This Is What A Day Out In NYC Costs

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I wanted to treat everyone to a great day out in New York City for Father’s Day. To us, that meant a day out to see a matinee on Broadway and to have a nice meal out either before or after the show. We chose to get up early, go out for brunch and then see a 3PM performance of Disney’s Aladdin ( click here, winner of 20 Tony awards!)

The least expensive seats I could find for all of us, was up in the balcony, right center. Despite the tickets being $75.50 each, they also had a service charge of $28.50 tagged on to them (you read that right!) thus bringing the cost of one ticket to $104.

I bought five tickets totaling $520.

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Brunch cost $79. Parking the car cost $32 (DH refuses to ride a subway). Gas for the day cost $30 round trip. Tolls were $5.28. DH and I stopped for dinner before our ride back home. Cost for dinner $30.

Total cost for a day out in NYC: $696.28

I’ve been going to Broadway shows since I was a little girl of 5 years old. I took my own two daughters to the theater starting at the age of five. And our tradition has been passed down once again as my granddaughter just turned five a few days ago. That’s one of the benefits of being born in NYC: you get to do and see many cultural events, one of which is seeing an authentic Broadway production. Priceless!

The amount of money spent yesterday is meaningless. The experience we all felt, together as a family, has no pricetag attached to it. Granted, we can’t have days spent like this all the time BUT we can do it to celebrate certain milestones in our lives.

Such as Father’s Day. And turning five years old.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

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New Hobby: Backyard Birds and Photography

I bought this little leftover birdhouse from Aldi a few weeks ago. Hubby hung it up on a tree right outside our kitchen and dining area. Within a few days we had the makings of a new family. Two birds took up residence and started building a nest inside. We anticipate being “parents” not too much longer now. Needless to say, it has been a very interesting experience.

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The birds feed and nest twice a day. Once in the early morning and again around 4PM. It’s been a joy to hear their singing and chirping. They stop, however, and remain silent if one of us should venture out onto the deck. So, when they’re here, we keep inside and watch them from the windows.

In the interim, I keep my camera ready, with a super zoom lens and I set the dial to ‘action’. I’ve been able to capture some really neat shots. It’s as if the birds knew I was photographing them. They seem to stop, turn around and give me a long look. I guess they’re ready for their closeup.

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“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille”

Click on any image to enlarge and start slideshow:

The Bedroom Reveal: Before & After Photos

First off, I have to start this post by saying I am NOT an interior designer. I do, however, have a way with thrift finds, if that’s any consolation. My expertise as an interior decorator is moderated by my wallet. I really can’t design as I want to. I can only design as I need to.

So, I’ll start off with my sheets. I know you may find this odd, but I only owned one pair of sheets. I wash them once every week and they remain on my bed till they deteriorate. Then I buy a new pair. My budget allows me to find and buy a queen sized sheet set at $20. You might think this a rarity but if you look hard enough at Home Goods, you’ll find them. And they will be 100% cotton and they will feel smooth and lovely on your face and body.

Lately, however, I have found these new kind of sheets, called ‘microfiber’. They are 100% polyester and they are as smooth as silk.  They are usually priced at $18.97 for a queen sized set (fitted, flat and 2 standard pillowcases). For my remodel, I knew I needed blue sheets but I just couldn’t find the right color or the right price. Till I checked out Wal Mart closeouts. I found a suitable color AND microfiber (100% polyester) for $11.87. I had to buy two additional standard pillowcases @$1.97 each and I finally got myself a new set of suitable bed sheets. Only problem, and there always is a problem, the sheets aren’t deep enough to cover the mattress fully. No worries. DH and I are the only ones who will know this and see this, so its a moot point.

Which brings me to Oprah Winfrey. Remember when Oprah used to do her ‘favorite things’ and she used to rave about 100% cotton sheets that had a 1000 thread count? Thousands of women flocked to the stores and spent upwards of $300 for those sheets just so they could be like Oprah Winfrey. Last night, as I lay on my $11.87 sheet set, I commented to myself that the sheets were comfy, were a lovely color and felt very smooth on my face. So, I really can’t understand Oprah Winfrey and her desire for ultra luxury sheets. You don’t have to be a billionaire to enjoy your life.

With that introduction, here’s a photo of my new sheets:

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They don’t quite fit long enough but they’ll do just fine.

In order to fully appreciate my NEW remodeled bedroom, you have to look at the old, original bedroom. It hadn’t been touched or updated in 17 years. The tempurpedic mattress set is sorta new but next year it MUST be replaced. The sooner the better.

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Both recliners were from the 1990’s and were broken. I must have been into ‘roses’ at the time.
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The down comforter was also from the 90’s. The Broyhill furniture was purchased in 2006.

You have to understand that I have a very limited budget. Whatever I buy MUST be on sale. (all the new furniture in my remodel was purchased at Wayfair.com for 80% off listed costs) I can not afford retail prices. Nor, can I go shopping with a set idea or style in my head. I buy what’s on sale. I buy what I can afford. And somehow I try to get the whole thing to mesh. Nonetheless, between the new flooring and some new furniture pieces, I did spend upwards of $2,000. Things today aren’t cheap.

I kept my Broyhill four piece furniture set (thank goodness I bought quality furniture!) and I kept my headboard. In the future I hope to get an upholstered headboard. That’ll look so much nicer. And hopefully, by next year I can get a new mattress set (the one pictured is more than 8 years old…I admit it). Lastly, the room really could use a spruce up paint job. I’ll keep the same color since I love it so much. And those blinds have to go! Eventually.

Here’s a main new photo of my new, updated bedroom. More at the end of the post.

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I kept the black wrought iron pieces. We painted the old lamps a new blue.

AND NOW THE REVEAL Click on any photo to enlarge and start slideshow:

How I’m Dealing With Rising Costs On Almost Everything

It’s only June 14th, the middle of the month, and I am already over budget on most of my variable spending costs by $640.96. Most of my monthly expenses remain the same, such as utilities, internet, sanitation etc. The variables, such as food, gas, medical needs, clothing, entertainment and meals out, however, fluctuate, so I need to watch these closely. I set up a panel in Excel, with an estimated expectation of costs for the month listed on top, with the actual expenditures listed at the bottom of the column. As you can see from this spreadsheet, my monthly costs are estimated to be $1050 for my variables but I already spent $1690.96. I am clearly over-budget already. What’s a girl to do?

(click on image to enlarge)

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My monthly food bill is $400. I usually hit that mark but lately I haven’t been so lucky. That’s because we want to eat better quality meats, fruits and veggies than before. I’ve decided to cease all future expenditures in this category and just start depleting what we already have in our pantry and freezer. Other than necessities such as milk, salad and bread, I don’t see us spending more than $50 more in this category for the rest of the month.

One of the biggest expenditures we spent this month so far was for propane. That’s how we heat our hot water and the home. The price of a gallon of propane has skyrocketed. So, I’m cutting back on baths (to no more than one a week) and we use an electric heater on those chilly nights (electricity here is cheaper than propane).

We usually buy our grain-free dog food at Aldi, but its been discontinued. That means we have to pay more for the same product somewhere else. It’s a non-negotiable item. We just have to pay, so I will need to up that category to $30 from $25.

Gas prices have gone up to over $3.00 a gallon here. To adjust, we stopped using our gas-guzzling car (Citadel-strictly used from here on in for towing the RV only) and now use our fuel-efficient car that gets 40MPG instead for everything else.

We’re almost double in our entertainment and meals-out category! One of the biggest budget buster was taking my daughter and granddaughter out for brunch @$79. Daughter was all set to pay half the bill BUT DH insisted he treat everyone. I told DH right there in the restaurant that we couldn’t afford to pick up the tab for everyone but he paid for it anyway. Not a good thing. Naturally, the future remedy for the rest of the month is no more eating out.

Repair, maintenance and runs to Wal Mart are sorta of under control now. We had a bunch of projects we wanted to accomplish this year BUT as prices started escalating (we spent $3204 so far!)  we had to postpone one project, putting in an automatic generator ($2500), till next year. Combined with also doing some interior painting next year, we’ll buy and install the generator next summer.

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Instead of buying a blue lamp, we spray painted our old one. Looks terrific and saved us from spending over $60 vs $3 (for paint)

Our medical costs and co-pays have gone up substantially and that’s all because of me. I know I’ve mentioned that I don’t like to talk about health problems but I have been very ill since February 2018. If you have been following my blog, you will know that last year, because of two very selfish and horrific neighbors, my Florida condo was engulfed almost nightly in second-hand smoke. No mater what we did, including speaking to our neighbors and contacting the Florida Board of Health, no amicable resolution could be ascertained. Three middle-of-the night trips to the ER convinced me, quite reluctantly I must add, that selling the condo was the only way out for me. My health was deteriorating, and without getting into specifics, my lungs have been greatly affected. I have been coughing steadily for five whole months! with no end in sight. I’ve been to every kind of doctor on the planet with no resolution. They can’t stop my coughing which has metastasized into variable fits of uncontrollable coughing over the many, many months I’ve been seeking treatment. I cough so strongly now that I almost always vomit up my previous meal. It’s not been a pretty picture.

Thankfully Medicare and my supplemental insurance plus Plan D RX have been covering almost everything. The newest drugs, however, are not covered. One RX cost me $51 per month and the other is $43. Combined with my other drugs and co-pays, its costing me upwards of $100 a month. Throw in DH’s heart problems and you can see where this is going: UP. This is the part they always talk about in retirement planning: rising medical costs as you age. Whatever they say, its true.

Next is our clothing category. Back in Florida we lived near a Goodwill, that was in a super rich neighborhood and the pickings were fantastic! DH and I were the best, dressed second-handers on the face of the earth. LOL! But now, back in New York, the closest Goodwill to us is in a very poor neighborhood and the pickins are very, very slim. This means that we now have to buy our clothes (gulp!) R.E.T.A.I.L.  Ugh!

DH now buys his work pants at Wal Mart, for $11.97 for the Rustler brand. We couldn’t find a good deal on cargo pants anywhere. Old Navy wanted $35, and even with a 20% off coupon, we were looking at a $28 price tag! The best deal we found was back at Wal Mart for the Wrangler brand at $19.97.

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DH also needed a new pair of walking shoes. We both seem to love, love, love Sketchers. We stopped at a local, discount chain DSW on Monday. DH found a pair he liked at $59.99 (that”s $60 folks). At the store we searched for the same pair online and found a better deal. I asked the cashier to match the price. She said they don’t match online stores. That’s too bad. because we found the same shoe for $44 at Zappos.com. We went home, went online and DH ordered the same exact pair and paid the $44, thus saving himself from spending $16 more! Shipping was free and by 10AM on Tuesday morning, the very next day, DH’s shoes arrived and he started wearing them immediately.

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very comfy shoes, easy on the wallet!

DH and I are starting to love this online shopping more and more. As long as free shipping is involved, it’s a win-win situation for us. I bought ALL my furniture and RV mattress at Wayfair.com and I couldn’t be happier with both the price and quality. Customer service is king! If shopping at online stores are going to save us money, then we will continue to do so in order to reign in costs so we can keep up with inflation.

Lastly, is our travel category. Since we are retired, we can vacation in the off-season. That means taking a vacation before July 4th and after Labor Day this year, when prices drop, which is what we will be doing this year. We’ll be enjoying staycation adventures for the months of July and August (while we save up money for the real thing).

All of the above, however, does not solve nor address our additional $640.96 in our every day costs. How are we going to solve this ‘problem’ which appears to be ongoing? Granted, yes, a few tweeks we make will lower next months outgo but what can we do immediately to pay this off when we are on a fixed income? DH made a few phone calls. Located some day work and will put in two days this month (@$350 a day) and pay off our added expenses. He said he can probably do this easily every month. For us, keeping up with inflation will be a combination of several measures:

  1. Reduce costs
  2. Increase income
  3. Invest wiser
  4. Seek alternative methods (more DIY)
  5. Simply do without

Smoothies and Ants In The Pantry

Would you believe, I have never had a professional smoothie? Sure, I blend some concoctions at home but I have no idea what a real smoothie is supposed to taste like. Until now. The other day I stopped at a Panera’s to buy a bowl full of hot sobo noodle soup when I got offered a discount on a beverage. The people on line before me ordered two strawberry smoothies, so I decided to use my discount and try a real, live smoothie!

WOW! I had no idea smoothies could taste so good. So, the first thing I did when I got home (and after I finished my smoothie) was look on the internet to see if there was a Panera recipe and sure enough, there was:

  1. 4 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (hulled if fresh), blueberries, and/or raspberries.
  2. 2 cups 2% plain Greek yogurt.
  3. ½ cup 2% milk.
  4. ¼ cup honey or agave nectar.
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  6. Pinch of salt.

IMG_8838The recipe makes four (4) smoothies, so divide the ingredients by four in order to make one smoothie. Delish! I make my smoothie with skim milk, low fat or non fat plain Greek yogurt, four to five fresh whole strawberries, honey to taste and a tablespoon of vanilla extract (I believe this is THEE secret ingredient to a fantastic smoothie!) I do NOT use salt!

The Panera recipe nutrition values are listed below but since I use skim and/or non-fat products and NO salt, my calories and values are different (if not better!)

Nutrition (Per Serving)

  • 211 calCalories
  • 13 gProtein
  • 34 gCarbohydrates
  • 3 gFat
  • 10 mgCholesterol
  • 55 mgSodium
  • 3 gDietary Fiber

Next, I have a pesty summer problem and that is one of my cabinets in my kitchen is being hounded by ants! I can’t get rid of them no matter what I do. I tried cleaning, washing the interior down, covering the shelves in baking soda, place in ant traps and then eventually actually spraying ant poison on the interior shelves (plus I threw away anything in a permeable container). Not good!

And still those ants keep marching on. They’re the teeny tiny ants. I think they come in from the vent (yes! we sprayed there too!) The only thing I can do now is to keep everything in zip locked bags or containers. I may have to store the sugar in the fridge BUT that makes them too hard to use when needed.

In the interim, this is what the cabinet looks like now. I have the interior stuff all out on the counters. I’m hoping the light of day will permanently scare them away! If not, we may become a sugarless home.

UGH!

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Never Look A Gift Card In The Mouth

For the past four years, Camping World, sends us a $15 gift card, to be used in their retail store towards anything we might need on our RVing adventures. (Camping World does this as a ‘thank you’ for buying a rig there)  In addition to our KOA Membership, we’re also part of the Elite Group for Good Sam (all part of Camping World). I didn’t use the gift card last year because we didn’t have an RV. But this year, we do and there were still a few items on my wish list that I hadn’t gotten around to buying.

I needed a table cloth (some of the picnic tables campsites provide are so yucky!) I needed the clamps to hold down said table cloth. And sometimes, in our bathroom, I need to hang up wet bathing suits or just-cleaned-undies, so a clothesline was in order.

I found all of the above at the Camping World retail store yesterday (plus it was Customer Appreciation Day and I got a free hot dog, hamburger and a soft drink for free!) The prices were very reasonable and because we are part of the Elite Good Sam Membership, we got an additional discount off the retail list price. Once I applied my gift card, all that I owed was just a mere fifty-one cents. Good deal!

The items will come in handy soon enough. DH and I are gearing up for our first camping trip this summer in a few days.

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How Much Money Can You Spend In Retirement?

J.D. Roth, of Get Rich Slowly, calculated a neat way to figure out how much cash a retiree can safely spend while in retirement, so that their money will last as long as they do.

Here’s J.D.’s advice:

  1. Determine your current annual spending. If, like me, your spending fluctuates from year to year, calculate a three or five-year average spend. Call this number your current annual spending.
  2. Determine your safe spending level. You can use whatever method you’d like for this, but for simplicity’s sake, I’d say use the afore-mentioned four-percent rule. Take your entire net worth and multiply this by four percent. If your net worth is $1,000,000, for instance, you’d get a result of $40,000. (If you’re risk averse, either leave home equity out of the equation or multiply your net worth by three percent.) This number is your safe annual spending.
  3. Compare the numbers. Find the difference between your current annual spending and your safe annual spending. If your current spending is greater than your safe spending, you should probably cut back. But if it your current spending is less than your safe spending, give yourself permission to spend more — if you want.

Here are my answers:

  1. Right now, I am spending approximately $2,794 a month, which equals to about $33,528 a year. Please note: ALL this money is passive and is a combination of Social Security, Pension and Interest on investments.
  2. My entire Net Worth right now is about $650,000. If I wanted to gamble it all and follow the 4% rule, I could safely spend about $26,000 a year. If I did not want to risk my equity, I would follow the 3% rule and my safe annual spending would be about $19,500.
  3. If I compare both calculations against what I am currently spending, it looks like I am spending way too much money in both categories. That’s only if I were spending my own cash in retirement, which I am most definitely NOT! All my income right now is from passive sources, which means I very rarely, if ever, have to touch my capital or my home equity. Barring any great disease or calamity, my Net Worth money should live on and on. Which, BTW, we all know will NEVER happen. Something always comes up!

J.D. Roth’s advice to his readers is to always spend less. Live below your means. While that may sound nice to the human ear, in reality, a person can only live below their means if they are making more money than what they need. For me, since I never earned more than $28,000 a year in my working years, and hubby never earned more than $56,000 in his working years, we both basically lived at our means. Granted, yes, we did squirrel away bits of money here and there in retirement investments (401K) but DH was constantly losing his jobs, through either downsizing, his employers simply went out of business or they relocated. We were always tapping into our retirement accounts to make ends meet. I think a lot of people can identify with that!

Our passive income is infinite. There is no end to it. What DH and I have done in our retirements, is what we have always done: we look at the guaranteed income that is coming in to our lives and we set up our lives to meet the challenge. We’re living and spending about $33,528 a year because that’s the guaranteed amount we can safely expect. We’ve prioritized first what is important to us: housing, food, utilities, vehicles etc. and we make our lives fit into the mold. Once we finalize and set up our necessities, we calculate what money is left over and we utilize that cash towards extras. For us right now, RV travel is an extra. We plan our trips against the available funds we have readily on hand. If we can’t afford it, we don’t go OR we find an alternative destination. Currently, a trip to Rome or Paris is out of the question but thanks to our RV, we can spend three months in Arizona this winter.

I watch our cash flow daily. I stick to our budget every day. Before we leave the house in the morning, I know exactly how much money we can spend that day. Sometimes, we have to wait weeks, even months before we can spend any money on a specific item. Naturally, of course, if it’s an emergency, we have our savings accounts BUT I make it a top priority of mine never to tap into them. That’s NOT a habit I would like to make.

screen repairToday, this morning, DH is working on repairing our 17 year old sliding glass door screen. It costs $120 to buy a new one. Or, for $15, he bought the needed parts at Home Depot and is fixing the screen himself. This is a small example of the daily choices he and I both make. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Any bozo can shell out $120 or better yet, put it on a credit card and buy the new screen door. It takes talent and determination, however, to stick within your boundaries and find an alternative way to make your retirement a successful one.

I don’t know if J.D. Roth has a calculation for that.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

Farewell My Kate Spade. I Shall Miss You.

My oldest daughter went to work for Kate Spade in her Manhattan office in 1999. There she remained for the next twelve years. My daughter made it through every single cut the designer business went through. She was in charge of all the computers and all related software. She also had a personal relationship with Kate Spade. So, it is with great sadness to hear about Kate’s suicide death yesterday. Indirectly, through my daughter, all of us had come to know and love Kate Spade.

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Kate Spade photo: Matthews

Over the years, my daughter graced me with so many of Kate’s Spade’s products: handbags, purses, eyeglass cases, perfume, shoes, even bed designer wear such as sheets, dovets, shams and pillowcases. Last year, I had so many of Kate’s handbags (15 at last count) I started to sell them off in consignment shops. I even gave away a bottle of her perfume to a good friend of mine this past February. Now, in retrospect, I regret all of those decisions. I should have held onto everything of Kate Spade because I don’t think we will ever see a designer line quite as fresh and youthful as what Kate Spade produced. Each piece is a classic. Something to be loved and cherished. Forever.

I shall miss you, Kate Spade. It was a pleasure to have known you. Thank you for the wonderful ‘upbringing’ you bestowed upon my daughter. Because of her long relationship with you, my daughter is a woman of elegance and refined charm. She ‘reeks’ of everything Kate Spade, from the interior design of her apartment, down to her attire and her oh! so magnificent shoes.

May you rest in peace.

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Here are just some of the handbags, eyeglass cases I have from Kate Spade, spread out over my bed!
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This is the Kate Spade messenger bag I use each and every day

Medicare & Social Security Running out of Money Faster Than Expected. What To Do?

Oh No! What are we retirees going to do? Especially if we depend on Social Security and Medicare more than we are supposed to? According to this article in the NY Post:

Government trustees reported that a combination of rising costs and an aging population cut the life expectancy of Medicare’s trust fund to just 8 years.

The program is now expected to deplete its funds by 2026, down from last year’s estimate of 2029.

Meanwhile, higher benefit payouts mean Social Security will have to dip into its nearly $3 trillion trust fund for the first time since 1982 — and trustees warned the program would be insolvent by 2034.

Of course the most simple thing to do would be to eliminate the salary wage cap and start taking out Social Security payroll taxes from workers who earn more than $128,400 a year (which is quite a common annual salary nowadays). Why the government hasn’t taken this super easy step baffles me. Thankfully, there is no wage cap on Medicare, but that hasn’t seemed to help the government. They’re still running out of that money!

Social Security taxes are assessed on all wages earned, up to a capped maximum. In 2018, the cap is $128,400. Employees are taxed at 6.2% of wages earned, so if someone earned the maximum taxable wages of $128,400, they would pay $7,960.80.

In addition to Social Security taxes, workers also pay a Medicare tax of 1.45%. The earnings subject to the Medicare tax are not capped, so employees pay this 1.45% on their entire incomes. High earners owe an additional .9% on earned income above $200,000 for single filers and heads of household; above $125,000 for married spouses filing separately; or above $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

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Source: Getty Images

AARP says it’s a myth (click here) that Social Security will ever run out of money. As long as America has some people working and paying their taxes, social security benefits will get paid. BUT (and here’s that ‘but’) because of the slowdown in our birth rate, Social Security checks will be reduced to just about 80% of what you would have been collecting in year 2034.

Fact: No doubt, Social Security faces funding challenges, but not immediately and not bankruptcy. Benefits are paid through payroll taxes collected from current workers and their employers, and the program currently operates with a surplus of about $2.8 trillion.

Yet with a rising number of retirees and a drop in the birthrate, that’s changing. The latest projection has the combined Social Security trust funds that pay retirement and disability benefits running out of cash reserves by 2034.

But that wouldn’t leave Social Security bankrupt and unable to pay any benefits. Even if Congress does nothing to shore up the system by 2034, Social Security will be able to pay out 79 percent of promised benefits until 2090. The last time Social Security nearly depleted its reserves was in the early 1980s, when Congress shored up the program by gradually increasing the full retirement age from 65 to 67 and started to tax benefits based on income levels.

What’s a current retiree or a future retiree to do? If you are working, start saving more money. If you are already retired and collecting benefits, reduce your spending and start saving money. Downsize, cut back on your expenses and prepare to tighten your financial belt. UGH! You’re going to need your retirement savings accounts more than ever in a few years. We’ve been forewarned so it would be advisable to prepare.

If you start collecting Social Security at age 62, that’s 3 years before $134 (approx) will be taken out of your check to cover Part B of Medicare. For a painless way to save, just put that extra $134 away in a savings account.  You’ll have saved an additional $4,824 before you go on Medicare at age 65.

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(stock photo) Will we ever be able to enjoy our retirement?

Think twice (maybe three times) before taking that very expensive vacation. Eliminate most if not all of your debt. Debt is the #1 retirement killer IMHO. Be kind to your relatives. A basement of theirs or a room in their home may be in your future. Stay as healthy as you can. Get out and just walk! It gets the blood running all through your body! Eliminate a dual car family or better yet, move to an area where a car is NOT needed for better savings. Don’t scrimp on home maintenance and repair. Fix and mend NOW before it gets too expensive to do anything later on!

If you have any recommendations or suggestions of saving money for our futures, kindly share.

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