2018 was a year for our upheaval and change. What started out so hopeful last January turned into something neither hubby nor I ever expected. Nor planned for.
And that’s what retirement life is all about. We plan. God laughs. And then we scramble to turn a lemon into lemonade.
Last January, DH and I were settling into our gorgeous, luxurious Sarasota condo. DH was working. Flying all over the south, raking in thousands of dollars. Our future immediate plans were to put our NY home up for sale, pocket around a half mill, invest it and retire fully to Florida, affluent. We sold our RV because we weren’t going to travel by vehicle anymore.
And then the crap hit the fan.
DH’s first salary check for 2018 bounced. It was a scramble and with a lot of legal threats, he finally got his money BUT he would no longer work for the dishonest company. Also, much to our chagrin, unbeknownst to us, the residents surrounding our condo (we were on the 2nd floor) were massive smokers. Our unit used to fill up with dangerous, life-threatening second-hand cigarette smoke. I won’t go into any more details here because it’s just too exhausting. Just trust me when I state we tried everything legally possible to get the smoking to cease. We even got the condo common laws changed, sought legal counsel but to no avail. You can not govern people inside their own home.
After weeks of choking, I was rushed to the hospital ER four times with severe respiratory health issues AND life threatening nose bleeds (we couldn’t stop the blood gushing out of my nose, down my throat, almost suffocating me to death). A CT Scan showed I had developed a spot on my lung. After weeks of crying on my part, I had to give up my life long dream of owning a condo in Florida. There was just no other solution. We couldn’t even rent out our unit for fear of tenants vacating when they found themselves engulfed in second-hand cigarette smoke.
We put our unit up for sale, with ALL our brand new furniture (60 inch 4K flat screen, beautiful Cindy Crawford furniture, state-of-the-art plush top queen sized mattress, beautiful new dishes, towels, dinnerware, stainless steel cookware….yada, yada, yada). It sold in 4 days. We paid $160K cash for it. Condo sold for $185K with an extra check for $5K to cover all the furniture.
It was a good thing we never sold our NY residential home because as soon as we got back to New York, DH was diagnosed with a severe, critical heart condition: two aneurysms along his aorta. They say everything happens for a reason and I suppose it really does. DH could no longer work AND he had to be near his NY Hospitals and doctors for constant observation. This meant also that his current health insurance policy was more important than ever. There was no way in hell he could have moved away permanently nor lost his current health insurance and start anew with another company.
DH technically was advised to restrict his work hours. I took our entire profit from the condo sale (after broker, HOA, CDD and Florida property tax laws got their cut…..don’t ask…..another blog post…..but if you think Florida is a cheaper place to retire in, think again!) and invested it. With DH no longer working, I needed to create another income stream. I invested the money into a callable CD paying 4.21% for 10 years (providing the bank didn’t call the investment). Also, we had planned for DH to start collecting his Social Security at 62, a few months from now, but we found out his added income would upset his health insurance financial status causing us to pay thousands and thousands of dollars more per year. So, we had to scratch DH’s benefits for three more years till he turns 65 and can go on medicare (and Social Security). The result was our income has now been drastically reduced. It’s going to be a tough three years.
Again, let me say that everything happens for a reason. Turned out living in Florida wasn’t a financial panacea as we had been fraudulently told. After 1.5 years of owning the condo, the real estate taxes were turning out to be sky-high, ditto for the HOA fees, the CDD taxes and the restaurant reimbursements. It was actually more expensive to live in a 2 BR, 2 Bath, 1140 square foot Florida condo than in our upstate, rural NY 3BR, 2 Bath 1120 square foot home on 3.5 acres!!! ($11,000 per year vs $6,000 per year!!!!) No wonder every Florida retiree we met down there had an income producing job! We couldn’t figure out why. (despite SS, Pensions, Investments, everyone we met was working a side hustle!) Now, we knew!
I did set aside some of our profit money and poured it into our NY home. If we are going to live here permanently, we might as well make it as comfortable as can be. After 17 years, I bought all new kitchen appliances and spruced up the kitchen. I re-decorated our bedroom, my office, our living room, installed new state-of-the art laminate flooring, power washed the home’s exterior, stained the back deck, bought all new furniture for our bedroom and new area rugs for the living room and office, hired landscapers to cut down some trees, straighten out our massive lawn, and closed out some open permits. DH finally finished off his barn, created a workspace/office inside the barn, got his ham radio license and set up a radio center inside his barn. He has a new hobby and new friends!
I set aside some cash in our emergency fund. I bought us another smallish RV because I realized we could only vacation locally from now on (but I had to take out a smallish loan to preserve our cash). DH’s travel radius is restricted. I cancelled wintering in Arizona. I also had to cancel RVing back to Florida for now because DH is very tired. (We do have so many frequent flyer miles that we’re going to Las Vegas later this year to see The Grand Canyon and Bermuda next fall, only a 2.5 hr flight) DH wants this year off to fully recover from the previous ordeal as I listed above. Selling the condo took a toll on him. My health problems dampened his spirit. Plus the realization that if he’s not careful, he could die at any moment, rests heavily on his soul.
Over the summer, DH and I joined our local community pool. For the senior rate of $100, the both of us enjoyed daily swimming in an olympic sized pool. We made a lot of new friends, hiked new trails and joined in on many new, local adventures. Before the summer, we took the RV to Letchworth State Park in NY to see three fantastic waterfalls. Right after Labor Day we took a two-week RV trip to Maine and had a blast!
Since this is our first winter here in upstate NY in four years (we were always in Florida) we had to buy ourselves new, warm winter clothes, pj’s and shoes/boots. We also have to figure out how we are going to regulate our energy needs. So far, we’re losing the battle, as this chart shows our output. Since then, we’ve installed an electronic thermostat and can better regulate our energy usage.
I have to admit that my husband is a lot happier now than he was a year ago. Finally retired and no longer under any more stress to work or earn a living has truly lightened his load. Yes, at time’s money is tight but we always manage to eek through it. DH only has to work one day per month (@$350 a day), which he has been doing thanks to his contacts, and our budget balances just fine.
We still go out to eat occasionally. We still enjoy live entertainment, attend concerts and yes, we attend NYC Broadway shows (The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular and Aladdin with the grandkids!). We see our kids and grandkids more often. I’m back to babysitting for my granddaughters. I didn’t realize my two daughters were without me for the last four Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas holidays. Now, we’re all back together again and my daughters are very, very grateful I am back home with them once again.
DH and I just joined a local gym at a local college here. $102 covers the two of us for the next 3 months. The cold winter days have us inside more than I would like but we can manage going to the gym twice a week quite well (the building is super, super warm!)
We’re starting our 18th year living here in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. We are surrounded by the Catskill Mountains and have access to the historic Hudson River. When I get in my car and drive to the library, do any of my errands or simply go to my celebrity-annointed small town’s downtown area, I have a constant view of all the mountains that surround me. I have to cross over The Hudson River to go grocery shopping. All the views are an awesome sight that never ceases to astound me. For 16 years DH and I lived in The Hamptons, Long Island NY and had access to the finest beaches on the planet. In other words, we’ve been blessed with living in both worlds: the ocean and the mountains. If I had to choose which area I’d like best, I’d have to choose the mountains.
Why? Because up in the mountains you have space and freedom. The ocean side unfortunately has become cramped, crowded and congested. That’s what we found in Sarasota also. Yes, the beaches were gorgeous there BUT we were always stuck in traffic, congestion, dangerous driving conditions and oodles and oodles of people, tourists and springbreakers. Up in the mountains, everyone is spread out. No one lives on top of each other. My next door neighbor owns 22 acres. He could smoke himself to death, I’d never know it! I have nothing here except that delightful, clean, fresh mountain air. It’s a joy to open up my windows and breathe it all in.
Oh and BTW, I just has my 6 month CT Scan follow-up done this week. It came back with no change, which means the spot on my lung hasn’t gotten bigger. It’s the same, which means my odds of cancer have diminished. It’s all good. Ditto for DH. It’s all good for him too. As I said, I haven’t known him to be this happy, ever.
Everything happens for a reason. Don’t fight it. Go with the flow. The forces of nature seem to know what is best for all of us. You know the saying: “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.”
Our year started off bad. But it is ending so much more the wiser.
Merry Christmas to all of you. Happy Holiday and Happy New Year. May your days be merry and bright. And to all of you, good night! I’ll be taking a break from blogging.
I always get a kick out of saying this every year:
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR! Literally.