I’ve spent too much money this summer. Between vacations, redecorating our bedroom and gearing up for the winter months with new warm clothing, I’m just about done with shopping for good. That’s an exaggeration but I digress. I know there will always be a need to shop but right now, I’m done! I need a break. So does my bank account.
I’m going to start small. I’m taking this week off from shopping. Hopefully I can extend it to the end of October……..and then all the way up to the end of December (Christmas time!) Also, there is no need for me to spend money in January. The only thing I’m certain we will ‘need‘ in the upcoming months will be a fill up of propane (to heat the house and hot water) At $3.69 a gallon (last I looked) we’re looking at a very expensive bill!
February starts our 2019 vacation season. Until then, I want to use our current time to switch from spending to saving. DH is in the process of getting the yard in order, stashing the outdoor furniture and BBQ away. He’s winterizing both the house and RV as well as clearing out some space in the barn to store the RV till we need it at the end of January.
I got my refund from the cancellation of our Arizona RV trip and applied said amount to our Florida RV replacement trip balance. I’ve paid upfront for a car rental when we get to Las Vegas plus a one night hotel rental at The Grand Canyon. While we are in Florida I’ve purchased some concert tickets to see some shows in Sarasota (I couldn’t resist!) plus I bought a ticket to one of the shows as a birthday present for my sister. Ouch!
I’m fairly certain my spending spree has come to an end. I think I have covered every angle I could think of. I’d rather spend the money now and pay it off before we go. This way we start off fresh with a clear head. (and NO bills when we return home from vacation) Now, it’s just time for me to hunker down for a few months and give my wallet a much needed break. LOL!
The word ‘tariff’ is a code word for ‘taxes’. In other words, the tariffs the current administration is placing on over $200 billion dollars of worthless Chinese junk we import is going to affect both you and I with higher prices for the aforementioned Chinese crap. This post is not addressing any political agenda. If you send in a comment mentioning any politician’s name or any judgment on our current administration, I won’t publish it. This post is meant for us to find a solution on how we are going to stay afloat and buy said worthless junk affordably. That’s it.
The new tariffs could add another 0.5 percentage points to the current consumer price index — which, based on the latest CPI release, would boost the inflation gauge to 3.2% year-over-year. Such an increase would not go unnoticed by policymakers or American families.
I think both you and I can admit that much of the sh**t that comes in from China kills babies, kills dogs and cats, harms humans and at most times is just plain useless. Yet, we are told that this is the fault of Americans because we love to pay less and welcome cheap prices and even cheaper stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, you and I both know that’s NOT true! But what options did we have? Our salaries shrunk or we were laid off or better yet, involuntarily forced out of the workforce. We were left with very little choice except to buy stuff that matched our dwindling incomes.
Now? Our incomes are up. We’re earning more on our investments. Our home prices have risen. Credit is free-flowing again. And what is our reward for all this extra money? We have to start paying more for the same stuff we paid less for before.
Giant corporations, such as Wal Mart and Target have already announced that starting today, September 24th, now that the tariff wars are in full force, you and I are going to pay MORE for everything from fish to nuts. For a full list of all the products we will now have to pay more for, click here (and hold onto your hat! You’re going to be surprised that we imported so much stuff, its obscene!)
It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. My hope is that once these products become negative cost-effective, American manufacturers and entrepreneurs are going to wake up and realize that a whole new market has just opened up to them. As a result, they will start producing these products here on American soil AND prices will come down AND quality will go up (sky way up!)
“Prices are definitely going up,” said small business owner Drew Greenblatt, president of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel, manufacturers of custom steel wire basket products for clients including General Motors, Ford and Boeing.
On May 31st, the U.S. slapped a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. Because of China, Greenblatt states “our steel prices have gone up. This makes us less competitive against German, Mexican and Chinese” competitors.
“We make everything in Baltimore,” Greenblatt said “We only buy steel from Indiana and Illinois and when we lose opportunities because Chinese companies are ripping us off, then that means less steel is bought from Indiana and Illinois and less unemployed steelworkers in Baltimore are getting opportunities to buy a home, and own a car.”
In other words, Greenblatt is very, very happy over the tariffs. It protects his company, his 30 workers and their intellectual properties from theft.
In the interim, till these trade wars straightens itself out, what do we, the American consumer do?
#1. Look for American-made only products. Buy locally. Buy produce, eggs, cheeses and meats/poultry, fruits, vegetables locally. Support your local artisans and craftspeople. Products are still being manufactured here in America; use American-only products. Look for them and buy them!
#2. Shop less. Do without. I know that sounds obvious but ask yourself if you really need the item right now? Can you wait?
#3. Buy what you need in consignment shops, thrift shops, Craigslist, flea markets etc. etc. Those prices won’t be going up.
#4. Hold onto your stuff longer. Fix it up. Make it work. Prices for used cars are soaring! Hold onto your cars, lawn mowers, vacuums, small appliances etc. Repair Cafe’s are popping up more and more (mostly at libraries, community centers) I used to wonder why. Now, I know for sure. These items are going to be too expensive to replace. Best to repair it for now and hold on.
#5. Stop buying crap Made In China. Just stop! Period. Read the labels. We have dog food made only in America! We have dinnerware made in New Jersey! Some furniture is still being made in the Carolinas. Ask questions! Demand answers!
“When an American company comes up with a clever unique idea, it’s quickly taken over by overseas markets. It’s unacceptable. Our government is starting to protect us, or at least address these topics.”
Copyright infringement and IP theft is a big sticking point between China and the U.S. Recently, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimated the total yearly costs of intellectual property theft ranges from $225 billion to $600 billion, with much of that attributed to China.
Greenblatt states: The amount of loss is “hard to quantify, but my company probably would be twice as big if it wasn’t for all the pilfering.”
He added: “We have many Chinese companies that cut-and-paste items from our website, put it on their own website pretending that they make it and they came up with those ideas. Not only is it disheartening. It’s losing American jobs.“
The harvest is in! Now is the best time around here to get some really good deals on farm fresh fruit and vegetables. Let’s not forget pumpkins, squash and acorns! And of course, apples are coming in by the droves. It’s apple pie baking time. As well as pumpkin pie.
We took a ride yesterday outside our town limits and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a plethora of farms. We stopped at Eger Brothers Farms, established in 1931! Zucchini were only .50 cents each. Corn was a nickel. The owner/farmer asked us if we ever had a white peach. I said ‘no’ and with that she gave us a few free white peaches to taste. They were delicious!
We’ll be eating super healthy for the next few weeks.
I had a wonderful summer this summer. I’d say it was my best one ever. Reality tells me that it shouldn’t have been so. Why? Because this was the first summer I didn’t run off to be somewhere else. I actually stayed home this summer. No running off to the Hamptons or Newport RI or Florida or The Outerbanks or Georgia. I literally stayed put, for the first time ever.
What I did instead, was plan activities and day trips to keep myself busy and occupied. I also joined our community pool (this was the first time for hubby!) DH and I went swimming, almost every single morning, at our community pool, during the adult swim time from noon till 1PM. We even met some new neighbors and made some new friends! Imagine that?
I planed a few mid-week get-a-ways in our RV but many of those trips had to be cancelled due to our rainy summer weather. No problem. We went to the movies instead (Tom Cruise and Momma Mia). We also went out to eat at a few new, recently opened restaurants, as well as cook up some fab meals at home on our back deck. I scoured the events page on some local newspapers and found some very (free) interesting events to attend. Despite having access to a weekly concert, we never made it to any of them. But we will next year! We also didn’t make it to any annual Fourth of July fireworks. But we will next year also! I have a funny feeling we will be spending even more time at home next year because we had so much fun.
Nick and I were always running away thinking life was more exciting somewhere else. We used to think the sun rose and set only on the ocean beaches. Since then, we have discovered rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. There are no sharks in fresh water lakes. Nor are there jelly fish, red tide or stringy sea weed. In other words, there is a whole new world out there just waiting to be discovered. In our own back yard! (Note: we hung a birdhouse in our backyard and had a whole summer of singing Wrens to amuse us PLUS have babies!)
Now that the summer is over, we are looking forward to the fall. We have some of the best hiking trails here in New York, just perfect to hike right now, as the leaves are starting to change colors. There are pumpkin festivals, garlic festivals, apple picking festivals and the best one I love of all is: Octoberfests! Many of these events are held at the local ski resorts here and offer some of the best, best scenery ever! The chair lifts are open and my camera and I are ready!
I made this little 5 minute video to celebrate our past summer activities and to look forward to both the fall AND prepare for our next summer. Hope you enjoy it:
It was a year ago that I started this new blog (I’ve been blogging since 2007). There is NO advertising here. There are no supporters. I never ask for money or any donations. It’s simply a blog about my experiences with life and my so-called retirement. There is no talk of politics here nor religion (but I have been known to make a smallish reference to both of them anyway).
My readers are absolutely thee best ever! I have never gotten a disparaging comment here nor has any troll made my life miserable. For that I am most truly grateful! A heartfelt ‘Thank you‘ for that!
What I have learned along my journey is that I am about as flawed as the next person. We humans truly don’t know what the heck we are doing. Yet, each day we wake up and try, try again to make sense of what we’ve been given. I can’t give anyone advice because we are all different. What works for me may not work for you. All I can do is tell you my experiences and if handed a choice, what would I do in the situation. That’s about it.
For the first time in my retirement life (since 2001) I really am happy right now. I find myself in a very good, contented place. Along my journey, things didn’t work out quite as I had planned and sometimes I became very bitter about that. I also had a lot of trouble understanding other people’s lives and choices. Sometimes it just didn’t make sense but it never meant that anything was wrong. I suppose I lived a very, very sheltered life. I can’t blame myself for that. Nor should you. Blogging opened me up to a whole new slant on how to view life: from other people’s eyes. No school education could have taught me such valuable lessons.
So, here’s to Year Two. Nick and I plan on doing a lot of traveling this upcoming year. That’s what happens when you get a health scare. We think we have all the time in the world. Well, we don’t. I’m grateful for all the travels already taken. But I’m looking forward to the travel less taken. Those are going to be the fun parts.
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.
This Saturday, September 22 is free admission to anyone to any Smithsonian Museum. To find out what’s available to you, for free, in your neighborhood, click on this link. Log onto your state and see what venues are available to you. Each ticket is for two people to get free admission. One ticket per email. DH and I just discovered the wonders of downtown Albany, NY so we chose two venues that we are going to see on Saturday: The USS Slater Destroyer and the Albany Institute of History & Art. Priceless. Have fun!
Museum Day is an annual celebration of boundless curiosity hosted by Smithsonian magazine. Participating museums and cultural institutions across the country provide free entry to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket. The Museum Day ticket provides free admission for two people on Saturday, September 22, 2018.
Click Get a Ticket to search participating museums and download your ticket.
September is usually the beginning of the year for me. I suppose that dates back to my school years when we all started our learning curriculum in September. I also have a clearer picture in September of what funds to expect to come in every month (i.e Social Security increases). I can then curtail our income to meet those expenses, thus my budget is born.
I wasn’t always like this. Nope. I never paid much attention to my finances and thus I used to suffer for it accordingly. Such as, getting hit with $350 a month in uncollected bank fees and other stupid human tax tricks I used to put upon myself.
No more. I’m a good girl, I am, I am. And I have the paperwork to prove it.
I draw up a payment chart, clearly outlining the dates certain funds are posted to my checking account throughout the month. I then align my due bills to meet the expected income and the end result is that I ALWAYS pay my bills before they are due! I follow my self-imposed chart religiously and update it twice a year. Once in the fall/winter and again in the spring/summer. Most of my income is geared towards my bills but I make sure I leave enough cash leftover to cover groceries (about $118 a week), gas for the car (about $30 to $40 a week) and some misc spending money ($100 or so).
Most of my bills are the same each and every month (such as insurance, medical and utilities). There’s a fudge-factor category to cover car maintenance, house maintenance, clothes, haircuts and other once-in-awhile expenditures (like sales!!!!)
Normally, my monthly bills are covered by my monthly income. This month, however, I had to withdraw $500 out of my savings to cover my Maine Vacation. That’s expected and anticipated. That’s what the saving account is there for (within reason). I also had to withdraw $3,400 out of savings to cover our annual school property taxes. In February, we have another planned vacation and more property taxes will be due. Those funds will come out of our savings accounts.
Technically, this money isn’t really ‘savings’. It’s the overflow of hubby’s income whenever he works. I squirrel the money into our savings account so technically, we’re really not touching our savings account. I know this money is supposed to last throughout our true, authentic retirement years BUT the less we tap in to it, the longer it will last.
According to Ric Edelman, ‘The Truth About Retirement‘ (a PBS must-see, click here) there’s a good chance most of us are going to live past 95. Up to now, most financial experts predicted we were all going to die by the time we hit our early 90’s. Not so, according to Ric. Thanks to all the technological advances in science and medicine, there’s a very good chance we are going to live a lot longer than we had originally thought in our retirement planning.
If you haven’t set up a budget yet or some way to track and monitor your expenses, my advice is to start ASAP. Life is long. We need to get our finances under control if we are going to live a lot longer than we expected. We have to make our money last a lot longer as our retirement years are going to be a lot longer too. (and our retirement years are our fun years so it’s best to be prepared IMHO)
Ric Edelman has a whole series of You Tube videos (The Truth About Money)explaining all his new, proven theories on the new, new retirement. I highly recommend you watch Edelman’s informative videos. You can start off by watching this one (and see if you get hooked on Edelman like I did!):
Blame the Great Recession of 2008. Blame your inability to save any money. Blame divorce. Blame a death in the family. Blame whatever it is you want to blame but for many of us, our best laid retirement plans sometimes don’t work out. We find ourselves on the precipice of retirement with barely the money needed to fund a happy, successful retirement. In fact, ‘survival’ has become our new code word.
What to do?
As our code word suggests………we survive. We make the best of it. We make it work. We find a way. The first thing we do is NOT blame ourselves. These things happen. Rather than dwell on what might have been we need to concentrate of what is possible now. Know that you are not alone. Over 65% of Americans have saved nothing towards their retirements. How can they? With many of the expense challenges we all must meet, it’s nearly impossible for many Americans to save anything!
Look at these two charts:
For me, the 2008 Great Recession did a number on us. DH was out of work for a very long time. We tapped into our retirement funds till they were completely depleated. I very foolishly thought my real estate holdings would suffice. My original plan was to buy a low cost, cheap condo to retire in (which we did @$160K) and then sell our very expensive marital home ($400k) and use those proceeds to fund our retirement. That plan, after a year and a half did NOT work out! The condo and its location were a big disappointment. Thankfully, we never sold our expensive marital home and moved back in to it. We sold our less expensive condo instead and now have a much reduced retirement savings account. This new retirement living plan was NOT in our predictions. Nonetheless, it is now in our new future.
What to do?
Believe it or not, our original marital home has the lowest costs of living. It’s actually cheaper to live here in New York State (NYS) all year long than anywhere else in the country (especially Florida, where the condo was located). Yes, our property taxes are sort-of-high (but I get a reduction due to my age and low income) YET everything else, such as car insurance, health insurance, electricity, food and entertainment costs are very, very low. (car insurance, utility costs, HOA fees and property taxes in Florida were sky high! Who knew?) It only costs us $745 a month to insure our home, afford utilities, pay property taxes and maintenance here in NYS. Where else can we go and live for only $745 a month? (we have no mortgage or debt). Luckily also, thanks to rising interest rates, I’ve been able to take the cash proceeds from the sale of our inexpensive condo and invest them so that we receive a good monthly interest (4.21%) & dividend check from it.
The interest/dividend proceeds, the dual social security checks, a minor monthly pension payout and our drastic reduction in living expenses have made our retirement possible despite the drastic change in our planning. In other words, we’re surviving and IMHO we’re surviving quite nicely.
The biggest adjustment any of us can make to a retirement that didn’t turn out as we had planned has to do with our attitude. According to Bob Lowry, author of the very famous and prolific blog, A Satisfying Retirement latest post (click here) ‘A Satisfying Retirement With Limited Resources. Can That Work?’ addresses the new retirement reality like this:
My most important suggestion has nothing to do with money. It has to do with accepting adjustments. Maybe you thought your retirement would include travel, maybe even a vacation home, lots of meals out, season tickets to the ballgames or orchestra…..whatever you pictured in your mind.
That isn’t the way things turned out. That is the reality. But, it doesn’t have to dictate whether your retirement is happy or not. It shouldn’t make you feel like you’re “failing” retirement because you can’t do what others can. Your financial resources may set boundaries on retirement, but it absolutely doesn’t have to determine what happens within those boundaries. That is still within your control.
Nick and I have a roof over our heads, two paid-for cars in the driveway, food on the table, a smallish RV for travel, a steady secure monthly income, our health and a plethora of freebie things to do and entertain us. I’d say we have a ‘Satisfying Retirement’ indeed.
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.
It’s that time of year again: when DH renews his medical coverage. First know that DH’s medical insurance is THEE most important expense we face each and every month. Why? Because DH has an aorta aneurism and a newly found celiac aneurism which translates into: he’s in deep serious medical doo doo. Nick has to be constantly monitored. Both aneurysms must be closely watched and should they increase in size he will need emergency surgery. This is NOT a good place to be. Because of his medical condition, we were planning on him retiring at 62 rather than 65.
Unfortunately, I just ran the numbers and should Nick retire now at age 62, believe it or not, his Social Security monthly benefit payments will be MORE than what he is earning at his current part-time job. Should his income increase, he will no longer qualify for the current medical plan he is on and must up the ante to another plan, which BTW, will be more expensive.
Talk about being caught in a Catch-22? That’s exactly where Nick is right now. Damned if he does. Damned if he doesn’t. So, it is very unfortunate but Nick can not retire from his job and he must continue to work. Needless to say, he has to be very, very cautious at his job (can not lift weight more than 50 pounds etc). Thankfully, he does more Project Management than actual labor but nonetheless it is a sad day in our household.
I’ve had to re-arrange our budget and downsize or in some cases, even eliminate some things off our expenditures. First to be cut is our traveling budget. We had planned on being in Arizona for three months (January, February, March @$3300 plus $3000 in fuel costs). That plan has been completely dropped and replaced with one month only (February @$1900 plus $600 in fuel costs) on Marcos Island, Florida. I’ve also lowered our food bill from $500 a month to $475 (not much but it’s gonna hurt nonetheless). This includes cutting back on meals out. Le sigh. Next to be cut is paid entertainment. Nick and I have been going out to a little bit too many concerts and entertainment gigs. We have to go back to attending free events only.
We have to cut back to living on approximately $2650 a month for the next three years until Nick can go on Medicare. Then ALL his medical problems can be properly addressed and paid for. Then and only then will our budget increase to a more sustainable living level. I am certain Nick and I are not alone in our medical decisions and choices. Many Americans face similar financial restraints when it comes to medical insurance. Nick and I really can’t afford to be middle class any more. We really are low-income people now and we have to make the best of it.
The other challenge we face is our town is again doing a property re-evaluation (they did one in 2010) in an effort to raise school and property taxes. As you know, we live in New York State which has the highest property taxes in the country. I just paid our school taxes, $3345 (ouch!)….in full, to avoid the $160 installment fee. The land taxes of $1706 are due in February; payment for this one must be paid in full. Because of my age (over 65) we got a slight reduction, but that point may be moot if they raise our taxes any higher. We won’t know the outcome of the re-evaluation till 2020 BUT Nick and I are facing the fact that we may have to eventually move out of here.
In any event, life for us is going to change once Nick turns 65. And that’s the thing about retirement: change. Nothing really stays the same. Life doesn’t stop just because you are retired. It keeps on moving AND we have to be flexible enough so that we can move right along with it.
And so it goes.
*Please Note: The main reason why we were spending so much time in Arizona was because of my life long dream of seeing The Grand Canyon, Sedona and to experience the west. When we first cancelled this trip, I will admit, I shed a tear or two. But then I had a brainstorm. I have never once used my accumulated travel points from my main charge card. A quick review and I had over 53,000 points! Within minutes, I contacted the airlines travel department and booked a week-long (7 nights, 8 days) vacation package to Las Vegas (less expensive than Phoenix AZ) complete with hotel accommodations AND a midweek rental car, so we could drive to The Grand Canyon, Sedona and also see the Hoover Dam, among other things! All I had to do was pay the flight taxes ($22.40).
Sometimes having a brain is a very good thing!
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper!