My Year In Review: 2018

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.

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my daytime view from our condo lanai

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!

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Everything is brand new (except mattress-that is coming soon enough)

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!

after falls
Upper fall at Letchworth State Park
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Bar Harbor coastline in Maine

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.

electric usage
Look at Nov ’18 compared to Nov ’17. UGH!

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.

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It’s great to be back in NYC, best city in the world for Christmas IMHO!

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.

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A view of the Hudson River and The Catskill 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.

 

 

 

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16 comments

  1. I’m so happy everything ended on a positive note. You still can visit Florida since you have family there. We KNOW we will never have two homes, so living in Fl. is probably not going to happen. My year in review for 2018 is a spendy one. BUT fun. 3 cruises, four semesters of college, a new roof, a playroom for the grandkiddos,new basement paint and carpet…..YIKES. Not in 2019.
    2019 will be focused on paying down our mortgage. We’ve waited far too long to be completely debtfree. My husband plans on retiring in 7 years — I’m hoping to have the mortgage paid in full in 4. Fingers crossed.

    Cindi – look for my new blog in the New Year…still playing with names, but it will focus on the years leading up to retirement. 🙂 Let’s hope I still know how to post…. lol

    Merry Christmas and a blessed, prosperous New Year!!

    Like

    • Sharon, posting is like riding a bike. You’ll remember. Keep me posted. Can’t wait to hear your blogging voice once again.
      I’m spending February in Florida at my sister’s. Nick will remain in NY. Why should I suffer? I’m perfectly fine! LOL!
      Next winter I’m aiming for at least a month in Key West. Hopefully 2 months if I can swing the reservations. Very competitive. Nick is a little bit missing Florida and the warmth. We’ll both be good to go by next winter, for sure! We needed this year off to catch our breath.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family too, Sharon. Thanks, as always, for your fine and most welcome comments.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t Wait till you are back blogging.. I enjoyed following your genuine positive writing. One more good thing to look forward top in 2019. Sincerely, Lara

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy holidays to you, too. Have a wonderful time with your family and can’t wait till you start blogging in the New Year.
    I am so glad Nick is happier, but I am curious are you at a happier level too?Lara

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    • Lara, I’m very happy also. I still get to go to Florida, albeit with my sister. I have more time to plan for next winter which will be in Key West! Fingers crossed.
      Happy Holidays to you also and to your family. Enjoy!

      Like

  3. 2018 continued to be a pivotal year for me also. I realized I am stronger then I thought handling the clean up of my lawn debris after a tornado myself. Got six quotes within days to remove the forty trees that came down including ten trees over 165 feet high, and had the cleanup done within ten days. Handled two major systems failing within weeks of each other- septic the pipes dropped between the tank and my home and the extreme frigid temperatures after the heavy rainfall on Black Friday was causing a backup of water in my basement. And on Nov 29th got a diagnosis of two skin cancer.and rosacea which completely change my diet with avoidance of all most all of my favorite foods to find out what is my triggers Financially changed from my ultra conservative laddered Cd approach to a dividend driven income approach just in time for the bear market😒, what a roller coaster. Jim Cramer of Mad Money bought five year 3.5% CDs, And said this may get him fired, Yicks, I am busy planning a new life style because of my new health issues and back to the drawing board on my financial plans. Sincerely. Lara

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    • Lara, you give us women inspiration for sure! Brava! I suppose when the chips are down, we can get through it. We don’t know what our inner strength is until we try.
      Good luck with the food elimination diet. I went through that once but after a day or two, I gave up. Why would Jim Cramer get fired for buying 5 year CD’s???
      2019 starts a new lifestyle for us also.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Happy New Year!

      Like

  4. Jim Cramer may be fired Because he putting his money in safety instead of promoting a way to stay in stocks such as puts or a type of bonds. Or which stocks could rebound quickest.

    Like

  5. I only have 23% in equities and these all pay over 6% in dividends. I am sitting on the sidelines not selling and if this continues on Jan 2 I will transfer these from my traditional IRA at lower prices and pay less tax and the dividends will then be tax free in this account. I am in for long term and will buy some more when the government shutdown gets resolve. Lara

    Like

    • I’m just wondering if the drop in the stock market is just a natural event of many people just selling at the end of the year and taking their profits. What do you think?
      My CD doesn’t compound so at the end of the month each interest deposit is transferred to a an account of US treasury bills that pays both interest and a monthly dividend. So, maybe that’s considered compounding? LOL.
      I’m not in for the long haul. I am in a 100% risk averse operative mode right now. I don’t see myself changing anytime soon.
      Born too late, I suppose.

      Like

      • The market losses is a combination of:
        1. people locking in long term profits,
        2. overly high stock valuations returning to their true value,
        3. fed actions, Raising interest rates and unwinding their bond positions. China stopped buying treasury bonds.
        4. fear of trade wars, national debt, and government shutdowns,
        5. massive computer generated selling when the market goes below the 200 day moving average,
        6. the wealthy and other savers reallocation to safety in CDs vs bonds. CDs Haven’t paid over three percent for a five year term (3,5%) with treasuries paying under three at a ten year term.
        7 the huge swing in the market intraday has created great uncertainty, losses, and anxiety.
        8. Cash is king and CNBC said today even Hedge funds are sitting on it in money markets.
        Drastically lower oil prices are keeping inflation figures low impacting heating oil, natural gassed gas. Gasoline prices vary $2.34 to $2.99 a gallon in my area. With my rewards card I get another 13 cents off a gallon. I can’t remember how long ago, when I have paid only $2.21 a gallon!
        Crazy weather here in the. Northeast hit 64 degrees and rained so heavily on the first day of winter that had it been snow would have been around two- three feet! I had my first flash flood warning issued by the National Weather Service texted on my phone,

        The correct term for putting your interest to work in another investment would be reinvestment or reallocation and is a way to add to your gains on your original principal. All good. Lara

        Liked by 1 person

      • You go girl. You’re so smart. Maria bartilermo on FOX business said investors are going in to cash also. Nice.

        Like

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