In May 2019, Joan and Steve Reid quit their part-time jobs – Joan at the public library and Steve at a flower shop – and moved from the affluent New York suburb of Pearl River, NY, to the coastal community of Vero Beach. Fla. The couple's goal, then both 67, was to retire, cut back on their expenses, and live on an income of less than $ 30,000.
Back then, Next Avenue wrote about the Reids and their plans in one of their most popular stories, "Retiring on a Shoestring". Next Avenue thought it would be interesting to look again after two years to see how things went and what things are like.
"All in all, our total spending is about the same between New York and Florida," says Joan.
But even if their frugality has not paid off as planned, the couple is happy with the move. “Our standard of living and residence was an absolute plus. We live as usual, ”says Joan. "It's not a luxury, but it's comfortable."
How does retirement feel?
However, the geographic and psychological transitions were not easy. “Our feelings range from being very grateful for the move and what we have retired to to feeling lost that has gradually subsided,” says Joan. You still miss New York's seasons, especially autumn.
In 2019 they were eagerly looking forward to a quieter and slower life in Florida. That turned out nice. "We've adjusted to the slower pace, but it may have more to do with the comfort and acceptance of retirement, which is an opportunity to slow down," says Joan.
Your income: then and now
These days, the Reids are building an income from multiple sources, much like they do in New York.
Steve, who creates art from found objects and mixed media, sold two works 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 and earned $ 800 a month. “That was an incredible boost for us,” she says. She made $ 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 quitting her job as an editor, Joan focused on writing Joyful Passage: A Woman’s Path to Retirement, which she published on Amazon herself
It describes how the Reids approached retirement, their planning process, and eventually the move to Florida. Joan expects to earn a $ 45 royalty in November.
The message of the book, she says, "does not require a person to be financially rich in order to retire." While there was no up-front cost involved in writing the book, Joan pays the shipping costs for the sale and pays the cost of an author's copies. “I do my own marketing through social media and email,” she says.
The couple received a pandemic check for $ 2,400 from the U.S. government in 2020 and one for $ 2,200 in 2021, which was of great help.
They will receive a total of $ 257 in annuities each month. And while their social security benefits have increased a bit each year (both started at age 62), so have their Medicare premiums, so it's basically a wash.
All in all, they forecast income of $ 24,769 in 2021, roughly what they were in 2020 but less than $ 27,000 in 2019. Florida has no state income tax, which helps them get more of that to keep what they bring in.
What happened to your expenses?
Their total daily cost of living is the same as that of living in New York, though it is higher for medical costs, groceries, and auto insurance.
In 2020, her drug cost was $ 423. This year they have already reached $ 583. “Steve's medication has gone up,” explains Joan, “which means more visits to the doctor and more follow-up visits. And co-payments became more frequent. "
To reduce their prescription costs, the couple applied for patient assistance programs from drug companies, and Steve was able to get free medication for his dry eye syndrome.
Medical co-payments skyrocketed from $ 848 in 2020 to about $ 505 in 2019. "The Cleveland Clinic has swallowed a lot of medical offices in Vero Beach. It adds one more tier of payments to every doctor visit, ”says Joan. Now they are trying not to use doctor's offices affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic, which took over the Indian River Medical Center in Vero Beach in 2019 after arriving in South Florida three decades earlier.
To save visits to the doctor, the Reids use free blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol checks in their general practitioners' offices.
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Joan says dental work is more expensive in Florida, but they found a dentist who "works with our needs and budget, and we were able to get some of the work done in installments".
Gasoline costs $ 60 a month and auto insurance costs $ 100 a month. Reids are about the same as New York's. You're driving a 16 year old Chrysler with 195,000 miles on it.
The couple's greatest savings: rent. In New York they would pay $ 1,450 a month. While their rental in Vero Beach has increased nearly 10% from $ 800 to $ 870, they're still saving a bundle.
Meanwhile, the Reids have managed to pay off some of their debt and now owe $ 1,580, well below $ 4,000. In addition, they managed to deduct part of their credit card interest and fees by contacting creditors directly.
“I emailed a letter of objection directly to the CEO of Capital One
and one for Care Credit, ”says Joan. “Both of them intervened on our behalf by deducting over $ 800 in interest and freezing accounts without accruing interest. The accounts were effectively closed. "
Also, Joan notes, she called Sears
and negotiated with customer service to close a card and settle the remaining interest with small automatic payments. The couple plan to have zero debt in early 2022.
The Reids also saved a little bit. They currently have $ 2,400 in Rainy Day funds. But Joan says she doesn't have a specific savings plan. "It was a hit and miss," she remarked.
Look for a job?
In the 2019 Next Avenue article, Reids mentioned plans to get part-time jobs ("less than 10 hours a week for each of us, at the minimum wage"). They gave up on that idea. “We initially checked when we arrived,” explains Joan. "But we both quickly realized that we were square pens trying to fit into round holes."
Instead, she says, "What we're doing to help ourselves is getting Steve's art out, and I'm writing."
Steve had two solo shows this year and was featured in a local magazine. "The exposure catapulted his art career into the region," says Joan.
Overall, she states: "Retirement has given us more time to devote ourselves to artistic activities that can generate income."
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Cutting expenses: thinking outside the box
Despite her editorial work well into the spring, Joan says, "she and her husband needed help with eating and were helped several times by a Salvation Army pantry."
To keep food bills down, they are not ordering takeout or eating out and are eating more vegetarian meals this year.
For entertainment, they borrow books and films from the library instead of paying for them. The Reids have no television service. “We watch shows on YouTube that are linked through a personal hotspot on my iPhone,” explains Joan.
Enjoy free days of entry to the Vero Beach Museum of Art and free outdoor dance parties with live music in a local park.
They also shop for kitchen utensils and clothing at Goodwill. “I can't remember the last time I bought clothes in a regular retail store,” says Joan. They often visit dollar stores for staples such as sugar, paper products, $ 2 for $ 1 greeting cards, soda, refrigerated items, shampoo, linens, underwear, and shoes.
One small plus: Joan stepped into the nearby McKee Botanical Garden for $ 60 a year. “The environment and the surrounding nature make it my piece of peace to communicate with Mother Earth,” she says.
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Other outdoor activities are free: you can search for seashells on beaches less than 10 minutes away and hike to the hiking trails in the nearby Greenway Lagoon.
Is there anything that you would have done differently in retrospect?
"Our situation has worked out as it should, and our plan is to live as well as possible on what we have," says Joan, "and continue to pursue our passion for the visual arts and writing."
Debbie L. Miller writes from Brooklyn, N.Y. This is her 17th article for Next Avenue.
This article is reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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