Maybe We All Can’t Get Along

When Rodney King famously asked the question “Can’t We All Get Along?” back in 1991, obviously the answer today is the same as it was when riots broke out in LA after King’s brutal cop beating verdict (acquittal). After six days of rioting, 55 deaths and over 2,000 wounded America is still no better off twenty-six years later when it comes to race relations.

I know this is a highly sensitive topic, but let’s just talk about something for a while. If I recall my history lessons, wasn’t America supposed to be this bright beacon of light to all the shining seas of how all people of race, creed, color, sexual persuasion and economic backgrounds were supposed to all live in harmony and peaceful commune? Yet, if you look at the beginning of time, no body really ever got along. Blondes hated brunettes. Short people disliked tall people. Skinny people wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with fat people. And if we go back to the beginning of the bible, lots of people had unpaid forced labor. Today, we call modern slavery, human trafficking BUT it’s still the same thing, regardless of what name we may call it.

Have we humans really made any progress since Cain killed Abel?

Personally, IMHO, I don’t think so.

America’s experiment of getting all races etc. to co-exist under One Nation, One God just may be a failure that no one wants to recognize for what it is. What do you call doing the same thing over and over again YET expecting a different result? Insanity. Maybe, just maybe, we all can’t get along. Maybe, just maybe, we should all be left alone and allowed to live our lives the way we see fit WITHOUT any government interference, interruptions or intrusions. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll find out when people are left to govern themselves, somehow they find a way to be treated equally and fairly.

What if you apply to go to a college and you’re admitted on your SAT scores and high school records? What if you apply for a mortgage to buy a home and you get approved simply on your FICO scores, your down payment, cash in the bank and good work history? What if you applied for a job and got said job simply because you had the qualifications for the job? What if you wanted to rent an apartment and were approved simply because you met the financial qualifications to rent said apartment? What if you fell on hard times and needed assistance and qualified for said assistance simply because you fell on hard times?

Geeze, wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

Instead of having names, what if we all just had numbers instead? This way whenever I applied for a job, they wouldn’t see I have a vowel on the end of my name, thus assuming I was Italian, Latina or Puerto Rican? Or if my political party choice wasn’t a public record, a potential employer would hire me regardless of my voting record.

Or better yet, why can’t America be one big floating Enterprise Star Ship out in the clouds where both human and alien work and live side by side? Maybe the air is better up there and doesn’t fog up people’s brain waves. I don’t know. It’s just a thought. If we set up a base camp on Mars, what’s going to be the new yardstick for outer planet discrimination?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I don’t know WTF my family is doing living in The United States of America. My dad immigrated here from Italy because he wanted a better life for himself and his family. Yet all he faced in his days of living in America was hatred and discrimination. Despite my dad’s ceaseless and endless attempts to better himself and earn money, he (and all of us) were called nothing more than Italian gangsters and mobsters. (Note: We NEVER even knew anyone in the Mafia).

My dad left a quaint seaside town, located on the Italian Adriatic sea, where he and his sister inherited a beautiful home passed down to them by their parents. It was one block away from the sea and it possessed every single thing anyone could ever want or desire. If my dad retained his rights to this home, my brother, sister and I would have inherited it also. Instead, he doomed my siblings and I to live in this God forsaken crazy place called America.

I’m ashamed of being an American today, just as I was back in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1990’s and all throughout the failed LBJ Great Society, the Nixon years, the Clinton years, the Bush years, the Obama years and today. Nothing has changed in this country, as far as I am concerned when it comes to race relations. People hate each other more today than ever before. Politicians still only care about themselves and NOT the people of America. If I could go back to Italy, I’d go in a heartbeat. Why would I, if I were in my right mind, want to live in all this hatred, mistrust, anger, bias and chaos when I could be sitting on a beach chair, sipping a cold espresso on the Italian Riviera?

I don’t think we Americans will ever get along. I don’t think it’s possible for all human beings to give up their identity and live as one united people under one nation, under one God, with liberty and justice for all. I foresee a Civil War breaking out in the very near future. I also see the final destruction of our 241 year old constitution.

And if you post and send me nasty comments about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or the alt-right, alt-left or whatever else human beings want to call themselves today, you will sadly prove my point. We’re all despicable.

 

First You Tube Trailer Done!

DH and I will be tracking our adventures soon via YouTube. If you want to tag along, you can view out first video by clicking here. Sorry I can’t show a video here on my blogsite BUT that’s how WordPress structures their free software. If I wanted to host a video here, I’d have to pay an annual fee and I’m not going to be doing that. Sometimes all these fees can nickel and dime you to death! But, I’ll see how it goes. If I get enough subscribers on YouTube, I may just bite the bullet and just ‘do it!’

Don’t forget to ‘like‘ the video, if you do, and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to get notifications of any more new videos. Please remember, I am an amateur. I have no idea when the next video will be coming out but it will be shortly.

Stay tuned.

This Is What Keeps Me Wealthy

Saving money, through my frugality, is the way I make and keep myself wealthy, healthy and wise. Some highlighted accomplishments this past month:

1. Saved $344.71 off my hubby’s medical bill when a quick review by me notated some billing errors. A pleasant phone call to the doctor’s billing department and I got those charges taken off the bill. READ everything people!

2. I received a $40 rebate credit card from Home Depot instead of $20. This was due, in part, for waiting an extra week before buying deck paint because the salesperson told me about an upcoming special sale/rebate program on the very exact paint I was going to buy. Results: $70 worth of paint for only $30 and now I get to spend that $40 rebate card on any other little thing I may need.

3. DH and I have been going out to diners for the last 36 years for a occassional Sunday breakfast. We were ‘in the mood’ for a Sunday morning outing last weekend BUT the thought of spending over $27 for only a breakfast has gotten to be ridiculous for us now. Instead, we went to McDonald’s and got the ‘everything’ breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage patty, home fries, biscuit and a stack of fluffy pancakes each and we ‘shared’ a great big cup of hot coffee for only $11. Don’t knock a McDonald’s breakfast. We eat a lot of McMuffins while out on the road. The meal was great and what was even better was saving the $16 from NOT going to the diner.

iphone7lineup4. Saved $400 off the purchase of two current iPhone 7 models because next month the new iPhone 8 is coming out. Retailers are now getting ready to ‘dump’ their ‘old’ stock to make way for the new stock. I also bought cases for our iPhones online from WalMart. My case was $8.99 marked down from $29 (it’s pink….so what! so is my new iPhone 7Plus). DH likes the Survivor series of cases. His was $27 online marked down from $44 in the store.

5. I stoop to pick up pennies. Nothing is too small for me. Every week I shop at Aldi whereby the customer has to use a quarter in order to get a shopping cart. You get the quarter back when you return the shopping cart. Do you know how many people do NOT return their shopping cart and just leave them in the parking lot? Especially if it’s raining or cold outside? Lots. I average at least returning 4 extra carts per week which nets me about $1.00 (four quarters). I put the change in my piggy bank back home. After a few weeks I have made enough money for a free movie ticket!

Also, because I am ALWAYS returning other lazy peoples shopping cart, one cart this week had two still-frozen and cold packages of breaded shrimp! Each package has a retail value of $8 and even though I am allergic to shrimp, I grabbed them and threw them into my cooler. DH loves shrimp but because of my allergy hasn’t had them in years. Now he can fry up some for his own dinner. Score!

candy

my taffy prize & 2 boxes of shrimp

6. I entered a contest and won the first prize, which was a pound of delicious salt-water taffy. (delish) This was no accident. I looked over the respondents entries and calculated a more accurate response plus based on the number of entries, my percentage of my winning the competition was very high. My theory paid off. I won! I can bring the taffy to the movies next time I go. If I ever go. Or just have it while I watch yet another free month of either Netflix, Hulu or YouTube.

7. I received a notification for former Sirius Radio subscribers of a class action suit settlement. When we bought our two Dodge/Chrysler cars each came with 3 months free satellite radio service. I registered both vehicles as defendants in the class action suit and was recently notified that one car will get 3 months of Sirius for free and the other vehicle will get a refund check worth 3 months of service. That’s the way I structured the refunds. Cash & free service! Seriously, is there any other way to do things? Total value: $90.

my piggy bank

My piggy bank filled with mostly found money!

 

Mothers Of Estranged Adult Children

all of us copy

My daughters and I in happier times.

I’m NOT going to go into great details of my own estrangement from my adult daughters. What started off as something so simple, escalated into a separation so heartbreaking and gut wrenching, I still, to this day can not talk about it. To all you mothers out there who are currently also separated from your adult children, scratching your heads in bewilderment and disbelief, the first thing I want to say to you is this: unless you were putting out cigarettes in your kids’ faces or locking them in closets for days, odds are at 95% that you have done nothing wrong!

Let me repeat that, because we mothers, who sacrificed and gave everything to our children and yet for some reason have been rejected, YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG! You did your best. I know it and deep down you know it. But sometimes things happen. Our kids grow up and get married to some strange-looking dude and/or dudettes, fall in with the wrong adult crowd, or maybe something happened in their childhood that you knew nothing about BUT now it’s finally coming out. And guess what? Your adult children are blaming you for everything!

 

stop crying

I came upon this book, Done With The Crying, that I highly recommend, written by a psychologist herself, Sheri McGregor, whose own son (1 of 5 children) rejected her and they became extremely estranged throughout the rest of their lives. If you are suffering from estrangement from your own children, McGregor offers up some excellent advice for both dealing with the pain and eventually healing from it. McGregor speaks from her own estrangement experience from her adult son.  It started with a simple comment she made the day before her son’s wedding. When the son told his future wife the joke his mother said in passing, the future wife and her parents took the comment as an offense. The comment resulted into a nasty dis-invite from her son’s wedding AND escalated from there into total estrangement. The son, not wanting to upset his new wife, took her side and blocked the mother out of his life for decades.

McGregor quickly found out that her estrangement was not an isolated case. She started meeting similar mothers in her practice, most with the same complaints. McGregor found the situation to be so common, she put out a questionnaire and within days, over 9,000 mothers responded with stories and tales of their own estrangement with their adult children. Apparently, this is an epidemic. 93% of the respondents were mothers. Only 7% were fathers. We mothers take the separation from our children more painfully because after all, we used to be connected to our children. Literally!

Eventually, McGregor, as with most mothers, as well as me, come to the conclusion that we are done with the crying. We’ve done all we can. We have to accept our current situation AND we have to move on, take care of ourselves and live out our lives. Our children are. Now, we must too.

You can be happy again. In a calm yet authoritative voice, and with exercises derived from McGregor’s work as a life coach and her own recovery, McGregor helps mothers who did their best to come to terms with their estranged adult child’s choices, and regain their health and happiness. As a loving mother herself, to whom the unthinkable happened, McGregor knows the horrible shock that wrings a parent dry, triggers denial, blame, anger, and shame. With empathy and understanding, as well as tools, the latest research, and insight from more than 9,000 parents of estranged adult children, McGregor helps parents of estranged adults plan ahead, prepare for emotional triggers, and prevail over setbacks and pain.

As always, a book (and prayers) came to my rescue.

I’ll throw in something else to do: trust God.

flower girls.jpg - 1It wasn’t an accident that the next time I would see my two daughters and two granddaughters would be on a center aisle inside a church. DH’s cousin was getting married and my two granddaughters were the flower girls.  After nine months of separation, my granddaughter ran into my arms when she saw me and my youngest daughter came over to me and hugged me and said “I love you mommy very, very much.”

Thus the start of a very slow and sometimes painful path to reconciliation.

It was time, however, for me to cut my losses and construct my own path towards healing, as McGregor suggests.

The first thing I did, on my road to recovery, was see a cardiologist. After much testing, the doctor confirmed that I did indeed have a heart event due to all the stress these many months of estrangement had caused me. The next thing I needed to do was lose the twenty pounds I packed on eating my stressed self to death. Since I was emotionally in no condition to prepare my own meals, I bought a ton of Weight Watcher, Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen meals and just popped them into the microwave. I set up a daily routine to keep my home in order, my personal hygiene intact and my life on track.

I’ve taken up Mediterranean-styled cooking which is very heart healthy. I took out several cookbooks from the library (eventually I bought the America’s Test Kitchen version, used, on sale, of course) I started inviting our friends over for Sunday dinner and created my own ‘new’ family. When I revealed the discourse I was having with my adult children, two of the parents confided in me their own adult children troubles. One daughter threw her parents out of her home, right before a christening party, when she read her parents political comments on Facebook. The other couple told me they just discovered their adult child had developed an opioid addiction and was in rehab.

No one is immune from adult child estrangement. And its NOT your fault if things go astray.

I filled out a few of the exercise questionnaires McGregor presented in her book. It came down to asking myself what did I want to do with the rest of my life? What was going to make me happy without my children anymore?

The first answer was I wanted to fix up my 16-year-old home and make it more modern. That gave me comfort and joy. Next I wanted to get back into my photography which I had ignored for months. I started watching instructional YouTube videos on how to use my camera again, how to utilize the software I just bought myself and I started to re-immerse myself back into technology. I used to be a fantastic Apple Computer technician. I needed to reconnect with that smart woman again.  I upgraded all my Mac hardware and software. It was time for me to reconnect with the 21st century and get over my failed computer company back in 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst!

I also wanted to get back to traveling. I had a Bucket List of places I wanted to see that I had been ignoring. There were friends and family members DH and I had been promising to visit out west that we simply put aside. We kept saying we didn’t have the money or the time which was just an excuse. I went to our local National Park here in NY and bought myself a senior national park pass for ten bucks. I then announced to DH I wanted another RV and I wanted to use it to visit as many national parks as we could. PLUS I wanted to see our friends and relatives that we promised we would. I paid for everything myself, under my own name and everything is my sole responsibility.

You can not force people to love you. No matter who they may be.

Our time on this earth is limited. Make your best case. Do the best that you can and then know when it is time for you to move on.

This is MY time now. I want to make my own ‘best of it’.

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

 

 

 

 

End Of Summer Review

DH and I had some very solid goals we wanted to accomplish this summer (June, July & August). Number One was to increase our savings account. Number Two was to NOT take any money out of our savings account once it got there. Number Three was to pay off all our old (last year) credit card debt.  We also wanted to start making our house ready for sale, even though we have a one to four year time horizon on that.

#1. We only increased our savings account by $2,000. You’ll see why in a few seconds.

#2. We did NOT take one single penny out of any of our savings accounts. For anything!

#3. Within the next two weeks, DH and I will have paid off $14,317.24 in credit card debt. The last lingering card had a balance of $5,542.93 on it and I didn’t think we were going to make it. But we did. In another two weeks, the balance will be paid off in full and all of the debt that we incurred last year, due to hubby’s illness, will now be paid off. Hubby has since recovered, after about a year off. He has returned back to work this summer, working on a specific time-restrained project. We both agreed and vowed we would only live off our passive income and channel MOST of his income towards our debt.

In addition, we paid cash for these home improvements:

a. landscaping $575

b. new kitchen appliances $1350

c. new office/den flooring, plus labor $360

d. power wash & paint existing deck, paint plus labor $280

We also paid $1,226 HOA fees without dipping into our savings, which is what we usually do. In September, we will be paying our annual property taxes in full (in order to save $160 from the installment fee) in the amount of $3,700. This amount will also NOT come out of our savings account like it normally does.

One last thing, out of DH’s earnings, we put down a $1,500 deposit on a brand new RV and then, gulp, you guessed it, we took out a $14,577.38 RV loan which in essence sort of replaces Item#3, as listed above. Our plan is, next summer, DH should hopefully get the same summer project management he got this summer and we can pay off the RV loan in full. I have always said that retirement is absolutely no time whatsoever to be in debt.

But sometimes, you just have to party on.

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

Side Note: For anyone who thinks this was easy, it wasn’t. Hubby was up at 5:00AM each morning and on the job by 7:30AM. He did not get back home til 7:30PM. The drive each way was 1.5 hours. He did this for 5 days per week straight, which if anyone knows my husband, that alone is an impossibility for him, but he persevered. When he got home each night, I had a good hearty dinner waiting for him, which he ate, then watched at least 15 to 20 minutes of TV until he passed out on the couch. By Saturday, you couldn’t even talk to him. He was exhausted and usually slept most of the day. Sunday he was a bit more chipper but still unable to help me with any chores. He did manage to take the garbage out every once in a while but I basically was on my own. I managed the household, did all the laundry and shopping and food preparation. By Saturday & Sunday, I was exhausted too! Before I went to bed each night, I set his alarm, prepared his coffee (all he had to do was turn on the coffee pot), made his breakfast and his lunch (DH packed his lunch each & every day!) made sure he had clean work clothes & underwear every day. I also took care of the dog.

All DH did, and rightly so, was go to work. If he knew I posted this picture, he’d kill me. But I have a gazillion of them. One worse than the other. Sometimes it was heartbreaking. But, it’s done!

sleeping

hubby at the end of a work day. don’t let anyone tell you life is easy. it ain’t!

 

 

Am I a frugalist, consumerist, minimalist? No. I’m a realist.

Sometimes people, we just have to spend money. You can hem and haw. You can do without. You can do with less. But sometimes, you have to face the fact that you just have to spend money AND sometimes you just have to pay full price. That’s being a realist, which is oftentimes, exactly what I am.

I’m a frugalist by birth. A consumerist never. A minimalist almost never (but I loathe clutter!) One thing I am most assuredly NOT, is cheap! I don’t keep up with any Joneses. I just try to live the best possible life I can on whatever income comes our way. I wouldn’t say we live below our means. I would say we live AT our means. Over the years, I have tried to keep our lifestyle within our parameters. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose.

I’ve been thinking lately that I have been spending entirely too much money over the last year. Rule of thumb: if you think you are spending too much, you probably are. Between paying off the newish Florida condo furniture and taking on an RV, I think I have lost my mind somewhere in-between. After a lifetime of intense frugality, why, at age 66, am I being so nice to myself lately?

new shoes

I very rarely indulge myself. I’ve been wearing thrift clothing for like decades. I clean my own home. Sometimes I cut my own hair. I wash my own cars. I do my own repairs. You literally have to force me to spend any money. On myself. At the beginning of this summer, I thought I had an appointment in NYC, so I bought myself new shoes (on sale, of course) because I didn’t want the person I was seeing to see the actual shoes I really wear. They’re white canvas grasshoppers that I bought 4 years ago at a discount chain and they have a serious rip on the side. But I whitewash them with shoe polish and cut off the strayed and ragged edges the rip sometimes causes and for me they look and work just fine.

Well, that NYC appointment never happened. And all summer long, I never got to wear my new shoes. As you can see, they are still in the box. Oh, I will eventually wear them soon enough. Just as soon as my white grasshoppers completely fray and become unwearable. Also, over this summer, I did NOT buy myself one piece of clothing or any accessories. What I have is good enough, wearable enough and as long as people don’t see me every day, they’ll never know I have about 3 outfits and I just wear them over and over and over again. Sometimes I cringe when I see different photos of myself at different functions because (gulp) I’m usually wearing the same exact outfit in the picture. Most of my clothing is several years old.

Hubby is almost about the same as me. Unfortunately, however, he is very hard on shoes, so he gets at least two new pairs per year. And he is very hard on clothes, so he gets a few visits a year to good quality thrift shops (if there is such a thing!)

We owned our last TV, a 19inch Sony Trinitron (remember them?) for nineteen years. Guests would come over our house and be stunned we didn’t have a flat screen TV. Once that Sony died, however, we’ve since bought 4 flat screen TV’s, the last one being a 60inch Vizio for our condo living room. As I said, I’m a realist. I knew it was time to spend money AND buy the best we could comfortably afford. After nineteen years of frugality, we deserved to finally experience new, modern technology.

Which brings me to the point of my post today. I’m an Apple Computer geek. I owned my own store for four years and was privy to the latest innovations Steve Jobs spewed. When other women were buying clothes and makeup and sneaking them into the house while their husbands were gone (plus hiding the charge cards) back in the middle 1990’s I was buying scanners and printers and software and displays and sneaking those inside my house and hiding them under the bed so hubby wouldn’t know. I turned my fetish into a career but once I closed my business, I reverted back to my cautious, frugal self.

Apple products really don’t have to be bought every single time another new product is introduced. My laptops can last five to six years. When the iPhone first came out, I waited until a few models were under Apple’s belt. At the time the 5 model came out, I was able to buy a 4 for only $99 (vs the $350 original price). By the time the 6’s came out, I could afford to buy a 5s (for those who don’t know the iPhone 5s came out in 2013. I bought it in 2015 at the reduced price of $250 vs the original price of $450).

Ditto for my laptop. I purchased it in 2010 for $900 and it is still going strong today in 2017. The laptop has however, almost reached the end of its line as it can no longer be upgraded nor can it have the newer SIRI technology. To a geek, such as me, that’s a big deal. To a frugalista, it’s just unnecessary noise.

Which brings me to today. I had to make a choice. I’ve become involved in my photography hobby and if I wanted to learn, progress and become more professional, I had to up my game. I had to take on the newest technology in order to fully experience all that the world has to offer me. This is where my realist personality steps in. I had to bite the bullet and buy the latest and the greatest Apple Computer (free standing, no more laptops) if I was really going to be serious about my hobby. That decision cost me $1604. No sales haggling. No discounts. That’s what it came to. No buying a PC or different brand. No buying a discount model or a leftover. I had to buy the latest and the greatest.

Next came DH’s and my iPhone 5s. They’re all paid for and work somewhat fine BUT if DH and I are to continue onto our chosen paths (he: his career requires that he keep up with technology. me: I’ve expanded onto vlogging and I need a larger screen for when we start traveling on the road). Our four year old, technology- lagging iPhones were becoming obsolete for what we wanted to do in our future lives. (if we just stayed still, however, there would be no need to upgrade BUT DH and I are somewhat progressive when it comes to real life).

Apple Computer is coming out with iPhone 8 this September. That means the current 7 is scheduled to go on sale. It also means that our 5s will no longer have any resale value if we wait too long and the 8 comes out. This was a very difficult decision for DH and I to make. Our current cell phone bill is only $80 a month. Buying two iPhone 7s will bring our bill up to $135 a month, plus tax.

In this instance, DH and I decided it was time for us to spend the money. Because the newest model is coming out next month, our carrier gave us a discount of $100 per phone. I’ve posted our invoices. It shows the original price of $870 for an iPhone 7 Plus (me) and $750 for an iPhone 7 (he). When our monthly bill comes, there will be a $200 credit issued and included. Our provider also waived the $25 each activation fee, saving us another $50. We also got $75 each back from another reseller. So, instead of paying $1,620 for both iPhones, we are paying $1,220, saving ourselves $400 in the transaction.

I had to sit back, look at the numbers and take all of this in. We’re ‘spending’ $1,220 on cell phones. That’s a heck of a lot of money! Think about that. Remember when we used to pay Bell South $14 for a rotary phone and that thing lasted for decades? Or when cell phones first came out, you could buy a left-over, flip model for only one dollar? Granted yes, today we are getting interest-free financing and that comes out to $25 (he) and $29 (me) per month BUT we have to pay that charge for the next thirty months! Is it any wonder why most cellular phone companies, such as Apple have become the biggest, most profitable corporations in the universe?

But I digress. There are things DH and I want to do in our lifetime and sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, and pay. And pay and pay and pay. Thankfully, our data plan is still viable and appropriate, so I see no increase in that. For $54 more dollars per month (plus tax) DH and I will be utilizing the former greatest and latest, once September comes and the new iPhone 8 rolls off the assembly line.  In any event, our newish phones will be a hellava lot better than the 5s 2013 technology.

Am I being a consumer? Am I cheating on my frugal beliefs? Am I bucking the minimalist trend? No. I think I’m just being a realist and if DH and I want to be part of the 21st century, continue to work and expand our horizons, we have to be realistic.

In the interim, you can check out our soon-to-be YouTube vlogging channel, ‘The Adventures Of Cindi And Nick‘ by clicking here. I haven’t uploaded any videos yet BUT Nick and I are getting ready to record our RVing travels. And NOW we can! Stay tuned.

That’s what it’s all about.

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

my old shoes

my current shoes: grasshoppers. with & without polish

Financial Independence vs Retirement

Over-50-Plan

Photo from ‘The Money Habit’ blog

Move over Baby Boomers. The Millennials are here and they’re kicking your butt when it comes to retirement!  According to this CNN Money report (click here):

Millennials are the first generation to shun traditional retirement and seek financial freedom instead — when income from savings is enough to cover expenses, and working becomes a choice, often long before the age of 65. Becoming financially independent and retiring early, a process known as FIRE, can be achieved at any income level by saving a high percentage of your salary, or cutting your expenses — or both.

Meet 29 year old J.P. Livingston (not her real name, author of The Money Habit). Livingston quit the workforce when she was 27 after she had accumulated over $2.25 million dollars in her portfolio by working only 7 years in NYC. Livingston says: “Let the Baby Boomers have their “retirement,” with its delayed gratification and uncertain benefits” Young people like Livingston are gaming their income, saving rates and investments to become financially independent and retire early — a process known as FIRE. (Financial Independence Retire Early)

While most Americans commonly spend most of what they earn and fall short on traditional retirement savings,  today’s young people are the first generation to plan for financial freedom: 63% of affluent Millennials prefer financial freedom over retirement, while 37% are saving to leave the workforce altogether. Millennials have a different slant on the way they look at life and rightly so. After seeing so many people lose their careers and jobs while still in their 50’s and 60’s (during The Great Recession) Millennials vowed to kick the status quo and drop out of the rat race on their own terms. No more working 9 to 5 in some cubicle from age 25 to 65, the Millennials desire Financial Independence now vs forty years from now. To heck with retirement!

CNN Money stated they have started a new series and will be profiling many of the new Millennials who have achieved Financial Freedom independence early (20’s and 30’s)and on their own terms. Perhaps we Baby Boomers should pay attention and learn a thing or two. I retired early in my 50’s thanks to achieving my own sort of financial freedom BUT how cool would it had been for me if I were in my 20’s and 30’s instead!

We can start off by browsing J.P.Livingston’s most-read post where she outlines her four step approach to early retirement (click here). She lays out her method this way:

I call these the savings equation and the nest egg equation. As you can see, there are four universal levers we can use to ultimately grow our nest egg, and mastering them in the right order can send you hurtling at light speed toward retirement. In typical order, here are four skills you will find you need to master to retire quickly.

  • Master spending control
  • Expand your income potential
  • Deploy your money for optimum growth
  • Minimize your tax exposure

If you’re in the over-fifty crowd, don’t give up. J.P. Livingston has a two part series whereby she gives FIRE advice to a 53 year old man who fell on hard times and thus saved nothing for retirement. In classic Livingston go-getter style, she doles out this advice:

There’s a lot of work ahead of you. You need your energy to build and implement a plan that’s going to require consistent work and effort. So don’t waste it beating yourself up for what you should or shouldn’t have done in the past. We’ll come back to your experiences insofar as they are helpful in informing you how to change your behavior going forward, but self-flagellation in and of itself isn’t going to help anyone. I don’t care. You shouldn’t, either. You judge yourself from here on out based on what you accomplish of the new plan.

To read more about J.P. Livingston’s financial advice plan for Baby Boomers,  click here.

I’m sort of agreeing with this new Millennial style of thinking. I really don’t think there is anything such as retirement anymore. Millennials believe, and perhaps rightly so, that by the time they reach their 60’s, Social Security and Medicare might not be around. Perhaps we Baby Boomers are the last generation to enjoy such plentiful government benefits. Maybe it is time for us to grab our own lives by the horns and map out our own financially free destiny. Livingston advises that we should always keep an eye on our Net Worth and our expenses. She, just like me and most of our ilk, are constantly finding ways to cut our expenses. It just becomes a normal way of living. Owning a home is also J.P’s route to financial freedom.

In any event, check out the links I’ve provided above and keep an open mind. It’s a whole new world out there and it’s never to late to teach an old dog (me) some very new tricks!

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

 

Do You Have The Retirement Illusion Of Wealth or Poverty?

poverty or wealthThere’s a telling question circling round the internet that given your answer will reveal if you are living with an illusion of wealth or an illusion of poverty. The article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal (click here, but you must be a subscriber to read the article). The question is: In a twenty year retirement span, would you rather have One Million Dollars or $5,000 a month in a guaranteed income.

If you chose the One Million Dollars, you have the retirement illusion of wealth.

If you chose the $5,000 monthly income in retirement, you have the illusion of poverty.

Apparently, having a million dollars will give most retirees a false sense of security, causing them to spend more than they actually have. “One million dollars might seem like a lot—especially if you’re viewing all of those zeros on a small smartphone screen—but it isn’t nearly enough for those expecting to have, say, $8,000 a month to spend over a 20- to 30-year retirement.”

Receiving $5,000 a month will cause retirees to think of their income in monthly terms. “Instead of living the lifestyle they can afford, they worry they’re running out of money and act accordingly, skipping trips and scrimping on prescriptions.”

There’s an easy fix to this dual illusion dilemma. “Instead of highlighting only total wealth, financial websites and apps should help people focus on their projected monthly income, too. It’s this amount, after all, that puts our wealth in perspective, helping us understand the meaning of these large monetary amounts.” So, does this mean if we chose the $5,000 guaranteed monthly income we would have been right? Only if you had concerned yourself with your monthly projected income in retirement, which is exactly what I have been doing since my own early retirement. I calculate how much income I am going to safely accumulate each month and I structure my lifestyle accordingly.

For me, receiving $5,000 a month instead of a lump sum of $1 million dollars would work out better. Over the twenty year retirement span, monthly I would receive $1.2 Million vs the $1 Million lump sum the question asks. Rather than take the million and invest the lump sum at the beginning of my retirement years, and suffer from the ups and downs of a volatile investing lifetime, I would take the $5,000, use only half of it to live on and invest the remaining $2,500 monthly, thus benefitting from dollar cost averaging. This answer re-affirms to me that I suffer from both the illusion of wealth and the illusion of poverty. I have the money (or I think I have the money) but I live at, near or below the poverty level because I’m terrified I am going to run out of money. And realistically, if I’m not careful, I will! If someone would guarantee I could receive $5,000 a month throughout my whole entire retirement, I would say: yes please!

I’ve been retired for nearly 16 years (give or take) and from my experience, monthly income becomes an obsession. I need to know exactly how much money will be coming in each month so that I can comfortably align my expenses to that dollar figure. No one seems to concentrate on this phenomenon and that is what the WSJ article addresses. If more people would focus their financial decisions in retirement based on what monthly income their investments will bring in, more people would have a better retirement. Too many people are concerned with gross figures and net worth rather than their actual day-to-day living.

The correct consensus is for people to take the $1 million dollars and invest it in something that will give you a 7% return. I disagree. I don’t find the 7% to be accurate since most are recommending annuities and as per Suze Orman, annuities are for suckers. Again, I don’t invest in the stock market, so I would have put the mill in an FDIC guaranteed safe CD investment at 3% and lived off the $30,000 a year. That comes to $2,500 a month. Duh. But, I’d still have that one million dollars in the bank, which thanks to inflation (currently 2%), as the twenty years progressed, would be worth less and less: $672,971 to be exact.

Meanwhile, if I had taken the guaranteed $5,000 a month and invested half of it over the next twenty years utilizing dollar cost averaging, I would have a base of $600,000 plus whatever interest and dividends the investment I selected would have earned me. In other words, if I had invested monthly, steadily into the S&P 500 (which is my chosen investment strategy anyway), I would have doubled my money to $1,200,000, which was the original amount I had received in the first place. Over time. Duh.

I prefer living with both my illusions of wealth and poverty. I live thinking I’m richer than I really am and I live thinking I’m going to run out of money if I’m not careful enough. Somehow, these two illusions keep me in check and successfully retired.

Maybe, however, just maybe, I have NO illusions at all. Perhaps my choice of balance is a more realistic approach than I realize. I don’t overspend. And I really don’t underspend. I just try to get what I want at a reduced price! Legislation is now pending that would require retirement plan accounts to project a person’s monthly income. Researchers are recommending that thinking about how savings will impact your lifestyle in retirement to overall wealth is more suitable. Duh.

Darn it. I was right all along. And as usual, I didn’t know.

The months have it!

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

How I Planned My Early Retirement

First off, you must know this one fact about me: I don’t think like other people. I don’t do things like other people. I don’t reason like other people. I live by my own rules. Because of this, I have very few “close” friends (but many acquaintances). Most people think I am weird, strange, rude, obnoxious, opinionated but they only come to that conclusion when I reveal a part of myself to them. So, I have learned over the years NOT to let anyone know anything about me.

I didn’t plan my retirement as most financials advisors would recommend: save your money and invest. I lost twice in the stock market and I have no intention of making three times a charm. I understand that our current stock market is at an all time high and sometimes I sit and calculate how much more money I would have now if I had just stayed the course. The stock market is a fool’s game and anyone who bases their life on it, is, IMHO, a fool. See? I’ve ticked you off already.

When the economy and the stock market took a dump in 2008 and gazillions of people watched their portfolios wither and die, DH and I spent our time laughing at everyone from the sidelines. That’s because The Great Recession had no effect on our financial standing whatsoever. As people were losing their homes due to foreclosure, facing massive job losses, income disruptions, repossessions etc. DH and I just cruised through the greatest financial upheaval in history. Why were we unscathed? Because in 2001 we made a conscious effort to get out of debt, live without a mortgage and own cars without loans. We suffered greatly in order to stay out of debt. I knew ahead of time that DH and I were to avoid any involvement with banks at all costs. Everyone laughed at us and said we were crazy.

Who’s laughing now?

Since I was a child, I dreamed and calculated my retirement. I always knew how I wanted to live my life once I no longer needed to work for a living. Back in 1997, one of my bosses once asked me how I saw myself in retirement. I didn’t have to think long before I gave him an answer. I told him I envisioned myself owning three homes: one in the mountains, one on the beach and one in paradise (where ever that might be). Now, ask yourself…….was this a normal answer to a normal question? No. I told my boss that my retirement would be spent by me traveling and living in each of my three homes throughout the different seasons of the year.

When it came time for me to actually plan out my retirement, I did it backwards. I didn’t say to myself that I planned to live on $60,000 a year, nor $100,000 a year and then work and save towards that goal. No, I did it the opposite. I figured out how much guaranteed income I was going to positively receive ($2,700 a month or roughly $32,400 a year) and I channeled and geared my life downwardly until I reached the point where I could comfortably live on $32,400 a year AND own my three dream homes.

  • Note: DH and I are currently living on $36,700 a year BUT that’s because he is still working. Once he stops, we will have no problem whatsoever to live on $32,400 (or less) a year.

At 50 years of age, I retired. (DH is planning to fully retire at 62, eighteen months from now). I owned a home in the mountains, a home near the beach and my paradise image of the 3rd home turned out to be an RV. (I’ve gone through a series of at least 4 to 5 RVs since 2001) I came to realize owning an RV is really my ticket to paradise because I can travel/drive to any location that gives me joy.

One piece of advice from a financial expert that I do follow is the proven fact that two retirees, at the age of 65, will need approximately $260,000 in cash, at that point in their lives, to cover the next 20 years of Medicare co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance premiums etc. etc. etc.

I don’t think consciously about frugality every single day because I knowingly am living my life already at its lowest price point. I check my bank balances each and every day and I check my consumer credit once a week. I always know my bank balance, cash holdings, credit score each and every day. Without even thinking I know what I can afford, what I can spend, what I can buy, how I can comfortably live within my parameters.  I know how much I can spend on groceries each week, how much my newish sneakers would cost, how much gas I can put in my car, what kind of clothes I can safely buy, how much I can spend if and when I sit down in either a restaurant or fash food joint. I know all these things consciously before I step outside my home.

Should higher expenses creep my way, I can weekly change my budget, make cuts to the expenditures, find another path through the maze and painlessly adjust my life accordingly. There is NO lifestyle inflation here. While most people think they need MORE money to manage their retirement lives (think inflation), I find ways to stay within my guidelines and I never give increases a second look.  I call it: needs vs. wants. As long as you are covering your four walls (roof over your head, food on the table, transportation and necessary utilites i.e. electricity, heat/ac & hot water) everything else is just noise.

I don’t know anyone else who lives like DH and me. I have met a few retirees who’ve come close and these few have become our very dear friends. I suppose like-minded people are attracted to each other as some kind of kindred spirit or communal acceptance. I know that DH and I can’t really associate with people who are rich or spend large sums of money (whether real or on credit). We can’t take cruises or travel internationally. We can’t go out to restaurants or see expensive shows or concerts. We can’t go to functions that require formal dress attire. Because of this we’ve had to say ‘NO’ a lot and decline most invitations. (thus you lose potential friends) I can’t go to jewelry parties, lunch out with the girls or take up expensive sports (like tennis or golf) because I simply do not have the money to do so. I wouldn’t even try to rearrange my budget to do these things because in the scheme of things I do NOT think they are important.

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my kitchen table with ‘finds’ from Goodwill

I can not take anyone out to dinner BUT I sure as heck can cook you up a great meal that’ll be better than any restaurant you might wander in to. One thing DH and I will NOT scrimp on is the quality of food. We may buy food at a discounted price BUT you can be assured that the food we served is always top shelf!

As DH and I progress through our early retirement, we realize it’s only possible because we keep changing our bottom line. We keep going through downsizing and re-prioritizing what is important to us. Living in a nice home, driving a nice (reliable) car, living in both the mountains and the beach is primo importante (very, very important). Having the freedom an RV allots us to travel well is currently possible again for us, in part, due to a new series of innovations. We are in the middle of mastering boondocking, which is free camping (click here). Boondocking wasn’t as prevelant in 2001 as it is today. Our new, modern RV comes equipped to encompass the new trends in camping, making boondocking easy for us now (i.e it’s solar-ready) So, you see, life is a series of constant changes. We always know the bottom line. We just have to keep altering our path to stay on our course.

Most people, don’t want to live this way. Rather than living with less as their retirement progresses, they want to live with more. And for that they’ll need more money and they’ll need to watch the foolishness of the stock market. Only to survive yet another Great Recession.

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