Autumn Adventures-Update #1

autumn

 

We’re a month into Autumn already and it’s time to visit my Autumn Bucket List and see how I am doing.

Here’s my list, in no special order:

1. Attend an Octoberfest. Have a few beers and a bratwurst. Never got the opportunity 😦

2. Go on a photo shoot. Done! Went on a few, in fact.

3. Read a book (I’ve got my eye on ‘A Man Called Ove’ Still on waiting list but read Rachael Cruze’s new book ‘Love Your Life. Not Theirs’

4. Finish my art project: repainting two floral portraits Done! And they came out lovely.

5. Get my physical & mental act together: weight, looks, style Lost 6 pounds, activewear for looks, pixie cut for style

6. Join a yoga group. Classes start in October Two classes attended already!

7. Place tropical plants on my lanai Done! It looks like a jungle out there!

8. Make three healthy, low-cost meals every day It’s so hot & humid, I only did this a few times.

9. Attend a free play/concert Done. A spiffy Country & Western band!

10. Have friends over for evening cake & coffee Done. Served warm apple pie & vanilla ice creme

11. Make a new friend this season Done. New friends. New direction & better interests.

12. Find lower cost RV storage Done! Got free storage till May!!!!

13. Bike more, walk more, swim more now that the temps have lowered Swimming yes. Walking & biking…….only on some nights when the temps dip below 79.

14. Prepare pumpkin spice lattes at home. Enjoy! Sorta done. Found pumpkin flavored real creme & sugar creamer. Delish!

15. Go on a day trip. Done. Went to Tarpon Springs (click here to view photos)

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Why I Don’t Care What Other People Say, Do Or Think, Nor Do I Worry About It.

When you have a strong sense of self (as I do) and when you know who you are, where you’re from and where you are going, nothing else much matters. I don’t need vindication from others in order to make myself feel good. I also don’t have to make up justification stories to cover up or hide from past mistakes I’ve made. I’ve got nothing to prove to the outside world nor do I have to set myself up as an expert on any specific topic.

If you haven’t ‘found’ yourself by the time you’ve retired, I don’t think you ever will.

If you’re still caught up in an identity rut, perhaps you need the services of this wonderful life-coach therapist, Lisa A. Romano. You can watch all her videos for free on You Tube or you can sign up for one of her (expensive: $900 plus) online classes. Ms. Romano is especially good with people who live in delusional, narcissistic worlds, are co-dependent and sadly, empaths.

Perhaps you can ‘find’ yourself here:

How We Retired On $35K A Year.

I always knew how I wanted to retire since I was a little girl: I wanted a home in the mountains, a home at the beach and an RV to travel throughout the National Parks. Plus, I wanted to retire early, at least by 50 for me.
So, after two failed businesses (one was with Apple Inc and despite it all, learned an awful lot plus propelled my two daughters into fab, well-paying careers), losing most of my investments in the stock market crash of 1987 and dot-com disaster of 2001, plus getting hit with a $187K tax bill, a $100K loss on a sale of a beach house in Rhode Island, hubby getting hit with a deathly heart disease, thus being out of work for long periods at a time, guess where I am right now in my life?
I’m going to be 67 next month, hubby is 60.
We own a paid-for home in the mountains.
We own a paid-for home by the beach.
We own a smallish RV and on our off time we visit the National Parks.
We drive two paid-for ‘used’ luxury vehicles (without the price tags!!!)
I retired at age 50.
DH will retire next year at age 62.
And we juggle it all on our Social Security, one measly pension and very small, minute withdrawals out of our savings account (but we really don’t need that money….truly…it’s just nice to have). We live on about $32K to $36K a year and we couldn’t be happier.
How it all worked out is beyond me BUT we both learned valuable, valuable lessons along the way.
Perhaps we got ‘here’ in a convoluted way, but in any event, we’re here! And loving it!

So, how did we do it? (past thinking) How do we do it? (current thinking).

Past thinking: by making a lot of mistakes AND from learning from them, we figured out what was important in our lives and what wasn’t. First off, having a roof over your head and a safe, comfy bed to sleep in every night was primo important! Next came eating 3 square meals a day and taking a hot shower every day (if possible, no longer than 2 days!) Once we got all those necessities under control, the rest was paid for by priority. Health, car and homeowners insurance came next. Major utilities, such as electric, water, sewer came under ‘having a roof over your head’ category. We really don’t need cable, cell phone or garbage service. For one dollar, we can drop off our own trash at our local dump vs paying a carting service $25 a month.

my pantry
we have a well-stocked pantry

We learned to shop discounts and bulk buy. We very rarely eat out in restaurants or take-out. Occasionally we’ll want a breakfast out, so we go to McDonald’s. For $10 we eat like kings and I always fill out the survey on the top of our receipt. We get a free McMuffin next time we go out for a breakfast. We learned DIY techniques, shopping used or thrift shops vs new, bartering or simply doing without. We didn’t do this all at once but gradually. Eventually, your ‘new’ life becomes so normal you don’t even realize the difference anymore.

Current Thinking: Now that we have everything we think we need neatly tucked into place, the next conundrum to be solved by us was how to keep all the balls up in the air on a limited budget. We have a guaranteed income of $32,400 per year. Some years, however, we spend upwards of $35,000 and that is due to either travel, medical bills or home repair. We oftentimes cover those expenses by either withdrawing cash out of our sacred retirement saving account, Nick does a few weeks of work per year or we put the expense on a zero-interest credit card and pay it off somewhere between 12 to 18 months (or we re-transfer to another feeless, zero interest card). I do NOT think a zero-based interest credit card is debt! Sorry, but it just doesn’t compute in my brain as debt. I’m still paying the original purchase amount, just in increments. That is all!

First know, if ever we do find ourselves in financial hot water and our savings can’t cover the expense, we have a priority list of assets that can be quickly sold. First to go, we sell Nick’s car. If that doesn’t cover the expense we have jewelry. If all else fails, then one of the paid-for homes is either rented out or we sell. Florida would be the first to go. Condos in Florida are easy to replace. A country home up in the Catskill Mountains, on almost 4 acres of land……that’s few and far between to find a gem like that. So, the mountain home would be the last to go. As long as we have our RV and our quest to travel is quenched, everything else is just noise. I don’t think Nick and I are attached to anything.

Our annual budget is as follows, in priority:

1. $12,000: HOA fees on condo, taxes on both properties, $500 condo restaurant fee (this quells our restaurant-hunger desires)

2. $4,800: food & toiletries

3. $4,536: heat, a/c, electricity, internet and home security monitoring for 2 homes and a barn (electric only for barn), two cell phones (iPhone7 and 7Plus)

4. $3,066: car insurance (2 vehicles) RV insurance, homeowners insurance (2 homes)

5. $2, 520: medical insurance, Medicare supplement insurance & Medicare insurance, monthly meds co-pay

6. $1,872: Two life insurance policies ($100,000 each Term Life)

7. $600: dog food, meds and annual vet visit

8. $600: home repair & upkeep on NY home only. Condo covered by HOA

9. $3,120: Zero-interest credit cards for new Florida furniture, new iMac, new wood flooring in NY home office, new appliances in NY home. Most will be paid off by October 2018.

10a. $1,680: Low 5% loan on RV that has enough equity without being underwater should the need arise in case we have to sell.

10b. $1,200 annual travel expense with RV. This can easily be reduced by either boondocking or staying at National & State Parks. Gas expense can be lowered by sticking closer to home base.

The annual total for all of the above comes to about $35,995.

my closet
We have no shortage of clothes, shoes, handbags, wallets or accessories

I did not include clothing or hobbies because that’s all negotiable. We buy ALL our clothes at either Goodwill or thrift shops for like pennies. Ditto for household needed items, home accents, or any miscellaneous item. I’ve purchased evening attire, for example, to a wedding, for only $15 (black velvet designer label full-length dress!) If I see an increase in these types of purchases, I lower my budget elsewhere in order to keep the same bottom line.

I’m fairly well set in my photography hobby. I did have to buy a new, state-of-the-art iMac computer (to replace my 7 year old laptop) in order to keep up with the software and photography technology but I put that on an 18 month zero interest payment plan. Should I ever need a new camera (God forbid!) that purchase also would go on an interest free plan. Why should I use my money when I can just as easily use theirs? Nick’s hobby is to tinker and that’s why he has a barn (now, with electricity)! Our other hobby is our RV and traveling: see above for that.

Lastly, we had to update our cell phones this past year. Nick needs his iPhone for when he works and I need a cell phone for communication. Since we are going to be traveling more and internet access is very important when you hit the open road, I got a larger screen iPhone 7 Plus. Please note iPhones are up to system X (ten) but we bought slightly outdated ‘7’s’ for a reduced price. I sold my laptop and two older 5s iPhones and used that money towards our new cell phone purchases. That saved us around $300. Nonetheless, our newer iPhones, along with our cell phone plan costs us about $130 a month. Ouch. Necessary but still painful.

Our entertainment costs are nearly zero because we only go to events that are free. We have gone to a few paying events, but they are all planned and budgeted for. If we spend money in the entertainment category above our budget, I look for ways to save in other categories to keep our bottom line balanced. Our entertainment budget line item comes under travel. After all, hiking, walking, bicycling, swimming are all free things we do. We love to attend free concerts or art/car/boat shows in the park. Our FL beaches are free. Our favorite NY hiking trails are free. And thankfully, I have the Senior National Park Pass (for only $10bucks!) and that should keep us happily RVing for many more years to come.

And that’s how we have successfully retired on only $35,000 a year!

 

 

 

 

Five Things Making Me Happy Today 10/19/17

  1. The temps are starting to cool which meant we slept last night for the first time this season, with all our windows open. The breezes from the Manatee River are divine.
  2. Cooler temps means we can start bicycling more. We’ve gone twice already and I’m looking forward to when we can bicycle every single day! (in addition to walking and swimming)
  3. Some extra money has come in due to me selling items we no longer use AND from some of my blogging work. YAY!
  4. I’m off one of my heart meds (because of the side effects) and within one week I lost 6 pounds. Woo Hoo!
  5. We’re handling our Florida budget very well: we have food, gas, entertainment money and yet ALL our bills are being paid in full and on time. Wow!

U.S. World News Top Picks For Retirement and I live in #1

US World News & Report just released their 2018 list of 100 locations in America best suited for a happy retirement and luckily (and smartly) I’m living in their Number One Choice: Sarasota Florida!

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 4.54.11 PM

At least I’ve done a few things right in my lifetime. There isn’t a better place for Nick and myself than Sarasota! Granted yes, the traffic can get a bit too much but once Nick and I are behind our condo’s front gates, we have 775 acres to roam around freely and without any outside stressors! Sarasota is also home to America’s newest multimillionaires-next-door (I’m not telling). Click here for that info:

Sarasota has its share of notable rich, including mega-author Stephen King, TV reality-mayhem king Jerry Springer, entertainer Rosie O’Donnell, political gurus Mary Matalin and James Carville, baseball star Joey Votto, and investor Jeffrey Vinik, noted for recently tearing down a $4 million, 6,100-square-foot home on St. Armands Key to make way for something, presumably, much less confining.

The typical person of wealth in Sarasota, however, is much more likely to be a millionaire-next-door type who built and sold a small business, had a lucrative career as a corporate executive, or simply did well in some profession and then moved here. Few covet the limelight. “In Sarasota, there are some extremely wealthy people—there’s actually more wealth here today than there was pre-2005—but most don’t want to flaunt their wealth. If they wish for happy anonymity, they can find it here. If they don’t, there’s not a more social town.”

downtown_sarasota_orp4hd

Now, I’m not really rich. I just pretend to be. Sarasota has so many free events and activities going on all year long, it’s very easy to give someone the false impression of wealth! Nick and I also bought our condo at the right time down here in Sarasota. Since we’ve purchased our unit, the price just keeps on increasing by at least $10,000 per year! So, technically, we’re really not giving out a false ‘rich’ impression after all.

There’s something for every budget here in Sarasota. The grocery shopping is a foodies mecca. The restaurants to die for! Thanks to the uber wealthy, the local Goodwill shops are teaming with designer brand labels (once you learn how to shop right!) The entertainment is Top Class A List Celebrity, the beaches are simply breathtaking and the amenities will keep you busy for like forever!

There’s no place else we’d rather be right now. At least, for the winter!

The Sacrifices We Make In Order To Retire Well

I’m one of those retirees who never saved up enough money for retirement. Oh, we did save money B UT something was always happening whereby we had to withdraw the money out and pay for some emergency. Like being out of work for 2.5 years.  Things like that. So, I knew that the only way we could affordably retire was to make ourselves debt free and not carry over a mortgage into our retirement. That meant buying and selling our original marital home with enough accumulated equity to purchase a ‘retirement’ home without a mortgage. That one undertaking was an immense sacrifice. Buying a home for cash (and being cash poor afterwards) took a lot of guts and determination. Nonetheless, we did it!

Next step: living on a reduced income. That meant going from an annual gross income of $84,000 down to a net annual income of $30,000. NOT an easy task to say the less. However, we did it gradually with me kicking and screaming all the way down the totem pole. Our food bill and restaurant tabs were greatly reduced. Our style of living was downsized. We could no longer afford to buy things retail. Much of our clothing and furnishing needs are purchased from either Goodwill thrift shops or flea market sales. Our vehicles are purchased used rather than brand new out of the showroom. Vacations are nearly impossible (thankfully we’ve gone through a series of RVs, so we can sort of vacation that way now).

Once all the above dust settled, however, our new revamped retirement lifestyle isn’t at all as bad as one would think. Truthfully, in the end (of life) you start to realize you don’t need a lot of things and most importantly you don’t need a lot of money. Whew! You should have accumulated all that one would ever need as you journeyed through your lifespan.  For us, our end journey is to have enough income to sufficiently sustain most of what we accomplished. Thankfully, we do……..and that’s all that matters.

beach.jpg - 1
the beach yesterday

Turns out the retirement we have now is almost similar to the one I imagined as a child. We summer in the northeast/mid-atlantic. We winter in the south. And we RV in between. For us, there really isn’t anything much better. As long as we stick to our economizing budget, we’ll do just fine.

In the end, the sacrifice justified the means.

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

 

 

Retirement Stories

I learn from other people. I like to find out about other people’s lives and figure out their successes and failures. Because of my interest in other people’s lives, I usually read biographies. Better yet; if it’s a self-biography, the more I am interested in the life story. I suppose that is why I am so obsessed with retirement blogs. I like to read how other retirees are doing as their retirement progresses. Some people are successes. Some others are so clueless it’s a wonder they managed to live as long as they have.

 

Of course, there are the success stories. The retirees who manage their money well, live within their means, are active and sporty, down to earth, honest and realistic. Unfortunately, from what I can garner and read, this group is few and far between. Nonetheless, I try to read as many life stories as possible and glean out the information that is meaningful to my own life. Lately, however, I just had to discard the losers because I couldn’t contain my disdain for them much longer. I don’t like idiots. I like losers even less.

Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.

I’m not one to say that my retirement is better than anyone else’s. Lord knows I’ve made my share of mistakes. The key is to quickly correct your mistake, do what you can to get yourself back on track, make adjustments and then carry on to the best of your ability. I always had a plan in place for my own retirement BUT life always got in the way. For example, we always had a 401K or ROTH IRA but Nick would either lose his job (sometimes for months or a year at a time) and we needed the money OR the stock market would decline and it has been near impossible to regain what we had lost (i.e 2008……..like Duh?)

When these things would happen to us, Nick and I would always adjust, downsize and figure out what we could do without, what could we retain, etc. Our secret to success, if you want to call it that, is that we have ALWAYS lived small. Small house, small cars, small lives meant affordability in times of trouble. A new Boomer Retirement Worry right now is that Boomers are having trouble selling their huge, McMansions (5,600 sq feet!) Click here to read the CNBC article.

Demand and prices for large ranch houses have declined over the last decade, as more young professionals move to smaller abodes in hipper areas. Boomers don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Boomers eventually want to move to a condo at the beach. The housing market, on the rebound since the Great Recession, is increasingly being driven by millennials and first-time homebuyers who “are hungry for starter homes and efficient layouts.” Large single family homes — defined as the largest 25 percent of all listings on realtor.com and about 2,900 square feet to 4,000 square feet — receive 12 percent to 45 percent less views on realtor.com than the typical home in each market.

home
Big homes like this are not selling!

Nick and I have always lived in homes that were slightly over 1,000 sq feet. Currently our NY home is 1,040 sq feet and our Florida condo is 1,120 sq ft. Easy to maintain. Easy to afford. Easy on the wallet. Apparently that’s what the new buyers of today want also. We learned our lesson from the 1987 Stock Market Crash so when 2008 came around, we fared much better: no debt and low expenses equated with our new, lower incomes.

Live and learn.

From others AND from your own experience.

Retiring to the most expensive location on the planet and deluding yourself while trying to convincing others, your new locale is affordable because you live like a native is preposterous. You’re not living like a native unless you’re spear fishing every day for your dinner, raising chickens and growing your own vegetables and pineapple trees. Just because you became vegan and shop at local Farmer’s Markets doesn’t make you a local. Suffering through 90F+ heat and humidity because you don’t have the money to afford air conditioning for 3 months out of the year for fear you won’t have enough money left over to go on some brain-assed exotic vacation just shows me (and every one else) what a insanity looks like. Never mind what the high humidity does to your health, clothes and furniture…some people just don’t have their priorities in order, IMHO.

Ditto to the lady who depleted her retirement funds by bailing out her loser daughter.

Retirement is a very serious time of your life. You had better get your act together because as you get older, and weaker……….you can’t bounce back and resolve your idiotic mistakes. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Nine times out of ten, however, the worst is the best to come.

 

Timing Is Everything

Our timing has been way off lately. For one, we came down to Florida way too early! The temps are too hot for us here. The humidity is unbearable. So much so that I have been rethinking this whole retirement thing. WTF am I doing? It’s days like this that I wish I was just in one perfect place. Apparently, however, something like that doesn’t exist for us. Or does it? As I said, I have to rethink everything.

Nick and I are NOT homebodies. Which means, we do NOT like to stay inside a home. We like to be out and about. That’s the reason why we shed the north in the winter and head down south so we can continue to live our lives outside. Now, the reverse has just happened to us. It’s so darn hot here in Florida we’re forced to remain inside! Duh?

We can’t go walking, we can’t visit the local state parks, we can’t go hiking, we can’t go bike riding, we can’t even go to the beach/bay because the heat has brought about a flesh-eating bacteria making swimming in these waters dangerous. The worst part is we can’t even cook because the kitchen heat is intolerable. Now I know why there are so many fast-food joints in Florida! People can’t cook their own meals at home because of the high temps! The only thing we CAN do right now is swim in the pool BUT after an hour, we’re done!

Anyway, to say I am NOT a happy puppy right now would be an understatement. Next year, we will NOT step foot in Florida till after October 15th. We should have stayed up north and enjoyed the cool fall weather, the colorful leave falling, the mountainous hiking trails, the real apple orchids and pumpkin farms (not these fake apple farms here in Florida!) September for us should be our RV travel month. Next summer our RV will be at the beaches of Rhode Island and Maine till after Labor Day. Then off to the mid-west to hike the National Parks.

We did this year all wrong! And one thing we can’t get back is our wasted time. Yes, granted we came down to Florida early to inspect the hurricane damage BUT we should have kept on going. We shouldn’t have stayed.

Live and learn. That’s all I can say. And resolve to make next year better than this one.

I cancelled our RV trip to The Grand Canyon this May and have rescheduled it. I have changed it to September ’18 next year instead. This May we’ll head back up north and spend the summer months in Rhode Island with an end-of-season top off at The Acadia State Park in Maine. We were supposed to do that this year but somehow it all got screwed up (I think by the hurricane….)

Another thing that happened that threw me off kilter recently: the exorbitant RV storage fee. We were supposed to get a $89 monthly space but by the time we booked all they had left were $130 a month spots. When you’re on a fixed income, the additional $40 hurts. Sorry, I’m not cutting our food budget just to store the RV. Thankfully, a friend of mine who lives on 10 acres up in the Florida panhandle, offered us space for free. We’ll be taking her up on it after we get some warranty work done on our RV. There’s a slight crack in the laminate on the kitchen counter. Thankfully, we only had to pay for a half month of storage before our warranty appointment. And double thankful the much-needed repair will take at least 30 days. Or more! That equals free storage! We told the service rep to take all the time he needs. Hopefully till May! LOL!

While we were waiting for our service rep, we used their dump station for free. Nick cleaned out ALL the tanks. The service company was also having a free lunch for all their loyal customers (from now till Sunday). So, in the end, we had a good day. Things worked out much better. The high storage fee burden was lifted; our RV is in very good hands and we enjoyed a delicious, free lunch!

Now, if the temps would just come down. Oh well.

hot dogs
The guys grilling up some hot dogs
under the tent
under a very cool tent!

 

 

First Friday Of The Month Reserved For Partying

Apparently, the first Friday of every month is time reserved for family party time. Main Street shuts down for the early evening and the events begin!  There are games, water slides for the kids. Food vendors, neighborhood companies selling cupcakes, pizza, BBG ribs and of course, an appearance of Chick Fil-A.  Lots of beer and wine are flowing (at $3 a glass!) A different band every month (this time it is Country & Western), starts playing around 4:30PM and ends around 9PM. It’s a lot of fun and while I am down here, I rarely miss it. Bring your own chair and simply enjoy the evening. Oh, and admission is free!

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