My Creed

"I thank God for protecting me from what I thought I wanted and blessing me with what I didn't know I needed." Anonymous

Friday, August 26, 2016

Diagnosis: Heart Troubles

My husband's new cardiologist just called with the results of his latest echocardiogram. Apparently, the news is not good. DH's results from this year, as compared to last year shows that his heart muscle is hardening, which is not good news. (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) This is an inherited disease and there isn't much DH can do to stop the deterioration. DH has another appointment with his doctor this Wednesday for a battery of more tests. If his condition is due to high blood pressure, then it can be treated with drugs. That's what we are hoping and praying for. (DH does have high blood pressure but he tells all the doctors he has 'white coat syndrome' so the docs don't treat him).

DH's denial and bullshit has to stop now. He's not going to fool either himself or his doctors. He's a control freak and thinks he can control everything in this world. Well, looks like he can't.

We've made an appointment to see our attorney tomorrow morning. DH has to get his will in order. He also needs to sign a POA (Power Of Attorney) just in case he becomes incapacitated and can not make any decisions. Since we own everything jointly, if he becomes disabled, I may need to make quick financial moves.

It is apparent that DH can not work anymore. His job is strenuous and I don't give a rat's ass anymore about how his job makes him feel. We're in dangerous territory right now and I don't want him having a heart attack and dying on the job. That's preposterous. I've been after him for a while to quit, so maybe now he will.

With DH not working anymore, that changes our whole financial structure. We need to shift gears now, get this main residence sold within the year and we will relocate permanently to our condo in Florida. The cost of living is extremely low there and I'll be able to handle all the finances on my own. If the summers are too darn hot, I'll have enough capital reserve to get us to cooler climates when needed. We have enough cash reserves for two solid years, which should be more than enough time to get everything accomplished and us out of town and settled into our new lifestyle.

And just like that, our retirement has changed, yet once again. DH is only 59 years old.

That's why I have always told my readers to enjoy each and every day NOW. Don't wait till you are really retired to get out there and do stuff. The only thing left on our bucket list is to see the Grand Canyon. Let's hope we can accomplish that before the year is over.

I don't know if I want to blog anymore. If I do, it will be sporadic.

I'm praying and hoping DJ's heart troubles can be dealt with through medicine. His doctor said if this hardening is due to his untreated blood pressure, it will be easily treated. That doesn't mean our troubles are over. It just means it's treatable. We'll know more this upcoming Wednesday.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

No Matter How You Slice It, Your Social Security Benefits Are Going Down In 2017.

Your Social Security benefits are going down next year, in 2017. Thanks in part to the increase in Medicare costs. Apparently Obama will be stealing from Medicare in order to pay for more people to be on Obamacare (Obama drains Medicare by $716billion dollars to fund the ACA). And you out there, who are over 65, who are older, frail and less healthy, will be giving up your life for it. You're going to get less health care and you are going to be paying more for it. At a time in your life when you can least afford it. Ain't life here in these United States just grand?

I'm not going to go into the mathematics of it all. You can do that yourself by reading this article from CNBC (click here). The article will explain, in great detail, how the government has calculated your decrease in Social Security benefits each month, simply by raising your Medicare costs. Since all people over the age of 65 are forced into Medicare, we really don't have much choice do we? In 2017, depending on your income and when you started collecting Social Security, our corrupt government will again distort inflation rates (.2% COLA) and the average Social Security reciprocant will see a decrease of $14.23 per month ($170.76 annually). If there is no COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) the Social Security benefit will decrease by $41.43 a month ($497.16 annually).

However they calculate next years figures, either way, you will see a decrease in your monthly benefit. If you are on a fixed income and have no way of increasing your own net income (part time work, interest or dividend increases, savings withdrawals) you will be forced to make major changes to your life. In other words, you are going to have to give up something in order to keep living and staying alive. To anyone who just shrugged their shoulders and mumbled under their breath "What's $497?"  apparently you're not retired. Chances are good if you have additional Medicare supplemental insurance, those rates are going to go up as well and coverage is going to go down. That $497 a year can easily turn into $1,000 a year. How are you going to pay for it?

There's a reason why most financial advisers recommend a couple, at age 65, needs to have at least $250,000 liquid in their savings accounts. That's how much they've estimated is needed just to keep up with Medicare costs, deductibles and co-pays. Provided you don't get sick and need medical care! Imagine that?

The outcome of these recommendations from the Medicare Board of Trustees hopefully shines a light on the importance of planning for health coverage in retirement. And the real question that should be on everyone's mind is what retirees are going to do when they find out that their Social Security benefit was decreased by an expense that is required for them to bear in order to even be able to collect that benefit.

Is it any wonder why we are seeing more and more retirees working part time? Some have even turned to the shared economy taking jobs working for Uber and Lyft driving their own cars for extra income (click here). If this trend continues, we may see an eventual end to retirement as we know it.  Even yours truly, me, has beefed up my Google writing so as to earn an extra bit of money from the ads placed on my blog! DH keeps pushing his own retirement date further and further back as more and more expense bills pile on my desk. We keep doing with less and less as we keep paying more and more. DH's own health insurance covers less in 2017 while he is facing a 14.5% increase in monthly rates next year . Throw in my own increase/decrease in Medicare/Social Security coverage and it's enough to give one pause.

I'm looking over our own budget contemplating what needs to be cut next year so we can continue to make ends meet? I'm coming up with cutting the food budget. Go figure.

No amount of money saved can lighten the frustration and depression I feel over the way we are treated in America as we age. Not only do we have to face the natural occurrences in life in order for us to survive and thrive. We also have to face the damnation our government lays upon us. It's depressing to know our government would rather see us dead or better yet, just fade away into the darkness.

Stay well, my friend. Stay well.

And save as much money as you possibly can. You're gonna need it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It's National Parks Centennial: Free Admission

Check out your own state park this weekend (click here) because from August 25th (Thursday) to August 28th (Sunday) admission is free! America's National Parks are celebrating their 100th birthday by offering the public four free days of fun and adventure. With over 412 free parks to choose from, I'm certain there's a state park somewhere near you. Don't miss it!

West Point Cadet Band
DH and I are off to a free state sponsored concert tonight to kick off the celebration. We'll be listening to The West Point Military Band. Tomorrow we're heading to the FDR State Park Museum and Library (we get to go once per year, for both, free, of course!) for a tour of the museum and property grounds. It's a fun day, filled with history, enjoyment and adventure.  DH and I always pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic outside on the lovely park grounds. The weather here this weekend is supposed to be grand!

If you haven't made any plans this weekend and are looking for a fun, FREE thing to do, check out our National Parks. You won't be disappointed. Have fun! Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It's Gotta Be Five o'clock Somewhere.

One of the things I'm packing and taking with me to my new condo is my liquor cabinet. It's been stocked for nearly fourteen years with hardly a drop spilled. That's because where it's at now is not a party town (plus: I am not much of a drinker). But where I will be bringing it to, is!

As they say, it's gotta be 5 o'clock somewhere. Here's to happy times on the lanai.

closed. it's rattan design will go great with my tropical decor

open. these babies will go with ANY decor!

Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson sings it best. Let the partying begin. Email subscribers, click here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

13 Top Fears All Americans Face. What's Yours?

The Motley Fool put out this article (click here) The 13 Biggest Financial Fears Of Americans, regarding the current fears we are facing today, especially in retirement. For me, fear of outliving my money runs high on my list. Next would be an unplanned for health issue and/or catastrophe. Either one can wipe out most people's savings and I'm no exception.

Based on a study by Northwestern Mutual, 2,646 U.S. adults were interviewed. Based on those interviews, 85% of the respondents reported they felt some sort of financial anxiety. No kidding! Don't we all? We're living in very stressful times IMHO and it's about all we can do to keep our heads above water. According to the study, these past three years have created more financial anxiety for 36% more of us! Is it any wonder why then our anxiety levels have increased? Health insurance policies pay less, cover less and charge more. Property insurance policies have come to the same conclusion: cover less, charge more. There's no safety net either in those Long Term Insurance policies most people have paid dearly for. Rising rates and stricter coverage have forced people to drop their security blankets, as they can no longer afford to pay for coverage.

Here are the 13 financial fears keeping Americans up at night:
  1. Having an unplanned emergency (38%)
  2. Having unplanned medical expenses due to illness (34%)
  3. Having insufficient savings to retire (32%)
  4. Outliving my retirement savings (21%)
  5. Becoming a financial burden (20%)
  6. An inability to afford healthcare (18%)
  7. Losing my job (17%)
  8. Identity theft/theft (16%)
  9. Extended unemployment (15%)
  10. Death/loss of primary breadwinner (14%)
  11. Having poor credit (12%)
  12. Having to claim bankruptcy (6%)
  13. Becoming a victim of a financial scam (6%) 
  So, what's a person to do? Any solutions to this problem? Sure there are: 
  1. 1. Build an emergency fund. Financial advisors recommend putting 6 months of expenses into a savings account. For me, since most of my wealth is built up in housing, I have allotted 2 years in my emergency fund, as I estimate it might take me that long to sell a property. Optimize your ability to save. I am always on the lookout to save money. And I do. Set up a budget and stick to it.

    2. Invest in the right assets. For me, that's my home and health care. I consider good health care an investment in my future. Ditto for my home. Having a roof over my head and access to top quality health care are my most valuable investing tools AND give me peace of mind.

    3. Review your finances regularly. I look at my budget almost daily. I constantly review our expenses and eliminate anything that is unnecessary. I also am an avid reader of financial books, articles, periodicals and/or anything else that has to do with money. If you don't know what you are doing then hire a fee-only based financial adviser who does. If you don't have the funds nor the means to hire a professional then seek out an experienced, proven, trusted friend who can help you.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Travel Envy. Do You Have It?

This is about the time of year when people are either going on a vacation or coming back from one. This is also the time of year when these travel people will post their photographs, talk endlessly about their adventures and describe the food they've eaten, the mountains they've climbed, the beaches they've surfed, the tangos they've danced and the souvenirs they've collected. You can either listen patiently and enjoy their stories or you can seethe with envy and grumble under your breath "what about me, what about me, what about me?????"

One of the most often stated regrets issued by retirees is that they wished they had traveled more. And I agree with that. I do not, however, think people should wait until after they are retired to travel. There's something to be said about being young and spry and backpacking the globe: the young do it so much better than the old. And cheaper.

DH and I always made it a priority to travel someplace exotic (and affordable) each and every year. Especially with our children. First off, both of us were working and bringing in an income, so vacations, if done right, were within our budget. As our children got older, we knew our travel time together had become limited. So, in 2007, I paid for all four of us to have a 15 day whirlwind tour of Italy. It was the last time all of us traveled together as a family.

Over the years DH and I have vacationed in almost every single Caribbean Island, toured most major (to us) European cities (Rome, Milan, Venice, London, Paris, Montreal, Switzerland) and have toured though many popular American states, including Hawaii and Alaska. The last thing on our bucket list is the Grand Canyon, which we are going to in the spring. Other than that, I don't think DH and I have the travel bug anymore. We've RVed across the country. We've B&B'd.  We've hoteled, hosteled, bunked on couches. We've traveled rich and we've traveled poor. Been there. Done that.

We've come to the conclusion that we love the beach and the mountains. Thankfully, we live in both locales all year long. Starting this year, DH and I will be embarking on a new kind of travel: snowbirding. We will be spending six months a year at the beach (Sarasota Keys) and six months a year in the mountains (Catskills/Adirondacks). This is going to be a new way of life for us and DH and I are looking forward to the new adventure. There's no more room in our budget for vacation travel, per se, because when you get right down to it, we ARE on vacation 365 days a year!

If we get the urge to travel outside of our reign, we are big fans of day trips. There are plenty of interesting towns near both of our vacation homes, all within a two hour drive radius. Who's to say you have to get on a plane or drive great distances to feel as if you are on a vacation? There are plenty of locales nearby that can give us the same nuance and vacation-like thrill. Without breaking the (piggy) bank.
(Cuba for a day? $99 one-way ticket from Miami on Jet Blue.....ole! On our to-do list!))

 DH and I have started this little savings fund, whereby we toss all our extra coins into a plastic piggy and when we get the urge to verge, we cash it in (for free at TD Bank) and get enough spending money for our day trips.

So, I'm not envious when people show me photos of their one to two week vacations. How can I be? I'm on vacation fifty-two weeks out of the year. Nor am I upset when they discuss their adventures, their cruises (hate them!) or their airport hassles (don't miss those at all). All DH and I need is a good, trusty vehicle for travel between vacation homes twice a year, and we're done!

Travel envy? Not us.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My New Cleaning Routine. Hint: It's My Old One.

As promised (click here), I did a whole review of the cleaning lady wonder, Fly Lady, and although her approach to whole house cleaning and decluttering is novel, I found her system to be overwhelming. Fly Lady's cleaning system included one morning routine, one evening routine, a weekly whole house blessing and a weekly zone cleaning. That's sixteen cleanings a week! That was totally opposite to what I was trying to accomplish. I'm trying to streamline my cleaning routine. I'm trying to clean less and live more. Apparently, if I want to have a somewhat clean adobe, Fly Lady ain't my resource.

Fly Lady did, however, have a few good ideas I could incorporate into my already existing cleaning routine. According to Fly Lady, you have to have two daily routines. One in the morning and one in the evening, before you go to bed. Granted yes, Fly Lady advises to set a ten minute timer per chore, but really? If you are in the middle of something are you going to stop when a buzzer sounds off? Fly Lady advises working faster. Hey Lady! I'm 65 years old....this is as fast as I can go! Fly Lady swears a retiree can follow her plan. I'm doubtful.

First off, Fly Lady wants you to make your bed as soon as you arise in the morning. Lady, I'm lucky if I can get out of the bed in the morning. I need to get to the bathroom first. Then I need to stumble over into the kitchen where thankfully either hubby or a pre-made pot of hot coffee awaits me. I don't know about Fly Lady, but this lady (me) can't do anything till she has her cup of half caff AND her daily.......well, you know what. All systems are off till that baby comes home to town.

I do agree with Fly Lady however, that before one goes to bed at night, the kitchen must be thoroughly cleaned and the sink must be made sparkling clean. Nobody wants to wake up in the morning to a messy kitchen. I had been turning the dishwasher on at 11:30PM each and every night but now that my hubby is home more, he has been interfering and doing a load earlier in the evening. That meant a pile of late-night snacking dishes in the sink awaiting me in the morning. Hubby and I discussed this last night. Dishwasher goes back on at 11:30PM at night. Ditto for clean-up right after dinner. We eat earlier now, so we shall clean up earlier after ourselves also.  Having an evening routine has made our morning routine a bit more easier thanks to the recommendations of Fly Lady.

Fly Lady also advises that your morning routine should include wiping and swishing up the bathroom before you have breakfast. No way. I'm not cleaning and touching bleach and then touching food! She also recommends you get dressed before breakfast AND put your (laced up) shoes on! Fly Lady, we don't wear shoes inside our home. We don't bring that filthy street crap into our home. Taking our shoes off at the front door is my first successful attempt at keeping dirt out of the house. Not in it. Apparently, Fly Lady confesses she stumbled upon this amazing secret regarding shoes when she was checked into an insane asylum for 10 days after she had a nervous breakdown back in 1999. Yup! Putting on and lacing up your shoes inside your house makes you a more respectable, confident person, ready to face the day. NOT.

PS: I'm a messy eater. I dress after I've had breakfast.

I've updated and streamlined my own morning routine (now that our evening routine has cut down on cleaning) to include my daily vacuuming of the entire 1140 sq ft. first floor (we have a shedding dog, so this MUST be done every single day) unloading dinner dishes and reloading the dishwasher with the morning dishes, cleaning the coffeepot, wiping down the countertops and appliances, make bed, straighten out the bathroom, wipe down bathroom sink, do a load of wash, throw out all trash, periodicals, magazines and unwanted mail (if needed), pick up any stuff that accidentally found itself laying on the floors. This still takes me about 1 to 2 hours. Provided I don't get side tracked, check my email, see what's happening on FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google News and communicate with my blog commenters. Fly Lady abhors getting side tracked.

So between my morning and evening cleaning routines, I'm looking at 3 hours (so far) per day, cleaning. I usually dry the load of laundry late afternoon. I fold the clothes late at night. And put it away.

Next comes my Weekly House Blessing. This is where I get to do all of the above AND windex, dust, polish, strip the bed and change/wash bed linens, shred delicate mail that can't be tossed and lightly damp mop floor. I am to give no more than 10 minutes per chore. So, on the day I choose to bless my house (Thursday) tack on another hour to my existing three hour schedule and I will have spent at least four hours cleaning my friggin' house. Just writing this out has made me exhausted.

Finally, Fly Lady instructs us on how to do Zone Cleaning. That's where you divide your home into 5 zones and tackle a real hard cleaning job (one per week) like getting down on your hands and knees and giving your kitchen floor a good scrubbing, or washing all your blinds, or washing all your curtains, or taking a toothpick and cleaning out the grunge around your dishwasher. It's where you get down to the nitty gritty of cleaning. This should take a few hours as you tackle each and every project she sends to you via several emails a day! Oh, don't worry. It only takes 30 seconds to read her emails. All ten of them. Per day! Just to give you some encouragement. After all, Fly Lady knows your house didn't get dirty overnight so don't plan on cleaning it overnight! Fly Lady is always with you to give you that internet WiFi hug!

Needless to say, I am forgoing the Zone Cleaning. I'll just pick out one of those nitty gritty things to do and include it in my House Blessing. Lord knows, I'm weary by now and cleaning a heavier load! I'll give myself an extra thirty minutes to do one ten minute spot.

OK. So, I have chosen my House Blessing day, which is Thursday. I already missed the appointed date (today is Friday) so I need to catch up. I was up to 2:30AM last night writing my list down on paper AND cleaning. I did my evening routine, cleaned up the kitchen dishes, wiped down all the counters, decluttered by throwing out some junk from the medicine cabinet, linen closet, utensil draw and tossed some periodicals in the trash. This morning, I decided to double up my cleaning routine so that I can get myself in sync with next Thursday's routine. At 8:30AM this morning I vacuumed my kitchen/dining room/hallway bamboo floors and then I got down on my hands and knees and gave that sucker a really good cleaning. Once the floor was dry, I squeezed some Orange Glo and swifted the floor till it shone.

I also polished all the wood furniture, dusted the flat screen TVs with a special cloth, washed down all the dusty radiators, washed down all the floor moldings in the kitchen/living room/bedroom, striped the bed, washed the linens (I only have one good pair of sheets for now), whipped out my handy duster and rid my homes' corners of all cobwebs, washed down just the bottom half of the kitchen cabinets. Next month when I do a full day, I will wash bedroom/living room curtains, declutter armoire top, turn my mattress, wash down the upper kitchen cabinets, declutter empty water bottles out of the pantry in addition to all of the above.

I finished this massive cleaning (including my side tracking) in 2.5 hours. I was done by 11AM. Needless to say, I hate and despise Fly Lady. My body aches. I don't feel any better now that my house has been cleaned more than usual. But I did get a good nap in once I hit the couch again. Thanks for that, Fly Lady. I also noted that I did have more time available for myself the rest of the day. I finally finished reading a book I had been dwaddling over. I also had time to listen to some classical music AND I had some extra time to sit around and do absolutely nothing!

Once you decide to commit to Fly Lady, she encourages you to sign up for her emails (which I did). Her first email politely asks you to watch a three minute video whereby Fly Lady welcomes you to her cleaning world. I couldn't help comparing Fly Lady to a warden in a woman's prison. Perhaps orange is the new spic and span. I dunno. I've been lassoed into Fly Lady's cleaning lair and now there is no going back for me. I've been 'Fly-Washed' (vs brain-washed).

I think I'll just serve my time and enjoy my cleaner house.

Here's Fly Lady's welcome video. Email subscribers click on this link to view.