 1999 and did that stressful and thankless job for 10 years. By 2009, foreign competition had reduced the copier division to a shadow of itself and I was laid off in one of the ongoing cost-cuttings. My boss was improbably able to find a job for me within the company and only two weeks later I was back in a service support role where I’ve been for the last nine years.
Foreign competition, followed by the faster-than-expected switch from analog film to digital technology was a one-two punch Kodak couldn’t overcome. The layoffs began in 1985 and they’ve continued just about every year right up to the present. That’s 33 years of perpetual layoffs, folks. The company has been reduced to about 2000 employees in Rochester, a far, far cry from its glory days. To borrow a cliche, the company is currently “running on fumes” with the end definitely in sight. When I tell Rochesterians that I’m still at Kodak, they can’t believe anyone is still working there. They tell me I must have been a super employee to have survived all of those layoffs, but the truth of the matter is that employees much better than me were laid off decades ago. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
I’m 62 years old now with 42.5 years at Kodak. My wife and I only have one year left to pay off our 15-year mortgage, so we’re starting to set our sights on retirement. We hadn’t seen a financial planner in several years, so last February I made some half-hearted inquiries to our old CFP and this past week we began to seriously collect all the financial records and documents we need to begin that process again. I enjoy collecting all of that paperwork about as much as a root canal, but my wife is becoming increasingly frustrated with her work situation and is prodding me into action. I know our CFP will tell us we’ll need to work until we’re 65, but I seriously doubt whether Kodak or my employment there will make it that far.
Some advice for my younger friends:
- Start contributing to your 401K account as soon as possible. Before my wife started working, we lived from paycheck to paycheck and I didn’t start contributing until I was 34. When I first started at Kodak, many of the older guys were able to retire in their late-50s because of the company pension plan, company-paid medical insurance, and retirement incentive packages. That’s all gone now.
- See a financial planner periodically. Yeah, I know it’s expensive, but it doesn’t need to be every year. You’re not going to have a realistic retirement plan without some professional guidance.
The Lord God provided me with good employment at Kodak for 42 years, but that could end tomorrow. No matter the outcome, I’m grateful for everything He’s blessed me with. I look forward to retirement, but I also know every day is a gift. The Lord could take me home tonight. People put their faith in temporal institutions, like Kodak used to be, but nothing in this world is rock solid. Everything could change in a moment. Your big 401K nest egg won’t mean a thing when you breathe your last breath.
Are you ready to stand before a Holy God? We’re all sinners and our sin separates us from God. We all deserve eternal punishment. But God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to pay the penalty for our sins when He died on the cross. But Jesus overcame sin and death when He rose from the grave and He offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent of their sin and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Won’t you pray to Jesus and ask Him to save you?
“And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:16-21