This couple retired 2 years ago on about $27,000 a year. Here’s how that’s going

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This article is reprinted with permission,

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In May 2019, Joan and Steve Reid quit their part-time jobs — Joan at the public library and Steve at a florist — and relocated from the affluent New York City suburb of Pearl River, NY to the beach community of Vero Beach. Fla. The couple’s aim, both 67 at the time, was to retire, reduce their expenses and live on an income of less than $30,000.

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Subsequently, Next Avenue wrote about Reeds and his plans, which became one of its most popular stories, “Retiring on a Shoestring.” Next Avenue thought it would be interesting to see how things turn out and how things look after two years.

“Overall, our total spending is roughly the same between New York and Florida,” Joan says.

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But even though their frugality hasn’t paid off as planned, the couple is still satisfied with the decision to relocate. “Our standard of living and standard of residence overall has been high. We live as we always have, ”says Joan. “It’s not luxury, but it’s comfortable.”

What is retirement like?

However, the geographical and mental changes have not been easy. “Our feelings are weakened by being too grateful that we made the move and that what we have in retirement has slowly diminished,” says Joan. They still remember the seasons of New York, especially autumn.

In 2019, they eagerly await a calm and slow pace of life in Florida. It turned out well. “We have adjusted to a slower pace, but this may have more to do with the comfort and acceptance of retirement, which is an opportunity to slow down,” Joan says.

Their Income: Then and Now

These days, Reeds garners more income from multiple sources at once than he did in New York.

Steve, who creates art from found objects and mixed media, sold two pieces of art this year for a total of $350.

From November 2019 to April 2021, Joan worked as a content editor for two local magazines, earning $800 per month. “It was an incredible boost for us,” she says. She earned $630 from freelance writing, editing and teaching in 2019, but only $305 in 2020 and zero so far in 2021.

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After leaving her editing job, Joan focused on writing. “Joyful Passage: A Woman’s Path to Retirement,” which he himself published on Amazon AMZN,
It describes how Reid approached retirement, his planning process, and eventually relocation to Florida. Joan expects to earn $45 royalties from it in November.

The message of the book, she says, “is that a person does not need to be financially prosperous to retire.” While there was no upfront cost in writing the book, Joan pays shipping fees upon sale and covers the cost of any author copies. “I do my marketing through social media and email,” she says.

The couple received a $2,400 pandemic stimulus check from the US government in 2020 and one for $2,200 in 2021, which was a huge help.

They receive a total of $257 in pensions each month. And while their Social Security benefits have gone up a bit each year (both started claiming at 62), so have their Medicare premiums, so it’s basically a wash.

All told, they forecast 2021 earnings to be $24,769, roughly the same as 2020 but down from $27,000 in 2019. Florida has no state income tax, which helps them keep more of what they bring in.

what happened to their expenses

Their daily living expenses are comparable to those when they lived in New York, although they are higher for medical costs, food, and automobile insurance.

In 2020, the total cost of his medicine was $423. This year, they’ve already hit $583. “The amount of Steve’s meds has increased, which means more doctor visits and follow-up visits. And the co-pays have become more frequent,” explains Joan.

To lower the cost of their prescriptions, the couple has applied for patient-assistance programs with pharmaceutical companies, and Steve is able to receive free medication for his dry-eye syndrome.

Medical copay increased from $848 in 2020 to about $505 in 2019. “The Cleveland Clinic swallowed up a lot of medical practice in Vero Beach. It adds another level of pay for each doctor’s visit,” says Joan. Now, they try not to use the medical practices associated with the Cleveland Clinic, which in 2019 Indian River Medical Center acquired Vero Beach, Having Arrived in South Florida for the first time three decades ago.

To save on doctor visits, Reeds takes advantage of free blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol screenings at their primary care physicians’ offices.

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Joan says that dental work is more expensive in Florida, but she has found a dentist who “works with our needs and budget, and we are able to do some of the work by paying installments.”

Gasoline, $60 a month, and car insurance, $100 monthly, cost Reeds about the same amount as New York. They drive a 16-year-old Chrysler with 195,000 miles.

The couple’s biggest savings: the rent. In New York, they’ll pay $1,450 a month. While their Vero Beach fare has gone up about 10%, from $800 to $870, they’re still saving a bundle.

Meanwhile, Reeds has managed to pay off some debt and is now owed $1,580, significantly less than $4,000. To do this, they managed to collect some of their credit-card interest and fees by contacting creditors directly.

“I emailed an appeal letter directly to the CEO of Capital One COF,
And for a CARE credit,” Joan says. “Both intervened on our behalf by removing more than $800 in interest and freezing the account balance without accruing interest. The accounts were effectively closed. ,

Plus, Joan noted, she called Sears SHLDQ,
and negotiated with customer service to close a card there, paying the remaining interest with small automatic payments. The couple plans to take on zero debt by early 2022.

Reeds has also saved a bit. Currently, he has $2,400 in the Rainy Days Fund. But Joan says she didn’t have any specific savings plan. “It was hit and miss,” she said.

get a job?

In a 2019 Next Avenue article, Reeds mentioned plans to get a part-time job (“less than 10 hours per week at minimum wage for each of us”). He has given up on that idea. “We looked initially, when we arrived,” explains Joan. “But we both quickly realized that we were square pegs trying to fit into round holes.”

Instead, she says, “We’re doing what we can to help bring Steve’s art into the public eye, and I’m writing.”

Steve had two solo art performances this year and was featured in a local magazine. “Exposure has influenced her art career in this area,” says Joan.

Overall, she notes, “retirement has given us more time to commit to artistic pursuits that can bring in revenue.”

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To cut expenses: Thinking outside the box

Even with her editing work as of this spring, Joan says she and her husband “needed help with food and were helped several times by the Salvation Army Food Pantry.”

To keep food bills down, they don’t order takeout or go out to eat and are eating more vegetarian meals this year.

For entertainment, they borrow books and movies from the library, and not pay for them. There is no TV service in Reeds. “We watch shows on YouTube connected to a personal hot spot on our iPhone,” explains Joan.

They take advantage of days of free admission at the Vero Beach Museum of Art and free outdoor dance parties with live music at the local park.

They also shop at Goodwill for kitchenware and clothing. “I can’t remember the last time I bought clothes from a regular retail store,” says Joan. They often store dollars for basics like sugar, paper products, 2-for-$1 greeting cards, soda, refrigerated items, shampoo, linens, underwear, and shoes.

A little splurge: Joan joined the nearby Mackie Botanical Garden at a cost of $60 a year. “The environment and surrounding nature make it my piece of peace to communicate with Mother Earth,” she says.

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Other outdoor activities are free: They seek out seashells on beaches less than 10 minutes away and walk the trails in the nearby Greenway Lagoon.

Is there anything they would have done differently in sight?

Joan says, “Our situation has changed from the way it was supposed to, and our plan is to live up to the best of what we have and continue to pursue our passion for the visual arts and writing. Is.”

Debbie L. Miller writes from Brooklyn, NY, this is his 17th article for Next Avenue.

This article is reprinted with permission, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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